Melting Pot or Civil War? A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders.

Author:Nowrasteh, Alex
Position:Book review

Melting Pot or Civil War? A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders

Reihan Salam

New York: Sentinel, 2018, 224 pp.

Praise for Melting Pot or Civil War? has ranged from the respectful to the worshipful. "It's a must-read for anyone with an interest in immigration policy," wrote one reviewer. "In a marketplace of ideas dominated by shouting and bad faith, Salam's book, although not without its flaws, is a much-needed injection of calm rationality," wrote another mostly critical reviewer. "Salam's basic reasonableness is a welcome breath of fresh air," wrote a third.

The gap in quality between the book described by reviewers above and the actual book Melting Pot or Civil War? is wider than in any other book that I can remember reading. Descriptions of "calm" and "reasonable" are the most perplexing. True, he appeals to Americans "who are willing to meet others hallway" to solve the problems that he's identified. On the other hand, he also argues that we need to follow his policy recommendations or face a racialized civil war. That is the very opposite of a "calm" or "reasonable" argument. A better description would be "hysterical" or "paranoid."

Salam's book argues that lower-skilled immigrants since 1968 are creating a permanent racialized underclass whose descendants will not rise to the middle or upper classes. He claims that the melting pot model of American immigrant assimilation is broken. Salam blames the breaking of the melting pot on many culprits: automation that will destroy jobs, American elites who don't insist on assimilation anymore, and new low-skilled immigrants who drive down the wages of longer-settled low-skilled immigrants.

This broken melting pot will result in a racialized underclass that will then be culturally, economically, and ethnically distinct from successful Americans. That could morph into "social unrest," "political turmoil," and an "even more dangerously divided society" that could soon "rise to the level of respectable people saying they want their political rivals dead." Although America has avoided those problems so far, Salam finds it "hard to shake the feelings that our luck might soon run out" and we'd have a civil war on our hands caused by an immigration policy with which he disagrees. Thus, Salam argues that the United States should greatly reduce the flow of low-skilled immigrants and replace them with skilled immigrants, add lots of welfare for the poor immigrants or their children who remain to help them assimilate, and legalize illegal immigrants.

Salam's worries about the assimilation and economic mobility of the second generation (those born to immigrants) drive his support for more welfare and cuts to low-skilled immigration. Recognizing that emigration is the one nearly guaranteed way for the poor of the developing world to dramatically improve their incomes and livelihood, Salam...

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