Helen Raleigh. The Broken Welcome Mat. 2016. See here to purchase the book.
Helen Raleigh is an immigrant from China. She holds two master’s degrees: one in business economics from the State University of New York, and the other in business administration from the University of Wyoming. She has worked in the financial services industry and is the founder of Red Meadow Advisors, LLC, an investment advisory firm. She is an immigration policy fellow at the Centennial Institute, a conservative think-tank at Colorado Christian University, and she has written for the Wall Street Journal, Townhall, and the Federalist.
The Broken Welcome Mat is about how the United States can fix its broken immigration system. Raleigh provides a history of immigration to America, starting with the Jamestown settlement and the settlement of the Pilgrims and the Puritans. She moves on to the immigration stances of America’s framers, who largely supported immigration as a way to bring in workers and increase America’s GDP, while wanting to keep out criminal immigrants. Her story proceeds to the immigration of Germans, Irish, and Chinese people to the U.S. They built America’s GDP, and the Chinese worked for low pay in extremely menial jobs that many Americans did not want to do. In times of economic turmoil, however, they were scapegoats, as American workers considered them to be competitors who drove down wages.
Overall, Raleigh views immigration as beneficial to the United States. There is a high demand yet a low supply of skilled workers, and immigrants have met that need. While some immigrants in the short term may compete with native-born Americans for low-skilled jobs, they also free native-born Americans to take jobs that require more facility with English. For example, when doctors immigrate to the United States and become specialists, that frees American doctors to enter general practice, and the greater supply of doctors has a positive effect on American health care costs. Raleigh argues that a number of immigrants work and that few commit crimes (other than being here illegally, in the case of illegal immigrants). Surveys indicate that many of them have positive attitudes towards the United States, indicating some desire to assimilate.
While Raleigh rejects the nativism of Donald Trump, she still believes that he is raising real issues. Immigrants have not always been adequately vetted, leading to Islamic terror on American and European soil. Raleigh notes that one such assailant actually left anti-American posts on Facebook, but the Department of Homeland Security did not check that out due to politically-correct sentiments and a desire to preserve civil liberties. While illegal immigrants pay sales and income taxes, their consumption of government benefits outweighs the amount of money that they contribute to the system. They are ineligible for a number of federal benefits, but some states are more generous in their welfare policies. The children of illegal immigrants who were born in the U.S. are also eligible for housing and medical benefits as well as public education and school lunch programs, and even illegal immigrants receive emergency care. Raleigh disagrees with building a wall, seeing that as a very expensive and slow-moving process. At the same time, she acknowledges that there are gaps in the border that put America at risk and that can be addressed, through security and cameras.
Based on her own personal experience as well as her formal analysis, Raleigh concludes that the U.S. immigration system is grossly inefficient. It can take decades to become a U.S. citizen, explaining why there are illegals who try to bypass that process altogether. The American immigration system is backlogged, and the criteria is not always consistent: the lottery program, for instance, randomly lets people in without regard to their ability to support themselves and contribute, as other programs seek to bring in skilled immigrants. There are categories (i.e., asylum, refugee) that can and should be consolidated. Among Raleigh’s proposals are border security, tightening the welfare system, and admitting people who can support themselves or at least be supported by people other than the government. She does not favor so much a single bill that would claim to fix immigration, as that could increase backlog, inefficient bureaucracy, and a host of new regulations. Rather, she believes that adjustments and consolidations can be made, here and there. Raleigh also cites the Canadian and Australian immigration systems as models to follow.
Raleigh also favors addressing the problems that lead immigrants to come to the U.S. For instance, she supports safe zones for refugees in Syria, which would be militarily protected by the U.S., Europe (which would want to solve the refugee influx to her own area), and Arab countries. These would be more than refugee camps, for they would include schools and businesses. Raleigh also believes that the U.S. should encourage free-markets, democracy, and anti-corruption measures in other countries, in some cases making foreign aid contingent on that.
The book is written from a conservative perspective. It has somewhat of a “pull yourself up by your own bootstrap” mentality. In one place, Raleigh notes the irony of how the Colorado Supreme Court in 2015 ruled against school choice by appealing to the Blaine Amendment of the nineteenth century, which marginalized and discriminated against Catholic schools, reflecting Protestant xenophobia and nativism against Catholic immigrants.
The book was interesting to read, in areas. Raleigh effectively told the tale of how the Puritans received financial support from British merchants to settle in America. The Puritan immigrants wanted to practice their religion, and the British merchants wanted to profit from what was in America. The British merchants required a huge payback from the Puritan settlers because the merchants were making a risky investment, as there were perils to coming to America and settling there. Raleigh also tells the story of Squanto, the Native American who was crucial to the Pilgrim’s survival. The Pilgrims were fortunate to meet someone who knew English, due to his unique background.
Raleigh’s policy proposals are understandable. A problem that I have is that their “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” attitude does not seem to grasp the difficulty that some have in supporting themselves under the American system. For example, the American health care system is expensive and daunting even for many native-born Americans, explaining why there are people who feel a need to receive Medicaid or Obamacare subsidies. We do not want more a lot of newcomers overloading the system, but is depriving immigrants of a safety net a compassionate policy? In addition, while Raleigh supports prioritizing the admission of skilled immigrants, she still wants to admit people seeking asylum, and not all of them are skilled. How can American society give them the skills that they need? That could have been explored more. Raleigh’s discussion of how to address the problems that lead immigrants to come to the U.S. could have used more detail. It seemed a little ginger—-yay, promote free markets!—-and it ignored the rationale that officials have had for pursuing an opposite path from what she recommended: the Obama administration, for instance, was skeptical about the effectiveness of safety zones in Syria because it doubted whether other countries would be willing to provide the ground troops for them. A proposal of ways to help other countries to control crime and violence would also have enhanced Raleigh’s discussion.
I checked this book out from the library. My review is honest!