Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Immigration Policy (page 1 / 2)

The Economic Case against Arizona's Immigration Laws →

Arizona's immigration laws have hurt its economy. The 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA) attempts to force unauthorized immigrants out of the workplace with employee regulations and employer sanctions. The 2010 Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070) complements LAWA by granting local police new legal tools to enforce Arizona's immigration laws outside of the workplace.

LAWA's mandate of E-Verify, a federal electronic employee verification system, and the "business death penalty," which revokes business licenses for businesses that repeatedly hire unauthorized workers, raise the costs of hiring all employees and create regulatory uncertainty for employers. As a result, employers scale back legal hiring, move out of Arizona, or turn to the informal economy to eliminate a paper trail. SB 1070's enforcement policies outside of the workplace drove many unauthorized immigrants from the state, lowered the state's population, hobbled the labor market, accelerated residential property price declines, and exacerbated the Great Recession in Arizona.

LAWA, E-Verify, and the business death penalty are constitutional and are unlikely to be overturned; however the Supreme Court recently found that some sections of SB 1070 were preempted by federal power. States now considering Arizona-style immigration laws should realize that the laws also cause significant economic harm. States bear much of the cost of unauthorized immigration, but in Arizona's rush to find a state solution, it damaged its own economy.

Measures to Capture Illegal Aliens Snare Citizens →

This is absolutely wrong and is a very good example of why the current hysteria over illegal immigration is a bad thing. We are a nation of immigrants. We shouldn't be so paranoid about immigrants that we're willing to treat citizens like crooks.

In a spate of recent cases across the country, American citizens have been confined in local jails after federal immigration agents, acting on flawed information from Department of Homeland Security databases, instructed the police to hold them for investigation and possible deportation.

Americans said their vehement protests that they were citizens went unheard by local police and jailers for days, with no communication with federal immigration agents to clarify the situation.

Welcoming Immigrants?

Initially, I was cheered by this story: Yard signs welcoming immigrants to Madison are starting to appear on the snow-piled landscape..

The signs say "Immigrants Welcome" printed in English, Hmong and Spanish. The word "Welcome" also is handwritten in six languages: English, Hmong, Spanish, Norwegian, German and Arabic, by members of immigrant families in Wisconsin.

"We've heard a lot of angry anti-immigrant sentiment. We're glad to be giving people an opportunity to express welcome and love to immigrants," said Janet Parker, co-chairwoman of Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.

Well, they sound like hippies, but at least I can agree with the message. I like immigrants and I'm glad that they see the United States as a good place to live and work. We must be doing something right.

Then I read down a bit further:

Parker said her group supports the work of immigrant rights groups like the Workers' Rights Center and Immigrant Workers' Union in Madison and Voces de la Frontera in Milwaukee.

"We see the war in Iraq as intrinsically tied to the war against immigrants," Parker said. "At the core, they are both about racism."

Ah, no. No, no, no. The war in Iraq has nothing to do with racism. Anyone who sincerely holds that opinion has tapioca between their ears. Also, Voces de la Frontera is a bit of an unsavory group.

As reported earlier members of Voces de la Frontera violated the home of State Senator Cathy Stepp last night shouting and attempting to intimidate her into signing driver license legislation for illegal immigrants.

I took the following from their website:

Description of Agency/Activities: Voces de la Frontera is a low-wage and immigrant worker's center that opened in Nov. 2001. The center was created to respond to the immediate problems low-wage immigrant workers face. The center provides a legal clinic where workers can obtain free legal advice about labor and civil rights, as well as ongoing English language and citizenship classes. The agency provides classes to train workers and other immigrants about discrimination, OSHA regulations, labor laws, worker's compensation, legalization and work visas, and more day-to-day topics such as how to obtain a driver's license, how to buy a house, and how to fill out taxes and open bank accounts. Ongoing campaigns include legalization and access to higher education for immigrant students.

Notice any trend there? All kinds of training on how to get government cash and sue people, nothing on job training or English language courses or fitting into society.

Don't expect to find one of those yard signs in my lawn. Not if buying the sign means supporting groups like Voces de la Frontera.

Losing Voters on Immigration

The Republican party thought it had the perfect issue to both rev up the base and angry blue collar Democrats -- attack immigration. After all, the Republican base supposedly hates the idea of people breaking the law and entering America without Uncle Sam's express written permission. And blue collar Democrats hate the idea of someone "stealing" their job by accepting lower wages.

All the Republicans needed to do was push for an "enforcement only" immigration bill. Refuse to do anything about our mess of immigration laws until the border had been locked down tight. "No changes without fences!" was their rallying cry. Republicans like John Kyle and John McCain, who tried to push for a comprehensive bill, were demonized and ostracized.

The strategy failed miserably. Instead of turning out the vote for the GOP, it destroyed whatever inroads the GOP had previously made with Latino voters. Richard Nadler, of America's Majority, recently completed an in-depth study of how the Republicans' position on immigration affected Latino voters. The results aren't pretty.

Nadler wrote about his results in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.

Undocumented Latinos constitute 3.8% of the American work force. But these 5.6 million workers are a mere fraction of the 17.3 million Latino citizens 18 years or older. Of these, 4.4 million are themselves foreign born.

In my recent study for the Americas Majority Foundation entitled "Border Wars: The Impact of Immigration on the Latino Vote," I document not what Hispanics opined, but how they actually voted, given a clear choice between advocates of "enforcement first" and comprehensive immigration reform. The results, based on returns from 145 heavily Hispanic precincts and over 100,000 tabulated votes, indicate this: Immigration policies that induce mass fear among illegal residents will induce mass anger among the legal residents who share their heritage.

In these three races, Republicans' vote share in heavily Latino precincts dropped 22 percentage points.

What does this mean nationwide? Republicans' presidential Hispanic vote share increased to 40% in 2004 from 21% in 1996. In 2004, Latinos comprised 6% of the electorate, but 8.1% of the voter-qualified citizenry. With the partisan margin shrinking, the incentive for major Hispanic registration efforts by either party was scant.

That changed in 2006, when the GOP's Hispanic vote share declined by 10%. And, as we have seen, the drop was twice as precipitous where Republicans disavowed comprehensive immigration reform. With the huge wedge in vote share that "enforcement-only" opened, the cost-effectiveness of voter-registration efforts improved dramatically -- for Democrats.

Great work guys. Can we finally put to rest the idea that slamming shut the border and demonizing entire racial groups is a good way to win elections? Can we finally start working on a way to fix the entire immigration process rather than pretending that a border fence is the only thing missing?

An Example of Bad Immigration Policy

Eduardo Gonzalez is a petty officer second class, in the U.S. Navy. He's a naturalized citizen. His wife, Mildred, is not. Eduardo is about to be deployed to overseas. His wife may not be in the States, by the time he gets back.

In Gonzalez's case, his wife, Mildred, came to the United States with her mother in 1989 when she was 5 years old. They were granted political asylum because of their status as war refugees from Guatemala.

In September 2000, Mildred's mother applied for legalization and included her daughter in that application. Her mother was granted legal status in July 2004, according to Gonzalez.

However, six weeks earlier, Gonzalez and Mildred got married, canceling Mildred's ability to apply for legal status through her mother because she was no longer an unmarried daughter under the age of 21. As a result, her legal status still remains in jeopardy.

A judge in June granted her a one-year extension to remain in the United States. If her legal status does not change by June 8, 2008, she will have 60 days to voluntarily leave the country or face deportation.

Why do we still have an immigration system that's more interested in kicking Mildred out of the country than in welcoming her into the country? Why did it take four years for her mother to be legalized? Will it take another four years for her to legalized?

Eduardo is serving this country, putting his life on the line. Are we really going to reward him by kicking his wife back to Guatemala -- a country she hasn't lived in for 17 years -- and making her go through "the line" for the next 4-10 years? Do we really want to send the world a message saying "Stay Out! America for Americans Only!"

It sure looks to me like that's what we're doing. And we don't have to. All we need to do is change immigration law. The law should treat relatives of the military as though we actually value the sacrifice that the military makes. That law should provide an easy, relatively painless process to enter the country -- not the labyrinthian mess that we have now. Why is doing the right thing so hard?

Finally, comments like this are hardly helpful.

That's just fine, according to Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which lobbies for tougher laws on illegal immigration.

"What you're talking about is amnesty for illegal immigrants who have a relative in the armed forces, and that's just outrageous," he said. "What we're talking about here is letting lawbreakers get away with their actions just because they have a relative in the military. ... There's no justification for that kind of policy."

Lawbreakers? Mildred isn't a lawbreaker. She immigrated and was granted asylum because her homeland was tearing itself apart. She spent her entire life her. She wants to spend the rest of her life her. And you're calling her a lawbreaker?

Give me a break.

The Downside of Banning Immigration

The truth is, I really enjoy saying "I told you so". So I read this article with great pleasure and much chuckling.

A little more than a year ago, the Township Committee in [Riverside, NJ, a] faded factory town became the first municipality in New Jersey to enact legislation penalizing anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant.

Within months, hundreds, if not thousands, of recent immigrants from Brazil and other Latin American countries had fled. The noise, crowding and traffic that had accompanied their arrival over the past decade abated.

The law had worked. Perhaps, some said, too well.

With the departure of so many people, the local economy suffered. Hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered to the immigrants saw business plummet; several closed. Once-boarded-up storefronts downtown were boarded up again.

Here's the town's former mayor, on the law:

"The business district is fairly vacant now, but it's not the legitimate businesses that are gone," he said. "It's all the ones that were supporting the illegal immigrants, or, as I like to call them, the criminal aliens."

Or, as I like to call them, taxpayers and the backbone of the local economy.

This entry was tagged. Immigration Policy

Immigration and Unintended Consequences

Many people want to limit immigration in order to provide more jobs to Americans. They theorize that without lots of immigrants willing to work for cheap labor, farmers and businesses will be forced to employ more Americans, at higher wages.

It's a nice theory. But that's all it is. The law of unintended consequences applies even to immigration policy. Rather than accepting a loss of Mexican field hands, farmers are being to move their fields to Mexico.

Steve Scaroni, a farmer from California, looked across a luxuriant field of lettuce here in central Mexico and liked what he saw: full-strength crews of Mexican farm workers with no immigration problems.

Farming since he was a teenager, Mr. Scaroni, 50, built a $50-million business growing lettuce and broccoli in California's Imperial Valley, relying on the hands of immigrant workers, most of them Mexicans and many probably in the United States illegally.

But early last year he began shifting part of his operation to rented fields here. Now some 500 Mexicans tend his crops in Mexico, where they run no risk of deportation.

"I'm as American red-blood as it gets," Mr. Scaroni said, "but I’m tired of fighting the fight on the immigration issue."


Link Roundup -- June 24, 2007

This post is a random grab bag of what I found interesting this weekend.

A Long Line for a Shorter Wait at the Supermarket. A search for higher customer satisfaction (and higher profits) led Whole Foods to revamp their checkout lines.

Lines can also hurt retailers. Starbucks spooked investors last summer when it said long lines for its cold beverages scared off customers. Wal-Mart, too, has said that slow checkouts have turned off many.

And they are easily turned off. Research has shown that consumers routinely perceive the wait to be far longer than it actually is.

Whole Foods executives spent months drawing up designs for a new line system in New York that would be unlike anything in their suburban stores, where shoppers form one line in front of each register.

The result is one of the fastest grocery store lines in the city. An admittedly unscientific survey by this reporter found that at peak shopping times "” Sunday, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. "” a line at Whole Foods checked out a person every 4.5 seconds, compared with 19.6 seconds for a line at Trader Joe's.

Put Kieran on a poster. A student in Saskatchewan, Canada learned that independent learning is a quick route to the principal's office.

King, who is in Grade 10 at a high school in tiny Wawota, Sask., started researching marijuana after he and his fellow students were given an audiovisual presentation about drugs earlier in the year. The presentation, from his entirely believable description, was typical of its kind: short on background facts and long on horror stories.

On May 30, Kieran, who is described as "research-obsessed" by his mother, was chatting with friends around the school lunch table and telling them about what he'd discovered, largely from scholarly and government sources. He argued that marijuana carries a near-zero risk of overdose, that it has been approved by Health Canada for medical use and that it kills an infinitesimal fraction of the people that alcohol and tobacco do every week -- claims so uncontroversial you'd have to be high on something much stronger than pot to dispute them.

But one of the students who'd witnessed the conversation apparently finked to the warden. (From this day forward I'm going to avoid the use of the term "principal." If schools are going to be run like prisons, let's adopt the appropriate lingo.) Boss bull Susan Wilson ordered Kieran to stop talking about marijuana on school premises -- even though he had been outside the classroom, where school officials have to meet a justifiably high standard before interfering with a student's freedom of speech -- and later she called his mother to warn her that "promoting drug use" would not be tolerated. According to the education director of the school division, she was also told "if there were any drugs brought into the school, the police could be involved."

Next up, robots may make arguments over illegal immigrants moot. Farms Fund Robots to Replace Migrant Fruit Pickers

Vision Robotics, a San Diego company, is working on a pair of robots that would trundle through orchards plucking oranges, apples or other fruit from the trees. In a few years, troops of these machines could perform the tedious and labor-intensive task of fruit picking that currently employs thousands of migrant workers each season.

The robotic work has been funded entirely by agricultural associations, and pushed forward by the uncertainty surrounding the migrant labor force. Farmers are "very, very nervous about the availability and cost of labor in the near future," says Vision Robotics CEO Derek Morikawa.

Once again, we see an example of political uncertainty leading companies to make investments and decisions that they wouldn't ordinarily make. Something to keep in mind anytime Congress starts debating something -- the debate itself can affect the real world.

Finally, many men are so afraid of child molestation accusations that they're no longer volunteering for any position that would put them near children. See Daily Pundit » Where Are The Big Brothers?.

The article sets out a number of possible reasons men don't volunteer at Big Brothers-Big Sisters in greater numbers "“ but the fact that the rate at BB-BS is less than the overall average for volunteer-based organizations moves me to throw out an undiscussed possibility: men are afraid of having their lives destroyed by a false accusation, and fear the BB-BS will protect itself by throwing its resources behind the accuser.

In Arizona, almost 60 percent of grade school principals and nearly 90 percent of teachers are women. Six years ago, the majority of principals were men. Some schools have no men, meaning kids may not have a male teacher or principal until middle or high school. It's the same picture nationally.

... Scottsdale's Serna said the fear of being accused of inappropriate touching or abuse has made lots of educators uncomfortable. Many administrators and teachers leave the profession out of fear of lawsuits or false accusations.

Thinking about Immigration the Wrong Way

Two stories caught my attention this morning. First, the current immigration bill would create a work database for all Americans.

The so-called Employment Eligibility Verification System would be established as part of a bill that senators began debating on Monday...

All employers -- at least 7 million, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- would be required to verify identity documents provided by both existing employees and potential hires, the legislation says. The data, including Social Security numbers, would be provided to Homeland Security, on penalty of perjury, and the government databases would provide a work authorization confirmation within three business days.

Even parents who hire nannies might be covered. The language in the bill, called the Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act, defines an employer as "any person or entity hiring, recruiting, or referring an individual for employment in the United States" and does not appear to explicitly exempt individuals or small businesses. (Its Senate sponsors did not immediately respond on Monday to queries on this point.)

Why is this considered a good idea? One screw-up by the government and American citizens will be legally barred from working. What kind of controls will there be on this database? How will you challenge a denial of your work authorization? How will you know that someone in Washington didn't put you into the database out of sheer spite? This is a bad, bad, bad idea.

Secondly, Ed Morrissey relays the story of a sex slavery ring that exploited illegal immigrants.

The women came mostly from Mexico and Central America.

When they arrived in Minnesota, the women had their passports and other identifying documents taken away and they were forced into a world of prostitution. In one night, two women serviced more than 80 men in a south Minneapolis house.

Ed has a solution for this problem:

This is a horrific case, and one which points out the need for strong border control. The men conned the women into crossing the border, and then they took advantage of their illegal status to force them into prostitution.

Sure, these women were conned and controlled because they were not legally allowed to work or live in the United States. Preventing them from coming here at all would have prevented their enslavement. On the other hand, allowing them to enter legally would have also prevented their enslavement. Placing high barriers to immigration increases the chances that people will be "helped" across the border, then exploited. Placing low barriers to immigration allows people to come to the U.S. in search of a better life, without fear of future enslavement. Why are we so eager to choose the first path and not the second?

Immigration Updates

N.Z. Bear put the entire text of the Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 online. It is hyperlinked for easy access to specific sections and readers can leave comments about specific sections. This is a great way to read the bill and build citizen awareness of what Congress is trying to do.

Hugh Hewitt has been reading through the bill and offering his criticisms. Specifically, the bill apparently has a gaping loophole that would allow almost any existing illegal immigrant to gain a Z-visa without a full background check. Furthermore, the bill seems to assume that the Federal government has no chance of completing background checks on 12 million illegals and starts the blame game early. Finally, the bill would impose a huge hidden tax on businesses hiring immigrants.

So far, not so good.

However, John McCain says that the loophole really isn't a loophole.

I may or may not have further thoughts on this later. Mainly, I wanted to publish these resources for anyone that's more interested in them than I am.

This entry was tagged. Immigration Policy

Immigration Compromise?

The Senate appears to have reached a compromise on an immigration reform bill. Here's a list of links for your edification:

On the other hand, I'm somewhat encouraged that these folks don't like the bill:

Finally, Ed Morrissey doesn't really like the bill, but thinks it's the best that the Republicans are going to get and is a tolerable compromise.

Me, I'm still thinking. I'll let you know my feelings in a later post.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey defends the bill against Republican haters.

This entry was tagged. Immigration Policy

Immigration Reform in Colorado

Yesterday, Colorado's legislature and governor reached a deal on what looks like a very good immigration reform package. The legislature passed HB 1023, restricting welfare to citizens and legal immigrants.

Here's what's in the bill:

How would an applicant get public assistance?

Applicants for taxpayer-funded benefits would be required to show they are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. They would also be required to sign an affidavit attesting to their legal status.

What is the penalty?

If an applicant falsely signs an affidavit, he or she would face a misdemeanor charge of perjury in the second degree.

Each offense would carry a maximum penalty of 18 months in jail, a $5,000 fine, or both, and a minimum penalty of six months in jail, a $500 fine, or both.

What would be curtailed?

Any retirement, welfare, health, disability, public or assisted housing, post-secondary education, food assistance, unemployment benefit, or any other similar payment.

The bill would also ban any grant, contract, loan, professional license or commercial license provided by an agency of state or local government.

This is a very good bill and I applaud the Colorado government for passing it.

This entry was tagged. Immigration Policy

More Immigration Economics

Jenna is worried about the effects of immigrants on our social services:

Mexico is a very destitute country, especially when compared to the United States. With completely open, unfettered borders, we would become, as I said before, the bassinet of the world, handing out our social dollars to those who are not citizens of our country. While I am not an isolationist, we must be autonomous.

Joe also argues that with open borders, the immigration flow will subside, as the workforce market becomes saturated. That too I disagree with. With open borders, cheap labor will become the preferred choice, and American citizens will see their jobs vanish. As well, while the illegal immigrants are taking American jobs at an ever increased rate, immigration will never subside. Once they hear not of our saturated job market, but of our strong social net and welfare dollars, they will quickly enter the United States to take advantage of this. Instead of moving away from socialism, as Joe prefers, we would move towards it, with multitudes more people living on the taxpayers' buck.

There's so much I disagree with here, that I'm not sure where to start. Jenna argues that an influx of cheap labor will destroy American jobs. This is a common idea, but a wrong one. Many of Mexico's immigrants are unskilled. As such, they're hardly likely to be taking the jobs of American software engineers, pharmacists, doctors, professors, or the jobs of anyone else working in skilled professions. Many, many Americans are in no danger of competition from Mexican immigrants.

Additionally, cheap labor doesn't destroy jobs, it creates them. How many times have conservatives bemoaned the labor market in Madison -- so weighed down by regulations and government edicts that labor is too expensive to hire? General Motors is on the verge of bankruptcy thanks to labor unions making labor too expensive. As a result, General Motors is shedding jobs as fast as possible in an effort to save money and remain open for business. Ford is facing similar problems. Good, hard working American workers are losing their jobs because their labor is too expensive for their employer to keep.

Cheap labor allows existing business to create new jobs, offering new services to the public. Cheap labor allows new businesses to spring into existence, creating wealth where none existed before. As cheap laborers become skilled laborers, demand for their services will increase. Their wages will rise. As a result, we'll have a new company where none existed before. The employees of that company will be constantly increasing their skills and abilities and their wages will rise commensurately.

Jenna proposes a vision where every company hires the cheapest labor possible. Why? What company in their right mind would do that? An unskilled carpenter may have a low salary, but he offers little expertise and ability to his employer. Employers will always have room for both skilled and unskilled labor, for both cheap and expensive labor. No company can long exist while employing only cheap, unskilled labors. No laborer will long work for a company offering only low wages and no benefits. They'll either leave for another employer or take their skills and become their own employer.

This is basic Economics 101. For someone who describes herself as an economic libertarian, I'm surprised to see Jenna repeating such Marxist ideas.

Secondly, We don't need immigrants to bring socialist ideas to our shores -- Teddy Kennedy, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Jesse Jackson, and Russ Feingold are doing that already. It's true that immigrants use social services at a slightly higher rate than the native-born population does. Should we punish them for taking advantage of what's offered or should we focus our energies on the politicians who continually dip into our pockets?

Why assume that every immigrant will vote in favor of more welfare? The ones that actually make the journey to the United States -- across the desert sands of the southwest -- are hardly the laziest of Mexico's workers. Some immigrants will vote for a higher welfare state, some will vote for more freedom just like native Americans. The good news is that immigrants start their own businesses at a much higher rate than native Americans do. Given that small business owners generally vote for smaller government, I see reasons for optimism.

After all, why do immigrants migrate to America? They migrate because they have few opportunities for success in their native land. Mexico is not poor because its people are stupid, lazy, or illiterate. Mexico is poor because its political, legal, and social institutions prevent people from using their human capital to generate wealth. Immigrants migrate to America because America gives them the opportunity to succeed, when their native land won't. Given those conditions, how likely are they to support policies that would turn America into an imitation of Mexico?

This entry was tagged. Immigration Policy

Immigration and Nationhood

The second question Jenna raised is the question of national borders.

We must have controlled borders in our nation to be a nation. We must have rules and regulations on whom can enter to be an autonomous United States of America. ... Is there any nation in this world that has completely open borders? I believe not. To do this would completely degenerate the underlying fabric of our nation, that which ties us together.

What is the underlying fabric of our nation? What is it that ties us together? I would argue that it is a common ideal. The idea that all men are equal under the law. The idea that anyone can become anything that they want. The idea that status and prestige are not linked to who your family is or what job your parents had, but to your own achievements, character, and efforts. America is more than just land with a certain outline -- it is an idea that has inspired millions around the globe.

Maybe there aren't any nations in the world with completely open borders. That's hardly a compelling argument against the very idea of a nation with completely open borders. Before 1776, had there ever been a nation that offered representative democracy to everyone? America has been unique throughout its entire history. Let's not fall into the trap of trying to make America more like other nations or arguing that America should follow the example of other nations. We should be providing the example for everyone else to follow.

Why would an open borders policy completely degenerate the underlying fabric of our nation? Are you worried that those who would enter the country wouldn't believe in the American ideals of social equality, equal justice under the law, and unlimited opportunity? Those are the very ideas that have drawn millions of immigrants to America. The vast majority of American immigrants came because they were unable to enjoy the "blessings of liberty" in their native lands. Our immigrants have tended to hold the American ideal in higher regard than most Americans do.

Finally, why must we have rules and regulations on whom can enter? And why would these rules, or the lack of them, affect our autonomy? Autonomy is completely separate from the concept of borders. Autonomy is freedom from external control. As long as America's laws are created by America's citizens, America will remain an autonomous nation. In the final result, borders have little to do with how we govern ourselves. Many people that are inside of America's borders are not allowed to vote -- children, felons, the insane, etc. Many outside of America's borders are allowed to vote -- the military, those vacationing on election day, those living overseas at the request of their employers, etc.

Borders delineate the area over which a nation's laws extend. If you live inside of those imaginary lines, you follow one set of laws. If you live outside of those imaginary lines, you follow another set of laws. I would like to think that we can enforce America's laws inside of America's borders without needing to control who lives on which side of the border.

Next, Jenna brought up the issue of citizenship.

Immigration clearly has ties to economics, which is where Joe sees an issue. However, immigration first has ties to our nationhood, and our system of laws, and our definition of citizen. And we must respect that.

Being a citizen means being a member of a political community -- having the right to vote and a voice in making a nation's laws. Given voter turnout over the last several decades, it would seem that many of America's citizens don't think citizenship is anything special.

Citizenship is a separate issue from borders, involving the question of who can vote and where they can vote. It's true that many precincts are subject to voter fraud. This isn't an argument for kicking out immigrants -- it's an argument for creating an election system that actually works. I'm all for requiring positive identification before allowing someone to vote. After all, if you can't be bothered to get a State ID, how committed to citizenship can you possibly be? That goes for both immigrants and for native-born Americans.

We must make a clear distinction between people who live in the United States and people who are allowed to affect the future and direction of the United States. Learning America's history, learning America's language, learning America's culture and ideas must be prerequisites for becoming an American citizen. That is the source of America's common ties and social fabric. As long as we restrict citizenship to those who are committed to American ideals, I don't fear immigration.

This entry was tagged. Immigration Policy

Immigration and Public Resources

Jenna argues that even if our per-capita resources are higher than they were doing the last wave of immigration, that still doesn't mean that we can accomodate another large wave of immigrants.

We should not deduce our ability to handle a large flow of legal immigrants in comparison to the past. The two time frames have no bearing on each other whatsoever. In 1920, the US population was just over 100,000,000. Today, we are reaching 300,000,000. So yes, our infrastructure has expanded since the early century, but that is to accommodate current US citizens. Resources are higher, even at a per capita, but that is not indicative of an ability to drastically increase our domestic population. That is indicative of our lifestyles.

Perhaps so. I know I enjoy having lots of open spaces and uncrowded roads. But I don't buy the arguement that immigrants are making the country more crowded. Immigration opponents will point to two main negative effects of immigration: crowded schools and crowded emergency rooms. Both of these things have something in common: government intervention. Your local public school monopoly is under the direct control of government. Local emergency rooms are forced by the government to treat everyone who walks through their doors. The negative effects of these policies are all too easy to predict.

Public schools are completely unable to allocate resources in a rational manner. By its very nature, the school must cater to every constituency -- including the teachers unions. Schools are unable to handle sudden population changes because of their bureucratic nature. Emergency rooms face a similiar dilemma. The government mandates that they provide service to everyone. Unfortunately, government reimbursements for those services are somewhat on the stingy side. As a result, emergency rooms are a huge drain on a hospital's resource. The hospital responds by rationing care in the only way they can: lengthy wait times.

Immigration -- legal and illegal -- is revealing the down-side of government provided services. The solution isn't to limit the number of people who can come into the country, but to allow market incentives to provide what those in the country need. When was the last time we heard of shoe shortages? Or clothing shortages? Or shortages of kitchen supplies, office supplies, or any of the other thousands of items that litter our lives? There is no rational reason why medical care and education should be subject to sudden shortages. The solution isn't to limit immigration, it's to remove the barriers that prevent the market from working. After all, isn't that one reason why we're supporting Mark Green for governor?

This entry was tagged. Immigration Policy

Another Bad Immigration Idea

Please don't tell me that I actually have to explain why this is a bad idea:

Scott Silverman, Chairman of the Board of VeriChip Corporation, has proposed implanting the company's RFID tracking tags in immigrant and guest workers. He made the statement on national television on May 16.

Silverman was being interviewed on "Fox & Friends." Responding to the Bush administration's call to know "who is in our country and why they are here," he proposed using VeriChip RFID implants to register workers at the border, and then verify their identities in the workplace. He added, "We have talked to many people in Washington about using it...."

The VeriChip is a very small Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag about the size of a large grain of rice. It can be injected directly into the body; a special coating on the casing helps the VeriChip bond with living tissue and stay in place. A special RFID reader broadcasts a signal, and the antenna in the VeriChip draws power from the signal and sends its data. The VeriChip is a passive RFID tag; since it does not require a battery, it has a virtually unlimited life span.

RFID tags have long been used to identify animals in a variety of settings; livestock, laboratory animals and pets have been "chipped" for decades. Privacy advocates have long expressed concerns about this technology being used in human beings.

(Hat tip to Southern Appeal.)

Captain Ed: Socialist?

Captain Ed joins the ranks of conservatives that sound like socialists, when discussing immigration.

We never argued for shutting out all immigration, but what we wanted was controlled and sensible immigration that would benefit us and the world.

... We still need to know how this nation will assimilate two million people every year, both economically and culturally.

... Where will they all go, and what will we do to house and educate them?

It sounds like Captain Ed wants the Senate to have a plan for housing and educating immigrants. It sounds like Captain Ed wants to control and direct the labor market, planning it for the maximum amount of good.

How is this attitude different from socialism? All the big government socialists want is a planned and directed economy. And, yet, a planned economy never works out well. Why should immigration be a special case?

Having open borders and unlimited immigration creates a free market in labor. Immigrants will continue to enter the country as long as jobs are available and will leave (or stop coming) when jobs are no longer available. As long as immigrants keep coming, home builders and construction workers will continue to provide housing for them; Nike and Reebok will continue to provide shoes for them; local barbers will continue to provide hair cuts for them; and grocery stores will continue stocking food for them.

Whether in labor or housing, the free market will send the right signals and ensure that everything keeps working -- whether or not the Senate actually knows what its doing.

Now I don't to pick on Captain Ed too much. He does have legitimate concerns, that I share.

By 2026, over ten percent of our population will have emigrated here within the past generation. What kind of impact will that have on our economy, our culture, our politics? Has the Senate even bothered to find out?

I think the effect on our economy will be positive. But the effect on our culture and politics is harder to predict. It's a question worth considering, I don't think it should be mixed in with socialist concerns about how "we" will provide for everyone that comes in.

Oh. One final thing. Ed asked where they would all go given that "that level of immigration would be the equivalent of adding eight Minnesotas to the nation within a generation without adding any more territory." Well, 97 percent of the United States is empty space, so I think we can find somewhere for them to go.

This entry was tagged. Immigration Policy

Immigrants: We Need Them

(Part of the Intra-Madison Immigration Debate.)

(Welcome, Carnival of the Badger readers. Thanks for visiting. Feel free to look around and explore the rest of the site, while you're here.)

Update: Jenna responds to this post.

In my last post, I talked about America's ability to absorb immigrants. I believe that not only are we capable of absorbing vast numbers of immigrants, but that we need immigrants to keep our economy running. I don't mean we need immigrants to "do jobs that Americans won't do". I mean that we need immigrants to do jobs that Americans will be unable to do.

The Great Retirement is growing ever closer. In 2011 -- just five years from now -- the Baby Boomers will start retiring. Over the following 18 years, 79 million Americans will retire. Every American household owes the Baby Boomers more than $500,000 in promised retirement and medical benefits. But the problem extends far beyond promised retirement benefits. Over the next 23 years, 79 million jobs will be left empty. During that time span, businesses will need to hire a vast number of new employees.

These are not jobs that Americans can fill. There simply aren't enough young Americans entering the workforce to compensate for all of the older Americans that will be leaving the workforce. Immigration is the only conceivable means of filling those 79 million open jobs.

It's not just the future that is worrying. It's the present as well. Consider the story of Marshalltown, Iowa.

I grew up in Marshalltown, Iowa. I'll tell you, they're not running out of space in Marshalltown. From the historic courthouse at the center of town, a ten to fifteen minute drive in any direction will put you in a cornfield. Over the past decade or so, Marshalltown has seen an influx of Mexicans "” many from a single village, Villachuato "” who came to work at the Swift meatpacking plant, or in the fields in the summer. This has caused a bit of friction in a middle-class town with a largely German and Scandinavian heritage "” but just a bit. In fact, many small Midwestern towns like Marshalltown have been fighting for decades to hold on to a dwindling population. This is a real problem. Marshalltown businesses, for example, receive less than one application for each new job opening.

[Villachuatans] account for about half of the 1,900 employees at the largest employer in Marshalltown, a Swift & Co. meatpacking plant that also generates 1,200 additional jobs at related companies. Mexicans also have opened several new businesses in town, and their children have propped up sagging enrollment in Marshalltown schools. Not surprisingly, Mayor Harthun was eager to learn more about them "” in part, because he wanted them to stay. "I was being self-serving," he admits. "We need people."

Nor is Marshalltown the only place in the nation with these problems. Consider North Carolina:

In North Carolina, the immigrant population has nearly tripled since 1990, the biggest increase of any state in the nation, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan group in Washington. By far the biggest group of new immigrants in the state is illegal Mexicans.

Stephen P. Gennett, president of the Carolinas chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, which represents commercial builders, said Mexican immigrants filled an important gap in the labor market.

"We have a problem here: a people shortage," Mr. Gennett said. "In the 90's, we began to feel the stress of an inadequate work force," he said. "The Hispanics have been filling those jobs."

As I've been reading about immigration the last several weeks, I have seen this statement echoed in many articles. All around the nation are cities and towns that have a shortage of workers. Often, Mexicans are filling that shortage. If we try to hold down the number of immigrants moving across the border, we will do real economic harm to many communities across the United States. (As well as physical harm. Cracking down on illegal immigrants in the Northwest would leave many areas vulnerable to forest fires during the coming year.)

These are facts that our current immigration laws do not recognize. Indeed, the more that I think about our immigration laws, the more socialist they seem. The theory behind socialism and fascism was that the government could do a better job of planning the nation's economy than the free market could.

Our immigration laws reflect that theory. We have a complicated system of visas and quotas. Congress has established limits on the number of immigrants that can enter in each year, along with limits on how many people from each profession will be allowed to immigrate each year. In it's infinite wisdom, Congress decides how many lawyers, doctors, programmers, engineers, teachers, and "unskilled workers" will be allowed to immigrate each year. The goal is to have a well-planned immigration system that will give us highly skilled (highly taxable) workers that will not need to use our social services.

Unfortunately, Congress's infinite wisdom is usually anything but. Instead of a well-planned economy, we have a system where many businesses wage a constant battle to hire new employees and keep the employees that they already have. If their needs exceed what the government quotas allow for, the business is simply out of luck and will have to struggle along the best that they can.

The current treatment of Mexican immigrants typifies this insanity.

The United States offers 5,000 permanent visas worldwide each year for unskilled laborers. Last year, two of them went to Mexicans. In the same year, about 500,000 unskilled Mexican workers crossed the border illegally, researchers estimate, and most of them found jobs.

"We have a neighboring country with a population of 105 million that is our third-largest trading partner, and it has the same visa allocation as Botswana or Nepal," said Douglas S. Massey, a sociology professor at Princeton.

As Mexican immigration has accelerated, the United States has cut back on the permanent-resident visas available to unskilled Mexicans and shifted the system progressively away from an emphasis on labor, to favor immigrants with family ties to American citizens or legal residents, or who have highly specialized job skills.

In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement unleashed a surge of cross-border trade and travel, but at the same time the United States initiated the first in a series of measures to reinforce the border with Mexico to block the passage of illegal workers.

Businesses and workers are both sending clear signals that Mexican labor is in great demand. Rather than accomodating this demand and supplying the needs of the American economy, the government has been working in opposition to the demand. In fact, the greater the demand for foreign labor, the more the Federal government works to restrict that labor. This is centralized planning on a grand and unsustainable scale.

Earlier, Jenna asked how I would change our immigration laws. My answer is simple. I would make our laws better reflect the law of supply and demand. No limits, no quotas, and no complicated immigration categories. People would be free to move the United States (as long as they passed a criminal background check), regardless of socio-economic status, job skills, or education.

We need not worry that the supply of immigrants would outpace the supply of jobs. As the U.S. labor market became saturated, potential immigrants would hear from existing immigrants that work was becoming scarce. Once that happens, the flow of immigration will slow down. All of this will occur without government intervention or direciton. Indeed, this is how everything else in our economy from the supply of shoes to the suppy of medical equipment already works. The government is not involved in determining the "correct" levels of production for consumer goods and need not be involved in determining the "correct" amount of labor for the economy.

That leaves only the question of how to handle the 11-20 million people that have already immigrated illegally. I'm going to throw the question back to Jenna. How would you handle the illegals already here? Are you opposed to amnesty? If so, how do you define amnesty? Do you advocate mass deportations or do you have another plan?

Finally, I know I've put forward a lot of economic arguments and statistics. Feel free to postpone the amnesty question for a few days if you have followup questions or comments about the economic side of immigration.

This entry was tagged. Immigration Policy

Immigrants: Can We Assimilate Them?

(Part of the Intra-Madison Immigration Debate)

Update: Jenna's response to this post.

When I last wrote about immigration, I was talking about the gross disparity between the number of green cards issued and the number of people wishing to immigrate. I advocated lifting the green card limits and giving residency to anyone who wishes to immigrate -- regardless of skill levels, country of orgin, or anything else.

Can We Absorb Them?

Jenna challenged that idea, quoting Jib. Both Jenna and Jib argued that large-scale immigration is unsustainable in the long term. Jib argued that large-scale immigration would cause a crisis at the lower economic rungs of society. He reasons that the influx will create a huge demand for low-paying jobs. This demand will drive down the wages in these jobs, causing a strain on the social safety net (as more and more low-income people use Medicaid / Badger Care). Jib ends his argument by stating:

Bringing in that many legal immigrants is anything but compassionate for poor legal immigrants looking for a better life. If anything, it is going to keep them buried at the bottom of society. I'm all in favor of robust legal immigration at the skilled and unskilled ends, but let's do it at sustainable numbers, shall we?

I'd like to begin my counter-argument with the idea of "sustainable numbers". Our nation has absorbed several waves of immigration during its history. I think it would be useful to compare immigration then with immigration now.

The nation's first immigration quotas were established in 1921. Prior to that time, Congress only limited the types of people that could immigrate (the insane, criminals, anarchists, etc), not the numbers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

As a percentage of total population, the foreign-born population rose from 9.7 percent in 1850 and fluctuated in the 13 percent to 15 percent range from 1860 to 1920 before dropping to 11.6 percent in 1930.

Today the foreign-born population is estimated at 9.7 percent of the total population. (That estimate is from 1997. The percentage may be slightly higher today.) Although the modern immigration numbers seem high, they're actually right in line with historical standards. Right now we have fewer immigrants, as a percentage of our population, than we did during the 60 year period from 1860 to 1920.

Not only is our foreign-born population lower than in the past, our ability to absorb immigrants is dramatically greater. Our per capita resources are greater now than they were in the early 1900's:

Consider that in 1915 the typical dwelling in America housed 5.63 persons; today it houses fewer than half that number -- 2.37 persons. Combined with the fact that today's typical dwelling has about 25 percent more square footage than its counterpart had back then, our ability to absorb immigrants into residential living spaces is today more than twice what it was a century ago.

In many other ways America today can better absorb immigrants. For example, compared to 1920, per person, today we:

  • have 10 times more miles of paved roads
  • have more than twice as many physicians
  • have three times as many teachers
  • have 540 percent more police officers
  • have twice as many firefighters
  • produce 2.4 times more oil -- as known reserves of oil grow
  • produce 2.67 times more cubic feet of lumber -- as America's supply of lumber stands grows
  • have conquered most of the infectious diseases that were major killers in the past.

Our current situation is far from critical. During the late 1800's we absorbed a proportionally greater number of immigrants, while benefitting from far fewer resources. I think the evidence shows that America can not only absorb the immigrants we already have, but that we are capable of absorbing far more than we ever have before.

A Drain on the Economy?

The second half of the "sustainable numbers" argument is that immigrants are creating a pile-up on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. Jib worries that a continuing inflow of immigrants will drive down wages. He linked to a column by Robert Samuelson that expanded upon this theme. Mr. Samuelson fears we will create a drag on our economy by gaining immigrants who consume social services without generating sufficient tax revenue to pay for those services. JoeFriday left a comment on my previous article claiming that:

the real incentive to come here illegally is to bypass the tax system and be absorbed into our government as a citizen.. they know that would take a chunk of the change they send back home to their families in Mexico (an amount that surpasses the national foreign aid we give Mexico).. meanwhile, they use our schools and health care benefits, while staying "off the books" intentionally

Is it true? Does immigration drive down wages? Are immigrants stealing from the American people by using social services but not paying taxes? Are immigrants creating a drag on our social services? No. I think the evidence demonstrates otherwise.


Let's look at the first claim: immigration drives down wages. At first glance, this argument seems logical: a greater supply of labor will lead to a lower cost of labor. The economic theory is sound, but the assumptions underlying the claim are bad. Claiming that immigration drives down wages is to claim that the number of jobs (the demand for labor) is fixed. But the demand for labor is not fixed. There is not a limited supply of jobs that must be carefully parcelled out. There never has been. Rather as the price of labor falls, the demand for labor generally rises (new jobs are created, using the cheaper labor), thus pushing the price of labor back up.

This has been true throughout American history, whether discussing the wages of native-born or foreign-born workers:

Would New York City (or any other city) be richer today if it had held its population to what it was in 1850? 1900? 1950? 1980? Does the inflow of people into New York lower the wages of the people already there? Does it make them poorer? Does it matter whether rich or poor people, high-skilled or low-skilled people are the ones moving into New York?

This is not just idle speculation. Recent research has indicated that once job creation is taken into effect, overall wages are unaffected by immigration and wages for high-school drop-outs are pushed down by -- at most -- 0.4%. Over the long run, immigration does not appear to pose a threat to the high wages that Americans currently enjoy.


Are immigrants coming here illegally because they can work "off of the books" and avoid paying taxes? No, they're not. They're coming here illegally because they have no other way to come here. Last year, the U.S. offered 5,000 visas for unskilled workers. Last year, the U.S. gave two of those visas to Mexican immigrants.

Contrary to popular belief, most immigrants do pay their taxes.

It is impossible to know exactly how many illegal immigrant workers pay taxes. But according to specialists, most of them do. Since 1986, when the Immigration Reform and Control Act set penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, most such workers have been forced to buy fake ID's to get a job.

Currently available for about $150 on street corners in just about any immigrant neighborhood in California, a typical fake ID package includes a green card and a Social Security card. It provides cover for employers, who, if asked, can plausibly assert that they believe all their workers are legal. It also means that workers must be paid by the book - with payroll tax deductions.

Our assumption is that about three-quarters of other-than-legal immigrants pay payroll taxes," said Stephen C. Goss, Social Security's chief actuary, using the agency's term for illegal immigration.

Because these taxes are paid with fake Social Security Numbers, it is "free money" for the IRS and the SSA. During the 1990's, the SSA's "earnings suspense file" increased by $189 billion.

Far from getting off tax-free, the vast majority of illegal immigrants do pay taxes and may, in fact, be responsible for keeping Social Security solvent.

Economic Drag?

Finally, do poor immigrants (legal or illegal) create a drag on our social services? Undoubtedly, they do. But I think it's fair to say that it's a short-term drag, not a long term one. Once in the United States, immigrants move rapidly up the socio-economic ladder. True, first generation immigrants are often poor and uneducated compared to native-born Americans. But by the third generation, they are on nearly level ground with native-born citizens both in education and in income.

Claiming that immigrants create a drag on social services is to misunderstand the type of people that choose to immigrate:

America is an amazing natural experiment -- a continent populated largely by self-selected immigrants. All these people had the get-up-and-go to pull up stakes and come here, a temperament that made them different from their friends and relatives who stayed home. Immigrants are the original venture capitalists, risking their human capital -- their lives -- on a dangerous and arduous voyage into the unknown.

Not surprisingly, given this entrepreneurial spirit, immigrants are self-employed at much higher rates than native-born people, regardless of what nation they emigrate to or from. And the rate of entrepreneurial activity in a nation is correlated with the number of immigrants it absorbs. According to a cross-national study, "The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor," conducted jointly by Babson College and the London School of Economics, the four nations with the highest per capita creation of new companies are the United States, Canada, Israel and Australia -- all nations of immigrants. New company creation per capita is a strong predictor of gross domestic product, and so the conclusion is simple: Immigrants equal national wealth.

Immigrants may create a short-term drain on social services. However, their children and grandchildren will be most likely be valued, successful members of America's middle class. Moreover, today's immigrants will be creating jobs and business that will employ tomorrow's workers.

Limiting immigration will prevent a short-term drain on social services, but will cost America many valuable entrepreneurs and future middle class workers and investors. I think the trade-off is a worthwhile one.

In conclusion, high levels of immigration cause little to no long-term economic harm for the United States. The United States is much more likely to be harmed by preventing high-levels of immigration than by allowing it. I think I've demonstrated that America is more than capable of absorbing and assimilating immigrants. Next I'll tell you why I think that the U.S. must encourage higher levels of immigration.

This entry was tagged. Immigration Policy

Incentivizing Illegality

Jenna responded to my last essay. At this point, we agree that immigration, when legal, is a good thing. We agree that immigrants should be able to immigrate just because they want to be Americans, whether or not an employer is "sponsoring" them.

Jenna and I still disagree on one small point. I was planning to overlook it, until I realized that it was the perfect segue into the next stage of the debate. Here's what Jenna had to say:

The number of people breaking a law does not necessary invalidate the purpose of the law. Millions of people speed, don't where their seat belt, smoke marijuana, engage in public drunkennesss, remove the tags from their mattresses (I'm kidding), and engage in other types of illegal behavior.

Does their pure disobedience warrant the abolishment of those laws? Not necessarily.

I agree. Pure disobedience does not necessarily warrant the abolishment of laws. However, wide spread disobedience may indicate that the law was ill-considered, may indicate that a majority of people don't actually consider the "crime" to be a crime. Does that mean we should automatically change or abolish the law? No, absolutely not. But wide spread disobedience might indicate that the law is toothless, ineffectual, ill-advised, poorly implemented, or otherwise flawed.

It's worth noting that poorly written laws (or laws that are just plain stupid) create just as much disrespect for the law as outright law breaking does. (For instance, Wisconsin's new mandatory booster seat law is causing me to lose respect for both the Wisconsin legislature and the governor. It's both poorly written and just plain stupid.)

Of course, immigration laws are a trickier subject. They are enacted by the citizens of one country in the expectation that they will be obeyed by the citizens of another country. In the case of America's immigration laws, the biggest law-breakers are Mexican citizens. The INS estimates that an average of 150,000 Mexicans have been illegally immigrating every year, over the past two decades. As I mentioned in a previous post, America only issues 10,000 green cards to Mexican immigrants each year.

Jenna says:

I believe Joe makes a good point when he says that the number of those wishing to enter our country far surpasses those we allow in. That may play a small role in why some choose to enter illegally: increasing the number allowed in may alleviate a tiny percentage of illegal immigration violations.

I think this understates the truth quite a bit. When we give out 10,000 green cards and 150,000 people enter illegally, I tend to think that those 150,000 people entered illegally because it simply wasn't possible for them to obtain a green card. If all 150,000 people waited for a green card, they people at the end of the line would have to wait 15 years for their chance to immigrate. And that's just for the people who illegally entered in one year. If everyone that has entered illegally, during the past two decades, had waited to immigrate legally, the people at the end of the line would have to wait over 1,000 years for their chance to get in.

When a person is faced with the desparate poverty of their home nation combined with a 15 year wait to legally improve their status, I can well understand the decision to risk illegal immigration. After all, their family's very survival may be on the line. Rather than alleviating a tiny percentage of the illegal immigration problem, I believe increasing the green card numbers would alleviate the vast majority of the illegal immigration problem.

I'll stop here. I think this post nicely sets up my response to Jenna's questions, but I'll have to wait until later in the day to post it.

This entry was tagged. Immigration Policy