Immigration: The Right People and the Wrong People

by Bob Schwartz

Pilgrims - Superman - Jews
Today brings another high-profile politician talking about immigration policy that lets “the right people” in (those who will create the next Google) and keeps “the wrong people” out (vaguely defined, but you’ll know them when you see them).

A reminder that except for continental natives, all Americans are immigrants. Even the Mayflower people. Even Superman, an undocumented immigrant who for years was hidden by a seemingly kind and gentle Midwestern couple—of outlaws; why weren’t Ma and Pa Kent ever put in jail?

In the lead up to World War II, America could not find a place for thousands of Jews fleeing Hitler. These were apparently the wrong people, or the right people at the wrong time, or something. Any country is apt to make mistakes; America is no exception. Still, it is ironic that some of the people who were turned away might have started hundreds of Googles, or the 1930s equivalents. As it is, we can only imagine.

We can’t let everybody in, or so we say, but we don’t really talk about why not and what that means. Instead, we have immigrants who are “the wrong people”, but we also have “the right people” to serve particular national or individual interests (see also involuntary immigrants who were cheaper and more versatile than machines).

Not everybody is Superman. Not everybody is a bunch of unwanted people who will become the cliché of founding stock (Pilgrims) or unwanted people who never make it to shore (Jews). Not everybody is an entrepreneur. Not everybody is willing to take the worst jobs that few others want. Immigrants are people, not “right” or “wrong”. We can and should have a conversation without forgetting that.