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April 27, 2006

The Horrors of Immigration

From the Weekly Standard comes yet more evidence that immigration just ain't so devastating as the doom-and-gloomers like to pretend. Remember, 1986 was the last immigration reform, which legalized quite a few folks and heralded an increased flow into the country:

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the state's unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in 1986; at the end of 2005 it was 5.3 percent. Real wages have made substantial gains. In El Paso, for example, real wages increased from 647 million in 1986 to about 960 million in 2005. In the Dallas metro area, real wages rose from 7 billion in 1986 to over 11.8 billion in 2005.

However do they survive?

April 27, 2006 | Permalink


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There are two separate issues. I don't think anyone has a real problem with lawful immigration. However, it seems that you conveniently lump them together for your political purposes.

Illegal immigration is the issue at hand. And even if illegal immigration made us all rich, there are still many, many good reasons not to tolerate it. National Security comes to mind. Keeping out felons is another.

Tell me why each country shouldn't have the right to know (and approve) those who come and go across it's borders?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Apr 27, 2006 1:58:27 PM

I'm not lumping in anything. Immigration, legal and illegal, has been a boon. We should make more if it legal. And immigrants aren't felons -- that's the whole controversy of the Sensenbrenner bill, which would make them so. If we made immigration legal across the board, everyone would happily give us their name, height, and hair oclor when coming across the border. I'm glad you're on our side now, Fred: open borders for all!

Posted by: Ezra | Apr 27, 2006 2:08:21 PM

Of course, with no corresponding data about how much the population grew, your stats are kind of meaningless, aren't they?

And your baseline year, 1986, just happens to contain the "historical high" for Texas unemployment rates.


Cherry-pick much?

Posted by: zomby woof | Apr 27, 2006 2:10:28 PM

"If we made immigration legal across the board, everyone would happily give us their name, height, and hair oclor when coming across the border."

To tweak Joseph Conrad a bit...

"It's queer how out of touch with truth liberals are. They live in a world of their own, and there has never been anything like it, and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether, and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before the first sunset. Some confounded fact we conservatives have been living contentedly with ever since the day of creation would start up and knock the whole thing over. "

Posted by: zomby woof | Apr 27, 2006 2:15:49 PM

Man, must've really hit a nerve with this one. Trolls are just streaming out from beneath the bridges...

Posted by: Ezra | Apr 27, 2006 2:18:07 PM

As a participant in the construction boom in the last 10 years in California I can say unequivocally that Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, made it possible. I've always thought a guest worker program would be great but that means enforcing it--a border wall needs to be built, and lots of immigration personnel to send the illegals back home. That takes a lot of money. Does the cost of enforcing outway the costs of our current situation? I imagine the last few administrations have thought it better to leave it alone. Oh, and they like that Social Security that they'll never have to pay back too.

Posted by: Steve Mudge | Apr 27, 2006 2:24:02 PM

Does the cost of enforcing outway the costs of our current situation?

*National security

Why do you think we are now looking at this issue but not in the past? It has become much more important a security issue than in the past.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Apr 27, 2006 2:54:19 PM

National security is a good reason to reform our immigration policies in the way that Democrats want. Having our Border Patrol Agents chasing after every single person crossing the border makes it that much easier for criminals/drug smugglers/terrorists to cross unmolested.

If we would change our immigration laws so that the vast majority of currently illegal immigrants could have a way into the US that was simple and efficient, then we could direct our limited resources toward pursuing actual criminals. Current US policy makes our border with Mexico a drug smuggler's or terrorist's paradise.

Of course, why a terrorist would go through the trouble of going through the desert when they can just take a boat to one of our many, many unguarded ports is beyond me.

Posted by: Stephen | Apr 27, 2006 3:13:27 PM

Why do you think we are now looking at this issue but not in the past? It has become much more important a security issue than in the past.

Was immigration not a security issue from August 6, 2001 until the end of 2005?

Posted by: Violet Slandre | Apr 27, 2006 3:13:55 PM

I am a legal immigrant who was born in Canada. I came to this country with a job offer (in an field where there are not enough Americans to fill the available positions) and the correct visa. Through many years and at great expense I worked my way through the requirements of INS until one day, a couple of years ago, I stood in a hall with hundreds of other immigrants and recited the citizenship oath.

Why, I wonder, did I bother? I should have just walked across the border from Canada and started working, then waited for Congress to legitimize my status. That INS stuff was apparently just a waste of time -- a penalty for the stupid, like me, who insist on following the rules of the country they want to call home.

Posted by: Bob Mackenzie | Apr 27, 2006 3:29:26 PM

Bob has a point.

What the liberals want to do is change the law to fit the outlaws.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Apr 27, 2006 3:32:16 PM

But..but..they terk 'r jrbs!!!

Posted by: Adrock | Apr 27, 2006 3:34:03 PM

Shorter Bob Mackenzie: I'm fortunate enough to have been able to take advantage of an industry lobbying effort to hire non-Americans, and I resent all of the poor people who didn't have the same privileges I did and whose industries prefer to keep them illegal.

Posted by: paperwight | Apr 27, 2006 3:35:08 PM

Citing raw money totals without a per-capita statistic and without looking at the distribution is not dealing honestly with the reader.

Bush does that all the time.

For shame, Ezra. For shame.

Posted by: Quiddity | Apr 27, 2006 3:35:30 PM

Bob Mackenzie, what type of job are we talking about? Mexican day laborers aren't able to fill out applications and be awarded work VISAs. Why? The U.S. government does not give Mexicans any.

Posted by: Adrock | Apr 27, 2006 3:38:27 PM

C'mon, Fred, respond to Stephen's point. I'm quite curious to see what you come up with.

And even if illegal immigration made us all rich, there are still many, many good reasons not to tolerate it..

Perhaps, but wouldn't there be better reasons to just make it legal, thus making those "many good reasons" dissapear?

Posted by: djw | Apr 27, 2006 3:39:43 PM

Let's say we could snap our fingers and a truly impassable wall existed between Mexico and US, entry/exit points as the exception.

At the same time let's recognize that their are employers in the construction, hotel, restaurant, farmworking, and home care businesses who need many low paid workers to fill their needs.

So, jobs need filling, but existing quotas for latin American immigrants do not meet the need for jobs. We should we do?

- We could increase the quotas for latin American people.
- We could increase other quotas for non-latin-American people.
- We could leave the jobs unfilled.
- We could hope that employers increase the wages offered such that current citizens would be attracted to fill the job openings - recognizing that these increases in wages will result in higher costs for buyers of these goods and services.

Or we could expect that workers will be brought in via the sea in small boats across the Gulf of Mexico (TX, FL, AL, MS, LA) or the Paciic Ocean (CA, WA, OR).

I doubt Ezra is arguing for solving the problem by just opening the border - as it largely is today. I suspect he is arguing for increasing the quotas for legal immigration for latin American (and perhaps, non-latin American) workers.

A "wall" is not a solution for immigration to fill jobs that truly do exist and need willing applicants. If a wall existed, but no other changes occured, then workers will find other means of getting to the jobs - perhaps flying to Canada as a visitor and then crossing the multi-thousand mile US/Canada border. Sould we build another wall across that expanse?

The US employers have jobs to fill. Latin America has workers. Why not just increase the quotas for a green card to work (and the steps that lead to citizenship from the green card)?

Among the alternatives, larger quotas seems most workable. And the workers would be legal, so that whole argument goes away.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Apr 27, 2006 4:05:53 PM

You may have noticed that I said nothing about foreign poor folk or whether they should or should not be day laborers in this country. In fact, I would support a guest worker program for those who come here legally under its auspices.

A more correct shorter Bob Mackenzie: "Not being satisfied with my bread does not give me the right to steal cake." Or perhaps "Isn't it ironic that I want to rally for my "rights", when I don't have full respect for the responsibilites (i.e. lawful behavior at the border) that accompany those rights."

PS I did not come here as a result of industry lobbying congress to hire non-Americans. My "industry" was academia, and I had to prove to INS that my research was unique and valuble to the American people in order to gain permanent residency.

Posted by: Bob Mackenzie | Apr 27, 2006 4:07:07 PM

What did your employer have to provide in order to make that happen?

Posted by: Adrock | Apr 27, 2006 4:24:54 PM

It is a shame that the gov't has not been able to grant a perminent stay for those who has been here over 15 years. These folks are working as hard as they could. They deserve perminent. I agreed with the 2 Senitors Kennedy / Mackine proposal. After all no body here is a re American only by birth or their parents immigrant from some where else

Posted by: Sam Senyah | Apr 27, 2006 4:27:04 PM

I'm happy you liked the US enough to stay, Bob, just as I'm happy my parents took advantage of the racist 1952 quota system then still in place. It's always best to play by the rules, for the individual, given what the heartless machinery of the state can be like.

What we are talking about, however, is making the rules. Changing a bad law for the better is a boon to all, even if it may offend our notions of fairness (as in those who feel amnesty programs reward lawbreaking), nationalism or racial purity.

Given the manifest economic benefits of immigration (read the recent literature if you doubt me), I find arguments against liberalizing current law difficult to understand. I would like a bigger pie.

Plus, I love how riled up those (not you, Bob, not you) get whose stomach turns at the thought of brown-skinned folks with green cards. Oh, so funny.

Guest worker programs, for the record, are about letting you immigrate to teach for a while, but leaving open the risk that you or your children may be shipped back. I do not see them as desirable, and I have seen them in action in Europe. I don't get your attraction to the idea, aside from the friendly rhetorical syllable, "guest".

Posted by: wcw | Apr 27, 2006 4:30:10 PM

Now that Bob M. has revealed the nature of his work, it's laughably obvious his question "Why did I bother?" wasn't meant seriously. His employer never would have hired him as an undocumented worker.

Posted by: djw | Apr 27, 2006 4:33:08 PM

Would Bob be the moralist we see before us if academia had the restaurant industry's approach to hiring immigrants and vice-versa? Or would he have come here as a dishwasher instead, so as to honor the laws of our country?

Posted by: djw | Apr 27, 2006 4:35:03 PM

wcw--my experience with Mexicans is that most would like to make their working stays in the US relatively short...just enough to make some money and go back home to their families. So, "guest" works in that sense.

And what Violet said--if the concern were for national security why wasn't protecting the home shores the first priority? It is rather inconsistent, what with terrorists knocking at our doors, no?

Posted by: Steve Mudge | Apr 27, 2006 4:51:59 PM

What's amusing about Bob's response is that he essentially restated my "Shorter Bob" but was entirely oblivious to it.

Of course someone lobbied to be able to hire foreign academics. Those things don't just happen accidentally. Even if the exception is decades old, someone still made it happen.

Of course Bob is the beneficiary of growing up in a country which provided him all sorts of privileges, including the ability to get the Ph.D.

Of course Bob's industry doesn't hire illegals.

Of course Bob's employer sponsored him, and made sure that the INS knew that Bob was valuable to them.

And, of course, all of those privileges make Bob completely blind to the double standard that he's imposing on people without all of those privileges, but who pick the produce he eats, wash the dishes in the restaurants he frequents, and generally contribute a great deal to the country that let Bob become a citizen, but doesn't provide the same opportunities to them.

Posted by: paperwight | Apr 27, 2006 4:52:58 PM

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