Immigrants pre 1920 lagged in income and wage growth. A massive wave of people from southern and eastern Europe could no longer be placed out on the frontier, because there was no frontier. (The federal government owned and still owns much of the land in the west.)
The restrictions placed in the 1920s allowed this wave to assimilate and become capitalist Americans. In 1968 these immigrants and their descendants changed from FDR Democrats to Nixon Democrats. Was this a xenophobic response to Ted Kennedy’s 1965 loosening of immigration restrictions? They could make the case that the flood of new low-skilled immigrants was one more factor in the flat wage growth, especially for men, the effects of which appeared in the 1970s and continues pretty much until today.
I see the massive effort to get into the USA as a signal that the world economic system is not working well for much of the world. The elite economic classes are now engaged in maximizing their position. They seek to gain as much money from as low-cost labor as possible. They will do this for as long as they can keep it going. Internationally, big banks in the USA and Europe will ally with the elites south of the border to give favor to export of farm and mining resources from those countries. They do this by continually devaluing the currencies of those countries.
In this system, anybody who tries to build up native capital in a poor country will be undermined and their savings destroyed. High taxes and austerity promoted by international banks and their servants in the IMF and World Bank also work to defeat new business and development. The educated who can’t get going in these poor countries present a danger to the power of the establishment, so they are happy to have these “malcontents” leave and go to the USA.
By draining poor countries of their best artistic and business minds, we are simply accelerating the process. Things will get worse and worse abroad and more and more will attempt to leave and come to the USA. It also puts us in a dangerous position where completely open borders will simply import the problem of cheap labor exploitation into the US.
It’s possible to be honestly appalled by the human rights situation that is the result of this twisted economic system. However I find the loudest protests to be hypocritical, self-serving, and directed more towards gaining political power and money for the Democratic Party. The congressional opposition was ready to shut down the government for immigration, but not for US citizens. Why? Because they expect the recent immigrants to remain poor and so faithful Democratic voters. Far from being confident in the capitalist system in the USA to build wealth for anybody, Democratic leaders have no fear that these poor immigrants will make it and possibly become (horrors) Republicans. If they do begin to gain wealth in the USA, the Democrats 20 years from now will simply demonize them like they have to the Nixon Democrats, and import a new generation of the poor to undermine them.
The romantic picture of immigrants reminds me of George Eliot’s description of philanthropy and having a greater effect on the self-regard of the giver according to the distance away from the receiver. Every privileged white person who exalts brown immigrants to me only exposes their feeling of superiority over those brown people. If the humanitarian feelings were honest, then the Democrats in Congress would express their open-borders ideas honestly, rather than bringing up the poor babies or the poor little children. If you really believed all immigrants are great, you would happily bring in everybody who showed up.
A real solution would be to investigate the interweaving and ingrown relationships of our banks with supposedly humanitarian-oriented international financial institutions. We could audit and hold them accountable for the damage they have done through their bad prescriptions and damaging policies tied to debt. We could truthfully examine the unfair benefits some in our society receive from the way our monetary system works. Without doing that we are just importing the system that impoverished all these poor countries into our own country.