The more fundamental problem with mass legal immigration, however, is that it’s an anachronism, something we’ve outgrown. As a young nation settling the land and later industrializing, we could successfully make use of a large number of new workers from abroad, though even in the past immigration created great social turmoil. But we are today a very different, more mature, nation. Our post-industrial, knowledge-based economy offers fewer opportunities for advancement to legal newcomers with little education, at the same time that our own less-educated are under great stress. A modern welfare state means that less-skilled legal workers, who necessarily earn low wages, create huge costs to taxpayers. Modern transportation and communications, combined with a post-national American elite, mean that immigrants — even skilled immigrants — have less need to assimilate and join the American people emotionally rather than just on paper. In short, mass immigration is incompatible with contemporary society.

Many of the concerns people express regarding illegal immigration are actually about immigration as a whole, most of which is legal. Most illegal immigrants work on the books for more than minimum wage — so job competition faced by less-skilled Americans has less to do with legal status and more to do with simple numbers. Likewise with welfare; illegals collect benefits on behalf of their U.S.-born children but are ineligible themselves, whereas legal immigrants use a much wider array of taxpayer-funded services. The same dynamic is true with the increase in poverty, in economic inequality, in the growth in the uninsured — legal immigration has a much larger impact than illegal.