For too long, liberals have suggested that only cruel, racist, or nativist bigots would want to restrict immigration. Anyone motivated by compassion and egalitarianism would choose more open borders—or so the argument goes. Now Reihan Salam, the son of Bangladeshi immigrants, turns this argument on its head.
In this deeply researched but also deeply personal book, Salam shows why uncontrolled immigration is bad for almost all Americans, including those who, like his family, belong to immigrant communities. Our current system has intensified the isolation of our native poor, and it risks ghettoizing the children of poor immigrants. It ignores the challenges posed by the declining demand for less-skilled labor, even as it exacerbates ethnic inequality and deepens our political divides.
If we continue on our current course—in which immigration policy chiefly serves wealthy insiders who profit from cheap labor and the well-being of the immigrants who already live among us is a mere afterthought—the rise of a new ethnic underclass is inevitable. Even more than now, class politics will be ethnic politics, and national unity will be impossible.
Salam offers a solution. Rejecting both cosmopolitan extremism and white identity politics, he argues that limiting total immigration and favoring skilled immigrants will combat rising inequality, balance diversity with assimilation, and foster a new nationalism that puts the interests of all Americans—native-born and foreign-born—first.
Praise for Melting Pot or Civil War?
“The choice between 'melting pot or civil war' may seem a stark one. But in this clear-sighted and courageous book, Salam persuasively argues that without a radical reform of the U.S. immigration system, our already polarized society might very well come apart at the seams.”
—Niall Ferguson, Milbank Family Senior Fellow, The Hoover Institution
“Tackling a complex and emotional subject with thoughtfulness and charity, Salam has issued a clarion call to everyone who cares about the American nation and every person who calls it home. Melting Pot or Civil War answers the question of how we can have an immigration policy that is beneficial, humane, and fair to everyone—from ninth-generation Americans to new immigrants.”
—J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy
“Should we lock people out of the middle class, or should we lock people out of the country? That is what is really being asked when we debate whether American immigration policy should be open or closed. Thankfully, Reihan Salam reveals this dichotomy to be a false choice. We can live in a middle class country that welcomes newcomers—if we can live with middle-of-the-road limits rather than absolutist extremes.”
—Peter Thiel, author of Zero to One
"No matter where you stand on the issue of immigration, Salam's book does something marvelously dangerous: it threatens to change your mind."
—Kristen Soltis Anderson, author of The Selfie Vote and cofounder of Echelon Insights
“For far too long, advocates of open immigration have dismissed their critics without even bothering to answer them. Reihan Salam should make that impossible. He offers a smart, informed, humane, and powerful case for an immigration policy that better serves all Americans. This is essential reading for understanding our country and its future.”
—Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs and author of The Fractured Republic
“Reihan Salam has written the most honest and insightful treatment of immigration you will find right now. I do not agree with everything he says in this book, but I highly recommend it.”
—Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics, George Mason University and author of The Complacent Class