The United Kingdom and the United States are similar in many respects. While America’s Founding Fathers drew on ancient Greece and the Roman Republic to create the Constitution, the British parliamentary system influenced them to a great degree. Today, the U.K. is among our closest allies. They are a fellow member of the United Nations Security Council, the G7, and NATO. And where it comes to public policy, both well-developed countries face similar issues.
Immigration is one of these similar issues. Both the U.K. and the U.S. have advanced economies and a long – if different – experiences with mass immigration. In 2020, the U.K. reported that 18 percent of its population was foreign-born. By comparison, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) estimated that 13.7 percent of people living in the U.S. were foreign-born.
Yet the approach taken by the U.K. in recent days to address low-skilled immigration is different than that taken by the U.S. under the Biden administration. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the U.K. would not return to “uncontrolled immigration” to address supposed worker shortages in the island nation. In remarks to the BBC, Johnson said:
The way forward for our country is not to just pull the big lever marked uncontrolled immigration, and allow in huge numbers of people to do work. So what I won’t do is go back to the old failed model of low wages, low skills supported by uncontrolled immigration. There will be a period of adjustment, but that is I think what we need to see.
This is a powerful and courageous statement from the British prime minister. Rather than kowtowing to the cheap labor interests of his own country, he insists that uncontrolled low-skill immigration is not the answer. Studies on both sides of the pond show that mass low-skilled immigration harms workers and carries significant social and fiscal costs. University College London found that “immigration results in a clear fiscal cost to the UK. Between 1995 and 2011,immigrants in the UK cost at least £114 billion, or about £18m a day.”
When it comes to social cohesion, a Demos study found that three in four people said that immigration increased divisions in the country. In fact, immigration was one of the driving factors behind the successful Brexit campaign to leave the European Union. The impact of immigration on the U.K. is real, and reflects what we already know about immigration in our own country.
Now, compare Johnson’s statements to the actions of our own president, Joe Biden, whose administration continues eviscerating immigration enforcement. Since the first full month of the Biden presidency, Border Patrol apprehended over 1.24 million illegal aliens. Under the leadership of Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued new enforcement guidelines that encourage our immigration enforcement officials to apprehend and prosecute only the most dangerous of illegal aliens – an admission that our country has given up on enforcing existing immigration laws. Worse, unlike the U.K.’s points-based immigration system, our own immigration system prioritizes chain migration rather than skills or merit. Rather than improving our country through the proactive use of merit-based points systems, we award American citizenship based on blood relation. For a country that prides itself on the equality of citizens and do-it-yourself mentality, it is the height of irony that we award citizenship based on family relationships, rather than skill or merit.
Politicians in the United States should take note of Johnson’s stance on the issue of low-skilled immigration. To be frank, the U.S. does not need any more unskilled immigrants. We need a complete makeover of our immigration system so that we prioritize needed skills over mere family relations. We need to enforce the laws at our border and deal only with those in line, applying legally for immigration benefits, rather than acquiescing to illegal aliens.
Our friends in the United Kingdom seem to understand the situation better than we do. While the U.K. takes a stand against uncontrolled low-skilled immigration, the U.S. continues embracing it with no end in sight.