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The Retired Investor: Immigrants Getting Bad Rap on the Economic Front

By Bill SchmickiBerkshires columnist
Immigration has become a dirty word among Americans. Illegal aliens take the brunt of the nation's animosity, for sure, and are vilified for a long list of crimes that few question. I am one of the few who see a positive side to migrants.
Politicians on both sides of the aisles are competing to keep as many immigrants as possible from entering the country. Campaign speeches by many radicals warn that the situation has reached cataclysmic proportions. The media stokes these fires with shots of dark-skinned refugees fording rivers, shivering in lines surrounded by barbed wire, and headlining any crimes that involve an immigrant. This is nothing new.
The country has a long history of failed immigration policies. Waves of immigration, followed by periods of no migration, or even expulsion, are part of our history. Migrants have settled vast areas of the country, built our railroads, and industrialized our cities. Attitudes toward these generations of newcomers have waxed and waned, blown by economic circumstances and the whims of our politicians. 
 Immigrants of different races, cultures, and religions have been subjected to enormous political backlash in the U.S. time and again. German, Irish, English, Italian, Canadian, French, Chinese, Jews, Japanese, South American, African — take your pick — they have all had their turn from the earliest days of this nation's existence.
Let's look at just a few examples. The Know Nothing Party in the 1850s hated Catholics and all foreigners. They wanted to increase the residency period for naturalization to 21 years. After the Civil War, the Naturalization Act of 1870 only granted naturalization rights to "aliens being free white persons, and to aliens of African nativity and persons of African descent." Then there was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which blocked Chinese immigrants from entering the country.  
In 1924, the politically popular and widespread notions of eugenics, nationalism, and xenophobia culminated in the National Origins Act. It was crafted to eliminate the "parasites of Europe and elsewhere." The Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924 halted all immigration from Asia, Southern Europe and Eastern Europe. Some believe that the lack of fresh immigration labor could have contributed to the economic downturn in the 1930s.
In 1933, the country entered the Great Depression. The secretary of labor at the time argued that repatriating foreigners would create additional jobs for Americans. As a result, the federal government deported more than one million Mexicans and persons of Mexican ancestry (60 percent of those were U.S. citizens). How did that work? The reverse happened. The unemployment rates for Americans spiked even higher. Sound familiar?
And what about the impact of our pre-World War II, immigration policies? You should know that our anti-refugee rules left thousands upon thousands of Jews stranded in Nazi-occupied Europe. We, along with many other countries, turned a blind eye to Hitler's Jewish pogroms despite knowing the systematic extinction of millions. How many more German Jews and others could have escaped the holocaust by fleeing to America, but no one cared? "Play it again, Sam."
In my next column, I will examine the controversy over immigration raging in the country today and how our present policies have impacted our economic growth, income, and inflation.

Bill Schmick is the founding partner of Onota Partners, Inc., in the Berkshires. His forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Onota Partners Inc. (OPI). None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-413-347-2401 or email him at bill@schmicksretiredinvestor.com.

Anyone seeking individualized investment advice should contact a qualified investment adviser. None of the information presented in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of OPI, Inc. or a solicitation to become a client of OPI. The reader should not assume that any strategies or specific investments discussed are employed, bought, sold, or held by OPI. Investments in securities are not insured, protected, or guaranteed and may result in loss of income and/or principal. This communication may include opinions and forward-looking statements, and we can give no assurance that such beliefs and expectations will prove to be correct. Investments in securities are not insured, protected, or guaranteed and may result in loss of income and/or principal. This communication may include opinions and forward-looking statements, and we can give no assurance that such beliefs and expectations will prove to be correct.



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