06 April 2006

Debating US Immigration Policy

The Objectivist
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer

We are being flooded with immigrants. In the 1990s, 9 million legal immigrants came in, the most in any decade in US history. Around 17% of our population consists of immigrants since the 1970s or their progeny. In addition to the rush of legal immigrants, there are around 12 million illegal immigrants now living in our country. As a group, immigrants are undereducated and poorly skilled. For example, immigrants constitute 12% of the US’s workforce but 31% of the country’s high school dropouts. Immigrants are 60% more likely than natives to be employed in a low-skill occupation. This should not be surprising given that only 1 in 6 immigrants are let in because of skills.

Taxpayers pay for this torrent through the nose and are unlikely to recoup these costs. In the ’90s, immigrants were significantly more likely to receive welfare of one form or another than the native population and they took more the longer they resided in the US. One recent study estimated that each year, the federal government loses $2,736 and the state and local governments lose around $3,823 per illegal immigrant household. The losses are probably higher in this state since immigrant families have more children than natives and since New York pays more than $12,000 per student per year (around $14,000 in Dunkirk). Given that there are at least 3.8 million such households in the US, this is a loss of around $25 billion per year. If these costs weren’t bad enough, immigrants also hurt low-wage native workers by driving down already-low wages for jobs.

There is no reason we should leave the floodgates open. I doubt many upstate residents would want poor, undereducated, and unskilled persons moving into their neighborhood, especially once they realized that they clog the prisons and drag down standards at the local public school. The former can be seen in that in 1999-2000, nearly 30% of federal prisoners were foreign born and the latter in that the dropout rate for foreign-born Hispanics was around 45%. This preference is, and should be, strengthened by the fact that many of the Spanish-speaking immigrants have a different language and culture, and a critical mass that prevents them from having to assimilate quickly. Here the concern is acute with immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Columbia, and Honduras, the five largest sources of illegal immigrants.

The apologists for the flood of legal and illegal immigrants often argue that some pipeline to unskilled immigrants is necessary because there are many jobs only immigrants will do. This argument confuses the notion that there are jobs that only one group will do and the notion that there are jobs that only one group will do at very low wages. Bleeding the taxpayer to protect the latter makes little economic sense. For example, it’s foolish for taxpayers to pay $7 in benefits so a company can make $5 in profits (note I made these numbers up). In this sense, illegal immigration is like a tariff in that it makes citizens worse off, despite identifiable beneficiaries. The apologists also argue that nothing can be done about illegal aliens already here. Given how little weight this argument is given in other contexts (for example, cheating on taxes) and how little effort was made at enforcement (for example, in 2004 only three companies were fined for hiring illegal immigrants), this argument is laughable.

This situation is not helped by current Congressional bills, such as one proposed by John McCain and Edward Kennedy, that provide amnesty for illegal immigrants and allow in even more immigrants under a guest-worker program. Instead, the US should consider constructing a continuous fence along the Southern border and begin to deport illegal immigrants. The number of legal immigrants should be sharply curtailed and should focus on those who add to our country because of their education, skills, or wealth. In addition, politicians like President Bush and Senators Schumer and Clinton who regularly support massive third-world immigration should be made to pay for the torrent.


The Constructivist
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer

Many Americans have memorized the closing lines of “The New Colossus” (the 1883 poem engraved on a pedestal at the base of the Statue of Liberty), but few are aware that when Emma Lazarus wrote the poem, the U.S. was in the middle of a decades-long debate over the Naturalization Act of 1790. This act, which limited immigration to any “free white person,” provided legal grounds for admitting emigrants departing from Ireland and a range of southern and eastern European nations seen in the 1840s and after as racially inferior to the earlier waves of emigrants from northern and western Europe. As Matthew Frye Jacobson points out in Whiteness of a Different Color, debate over the worthiness of Celtic, Slavic, and Alpine races to enter the U.S. was not settled until the passage of the Johnson-Reed Act in 1924, which extended the logic of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act to those “provisional or probationary whites” whose “fitness for self-government” had been under suspicion that deepened as their numbers increased. As a result, legal immigration to the U.S. slowed to a trickle until well after the end of World War II.

Many of today’s most influential conservatives want to repeat this history—with new targets. The core assumptions and arguments of nativist best-sellers from the 1920s like Madison Grant’s Passing of the Great Race and Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy are recycled and repackaged in polemics like Patrick Buchanan’s The Death of the West (2002) and Samuel Huntington’s Who We Are (2004). Meanwhile, President Bush talks like President Kennedy when pushing for immigration reform, even as his administration crafts post-9/11 homeland security policies designed to deport and detain large numbers of immigrants (as revealed in Tram Nguyen’s We Are All Suspects Now and David Cole’s Enemy Aliens)—but remains vulnerable to attacks from his right by formerly-rubber-stamp Congressional Republicans and ex-ditto-head right-wing bloggers. Republicans’ interests and loyalties are divided between deferring to the demands of their corporate sponsors for further freedom to import cheap labor and placating their authoritarian populists who call for building a tortilla curtain (in Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s memorable phrase) around the American dream.

In today’s overheated climate of attempts to hype emigrants from the global south as the greatest threat to homeland security since Hussein and bin Laden, economic arguments against immigration like The Objectivist’s can appear quite rational. His cost-benefit analysis leads to the conclusion that only immigrants with the education, skills, and wealth to help America compete in a global economy should be allowed into the country. In effect, he advises us to fire Lazarus’s Lady Liberty for her now-unpatriotic cry to “Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and replace her with a Robocop who tells people around the world, “we can’t afford to take you in.”

Never mind the astronomical costs and consequences of building, maintaining, and staffing a “Great Wall of America.” Never mind that there are more effective ways to regulate the push-pull forces that drive global migration patterns than turning America into a “border patrol state” (which Leslie Marmon Silko warned against over a decade ago). Liberals and progressives must move from ducking internecine conservative battles or brokering compromises aimed at moderating only the worst excesses of the far right to offering a bold alternative to Republican rule.

Which legislators will sponsor a New American Dream bill that supports workers’ right to form unions, imposes harsh penalties on corporations that import illegal immigrant labor, expands opportunities for legal immigration, offers paths to earning legal status and citizenship for otherwise law-abiding undocumented workers, and commits America to harboring all legitimate refugees and asylum seekers?

Moreover, who will take up Emma Lazarus’s farthest-reaching challenge to our times? In the opening lines of “The New Colossus,” Lazarus favorably contrasts the “world-wide welcome” of the American “Mother of Exiles” to the “brazen giant of Greek fame/With conquering limbs astride from land to land.” We need a reimagined “world-wide welcome” for the twenty-first century: an invitation to each nation-state to hold an annual referendum on whether it should petition the U.S. Congress for entry as a new state in the Union (under Article Four, Section Three of the U.S. Constitution). Promoting a non-contiguous constitutionalism based on time-tested principles and precedents gives America a desperately-needed alternative to both neoliberal economism and neoconservative militarism. We should be debating how to reimagine America’s borders rather than whether to close them.

UPDATE: The debate continues.


The Objectivist said...

Dear Constructivist:

Here is my question. Assuming that there is no vast change in unions or enforcement of sanctions against employers that hire illegal aliens, would you then support a wall and return of illegal aliens? If not, why favor Mexicans over the millions of poor persons from other countries, such as India or China since the latter have at least shown (perhaps via selective immigration) that they will flourish in the U.S.

In addition, will you at least admit that the current crop of illegal aliens harm the poorest Americans by lowering their wages and driving up unemployment levels against them? I don’t see how you can admit this and then why you aren’t more concerned about this particular harmful effects, even if you’re not worried about illegal aliens’ tendency to cost megabucks to the taxpayers.

The Objectivist said...

Dear Constructivist:

You mention we should allow poorer countries to join the U.S. as a state. Take a large poor state like India. If it joined wouldn’t the U.S. either be bled dry paying out welfare and medical benefits to such a larger poor population or else have to end such payments altogether, including to current citizens?

Also, how is such a concern relevant to the immediate issue of whether we should either build a wall or give an amnesty to 12 million illegal aliens?

I did find the historical points interesting. I wished you had pointed out that we gave an amnesty in ’86 (thank you, Alan Simpson) it has led to this predictable disaster. The Senate can be counted to act as the lowest common denominator.

The Constructivist said...

O, some responses to your questions:

(Q2) The evidence is out on whether the costs you mention (to both those Americans without a high school diploma and to taxpayers) are outweighed by the benefits. Quick run-down (see the 4/10/06 issue of Time for details): Rand ran various scenarios and came up with numbers ranging from a loss of $1600 per immigrant to a benefit of $1400 per immigrant for taxpayers. Don't forget that most immigrants, even many undocumented workers, do pay taxes (including Social Security taxes the latter are ineligible for). Also don't forget that all immigrants are consumers. It's possible that their presence helps keeps everyone's prices lower, helps support local businesses, and helps pay for local governments in ways that significantly mitigate or even outweigh the undoubted harms. Harvard economist George Borjas, estimates the effects on low-skill wages amount to something like a 4-8% pay cut, which is significant when you're not making much to begin with, but I haven't seen his response to the Rand studies that suggest that pay cut is offset by other factors or to the point that other factors play a much bigger role in the decline of real wages since the '70s for non-college-educated Americans (mechanization, globalization, evisceration of unions...). What are your sources on the 'lowering wages, driving up unemployment, and burdening local governments' claims? And do they take into account factors like the ones I mention?

I find it interesting that Republicans never tire of pointing out that our economy is so huge that even multi-hundred-billion dollar current-accounts deficits or runaway military spending (how much many millions are we spending each day in Iraq?) don't matter, but will then turn around and make claims about taxpayers 'paying through their nose' for illegal immigration. Seems to me you can't have it both ways.

I also find it interesting that Republicans almost universally oppose measures that would objectively help the poorest Americans: rebalancing labor laws so as not to favor employers so overwhelmingly, raising the minimum wage and supporting living wage campaigns, investing in public health and public education, using federal and state funds to shift infrastructure rebuilding to counties least able to pay for it themselves, providing a social safety net for the poorest of the poor, shifting the tax burden more onto the super-rich and corporations, etc. Instead, they cry crocodile tears for the poor whose votes they hope to corral but whose interests they almost never vote for.

Finally, it's funny how all the recommendations of leftists like Thom Hartmann who focus on solving this problem are ignored by conservatives except the anti-illegal-immigration ones.

(Q1) Don't forget my proposal to increase legal immigration in a way that takes into account the realities of global inequality driving global migration! In the event my top 3 are too pie-in-the-sky to have a hope of winning today, or even being included in whatever "compromise" bill emerges in the coming days or weeks, I would want my legislators to take a firm stand against anything that includes only your proposed border security and deportation measures, for the first is costly and inefficient and the second is already happening (although, to be fair, they have so far focused on profiling immigrant communities from North Africa to South Asia that could conceivably have Al Qaeda cells among them) yet both together are incredibly counterproductive. Let Republicans deal with the fallout if they want to push through your "close the borders" agenda.

I can see how in theory hardening the borders and phasing in deportations (starting with undocumented workers who have committed serious crimes, say) should work in getting prospective illegal immigrants to rethink their "if you don't at first succeed, try try again" attitude that is enriching coyotes and endangering their own lives, but I don't think proponents have faced up to the real costs and long-term commitment this would entail or to its inefficiencies compared to alternatives like the ones I propose that directly intervene on both push and pull factors that help cause such attitudes in the first place. Moreover, diplomatic initiatives to make Mexico a partner in our border security will fail if all we put on the table are punitive and militarized solutions. They would also turn off the skilled/educated/wealthy immigrants you claim to want, as well, b/c who could say with confidence they wouldn't be the targets of the next scapegoating effort?

I realize just about every politician wants to improve border security. But there's got to be a better way than the same kind of wall that people like Thomas Sowell suggest heralded and helped cause the fall of China from its position of global dominance centuries ago. Until we have a working border security system in place, though, deportations simply won't work. (Never mind that they would inevitably involve either separating families or effectively exiling American children of deportees.)

Is my position unfair to your "deserving poor" who live oceans away? Maybe. But geography is geography and history is still with us. Isn't it possible that our post-Monroe Doctrine approach to relations with our New World neighbors--our long history of destabilizing interventions and unbalanced economic initiatives--has something to do with our relative wealth compared to them? Wouldn't addressing those inequalities by actually crafting "fair trade" and other policies that Jeremy Brecher and Tim Costello have termed "globalization from below" (in Global Village or Global Pillage?) make economic as well as moral sense?

(Q4) I think my last paragraph establishes the relevance (deport or amnesty is a false choice and we need to put that flawed debate in a larger context to understand how best to solve it). But if you need more, consider that no one is suggesting Colorado, North Carolina, New Mexico, or other states receiving 'emigrants' from New York should build a fence to keep them out or that their presence in their state is harming the original residents. Yet those 'immigrants' are culturally quite distinct and are likely to be poorer than those choosing to stay in NY, so why isn't there a huge outcry about their taking jobs away from x or putting an added tax burden on y?

If we accept as US states the five countries that you claim are the largest sources of illegal immigrants to the US (should they want to join as debt- and deficit-riddled a country as ours), we open their borders to our people as well as ours to theirs. Poof, the problems of "illegal" immigration disappear, replaced by the more typical jostling between states for political and economic advantage that we already have centuries of precedents for and experience in managing, along with the free flow of American citizens to where they find the best opportunities.

Basically, I'm thinking of my closing idea as a synthesis of the past two decades' buzzwords, combining the better aspects of both.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, libertarian pundits were predicting that the end of the Cold War would lead to a capitalist revolution where global flows of products, capital, and labor would be so well managed by the invisible hand of the market that governments and national borders would wither away in time (and even liberals were busy ignoring activists' warnings against a global race to the bottom, advocacy for globalization from below, and warnings that the costs and benefits of globalization would be uneven even within a single country).

Today--when Samuel Huntington is being hailed as a guru for his 'clash of civilizations' thesis and Francis Fukuyama is reduced to criticizing neoconservatives for botching the delivery of 'the end of history' to Iraq; when the Washington Consensus driving U.S. leadership of transnational institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the G8, and the World Economic Forum is being rejected by voters all over South and Central America; when U.S. deficits and debt have hit record levels; when moral panics over foreign ownership of American assets and illegal immigration dominate the headlines; and when American right-wingers call for the construction of our own 'Great Wall' to keep out the barbarians at our gates--such neoliberalism seems hopelessly utopian. Today's default setting is to see globalization as a threat rather than an opportunity, a difficult challenge rather than a welcome inevitability. Renationalization rather than denationalization is the order of the day. Neoconservatives have sought to corner the market on patriotism and use their monopoly to question the loyalty of any American who questioned the wisdom of invading Iraq or our competence in occupying it.

That it took so long for public opinion to turn decisively against the administration's Iraq policy--despite cogent critiques of it and large protests against it well before we actually invaded--suggests to me that Americans want to believe in the benefits of American-style democracy and American-style capitalism quite badly. And not only Americans, if the numbers of people trying to get here by legal and illegal means is any measure.

So my proposal attempts to build on that attachment to American ideals so many here and abroad seem to share, even as it recognizes that globalization and regionalization are changing both political and economic equations everywhere in the planet. I think it faces these large-scale trends in a bolder and more optimistic way than our current actually-limited-but-supposedly-comprehensive immigration-debates, such as whether to close or open the borders, or whether to deport illegal aliens or create paths to earned citizenship for undocumented workers.

(Q3) I actually said other nation-states could petition the Congress to join the Union as new states, not that we'd automatically allow them to join. I think the debates such referenda would start would be healthy in other countries as would the debates here that any petitions would start. I don't foresee countries that are larger than us wanting in for the foreseeable future, or maybe ever. And by the time a country like India would be interested and prepared to meet our criteria, its economy and political system are both likely to have changed a great deal.

Further, I don't think accepting a few Caribbean and Central American countries as states in the next couple of decades would be hard to do. Somehow we've managed to maintain third-world standards of living in the deep South for generations without the richer states being bled dry. I believe the American system is flexible enough to deal incremental increases in our population, and the bigger we get, the less of an impact even larger increases to the population become.

Obviously this is just a big crazy idea based on an Emma Lazarus poem (and some science fiction by Orson Scott Card and Kim Stanley Robinson), but why should neoconservatives and neoliberals be the only ones with big crazy ideas? Is it crazy enough to be onto something? That's what I'd like to find out.

The Constructivist said...

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The Constructivist said...

While I'm linking to others who have something worth reading on immigration policy issues, let me also mention Orcinus's analysis (check out his expose of the Minutemen while you're at it), which is worth contrasting with Michelle Malkin's critique of President Bush; People for the American Way's linked summary of right-wing views, which is worth reading alongside this post from Right Wing Nation. Any suggestions on more recent smart or revealing pieces?

The Constructivist said...

I did a search over at the Becker-Posner blog on immigration and there are definitely some pieces worth reading on that list.

rightwingprof said...

Here is my response (consider it a manual trackback).

The Constructivist said...

Interesting exchange of sorts between Fareed Zakaria and Amardeep Singh.

The Constructivist said...

A few responses to RWP (O's out of town, so expect his in a few days):

1) Border Security: Of course this is important. Deportations will never work until the borders are secure, for one thing. My opposition to the wall idea is that it's a) dumb, b) both expensive and inefficient, and c) builds an image of America with bad effects on how we see ourselves and how the world sees us. As I point out in an earlier comment, you don't have to go to the multicultural left to see critiques of a "Great Wall" approach to border security (cf. Sowell on China's fall from world preeminence). At least RWP recognizes part of this when he hedges with his "or heightened security" (but, yeah, so, like what?--at least a fence is, so to speak, concrete). There would be no surer sign that we're a great power in decline than if we keep expanding the security fences already in place. Moreover, by expanding them we'd be sending a message to all immigrants that we're embracing the kind of European attitudes toward immigration and immigrants that both Zakaria and Singh warn against, which would make it less likely we'd get the highly-skilled, highly-educated, highly-capitalized immigrants The Objectivist claims we should give preference to.

2) Deportation: I'm not opposed to RWP's notion of selective deportation for violent crimes, particularly if we could work out a way with the criminals' country of origin to have them serve their time over there (although we'd no doubt have to use federal funds to defray their costs, in order to get them to agree in the first place--no problem to me, b/c it both reduces overall costs to Americans and spreads them around the country rather than concentrating them on certain localities). As I pointed out in an earlier comment, the Bush administration has been deporting and detaining massive numbers of immigrants on quite minor violations, so I don't quite see why the right is attacking him so harshly. Or why RWP isn't decrying the use of notions of "group responsibility" to justify the expulsion of "good" immigrants in these massive dragnets.

But deportation for going on welfare is another thing, particularly for legal immigrants. Despite what most conservatives think, it's well-documented that the typical recipient is on welfare temporarily; there's a lot of turnover on the welfare rolls. Being deported for having to use social services for the first time makes about as much sense as exiling the mostly white female citizens who make up the majority of welfare recipients in this country. Especially post-Clinton's welfare "reform" and post-9/11, the INS (or BCIS of whatever they call themselves now) is paying a lot more attention to sponsors' responsibilities. Enforcing this more stringently makes a whole lot more sense than deporting people and separating families on shaky grounds.

3) Legal immigration: If heightening border security means hiring more guards and paying them enough to resist bribes, it makes sense to me for us to also hire more bureaucrats to allow us to increase the number of legal immigrants we allow in annually and process their applications more efficiently, thus decreasing the demand for illegal immigration. I'm not opposed to screening for skills, education, and wealth, so long as the skills migrant laborers have are recognized as skills. RWP is right that we should make it easier for "those who want to come and work [to] do so."

4) Worker protections/empowerment: RWP accuses me of wanting to bring back the 1930s. No. Since he's strangely silent in his post on the question of developing legal sanctions on employers of illegal immigrants that actually have teeth (in earlier posts on his site, he came out against ones that bite hard enough to put corporations out of business or force them to relocate outside the U.S.)--so must be rethinking his position on how to attack the "demand"/"pull" side of the immigration issue--I want to know how else he expects there to be a check on corporate power and mismanagement than to level the legal playing field between management and labor. Since the 1970s, the government has been more and more overtly rewriting labor law to favor the former over the latter, with the predictable result that most American workers' real wages have remained flat or declined in the past generation, while income and wealth inequality has skyrocketed. Now, if the government can't afford to or chooses not to enforce regulations on the books on wages, occupational safety and health, and terms and conditions of employment, it ought to free workers to negotiate on their own behalf by recognizing a right to organize under the First Amendment. Unless you want to go back to the 1870s and 1880s, that is. (It's always fun to ask conservatives how far back they want to reset the clock.)

5) Relevant/Irrelevant Topics: RWP accuses me of bringing up irrelevant topics, such as obvious continuities between earlier nativist movements' ideologies/rhetoric/strategies and today's or trying to get our readers (all 4 of them on the blog, thus far) to think about whether the way in which we already manage interstate commerce in our constitutional system and the "internal migrations" of people from state to state within the US are working out all right and whether they would continue to work if we brought in new states by petition of an existing state to come under our sovereignty (rather than our past modes of annexation or purchase of territory and migration of US settlers into the newly captured or acquired territory until there are enough to petition for statehood). But more on that later.

RWP's big beef with The Objectivist is that he fails to emphasize cultural arguments against immigration enough and with me is that I fail to understand the distinction between desirable and undesirable cultures, between good immigrants who want to come here to work and assimilate to classic American values and bad ones who want to go on welfare and advance a cultural nationalist agenda that amounts to a "reconquista" strategy.

But here's his problem: the number of immigrants on welfare is not that high, and even the highest estimates of the tax burden they place on local communities pale in comparison to other costs to taxpayers that conservatives regularly justify (such as multi-hundred-billion dollar current-accounts deficits and runaway military spending, which supposedly don't matter b/c they are a small percentage of our multi-trillion dollar economy). So RWP's bringing up the failures and costs of the war on poverty seems to me a classic waving of the proverbial red herring, taking attention away from the relatively small numbers of immigrants on welfare and their relatively small impacts on taxpayers.

To hide this, RWP suggests the welfare issue is just one part of a larger cultural issue, a battle for the soul of America, for the classic American values that have always defined the American dream. Real Americans have never swallowed multiculturalism or identity politics and never will, according to RWP. We need to go back to the days when immigrants knew their place and knew it was their job to work hard, keep their mouths shut until they learned English, assimilate to Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture, and maybe, just maybe, their grandchildren would be accepted as Americans. Anything else is equivalent to anti-Americanism, reconquista, etc. Keep going, RWP, and you'll prove my point about the right's racism for me. Perhaps this explains why The Objectivist downplayed cultural arguments in his column.

My point in bringing up the literally racial doubts about Celts', Slavs', and Alpines' ability to live up to RWP's exact cultural principles during 1840-1925 was not just to critique past racialization of immigrant groups from southern and eastern Europe but to pose some simple questions, as well: 1) did their presence here turn out to be so bad for the nation? how have Irish, Italian, Polish, Jewish, and other immigrants and their descendants done here? 2) what is so different about the latest groups to be racialized by cultural conservative discourse? what is so different about this wave of post-1965 and particularly post-1986 immigrants that leads to the conclusion that by, say, 2050, their descendants' outcomes will be so much worse than those of the 1840-1925 descendants? 3) what's the difference between the largely non-Protestant immigrants holding on to their religions, foods, and flags (and to a much lesser extent their languages) for a good part of the twentieth century and similar inclinations among immigrants from the global south? why is waving a Mexican flag equivalent to "proclaim[ing] primary allegiance to Mexico" but waving an Irish or Italian one equivalent to expressing unproblematic pride in one's heritage? Please answer these questions without resorting to a version of the answer, 'but the earlier immigrants were "really white"--it just took a shamefully long time for the country to recognize that--while the new immigrants are not.'

This is where RWP's assumption that all multiculturalism celebrates ingrained cultural differences, endorses every kind of separatism, and amounts to a leftist attempt to undermine America from within reveals how little he has read about the varieties of multiculturalism in the US (I'd recommend Mapping Multiculturalism, ed. Avery Gordon and Christopher Newfield, for a start). Most mainstream versions of multiculturalism (notably the corporate and liberal strains) are just trying to deal with the limits of the "expanding the boundaries of whiteness" inclusion strategy that was used by fits and starts between the colonial period and the WWII era, which founders on its need to contrast white/non-white peoples and makes it quite difficult for whites to trust non-whites. Its urging of respect across and even celebration of cultural differences is a strategy for getting whites to recognize cultural analogues between themselves and non-white people.

My only problem with this centrist version of multiculturalism is that it preserves racial constructions even as it attempts to use culture to bridge purportedly racial differences. Instead of expanding the range of "model minorities" or using culture to get whites to see non-whites as "honorary whites," which is what most centrist multiculturalism does, I argue that we need a more critical or radical multiculturalism that looks hard at the use of culture in racial projects, to shore up or exercise political power, and to legitimize economic relations.

With respect to immigration, the notion that there are aspects of Mexican or Hispanic culture that make assimilation to classic American ideals and values more difficult for these immigrants than previous groups who came here with different cultures, languages, and political traditions is what allows RWP to claim that his compatriots on the right (whom he has gone on record as criticizing here and in past posts) are not really racist. As his references to female genital mutilation and veiling at the end of his post suggest, he has to go to non-Hispanic cultural practices for concrete examples of anti-Americanism; by contrast, he has to misread things that actual Latino immigrants sometimes do to convince himself that large numbers of them pose a cultural threat. If they are working hard, taking care of themselves and their families, paying taxes, etc., then what's the problem with their protesting claims they don't belong here, refusing to give up aspects of their culture they are committed to or repudiate their families on the other side of the border, living in ethnic neighborhoods (something you'll see in every American city, including a small rust-belt one like Dunkirk, where there are clearly marked Polish, Irish, and Italian neighborhoods to this day). Unless RWP believes that immigrants don't have First Amendment rights, he should stop joining his wingnut pals and demagoging on culture.

As you'll see in late April, RWP, The Objectivist does believe that racial differences matter. I hope you'll join me in attacking him then. Until then, I hope you'll read books like Jacobson's Whiteness of a Different Color and others I refer to on this blog before you dismiss my historical analogues as "irrelevant past sins." I would love to see the Republican Party return to its 19th C roots (look at Jacobson's analysis of a debate a Republican started in the 1870s when he proposed removing "white" from US immigration/naturalization/citizenship laws rather than adding black) but to do that anti-racist right wingers are going to have to figure out how to persuade the racists in their big tent to "see the light." Good luck, RWP--better you than me!

Finally, if RWP is so confident in classic American values/principles and truly sees them as universal, I don't see why he's ducking an engagement with my "21st C world-wide welcome" proposal by suggesting it's irrelevant to debates over immigration policy. If we don't regularly propose to build walls between US states or send those who go on welfare in one state back to the state of their birth--if we have figured out how to manage and regulate "internal migrations" and see them as essential to our national identity--if the mobility of people within national borders is no problem--then what's wrong with extending this model to those nations that want to become US states?

The Constructivist said...

Noticed that some are calling for annexation of the rest of the Americas, which is something quite different from my "world-wide welcome"/"non-contiguous constitutionalism" idea. Take a look at Grace's rationale, remove the imperialist arrogance, substitute democratic processes, and you have something close to what I'm advocating....

The Constructivist said...

My question to RWP is whether he wants to try to deny that some on the right are making racist arguments against immigration. I'll kindly ask him to retract his accusation that I issued a scatter-shot condemnation of all anti-immigration talk as racist. In case he needs a reminder, what I actually wrote was:

"Many of today’s most influential conservatives want to repeat this history [leading up to the 1924 Johnson-Reed immigration act]--with new targets. The core assumptions and arguments of nativist best-sellers from the 1920s like Madison Grant’s Passing of the Great Race and Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy are recycled and repackaged in polemics like Patrick Buchanan’s The Death of the West (2002) and Samuel Huntington’s Who We Are (2004)."

If RWP is as active in condemning current-day racism/nativism/xenophobia on the right as he is in claiming the irrelevance of "past sins" to today's debates, I'll give him a lot of credit.

The Constructivist said...

Here's some commentary from The Moderate Voice that's worth responding to.

The Constructivist said...

Some facts on costs of deportations, courtesy of Majikthese.

The Constructivist said...

RightWingProf's site has an annoying habit of eating comments, so in response to his response to my response to his response, I'm copying and pasting my response here. Check out his comments to see if it wasn't eaten--it would be a lot easier to follow there than here....

First off, I love your sly sense of irony (something I'm sure you put in for my appreciation, knowing I'm an English professor and all). You go on and on about the dangers of typecasting conservatives and then turn around and typecast my failings as representative of all liberals. Beautiful. Worthy of Jesus' General himself.

I appreciate how well you hide how much more we agree on immigration than you and The Objectivist do. That "unfettered immigration" phrase at the end is brilliant, b/c it gets the Tancredos and Sensenbrenners of the world off your back but gives you plenty of wiggle room to distinguish yourself from them. Sure, we'll fight over foreign policy, welfare, and unions (the subject of our May 10th O v. C column, as it turns out) when the time comes, but isn't the bipartisan consensus we've already worked out on immigration policy inspiring? We both think legal immigration for those who want to work here ought to be encouraged (although how the federal government is supposed to do that w/o reforming the INS and/or hiring more people to process applications, do background checks, etc., I would like to know) and that race or ethnicity or religion are irrelevant to an assessment of an individual immigrant's work ethic, which should be the main criterion for entry. We both encourage such hard-working immigrants to become citizens. We both agree that something needs to be done to heighten border security (even if neither of us has very good ideas on what it should be). We stand together against mass deportations of undocumented workers and (correct me if I'm wrong) support creating a path to earning legal status (provided it avoids the problems with the 1986 and later amnesties) for them. We may even agree that reasonable penalties on employers of illegal immigrants (ones that provide real economic disincentives without putting them out of business) should actually be enforced for a change. Taken together, our policies would channel most illegal immigration into legal processes, make illegal immigration more difficult, and begin formally integrating undocumented workers into the American economy (and hopefully culture, over time).

As to your efforts to emphasize our disagreements by cherry-picking quotes from my response, I'll respond in order:

(1) My point about border security is simply that efficiency and effectiveness should be our core criteria (within the framework of our legal system, of course). Have you costed out the materials and labor alone for building and maintaining and staffing walls along both our southern and northern borders? Do you want them mined or electrified, or something to make it more difficult for people to climb up them or tunnel under them or break through them or bribe the watchmen? Sure, walls for castles and prisons and gated communities often work, but Fortress America? Are you serious? I think the burden of proof is on you to show the benefits exceed the costs. Please ask Thomas Sowell what he thinks of a "Great Wall of America." It's very strange to hear anti-communists appropriating Berlin Wall/Iron Curtain rhetoric, much less calling for out own "Made in the USA" versions.

While I'm on this topic, let me complement you on the imaginativeness of your suggestion I was concerned with our image in Europe (a little projection there on your part?). What I was actually concerned about (which you would know if you bothered to read the Zakaria/Singh posts I referred to) was our image with potential future immigrants (which is why I gave a nod to The Objectivist; I assumed you, like him and I, hope we get more highly-skilled, highly-educated, highly-capitalized immigrants in the future). You don't think a Great Wall of America wouldn't send a message like "Keep Out!," particularly if it was the centerpiece of US immigration policy? (Recall that our own little consensus on expanding avenues for legal immigration to the US is not widely shared in either the House or the Senate, so our "Come On Over" message is not likely to be sent out; instead the "best" invitation we could muster would be exactly the kind of bracero programs that we both find inadequate.) You don't think a smart potential immigrant isn't going to say to herself, "wow, if they treat that group of immigrants so badly, who's to say my group wouldn't be next?"

On evidence for deportation of tens of thousands and detention of thousands by Bush administration homeland security policies, is it too much to ask you to read Tram Nguyen's We Are All Suspects Now and David Cole's Enemy Aliens (you know, the works I originally cited in support of my claim)? If you want me to pretend to be your research assistant, you'll have to wait till the summer.

(2) On your call to cut off immigrants' access to welfare, am I to take you as arguing that all non-citizens should be barred from receiving welfare? Since most non-citizens pay taxes, even "illegal aliens," on what grounds should they be prevented from benefitting from state/federal aid that other taxpayers are eligible for? I'm interested in how far you'll go here: do you advocate cutting off non-citizens' access to all public infrastructures and safety nets, or just some? Which, and why? Do you see any incongruity between your call for immigrants' cultural assimilation to American values and principles and for excluding them from public life on the basis of their lack of citizenship?

Your ever-so-clever comments about the importance of ratios over raw numbers with respect to welfare misses my point completely: it's up to you to document how much welfare for non-citizens is actually costing. If it's as small as you must think it is--given your emphasis on the number of immigrants who have come here to work--it must be even smaller than The Objectivist claims. You've dodged my question about why this minuscule percentage of our GDP (much smaller than our debts and deficits or our military budget) is so big a problem. Nice slogan, but what's your reasoning?

(3) On the "your side's racism is worse than my side's, so I won't repudiate mine until you repudiate yours," response, sure, if you want to play that game, let's play. Give me something specific to repudiate.

Your astute readers will no doubt note my qualifiers in the passage you characterize as "nothing more than an attempt to tar those who are worried about unfettered immigration as racists," such as "many" and "influential" in the first sentence, as well as my reference to specific authors and titles in my second. If you want to defend Huntington and Buchanan, please show how they differ substantively from "the core logic and arguments" of Lothrop and Grant.

How many post-1965 Latino immigrants support the La Raza manifesto? Was this version of cultural nationalism ever supported widely among Latinos? Does the presence of some Mexican flags and some slogans that could be tied to "Aztlan" among the 500K protesters imply all are in on a "reconquista" plot that exists more in the heads of Instapundit and Michelle Malkin than anywhere else? Doesn't the similarity to "Jewish conspiracy"-theorizing here bother you?

You apparently endorse the critique of Orcinus's exposes you referred me to in another post, so let's assume for the moment that everything in it is completely right and extendable to every claim in Firedoglake's BigotSphere--it's the racist extremists who imitated non-racist conservative thinking, not vice versa, so stop "blood libelling" today's conservatives and while you're at it, stop bringing up "irrelevant past sins."

So, uh, when exactly did this happen? When did the non-racist conservative thinking start, and how did it differentiate itself from the racism that defined all American policy-making on citizenship and immigration before 1965? Please show me where Matthew Frye Jacobson goes wrong in Whiteness of a Different Color in his demonstration of the centrality of whiteness to defining American citizenship right up to the 1965 immigration act. (While we're at it, please show me where Ira Katznelson goes wrong in When Affirmative Action Was White in his demonstration that both New Deal and Great Society measures had to get through the same Southern voting bloc that is now the core of the Republican Party?)

Remind me again what your non-racist argument against "unfettered immigration" is?

What do you think of Race Traitor's call to abolish the white race?

There are many left critiques of cultural nationalism, some of which can be found in the Mapping Multiculturalism collection of essays I referred you to. If you want some more summer reading, also check out Postcolonial Theory and the United States. If you want to insist on lumping all multiculturalism together, go ahead. But don't expect to be taken seriously. So, duh, there are racist strands in liberalism, identity politics, and multiculturalism. Let's get down to cases.

(4) On culture and assimilation, I would like to hear more from you about how to encourage the kind of assimilation to classic American values, principles, and ideals you rightly uphold and rightly see as consistent with ethnic pride. In my view, cultural nationalism is usually a way of asserting pride in one's identity as a bulwark against a prior denigration or exclusion. Remove the denigration, redress the exclusion, and the motivation for cultural nationalism will fade for most people.

(5) You ask how I get to my "new world-wide welcome" from the debate over US immigration policy. Well, just as many arguments against free trade could be extended to interstate commerce, so, too, many arguments against "unfettered immigration" could be extended to internal migrations. If you think internal migrations and interstate commerce are just dandy, why don't we set up a political process to extend them?

I've been reading proposals for us to extend NAFTA to social/political structures, along the model of the EEC becoming the EU, as a means to better governance and better management of transnational concerns. Given the recent vote against the EU constitution, however, I have my doubts about this path. What if the US were to stop trying to be the old Colossus Lazarus warns against and instead invite other countries to literally join us? How would that change the way we and they think about the movement of people in search of a better life?

The last two paragraphs of my original column were meant to suggest that the rainbow coalition of the right (see, I understood your first few paragraphs) doesn't have a monopoly on patriotism or optimism. I can understand why you would want to hide how much of my penultimate paragraph you agree with and ignore my closing idea. If you get tired of playing to your crowd, feel free to comment directly on O v. C!

rightwingprof said...

My spam filter holds comments over a certain length for moderation. I just approved yours, though I haven't read it, and I'm still asleep, so I'm not likely to for an hour or so.

The Constructivist said...

Another annexation post that's good for a laugh at least, but maybe more.

The Constructivist said...

Echidne makes such good sense here that RightWingProf will probably attack her for name-calling conservatives in order to keep from having to comment on the notion that enforcing regulations and empowering workers is a more efficient means to curb illegal immigration and mitigate its negative effects on low-skill citizens than any Great Wall of America ever could be.

The Constructivist said...

Powerful essay at Tom Paine.

The Constructivist said...

From the Drum Major Institute.

The Constructivist said...

Wondering what RWP thinks of this...and if O would care to address his reasons for downplaying the cultural arguments in his column?

The Objectivist said...

Dear Constructivist:

Let us consider the efficiency claim with regard to illegal aliens. Imagine that we agree that the U.S. should take in one million plus immigrants a year (I don't think this, but let us assume it). How can it be more efficient to take into poor, relatively uneducated Mexican immigrants rather than taking the best that China and India have to offer? What argument from the point of view of persons currently in the U.S. could there be for such a policy?

Also, I don't see how the data could support there being positive effects of illegal immigrants. These individuals make far more over average than most Americans and use more than average in welfare benefits and their usage increases over time. Given how progressive the U.S. tax system is (e.g., the bottom 50% of taxpayers paid less than 4% of income taxes), how could these persons not be a net loss.

In any case, given the opportunity costs of taking in such persons relative to other immigrants, they are a huge loss.

The Objectivist said...

Dear Constructivist:

You criticize Republicans for opposing a raft of programs that allegedly benefit the poor (e.g., minimum wage and living wage laws, spending on public health, and rebalancing labor laws) and then crying crocodile tears over the damage that illegal aliens do to the poor. However, there are several obvious problems with this. First, it at most shows that Republicans should support these programs, not that we should take in an uncompetitive group of immigrants.

Second, the opposition for this program is often motivated by the notion that these policies hurt the poor. E.g., minimum wage laws are thought to decrease employment. So even the charge of hypocrisy is questionable.

The Constructivist said...

O, I think it's more efficient to reduce the number and flow of illegal immigrants with the worker empowerment/regulation enforcement/paths to earned legal status and citizenship models I propose than with border security measures alone. That's what my efficiency argument is about.

As to your version, unless you believe in an absolute cap on legal immigration in a given year, even raising legal immigration from Mexico to the number you throw out wouldn't stop us from recruiting all the highly-skilled, highly-educated, highly-capitalized immigrants we could attract (some may even be Mexican, have you thought of that?). So your opportunity costs disappear.

Note that we'd most likely be cutting down on immigrants' use of welfare through expansion of legal immigration; given that we could set the rules to select for work ethic and that existing laws putting heavy responsibilities on sponsors could be strengthened to make it more difficult (my preferred option) or impossible (RWP's preferred option) for immigrants to use the welfare system, we'd actually be cutting down on (or even coming close to cutting off) the number immigrant welfare recipients. So those costs wuld be drastically reduced at least.

As for arguments for benefits, RWP mentions the dampening effect on prices and inflation. I mention a bunch of other benefits in one of my earlier comments. See the Drum Major report above for one study that backs up my case. My question still stands: do the studies you cite calculate any of these benefits or do they only focus on costs? It is cost-benefit analysis that should be done, right? All I'm asing for is some honest accounting--seriously!

Finally, I don't see a lot of the anti-immigrant groups out there making arguments against low-wage immigration on the grounds that it makes life harder for poor Americans, so I don't know how your arguments are going to win over your pals on the right. Even RWP, who's with you politically, faults you for not joining in the "cultural panic" mode of justifying heightened border security strongly enough. Moreover, he argues against the deportation model you appear to endorse in your column. Want to respond to his criticisms?

Now, as to who has the better anti-poverty program, that sounds like a future column, eh?

The Constructivist said...

Jeez, now Glenn Reynolds is jumping on the annexation bandwagon, with his own silly twist. Are people trying to make my "21st C world-wide welcome" look good by comparison?

BTW, the employer sanction solution is still losing close to 80-10 against anti-terror and anti-southern border security proposals on the Power Line poll I referred to above, but looked at another way, it's running a solid third out of 8 priorities. When even a good number of conservatives vote this way it gives me hope.

The Constructivist said...

Here's the latest in a three-part series that explores the immigration debates with some interesting perspectives.

The Constructivist said...

RWP will like this one, mostly.

The Objectivist said...

Dear RWP and Constructivist:

There is this widespread argument or observation that it is unrealistic to expect the country to return a substantial portion of the 12 million illegal aliens. However, one wonders what we are trying to do here. If we are trying to discuss valuable goals that can be attained at a reasonable cost and without too much courage from Congress (especially the leftist Republicans in the Senate), then mass deportation is achievable.

The U.S. did it before during the Eisenhower administration and no effort has been made to do it in the last couple of decades. There has been in effect an agreement not to enforce the law against employers hiring the aliens and police, schools, and hospitals to look the other way when they take in clear-cut aliens.

Compare this to the wild enthusiasm that the state has when it comes to the drug war, enforcing child-support payments, pushing quotas and preferences, and targeting those involved in child pornography. The difference couldn't be more stark.

If the law-enforcement community were mandated to put the same energy (hopefully without the same degree of privacy invasions and bullying tactics) they would soon be returning illegal aliens in large amounts.

If the issue is what will likely be achieved, it is the following. A mass amnesty will occur. It will set down conditions that will be so minimal as to be non-existent or so burdensome that it will be ignored giving rise to the need to revisit this issue in a few years. There will be no attempt to change our immigration pattern from accepting poorly educated, less productive, and probably genetically less talented immigrants from Mexico with top-of-the-line choices that we could get were we to select for wealth, education, and job skills.

I would still like to know for the future whether the Constructivist would like to substitute 10,000 Mexicans with a high school degree or less for 10,000 Indians with a graduate degree or more, particularly ones from their elite universities.

The Constructivist said...

O, you know full well that about as many Americans fail to graduate from high school as succeed in graduating from college (roughly a third for each). Damn, if Mexicans are coming with high school degrees, why don't you see that as bringing positive competition to American high school drop-outs, encouraging them to complete their educations and upgrade their skills/credentials? (BTW, most drop out from boredom and rebelliousness, not inability to hack high school curricula.)

In answer to your last question, of course I'd choose the highly-educated, highly-skilled, highly capitalized folks you favor, O, if I had to make such a choice, but why do you present it as a substitution issue? Let's look at it from the other angle: if you were the CEO of an agribusiness or a construction firm, what choice would you make? Don't you agree that there's job segmentation in the US workforce, so that what's good for some industries is not good for others?

I believe you and I agree, O, that it would be preferable for industries where undocumented workers are concentrated (usually around a quarter of the workforce, although this varies by region) to hire American workers. Do you think American workers are actively being rejected for these jobs or that they choose not to apply for or take them?

In this case, you sound like you'd be in favor of government regulation, enforcement of labor and criminal law, etc. I don't think you would find many liberals who'd disagree with you on this. My question to you is, how do you plan to convince conservatives to see things your way? Or fellow libertarians who in general would rather see less government intervention in free markets (and who might respond to your earlier comments that the government should back off on enforcing those laws, too, rather than expand their enforcement efforts)?

But, hey, since you have RWP to respond to, go for it.

The Constructivist said...

Joe over at The Moderate Voice has been covering the immigration debates quite well (even better since he linked to us, right, O?)....

The Constructivist said...

Other recent posts on limitations of current US legislation, on the question of migration, on econmists' views of the costs and benefits of immigration, on the nineteenth-century wave of immigration from southern and eastern Europe....

The Constructivist said...

More immigration goodies, on readers of conservative blogs and columns, on the unintended humor of some anti-immigration pundits, on immigration and trade, on Republican attempts to use immigration as a wedge issue....

The Constructivist said...

More immigration goodies, from Daily Kos, oh, and Daily Kos again, TPM Cafe, The Oregonian (via Hugh Hewitt), Hugh Hewitt itself....

The Constructivist said...

A nice point about illegal migrations, courtesy of The Debate Link....

The Constructivist said...

Hey, O, you ought to check out what your buddies over at Objectivism Online are saying about immigration.

The Constructivist said...

Or this one. What is your response to your fellow Objectivists, O?

The Constructivist said...

More good links, on countering anti-immigrant claims and revising state and local laws to allow immigrants to vote, courtesy of Alas (a Blog).

The Constructivist said...

Another good one, courtesy of The Moderate Voice.

The Objectivist said...

Dear Subjectivist:

My apologies for the delay. I don't see what the argument is against substitution of smart and educated Indians and Chinese against less smart and much less educated Mexicans.

Your argument, if I understood it correctly, was that we need not choose. But there are probably a billion plus of poor persons (poorer than Mexicans) who would love to come to this country. Why favor the wealthier Mexicans when they add less to our well-being.

So let me ask you these two questions.

(1) In the future, shouldn't we declare war on unskilled Mexican illegal aliens and open the welcome door to well-educated Chinese and Indians?

(2) Should we change our immigration criteria to favors skills rather than family (currently the vast majority of persons let in)?

The Objectivist said...

Dear Subjectivist:
Also, Thomas Sowell argues that many of the industries that illegal aliens work in (e.g., California agriculture and Florida sugar) are industries that survive only via taxpayer subsidies. If this is correct, this makes no sense to have yet another complicated form of subsidy for businesses that should be made to sink or swim on their own.

One last point on Mexicans. If I remember correctly (I just read the first half of Mexifornia) well over half of the legal immigrants from Mexico never become U.S. citizens. If this is correct, this is probably not a group that wants to or needs to assimilate. Does this bother you at least a bit?

The Objectivist said...

Dear S:
One last point and as always, thanks for doing all the heavy lifting for our site. I looked at some of the economic discussion of whether immigrants produce a net cost to the citizenry. I think the answer is yes due to their welfare usage, but imagine that the answer is no. Still, the opportunity costs of letting in such an unskilled populace has go to be enormous (kind of like the difference involved in household income when you marry a person who didn't complete high school as opposed to a physician). Since rational decisions focus on benefits and costs, including opportunity costs, the case against allowing Mexican illegal aliens would seem to be particularly strong. Am I missing something?

The Constructivist said...

O, I believe we agree that more steps should be taken to secure our borders (although we disagree over the utility of the wall idea) and that the federal government has the right and responsibility to aim for ending illegal entry into the country. Where we disagree is over the causes of so much illegal entry from Mexico and Central America and how to affect the push-pull forces that cause international migration.

So long as there exists such a huge difference in wages and living standards between the US and its southern neighbors, there are going to be huge incentives to come to the US to work. (It's well-known that migrants' remittances sent to families back home account for a large percentage of many nations' GDPs in this hemisphere and elsewhere.) So long as the procedures for applying for entry into the US remain slow, complicated, and expensive, and so long as the number of visas issued per year remains relatively small, there are going to be huge incentives to enter the country illegally. (Despite morally questionable border policies since the Clinton years, hundreds of thousands of people a year are still willing to risk their lives and pay coyotes around $1600 to cross the border with Mexico. See the latest Atlantic Monthly for two interesting essays on this, one by Clive Crk and the other by Marc Cooper.) When you take into account how NAFTA has affected Mexican farmers and rural communities without significantly increasing urban opportunities, and when you take into account how Mexican maquiladoras are responding to pressures from China- and Southeast Asia-based competitors, you can understand why there are a great number of push factors in play, as well.

You argue we should pursue exclusively punitive strategies to stem or even stop this flow. I argue we ought to try to affect these dynamics through a range of strategies, including raising the number of normal work visas available to Mexicans and Central Americans (NOT the new bracero program President Bush proposes) and rethinking our approach to free trade and workers' rights in this hemisphere.

Your response is to suggest we ought to be recruiting immigrants from Asia rather than Mexico and Central America and focusing on skills/education/wealth over family in our immigration criteria. In essence, you want us to take advantage of the speed and scope of internal migration within India and China (from country to city, basically) that is outpacing the growth of their economies. I agree with you that we ought to be doing everything we can to encourage immigration from these and other Asian countries. Doing away with family criteria in US immigration policy, however, would provide a disincentive for people from there to come here.

Where we disagree is over three dubious assumptions you seem unwilling to even acknowledge, much less reexamine: 1) every Western Hemisphere migrant who comes here is "taking a spot away from" an Eastern Hemisphere migrant; 2) it is easy to rank "skills" in a simple hierarchy; 3) there are major differences in assimilation prospects for Eastern and Western Hemisphere migrants.

(1) The US population is large enough (300 million and growing, although much more slowly if we cut down on immigration as Tancredo, Sensenbrenner, and FAIR call for) and economy is dynamic enough for us to stop pretending that immigration is a zero-sum game. Mexicans are not taking jobs away from or significantly reducing the wages of American high school dropouts. There is no relation between immigration from Mexico and from India or China.

Where there are disproportionate demands on public infrastructure in certain localities due to concentration of immigrant populations, this is a place for the federal government to step in and help out local governments, not by mass deportations, but by sharing the costs of education, health, safety, and welfare.

If we do so in a rational way, we can certainly benefit from the talents and work of some of the world's poor. But we should also be pursuing aid,
development, trade, and other economic strategies in poor countries that will also reduce the push-factors of global migration. It's time for global policy-makers to take seriously the proposals coming out of the World Social Forum, the International Forum on Globalization, the One Campaign, and other endeavors to address the causes of world poverty.

(2) The US labor market is quite segmented and differentiated. I'm all for reducing corporate welfare, but I think the path of enforcing existing regulations and rebalancing our labor laws is more efficient and humane than simply arresting and deporting people who came to this country to work in service, construction, agricultural, and other industries. Migrant workers shouldn't be the only ones to pay for corporate malfeasance. If you want to put this in the language of ending subsidies in hopes it flies farther with conservatives, go ahead and good luck.

Meanwhile, post-9/11, we've seen a big drop in the numbers of international students in American higher education and Bush administration policies are making it harder rather than easier for people to come here from other countries to study. We must pursue legitimate security and immigration concerns (as violations of student visas used to be one of the top sources of illegal immigration to the US) without cutting off our access to people who can contribute to American innovation and growth. I don't think we disagree here.

But how are the two related? Do you really think a Harvard economics grad from India is going to be competing against a Guatemalan farmer displaced by NAFTA? Please define the "enormous opportunity costs" of Mexican migration more precisely (your marriage/household income analogy is unconvincing). And by what stretch of the imagination do you claim that all Mexican migrants are "unskilled"?

(3) Assimilation is a process that takes place over generations. I still haven't seen any convincing arguments that we should expect post-1965 migrants to be any less well integrated into American culture, society, and economy by 2050 than the post-1865 wave of immigrants were by 1950. Yesterday's "Yellow Peril" becomes today's "Model Minority" (examples could be multiplied). Americans should be the last people in the world to fear change. Of course American identities have changed over the centuries and there's no reason to doubt they'll continue to, either. So what?

Plus, if language, culture, religion pose such obstacles to Americanization for Mexicans and other migrants from the Americas (a ridiculous notion premised on the ridiculous assumption that the US has a monopoly on the meaning of "America"), then why wouldn't they pose even greater ones for migrants from Asia?

Unfortunately, you are not alone in making the kinds of assumptions I've just criticized, O. So, no, I won't join you in declaring war on "unskilled Mexican illegal aliens"; nor will I join your call to substitute "skills" for "family" criteria in US immigration policy. We should put out the welcome mat to migrants eager to work here (no matter where they're from or what segment of the economy they contribute to) by liberalizing rather than militarizing US immigration policy. Taking leadership in eliminating world poverty is a better long-term strategy for the US than building a new Great Wall. Issuing a new "world-wide welcome" rather than retreating behind our very own Berlin Wall is the political path America should take in the 21st century.

The Constructivist said...

O, what do you think of Kevin Drum's proposal?

The Constructivist said...

Heather MacDonald at The National Review Online argues that postmodernism is to blame for the push for immigrants' rights in the US. Here are her final two paragraphs:

"Efforts to analogize the illegal-alien protests to the civil-rights movement are ludicrous. Blacks were demanding that state governments end the unlawful deprivation of rights that they already possessed under the Constitution, and for which the nation had fought a traumatic civil war. The illegals are claiming rights to which by law they have no right and for which they can make no legal argument whatsoever. If their movement succeeds, it will not be possible to deny any future rights claims in any sphere of life or activity. The claim for same-sex marriage, opposed by many of the same conservatives who so genially support the illegal-alien movement, rests on far stronger Constitutional grounds than the 'I am here' claim for legal immigration status. And we will have no basis for opposing the demands for legalization by every future border trespasser, who, along with today's illegal aliens, can simply state: 'I am here.'

"It is easy to understand why the multicultural lobby, with its antagonism to American identity, is pushing so hard for illegal-alien rights. It is less easy to understand why many conservatives, who otherwise stand for unfettered American sovereignty in all matters international, are so eager to dissolve not just our immigration laws but the principle of lawmaking behind them. They may soon discover that a postmodern conception of rights leads to a postmodern conception of nationhood."

Wow. Take that, "one world Republicans"!

Never mind that for decades under the Constitution African-Americans were denied citizenship rights and gained them only after the North won the Civil War and amended the Constitution. Or that many abolitionists fought for the recognition of African-American human rights long before the American legal system recognized their claims. MacDonald refuses to acknowledge similar tensions between human rights and American law today, or rather in the face of them calls on conservatives to assert unfettered American sovereignty on this issue. I hope they do: the Sensenbrenner bill in the House has the potential to be as radicalizing as the Fugitive Slave Act was.

The Constructivist said...

Pandagon--'nuff said, as Stan Lee would put it.

The Constructivist said...

A cultural argument for immigration.

The Constructivist said...

Some humor from Feministe. To be read to the tune of "Blame Canada."

The Constructivist said...

Hey, O, what's wrong with this Adam Smith-liberal proposal on immigration?

The Constructivist said...

O, check out the latest New Yorker for an article on "snakeheads," who have been smuggling emigrants from China illegally into the US since the '80s. Would be interested if you think smuggling Chinese peasants into the US by thee snakeheads has any more validity than coyotes' smuggling of Mexicans and Central Americans....

The Objectivist said...

Dear Constructivist:
You're right about the three assumptions. I think all of them are defensible.

(1) Hispanic immigrants take spots away from Asian immigrants.
We could probabaly take into millions a year from persons willing to move here and pay their own way. Assuming we take in only a small percentage of people who want to come in, the U.S. is much like a very selective college (e.g., Penn accepted 13% of applicants this year). Given this claim, I don't see why Mexicans taken in or allowed to stay aren't taken at the expense of more talented Asians.

(2) It's easy to rank skills in a hierarchy.
I accept this can be done as well. In theory, I think this can be done via expected income. However, this relies of a claim that income/profits in the free market track contribution to aggregate welfare. I'm guessing you'd reject this. Let us ask a different question. Do you think that we need persons with IQs of 130 or higher and who have graduate degrees in engineering or computers or medical degrees from the Ivy League of China and India or Mexican laborers who have below average IQs and who didn't graduate from high school. This is the choice we face and I can't imagine anyone with a straight face explaining why we should prefer the laborers.

(3) There are major differences in assimilation.
This is true as well. If I remember correctly from Mexifornia, only 20% of legal Mexican immigrants actually become citizens. As far as I know, there is no such evidence with regard to South Indian and East Asian immigrants.

Anecdotally, they cheer for Mexico over the U.S. and return there regularly for visits and in many cases plan to return there to live once they have made sufficient money. Is there any indication that any of this is true for Indian and Chinese immigrants? In addition, the latter have good incentives to assimilate. Their income is significantly higher than the average American and the latter is one of the two highest in the world. Let me put it this way, what evidence would convince you that they are less likely to assimilate?

The Constructivist said...

O, you might find this perspective from definition interesting. I'll get to your questions once I've gotten through more grading!

The Constructivist said...

O, I wonder how far you'd take your criteria for entry for potential citizens of the US (which is why, I think, debates over immigration get so heated--they're all about who "we" are and who we might become)--namely, if you think skills, education, and capital are so important for prospective Americans like immigrants, why not for those who are born on American soil? Should there be some citizenship test for everyone? (Might get people to take high school more seriously, eh?) Or should it just be on the basis of "inborn" characteristics like IQ or something?

Taking your example of admission to the US as being like admission to a highly selective college (Princeton just admitted 10%, btw), why should we treat people born here or born to American citizens as "legacies"?

There's much more to say but many mroe papers to grade. More later....

The Constructivist said...

O, check out this and the debate over at Swords Crossed.

The Objectivist said...

Dear C:
I think there are contractual reasons (namely, the terms of the Constitution) to allow allow natural-born persons to be citizens. I'm not sure whether this should apply to the children of illegal immigrants - I know there's a debate on how the Constitution should be interpreted on this issue.

Res Ipsa said...

Good stuff gentlemen. I thought your debate was worth linking to. Please keep it up. If you don’t mind I’d appreciate a reciprocal link to my page.

Thank you

The Constructivist said...

Thanks for the comment and link, RI. So who do you think is "winning" our debate, if I may ask?

The Constructivist said...

O, what do you think of this ADL report? (Hat tip: Orcinus.)

The Constructivist said...

O, what do you think of what Ezra Klein is reporting on what The Weekly Standard is saying about immigration?

TangoMan said...

That was a very interesting debate and I regret that I have arrived so late in the game, for I really would have liked to play. I'd have to come down more on Objectivist's side on this issue. Let's assume, ad arguendum, that overall immigration numbers into the US remain constant, I'd rather see the Hispanic influx completely replaced by screened admittance of Asian, Indian, Arab, Hispanic and African candidates. Have I taken away grounds for calling me a racist? I hope so, for what I favor is that our immigrants are admitted when they pass standards that our lawmakers have drafted. What the world's most advanced economy needs the least is 12 million people, 60% of whom have only a 6th grade education, and very few of which are high school graduates.

Next, we should all recognize from Canada's experience with Quebec, that we are creating a society within our society by predominantly favoring immigrants from right next door. Take the same number of immigrants from all regions of the world and assimilate them to cultural norms which are closer to the American cultural mean, rather than pulling the American cultural mean towards Hispanization.

The sections of the US border near San Diego have walls in place and the number of illegals crossing in that vicinity has dropped considerably. A wall is a very cheap and very effective means of insuring border intergrity. A wall is not a supercollidor and the only objection that seems to be mounted is that a wall will impede the flow of people who wish to cross the border illegally. I can't muster too much sympathy for their plight.

Regarding enforcement, we should institute on-line SS verification. If we can perform instant credit checks then this process is not technologically insurmountable. Further, we need to crack down on employers who violate on-line verification. Probably the most effective techique I've seen is that of siccing the trial lawyers on the employers who conspire to hire illegals. In WA state there was a significant class action settlement on behalf of 20,000 employees who were harmed by their employers actions and the trial lawyers were in the process of mounting a RICO case and looking for treble damages.

With workplace enforcement many of the illegals will self-deport. To make this a more orderly, and humane, process I would certainly agree to a visa lottery which allocated work visas for up to 5 years. By this I don't mean each visa would be for 5 years, I mean that the periods would extend from 6 months to 5 years and they would be drawn by lottery. Thereafter, each visa holder could enter into a visa aftermarket and trade their visas for market pricing. In this way, an illegal who is earning a respectable wage but wins a 8 month visa could buy the 4 year visa of someone who is earning far less.

The problem I have with allowing illegals to earn their way to amnesty is that they are already here in the US, they would continue to stay in the US, they would continue to earn a living in the US and all the while the people who are waiting for legal immigration approval are deprived of the same benefit. Therefore, no justice is being served and we are rewarding criminal behavior. Far better to affect an orderly deportation and simultaneously increase the flow of legal, and screened, immigrants so that they may fill the potential labor shortages that would ensue without having replacement workers available.

There actually is a negative effect on our own low income citizens from increasing the supply of low-cost labor. I looked at some aspects of this issue in my post Jane Galt: Modern Day Paul Erlich? on which I note that from 2000 to 2004 we have seen a 20% increase in the number of recipients of Social Security Disability benefits. Surely there are few people who will step forth to argue that the workforce became eversomore dangerous over this period and thus permanently injured 1,200,000 additional workers. Clearly many of these new disabled are simply discouraged workers, who because they are citizens, can apply for a form of social welfare that is more generous than the income they could earn in a depressed labor market flooded with illegal competition.

What I can't get my head around is the Liberal desire to accomodate the illegals in our midst. I find it baffling because the absorption of 12 million net tax recipients makes the goals of expanding the social welfare state ever harder to achieve. As these 12 million illegals transition to citizenship they will qualify for a greater range of social welfare benefits and those are going to be hard to fund. We see from many international studies that the support for social welfare spending decreases as the diversity of the society increases. Members of more homogeneous societies feel that their tax dollars spent on social welfare could one day benefit them, but members of more heterogeneous societies often see the tax dollars spent on social welfare be directed to groups other than those who are most likely the net tax contributors. You can see this play out with public schools which are increasingly having to accomodate poorly educated Hispanic illegals. The whites and asians leave the system, carve out smaller districts, establish charters, or enroll in private schools. This flight from public education makes educational bond levies more difficult to finance, increases the pressure on public officials to limit school spending because a sizable number of homeowners aren't invested in the local school system and instead contribute their money to private schools.

Liberals want a universal health care system - good luck on that when you add 12 million more net tax recipients into the mix. The only thread that I can uncover to the liberal position is that they don't want to be seen as racists and they want to avoid the imagery and suffering that may follow from enforcing the law. The finances, the legality, and their own allegience to their fellow citizens take a back seat to the immediacy of the plight of the disadvantaged. They also happen to think that an expanding social welfare state and the addition of 12 million net tax recipients aren't mutually exclusive. In other words, they think they can have it all.

One last point about my confusion with the liberal position. The black constituency is a key part of the liberal coalition but the plight of black men, with over 25% of men being idle for periods of a year or longer, is simply ignored. Their interests are pushed to the bottom of the agenda and below the interests of foreign criminals in our midst. It simply astounds me.

The Constructivist said...

Major essay by Mae Ngai on early 20th C immigration law.

The Constructivist said...

TM, it's never too late to join in, so here goes:

1) setting criteria/screening for skills: I agree with you and the Objectivist that we should be actively seeking out more people from around the world who can make immediate contributions at the upper segments of the economy. but I disagree that overall immigration levels should remain constant (which I assume is what you both call for, even though you both put it in terms of an assumption rather than a prescription). I think we should expand the number of work visas we offer, period, to people from this hemisphere and improve the efficiency of the BCIS processing system so legal immigrants aren't left in legal limbo.

2) on Hispanization: every country in the Americas lays claim to the term "American." to assume the US has a monopoly on defining 'Americanization' is not just arrogant, it's self-defeating. unless you want to presume unbridgeable cultural differences or assume that post-1965 immigrants' descendants will have any more trouble than the 1840-1925-cohort of immigrants' (for whom similar 'cultural' anxieties among "100% Americans" were triggered) descendants at joining America's ever-changing multiculture, I can't see why you'd be so unconfident about the vitality of American culture.

3) the wall--TM, your other measures (which I by and large like) will make it unnecessary, plus, when you factor in its costs and its inefficiencies, even trying to make it work seems like fantasy-land to me. the San Diego wall has just shifted migration patterns, leading to thousands of deaths. even an effective wall would just shift strategies for getting in illegally. given that people are motivated to risk their lives to come here, we'd be much better off setting up a system where they're paying the federal government to get in rather than coyotes, snakeheads, and forgers of official documents.

4) on the costs to low-income and African-American citizens, if conservatives would join liberals in supporting policies that would make a difference in their lives--a better public education system especially in the very early years; additional federal funding for public infrastructures in areas hit hard by migration patterns; balanced labor laws that recognize the right to unionize as a first-amendment-protected right; paths to reinstating voting rights for most paroled prisoners who have lost them; and so on--the very small negative effects due to immigration on these populations can not only be mitigated but offset. Fining undocumented workers for their various crimes seems a much more humane and effective means of recouping costs and giving them incentives to legalize their status than deporting them, which, with our revolving door border, just gives them another chance to return illegally.

Like O, TM, you ignore strategies for affecting push-pull factors on hemispheric migration patterns directly--through smarter regional trade/aid/development/reform policies, for instance--in favor of attempts to score political points against "liberals." Conservatives should look to their own house first and confront their cheap labor corporate paymasters if they want to attempt comprehensive immigration reform.

The Constructivist said...


The Constructivist said...

Over at Orcinus, Dave Neiwert has been covering the anti-immigration movement brilliantly. Here's one of his posts showing that many of the statistics on the costs of illegal immigration are dead wrong.

TangoMan said...

I think we should expand the number of work visas we offer, period, to people from this hemisphere

Why are you favoring people from this hemisphere? I favor a worldwide invitation to people who can become net contributors to our society.

to assume the US has a monopoly on defining 'Americanization' is not just arrogant, it's self-defeating.

I think we're arguing at cross purposes here for I don't really catch what you're implying here. I can point to real world examples of social turmoil that results from two cultures coexisting, from the disasterous (Iraq) to the more benign (Quebec and Belguim.) I pointed out the issues that confront Canada from having such a very high concentration of French people in one geographic location and how they, as a group, exert a lot of influence to further their own goals at the expense of national goals. Hispanization and Americanization are not synonyms for the same dynamic. American culture is different from Hispanic culture(s) in that the varieties of subcultures that comprise American culture are not vying for dominance in general or in any particular region. Further, these various subcultures don't have enough inertia behind them to affect change of the dominant culture, whereas Hispanic culture does have the inertia and many advocates are indeed pushing for accomodations that are not seen from other American subcultures. This, tied with the geographic concentration, portends Quebec like developments and a move towards balkanization.

when you factor in its costs and its inefficiencies, even trying to make it work seems like fantasy-land to me. the San Diego wall has just shifted migration patterns, leading to thousands of deaths. even an effective wall would just shift strategies for getting in illegally.

Considering that "immigration law & order advocates" got shafted on the last go-round of amnesty legislation, the wall and strict enforcement, are two measures that will likely have to be offered up as concessions in order to extract support for some type of regularization and future amnesty. The wall is a low-tech, but effective barrier, that liberals have tagged with symbolism. From what I see the fight is against the symbolism that's been attached and not the engineering, financing, and effectiveness aspects of the wall. It's completely doable and certainly not in the realm of fantasy. To characterize it as fantasy really has no basis in reality unless of course we're talking about the fantasy being the wide scale adoption of the symbolism that liberals have attached to the wall - for instance, if the connotation is that the wall is like the Berlin Wall, then it surely is fantasy to imagine that Americans are going to see themselves as East German Communists. The problem is that most Americans aren't seeing the wall as being anything like the Berlin Wall, but more like a fence, and instead of keeping people prisoner behind the wall, most Americans see the wall as making for good neighbors.

As for the wall shifting the migration patterns, that is part of the plan, for it is logistically simpler to secure fewer breaches and legal ports of entry than it is to secure a diffuse and unguarded border. Let the wall funnel the people into the weak spots where we will be better prepared to intercept illegal immigrants.

if conservatives would join liberals in supporting policies that would make a difference in their lives

As you're probably aware by now, my political inclinations aren't easily slotted into the liberal-conservative dichotomy. That said, I do have the following conservative sympathy - the best welfare is a job. Your call for conservatives to join liberals in solving the problem that illegal immigrants cause for our Black community is structured entirely on liberal terms - more gov't programs that are designed to achieve some social outcome, but rarely perform as promised and even more rarely are forced to explain their failures.

a better public education system especially in the very early years

Why? Also, how do you define better? Do you mean more funding will increase student performance? I can point you to countless reports like this one from
Trenton, which receives 84 percent of its budget from the state, now spends $14,567 per child, higher than its most affluent neighbor in Mercer County, Princeton Regional ($13,230), and far above rapidly growing Washington Township ($9,383).">New Jersey

On average this year, the state's 31 special-needs districts are outspending their suburban counterparts by about $3,500 per student.

Trenton, which receives 84 percent of its budget from the state, now spends $14,567 per child, higher than its most affluent neighbor in Mercer County, Princeton Regional ($13,230), and far above rapidly growing Washington Township ($9,383).

additional federal funding for public infrastructures in areas hit hard by migration patterns;

Why, oh why, should we reward bad behavior? The areas that are hard hit by illegal immigration are filled with people who have hired the illegals and their communities are suffering from having to subsidize the public services for the illegals and they can't generate enough tax revenue from the illegals to offset their costs. The illegals are predominantly net tax recipients and as such they are receiving gov't subsidy. Why would we add to the subsidies going to those regions?

balanced labor laws that recognize the right to unionize as a first-amendment-protected right;

I have absolutely no problem with this policy proposal. This is freedom of association, and if a unionized group wants to hold an employer's feet to the fire and extract compensation beyond market value, then they should have the right to do so, even if they are sowing the seeds of destruction for that business. I'm all for a more equitable rebalancing of interests between capital and labor but this will only provide marginal help for much of the economy can find substitutes for products and services internationally, so that there are upper bounds on what is achievable.

paths to reinstating voting rights for most paroled prisoners who have lost them;

Disagree. If losing voting rights is one of the penalties for being convicted of a felony, then by committing the felony the criminal is being punished according to the law. I don't see how this measure would aid the interests of Black citizens vis a vis illegal immigrants. I hope you're not meaning that by giving Black felons the vote that they can use their numbers to agitate for more social wealth redistribution from the net tax contributors to the net tax recipients.

-the very small negative effects due to immigration on these populations can not only be mitigated but offset.

Small negative effects? Why do you characterize the effects as being small? Look at the drop off in Black male workforce participation. That has a huge negative effect on Black males participating in society, building self-esteem, establishing credit, being responsible, etc. A growing reliance on leading a life of crime is a result of doors being closed with respect to employment.

Fining undocumented workers for their various crimes seems a much more humane and effective means of recouping costs and giving them incentives to legalize their status than deporting them

Why? You're arguing that their simple presence in the US should give them some standing - I don't see it. We didn't get to choose whether they came here or not, we didn't invite them, they in fact imposed their presence on us. Meanwhile, the people overseas who are following the rules will have to wait longer, even though we've vetted them, feel that they'll make a positive contribution to our society, and invited them here. Every illegal that is deported creates a job here for someone we want to invite, and who's been screened. Further, the whole amnesty wait period is no imposition at all for while the illegal is waiting to be regularized, they're still living in the US, working in the US, sending their kids to school in the US, getting free medical care from taxpayers, etc while the person who's applied legally must wait in their home country for a quota slot to open for them.

The most humane act is to be fair to the people who follow the rules and who will actually make a positive economic contribution to society rather than favoring the interests of people who broke the rules, imposed their presence upon us and who are net economic drains on society.

Constructivist, if you're inclined to support gov't social welfare policies and you're looking for support across the aisle, so to speak, then I offer the following suggestion - pilot test the programs to gauge their effectiveness before calling for their wide scale adoption. If the program is shown to achieve it's goals then the chance of my supporting it have increased.

Conservatives should look to their own house first and confront their cheap labor corporate paymasters if they want to attempt comprehensive immigration reform.

Completely agree that the conservatives should indeed take on their own cheap labor lobby. If you were a conservative I'd be criticizing your turning a blind eye to that problem, but seeing how you're not a conservative I thought that there was little to gain in noting something that we likely find agreement on.

Here's one of his posts showing that many of the statistics on the costs of illegal immigration are dead wrong.

Unfortunately Dave doesn't address the statistics that I use in development of, and support for, my position. I'd be interested in seeing him refute economic studies commissioned by the National Research Council and published by the National Academies Press, which are just a few planks I use to make my case.

The Constructivist said...

On expanding legal immigration, I've repeated over and over in the comments my agreement with TM's call for a worldwide increase (particularly seeking out the highly skilled and educated that TM and O prioritize) in work visas; I've consistently rejected O's attempts to paint immigration as a zero-sum game, where the legal entry of migrants from this hemisphere "takes spots away from" the legal entry of those from East and South Asia, for instance.

On improving public education, I don't equate better and mo' money, but by your own logic, TM, you need a way to get "smarter" folks teaching in the neediest schools and in the teaching profession more generally, so how else do you propose to give them incentives to do this difficult and frustrating work? In addition to attracting people with the most potential to become excellent teachers, we also have to rethink the way we train them. But that's a new post.

On bipartisan efforts to aid low-skill workers in a global economy, I don't necessarily mean more government programs--it could be something as broad as moving to a "fair trade" rather than a "free trade" model or paying as much attention to the World Social Forum as the World Economic Forum. I'd like to see some new ideas based on what's worked in different countries be tested and implemented here. I believe the years before a child enters school are quite crucial to their later success, so interventions that focus on the 0-4 crowd with a proven track record would get my support, for instance. What are your ideas, TM?

On the "breaking the law" issue, please check out La Queen Sucia's post.

Sorry, can't say more right now, little imoto believes the best time to be awake and cranky is between midnight and 4 am....

TangoMan said...

you need a way to get "smarter" folks teaching in the neediest schools and in the teaching profession more generally, so how else do you propose to give them incentives to do this difficult and frustrating work?

First, any pay increase that is justified as a mechanism to entice more qualified people into the profession will largely be captured by the existing teacher corps for their unions would not stand still while newcomers into the profession are paid salaries that are greater than those of teachers with more experience, despite the fact that the newcomers would be more intelligent and have other career options available to them.

Secondly, while a sharper teacher could probably solve classroom problems more effectively and communicate the lessons to the students in more varied and novel ways, the real problems are centered on curriculum design and student's time on task. We know of curriculums that work with troubled students, Direct Instruction for instance, but they are less interesting processes for the teachers. Teachers don't want boring lesson plans that work, they tend to prefer interesting lesson plans that aren't as effective in generating content mastery in their students. Further, the troubled students' performance can be improved by increasing time on task. Therefore, we need to make the school day longer for some students and for their teachers. If that takes more taxpayer funding then that is a better route to take than simply giving raises to all teachers.

On the "breaking the law" issue, please check out La Queen Sucia's post.

She and I must be from completely different planets! I'm not convinced by a line of reasoning which stresses that some laws from our past were unjust therefore appeals to law are not to be respected. She hits a whole bunch of talking points but doesn't dig any deeper. Her entire article is an appeal to emotion and sympathy which is devoid of analysis. The article boils down to a proclamation of how evil her opponents are and how enlightened she is. Very cheap conspicious consumption.

What are your ideas, TM?

One of the first things I would do is to rationalize our national port strategy and strip ports of all subsidies. If ports had to operate on a cost recovery basis, or even make a profit (absent subsidy) then the marginal benefits of off-shoring would be reduced and the US would recapture some manufacturing operations which went off-shore because we provided a cheap, subsidized and efficient port system so they could capture gains from off-shore labor and have parts of their transit chain subsidized by taxpayers. This would create more jobs in the US, and from the jobs we'll see a reduction in poverty, more exposure to positive social models, and this ripples down to the children for if their fathers are in the home they are better role models, and if not in the home, they are better able to offer financial support.

Moving to the social realm, now things get more complicated for we're treading on the issuing judgements on parental skills and family culture. Here, we're not going to get broad agreements on policy directions that will work so the default will be to simplify the policies to the equivalent of pablum so that they feel and sound good, but are completely empty of calories. Things like Head Start or Universal Day Care, which dpn't deliver the goods but at least we can point to them and say that we're doing something.

I've consistently rejected O's attempts to paint immigration as a zero-sum game, where the legal entry of migrants from this hemisphere "takes spots away from" the legal entry of those from East and South Asia, for instance.

It is a zero-sum game though - we don't have infinite capacity to admit immigrants. The US has an absorption capacity that we have to deal with.

The Constructivist said...

So what is our "absorption capacity" today?

Please note that to even pose the question is to take us back in time to the 1920s--not metaphorically or analogically, but literally. I know you all are busy, but taking a peek at "'A Vast Amount of Coercion': The Ironies of Immigration Restriction," chapter 5 of David Roediger's Working toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White (2005) can substantiate how our early 21st century debates over immigration are following the conceptual (not just linguistic) contours of the early 20th C debates. Besides the names of Stoddard and Grant that I cited in my original column, you might also look up names like Kenneth Roberts, Harry Laughlin, Robert Yerkes, and Henry Pratt Fairchild. They all appealed to the cutting-edge biology and psychology of their time to make their case for restricting immigration by racially inferior Celts, Alpines, and Slavs.

So you either have to argue that these nativists were right to restrict their immigration until they could be absorbed and assimilated, or that they were wrong but your science is right. Which is it?

Also note that the effect of restricting southern and eastern European immigration between the 1920s and 1950s was to shift corporate cheap labor demands to supplies of African American and Mexican laborers--hence you saw several Great Migrations and several kinds of bracero programs, along with levels of non-white immigration that began to approach parity with the heavily restricted southern and eastern European groups. Trying to switch immigration flows to privileging East Asians will run into all kinds of (to my mind, midguided) opposition: from professionals who don't want the competition for jobs and grants to Cold Warriors who think China will be the US's greatest geopolitical threat in the 21st C to cultural nativists who would worry about the assimilation potential of East Asians.

In the face of that kind of opposition--which would be emboldened rather than mollified by the victory you call for on Hispanic immigration--I foresee a heavily restricted immigration flow for everyone to the US for the near future being the result of your advocacy for Hispanic-specific measures.

One final point: if citizens and corporations are profiting off cheap illegal immigrant labor, doesn't the taxation on their profits offset the expenditures on social services for illegal immigrants? Oh, wait, taxes on business are way down in the past generation. Would you support raising them as another disincentive to employ and exploit illegal immigrant labor?

TangoMan said...


Your questions are coming across as though you don't incorporate the concept of opportunity cost in your thinking.

So you either have to argue that these nativists were right to restrict their immigration until they could be absorbed and assimilated,

What was gained by absorbing and assimilating versus what was lost by taking the breather? On the social front there was a move to a more cohesive social polity rather than a divisive continuation of ethnic factions. I'd say that this is unreservedly a good thing. What was lost was a source of cheap labor which would have kept labor costs lower, increased economic efficiency and increased returns to capital. Clearly, this was a cost to national fortunes and we would have benefitted economically by not restricting immigration. However, we'd probably also be more balkanized as a society. So, the way I look at it, the social peace was purchased with a reduction in economic wealth.

All that said, it's important to keep in mind that the role of the social welfare state during that period was much reduced than it is today, so the concept of "net tax recipeint" being a drain upon society had less traction then. In the past you either held your head above water, economically, or you sunk into the depths of poverty. The gov't was not prepared, by use of force and imprisonment, to coerce citizens to unwillingly give up their money to pay for the health care and welfare benefits of the immigrants who were sinking.

The immigration debate today wouldn't be so rancorous if we elimiated the social welfare state. I'd personally bow out of it for I'm, by far, a net tax contributor, and I'd benefit by not having to subsidize those who can't make a go of it in our society. Let immigrants flood in then and I'll simply move to a gated community and be further ahead in the Balkanized States of America. I don't actually prefer that outcome therefore I'd rather that the nation as a whole rise with the tide and we minimize the drag on our society, and exploding the rolls with net tax recipients is a long term drag on the USA.

Also note that the effect of restricting southern and eastern European immigration between the 1920s and 1950s was to shift corporate cheap labor demands to supplies of African American and Mexican laborers

You seem to be painting this as a bad outcome and I look upon it as a good outcome - the lessened competition from immigrants of that period allowed Blacks and Hispanics more opportunities in a tighter labor market. The tigher labor market also allowed the unions to rise and to wield some influence against the power of capital and the shift of national wealth towards labor allowed an explosion in the ranks of the middle class, and it was possible for unionized manual laborers to actually enter the middle class and give their kids a good leg up. Again, this progress, which you and I apparently disagree on, was purchased by restricting the supply of labor in our economy.

To make the example more relevant to today, take a look at what's been happening to the workforce participation rates of Blacks from the mid 80s to present, even factoring out those Black men who are incarcerated. Actually, workforce participation rates have been dropping from the mid-90s to present for all demographic groups, except Hispanics, and the claims for Social Security Disability Benefits have increased 20% from 2000 to 2004. When we live in a social welfare state and the reward of employment falls below the benefits that the state will grant you then more people will shift towards receiving state support. This is a natural outcome to increasing the supply of labor at a relentless pace. If we curtail the social welfare benefits and force people to support themselves in the labor market then you'd be hearing even more screaming about competition from illegal labor driving the cost of labor ever lower and we'd also see the workforce participation rates increasing. Most telling is what has happened to teenage participation in the labor force - huge drops, especially for black teens.

Trying to switch immigration flows to privileging East Asians will run into all kinds of (to my mind, midguided) opposition: from professionals who don't want the competition for jobs and grants to Cold Warriors who think China will be the US's greatest geopolitical threat in the 21st C to cultural nativists who would worry about the assimilation potential of East Asians.

If liberals care about income inequality then they should be supporting such measures for we'd see an increase in labor supply at the professional level which would decrease wages and thus help to flatten the income spread. Further, the increase in professional labor supply would be contained primarily within the net tax contributor category, so even though there would be wage depression the increase in immigrants wouldn't serve as a drain on the national economy. Moreover, the wealth creation that is possible from 1,000,000 new college and graduate level immigrants is greater than that seen from 1,000,000 6th grade educated manual laborers.

You seem to be saying that a shift in the immigration policy would generate pain for some groups so it's better to keep the status quo and continue to inflict the pain on existing demographics and we should subsidize those demographics so as to avoid creating pain for the favored groups. Is that right?

if citizens and corporations are profiting off cheap illegal immigrant labor, doesn't the taxation on their profits offset the expenditures on social services for illegal immigrants?

Actually, it doesn't. The NRC figures were netted out and still left us holding the bag for lifetime subsidies of $87,000 per illegal without a HS degree, and that was back in 1995. That figure has likely increased today considering the supply of labor has increased in proportion to native labor and the inflation rates on social services, like education, incarceration, health care, city infrastructure, have all increased at rates greater than the aggregate for the economy.

Secondly, by having taxpayers subsidize cheap labor we're blocking substitution effects in the affected industries. Substitution can be created by employing more productive workers, where productivity is a function of intelligence, training, and/or experience, or by shifting to mechanization, which would also create labor demand for engineers and technicians to design and maintain the equipment. Sure, mechanization has cost us a lot of jobs for stableboys but it has also created a lot of jobs for automotive engineers and for mechanics. Which do you think pays better? Aren't you glad we didn't provide subsidies for industries to hire stable boys?

Oh, wait, taxes on business are way down in the past generation. Would you support raising them as another disincentive to employ and exploit illegal immigrant labor?

It's not the taxes that are causing the problem, it is the subsidy that the taxpayer provides and it is the increased labor supply. Look at the ratio of national wealth that has gone to capital instead of labor over the last 30 years.

Further, by increasing taxes on corporate profits we'd be hurting America's largest shareholders and I see no gain in purposely penalizing our retired pensioners and those who are saving for their retirement.

Again, this is a problem with two prongs. The first is economic - we're subsidizing and deterring substitution effects for the cheap labor. The second is cultural - think back to the rise of our own beleagured demographics - how much allegiance do we owe to our fellow citizens before we consider the interests of uninvited foreigners.

And, lastly, if you think that immigration is an unmitigated good, ask the Native Americans how well their culture has survived the arrival of immigrants. There is nothing wrong with proclaiming opposition to cultural erosion.

The Constructivist said...

An essay worth considering from Sociologists without Borders.

Feel free to post reactions to President Bush's speech here, as well.

The Constructivist said...

TM, is this the National Academies Press report you were referencing earlier? What, again, were its main findings re: net costs-benefits?

I've never seen "opportunity costs" or "unintended consequences" used in a debate in a convincing way--it's usually a shorthand for "I don't like your idea," in my experience.

Look how eaily you dismissed my talk of opportunity costs of building a wall or unintended consequences of the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act (and, please, it's a cheap shot to suggest I raised the increase in African American and Mexican migration replacing Southern and Eastern European migration point to bemoan it--it's your own twisted IQ=worth assumption that I was trying to call out)....

TangoMan said...

No, that's not the report. Actually there were two reports the first published in '95? and the second one followed in 96. What they found was that for those immigrant without a HS degree, over their lifetimes they netted out to a $87,000 subsidy. Those with a HS degree were subsidized over their lifetimes to the tune of $31,000. Those immigrants with some college contributed $105,000 to the national economy over their lifetimes. Further, the reports concluded that State taxpayers were disproportionately hit and the Federal Gov't made out better. Also, they noted that the immigrant's peak contribution occurred from their late teens to middle-age and then the subsidies started piling up.

Apart from their econometric analysis, the conclusions make intuitive sense in that we're the most technologically advanced economy in the world and the cost of living here is commensurately high, therefore what what need least is a massive increase in the population of the least educated. We're simply increasing the proportion of people who live in poverty.

Look how eaily you dismissed my talk of opportunity costs

Can you expand on this a bit more, for I thought that the opportunity cost analysis wasn't a breezy dismissal, and I'm wondering why it came across that way to you.

Generally, I find that it helps me to understand my opponents' rankings of philosophy or desires as they pertain to the debate topic. Take me for example. I favor immigrants from groups with higher mean IQs rather than lower mean IQs. From this principle one would expect that I'd actually prefer a growing Hispanic population in the US because they would displace, through marginalization, the problems of our Black community. Hispanics have higher IQ, higher workforce participation rates, stronger family formation, etc. So how to explain my objection to illegal immigrants? For that we need to find a principle which I rank higher than group-level IQ and that principle is that I believe that national allegiance takes priority over beneficial population displacement. As a citizen I'm in the same boat with Black Americans, and other low income Americans who are hurt by illegal immigrants and their interests are more important than those of uninvited foreigners. There is also a secondary interest in that I value my tax dollars being used efficiently and not for subsidizing imported poverty, despite the fact that the importation of Hispanic illegals is minimizing the influence of the Black lobby. I'm already on the hook for funding all sorts of social welfare schemes, so my interest is better served by seeing the disadvantaged of our society get a leg up and reduce their reliance on social welfare spending and illegals actually exacerbate the problem by increasing reliance on social welfare schemes. Therefore, I subjugate my group IQ principle to higher concerns.

I'm searching for the higher concerns of liberals on the immigration issue, for I don't understand how they reconcile their support for increasing the low wage labor supply, increasing state subsidy to the imported poor, harming the economic interests of the Black and low wage constituency, etc. Does fealty to a vision of multicultural nirvana take precedence over mere economic interests? Does eradication of "white culture" assuage some form of liberal guilt and this takes precedence over causing harm to liberal constituencies? Is it something as simple as liberal self-identity needing to distinguish itself from nativist sentiments, in that liberals are more cosmopolitan and have transcended nationalism? You see, I just don't get how liberals can square the circle and if I understood what the higher principle was then I could probably understand why liberals aren't as concerned about the harm that their policy would cause. I can explain the contradiction in my policy preferences, hopefully so that they are understandable to my debate partners, but can someone please return the favor :)

TangoMan said...

Perhaps some data would help illustrate my concerns. Here is Census data for Americans, Foreign Borns and Mexicans:

The Rate of Poverty

Natives 8.3%
Other Forign born 11.4%
Mexican 24.4%

Percent of Families with Female Householder:

Natives 26.1%
Other Forign born 29.4%
Mexican 43.1%

Speaking English in the Home:

Natives 91% (including those who are American born Hispanics)
Other Forign born 22%
Mexican 5.6%

Share of population with no High School Diploma:

Natives 17%
Other Forign born 25%
Mexican 70%

Share of population with no college Degree or higher:

Natives 25%
Other Forign born 24%
Mexican 4%

Per Capita Income:

Natives $21,592
Other Forign born $21,543
Mexican $13,020

Mean Public Assistance Income:

Natives $2,859
Other Forign born $3,881
Mexican $3,799

Disability Status of Civilian Non-Institutionalized Population - 5-20 Years Old:

Natives 7.9%
Other Forign born 10.5%
Mexican 12.3%

Disability Status of Civilian Non-Institutionalized Population - 21-64 Years Old:

Natives 18.6%
Other Forign born 22.5%
Mexican 27.0%

Liberals used to care about closing the poverty gap and income inequality. Notice that only 8.3% of American citizens live in poverty compared to 24.4% of Mexican immigrants. The Mexican immigrants are increasing the strain on the poverty programs put in place to help our neediest fellow citizens. We're actually making the situation worse.

Look, the numbers tell the tale - female headed households are higher, lack of English in the home is higher, lack of education is higher, rate of disability is higher, and the rate of public assistance is higher.

The Constructivist said...


The Constructivist said...

Anther one.

The Constructivist said...

Anther conservative opposed to returning to the logic of the 1924 Johnson-Reed Immigration Act.

The Constructivist said...

I am the link-keeper today.

The Constructivist said...

Can't stop, won't stop.

The Constructivist said...

Yes, history is bunk...or a nightmare we're all struggling to awake from...or a wind blowing an angel backward from some big bang...or nothing more than a vicious smear tactic used by those with no other cards left to play...or cyclical...or a ripple in a pond...or irrelavant...or...?

The Constructivist said...

See Sadly, No! for their summaries of this piece by Linda Chavez.

The Constructivist said...

Or check out Armando at Swords Crossed.

TangoMan said...

Anther conservative opposed to returning to the logic of the 1924 Johnson-Reed Immigration Act.

I followed the link from your comment and Rosenberg is basically echoing what I said in one of these comment threads, I'd sign on to a measure which stripped race from all governmnetal policy. Race blind immigration, race blind college admissions, race blind job interviews, etc. and let the flower of diversity bloom. No more Affirmative Action quotas, no more minority business set asides, no more racial discrimination lawsuits against businesses, etc.

Somehow though, I don't think that the race pandering Democrats would go for this, yet they're keen on a race blind immigration policy.

Rosenberg is very consistent in his position. Can Liberals match him?

The Constructivist said...

Rosenberg also says no IQ tests for entry, so....

Dave at Orcinus recommended myths vs. facts on immigration....

TangoMan said...

Perhaps Dave missed the obvious obfuscation - the article makes no distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. The scores of successful businesses that immigrants created and which were responsible for providing jobs in the American economy is not at all representative of illegal immigrants.

The pro-illegal, pro-low skill immigration advocates don't have any data to back up their positions. They point to Card's study, but over at Cowan's blog the commenters, and even Cownan himself, have come to admit that there are severe methodological flaws that obviate his conclusions.

What illegal boosters are left with is some adherance to a higher principle that transcends rational economic thought, or appeal to social amity. I have no clue what that higher principle is though.

As for Rosenberg, I'd be fine with screening for IQ proxies, like level of education, SES, etc.

The Constructivist said...

Alex Koppelman on 1920s nativism, Fox style. Hat tip: Orcinus.

Here's an analogy for ya: today's racial realists:anti-illegals movement::1920s' racial scientists:eugenics/nativist movement. Discuss.

The Constructivist said...

Hey TM and O, head on over to the Becker-Posner Blog and check out their recent thoughts on immigration reform. If you can convince them you're right, I'll give you loads of credit!

TangoMan said...

Go to Marginal Revolution and watch commenter Teller engage the pro-immigration economists and see how embarassing their unilateral withdrawal from debate appears when they can't respond to the multitude of facts and studies Teller has at his disposal. As an economist himself, Teller is telling his colleagues that they're inflicting a black-eye on their profession by advocating ideology rather than engaging in systemic study. If you want to catch the depth and breadth of this debate see these three comment threads - one, two and three.

Constructivist, you're dodging the questions I asked you. Refute the economic arguments regarding externalities and share with us what higher principle you're advocating which would justify causing willful economic harm to the country.

The Constructivist said...

Just busy, not dodging. Another issue to consider is how should America avoid what is being called Japan's demographic abyss?

TangoMan said...

Another issue to consider is how should America avoid what is being called Japan's demographic abyss?

That's easy. Have more babies. Ok, seriously now, the fertility abyss is really an incentive failure. The way our taxation structure is designed the expenses of raising a child and the career/personal sacrifices primarily fall onto parents but the economic benefits that the child produces flow to society at large. The economic calculus works against parents and all they can rely on are personal and emotional reasons for having children.

The roots of our problem can really be laid at the feet of that devil, Marx. Go back a century and his class-based analysis of society was, and still remains, the dominant paradigm for how we see society and organize ourselves. This leads to solutions like progressive taxation, where higher classes pay higher proportions of tax.

Let's take another look at how society is viewed. Is the purpose of society to equalize outcomes for it's members or is it to perpetuate itself? The fertility incentives that countries are putting in place are too minor to be effective. What professional woman earning $100,000+ is going to be swayed to have a child by a $4,000 baby bonus, or a $50/month baby bonus benefit? However, if we taxed a family's income based on the size of the family then the incentive structure becomes more aligned with the goal of society perpetuating itself. If you take a two income family, let's say each is earning $100,000, for a total of $200,000, then the incentive structure for having a child is that each of the three family members would pay tax at a rate of $66,666, which would be lower than 2 taxpayers at $100,000. If the couple has two children, then all four pay tax at the rate established for $50,000. Further, this aligns individual incentive with individual cost, for a female lawyer won't be swayed to have a child by a $4,000 bonus that might be very effective for a woman earning a lower income. The higher your family income the bigger the incentive for the 18 years you're raising your child.

An added benefit is that such a scheme would stop our current dysgenic trends where our brightest citizens are having the fewest children while our dimmest citizens are having the greatest amount of children. There is a significant correlation between brightness and high income, so we see that those who are having the fewest children would actually be well situated to raise their children with emphasis on the values that lead to success later in life and in environments that also support that goal, environments where high SES parents read to their kids, engage in fruitful discussions, associate with other professionals, etc.

Secondly, we need to redesign Social Security. Before the program was created we had elderly parents having to rely on their adult children for care. This practice was fraught with danger for it placed all of the parent's eggs into one basket - the success of their children, or their children's willingness to take on the burden. So society spread the risk for society's parents to society's children. Of course, the underlying assumption to the whole scheme was not institutionalized in the regulations and this has led to our current mess. The unstated assumption was that all couples would have 2+ children. What we have now is childless couples paying the same SS premiums as couples with 3 children. The childless couple doesn't incur any childcare expenses, and the taxes that they pay for funding public education are a drop in the bucket compared to the subsidy that they will receive from future taxpayers for their SS benefits and Medicare benefits. In short, childless couples are leeches on the body politic with our currently constructed taxation scheme. What SS needs to do is tie premiums and benefits to the amount of children one has raised. A couple can decide to remain childless if they so choose, but then they need to be responsible for entirely self-funding their future SS and Medicare benefits for they have no moral claim to expect funding from society's children. Think back to the origins of the programs - the risk was spread from one's own children to all of society's children. This implies that one needs to keep one's part of the bargain, which is to have children. Therefore, we should establish a base premium for childless 16 year olds and this is the rate that one pays until they retire. This is designed to be entirely self-financing for expected SS & MC benefits. As an aside, this rate will be quite onerous because we currently subsidize these benefits from general tax revenue. Medicare has an expected shortfall of over $45 trillion dollars and this at a time when our entire annual GDP is only $11 trillion. Back to the scheme, there is a lifetime cut in premium charged for every child one has, and this is important, the premium cut is larger the earlier in life you have your children. This is important because it allows both parent and children to be in the workforce together at some future time, to both be contributing taxes to the body politic. Compare two cases - a 21 year old has a child and a 41 year old has a child. When the child is 25, entering the workforce after college, the younger parent still has 19 years in the workforce before they retire at 65, whereas the elder parent has already been retired for a year. So under this new scheme, each of us will make personal economic decisions. We will face an incentive structure to have children earlier in life which we must balance against the career and education costs of doing so. Each of us will have different tipping points where the lifetime reduced premiums will entice us, in addition to our own personal desires, to have children.

Further, such a scheme will flip on it's head the current dysgenic trend. Our poorest citizens should be the one's having the fewest children, so that the children they do have can have greater family resources available to them and thus increase their chances of life success and having fewer children would free up caregiver time so that workforce participation levels could increase. Conversely, those who are equipped to provide enriching environments for children will have incentive to do so.

Lastly, Japan is a world leader is substituting robotic technologies for low skilled labor. They already have robotic nursing aids which help carry elderly people around the house, help them into their bath, etc. The benefit of this appoach is that robots don't require state subsidies for schooling the robot's children, paying for the healthcare of the robot and it's children, increasing transportation infrastructure to aid in the transit of their robots, there is no need for robot prisons or for more cops to police the robots. In short, the robots are not "net tax recipients" who are a drain on society. An added benefit is that the subsitution of robots for low skill workers creates job opportunities for engineers and technicians who are responsible for the design, maintanance and sales of the robots, and these workers are likely remunerated at a rate which makes them "net tax contributors" to society.

The current solution of importing Hispanics, most of whom with only 6-9 years of elementary education, is not a sustainable solution to our demographic problem and we are simply planting the seeds for future social disruption for these future citizens will be making calls on the public purse that compete with the calls made by our elderly.

Think about this - our class based taxation scheme doesn't further the aim of perpetuating the state and is only an interim distraction of shuffling the deck chairs on a sinking ship. A fertility based taxation scheme actually is a sustainable system, which in the long term will help to close income inequality for the poor would have fewer children and thus be able to devote more of their family resources to insuring the success of the children. It really comes down to the fact that those who are earning low incomes shouldn't be expecting society to subsidize them so that they can have more children, and thus lowering the children's chances for success.

TangoMan said...

Is the thinking expressed in this dKos post really the sum total of what drives liberal support for illegal immigration:

But the bottom line is, Democrats on the conference committee have every reason to insist on a good final immigration bill, not a Republican pander to its bigoted base.

Will Democrats simply do anything, and vote for anything, rather than think of themselves as bigots? Can it really be all about liberal self-image, facts be damned, even when there is no bigotry present?

The Constructivist said...

TM, life continues to get in the way of responding, but a few quick hits may be in order. First, what do you think of this analysis of anti-illegal-immigration Republican politics as an attempt to reach out to black voters? Second, I'd like to see some figures on what percentage of the federal budget and of US GDP illegal immigration's costs are--and why they matter so much more than other factrs with high percentages. Third, I'd like to see some weighing of various factors that have eroded US working class wages and their relative impacts compared to illegal immigration (try globalization, automation, a generation of anti-union politics...). Fourth, I'd like to see an admission that no matter how rational and objective you and some of your allies may be (or think you're being), your other allies do have deep roots in white supremacist and white nationalist politics. And that this isn't just about etiquette and manners, but over American national identity. Which leads to my fifth quick hit, what makes you think your allies on the anti-Mexican front won't stab you in the back when it comes to your pro-East Asian front? When you play with authoritarian populists, be careful. What's to stop a white nationalist from calling for deporting/restricting immigration from high-IQ groups on the grounds it's unfair competition with the white majority of the US?

TangoMan said...

First, what do you think of this analysis of anti-illegal-immigration Republican politics as an attempt to reach out to black voters?

I couldn't read the entire article for I'm not a subscriber, but I think that the premise is workable. Republicans and Blacks may not have much in commen, kind of like social conservatives and Rockefeller Republicans don't have much in common, but they may be able to work out a political compromise. For the Republicans, I would imagine that they'd be opposed to a never ending welfare scheme that fuels the dreams of Democrats, but they could get on board with a targeted series of programs aimed at Black Americans, because they are fellow CITIZENS. The Democrats are abandoning the Black community in favor of championing the interests of foreigners in our midst. The Republicans should oppose that strategy, even though Hispanics are a less troubled demographic. What seems to be going on is that there is some support for Hispanics because they are viewed in more favorable terms than Blacks, and the operational premise is that there is a replacement going on. Wrong. In fact what is going on is that Hispanics are exacerbating the problems of the Black community and that's bad for the nation as a whole. The greatest overall good is achieved by helping fellow Americans, rather than marginalizing fellow Americans. I'm sure that if a "replacement option" was available then there could be no meeting of the minds between Blacks and Republicans, but that's not the case, so rather than expanding the quota culture of the Democrats, it better serves the interests of the Black constituency and the Republicans to curtail that quota culture and focus it more sharply on aiding a smaller group. The externalaties would be less, for it is easier to absorb the inefficiencies that result for quotas applied to only 12% of the nation, than it is when the quotas apply to 40% of the nation.

Second, I'd like to see some figures on what percentage of the federal budget and of US GDP illegal immigration's costs are--and why they matter so much more than other factrs with high percentages.

You did see the reports that pegged the cost of the Amnesty provisions at over $50 Billion, right? And that's coming from the same people who said the Pharmacare provisions were managable. Count on that estimate to be off by a large margin. As soon as these illegal aliens become permanent residents they'll qualify for a plethora of social programs, they only have to pay back taxes for 3 of the last 5 years (why don't you try that gambit and see how it goes) and they get to reclaim all of the FICA taxes that they paid under false documentation. So, we're eroding any windfall gains, marginal though they were, we may have achieved from FICA tax collection, create a class of net tax recipients, allow these people to begin the process of chain immigration, and balloon our unfunded liabilities for future social obligations. Further, we're going to be sending SS checks to Mexico for all of those illegals who paid into the system using fraudulent documentation and then went back to their own countries. The insult that is added to injury here is that SS will be drawing from general revenue in order to provide the taxpayer subsidy. These all matter because these folks aren't citizens. They are a source of future marginal impoverishment for the US.

Third, I'd like to see some weighing of various factors that have eroded US working class wages and their relative impacts compared to illegal immigration

Fine. I'm certainly not arguing that the whole problem is illegal aliens. All I'm saying is that the scheme doesn't make sense, that the US certainly doesn't need to increase the proportion of net tax recipients and have you thought of how many more people are now going to qualify for something like the EITC? The subsidies are simply going to multiply, and when funding is used for subsidizing the illegals then it is not available for programs like Universal Health Care (which the illegals will put even further beyond reach for they simply increase the base of the pyramid that requires subsidization.)

I'd like to see an admission that no matter how rational and objective you and some of your allies may be (or think you're being), your other allies do have deep roots in white supremacist and white nationalist politics.

I don't give a shit. Sorry for the profanity but this simply reinforces my perspective that Liberals will sell their soul to the devil to avoid anyone thinking that they may be racist, or nativist, or patriotic. It's all about liberal imagery and cheap conspicious consumption. So long as liberals can look good, and posture to those that they want to impress, the consequences for the nation don't matter at all. What matters is how they perceive themselves and how their peers perceive them. Cheap posturing is the order of the day and cold, hard facts are immaterial.

You know what? Hitler opposed smoking. Are you going around to the anti-smoking activists and telling them that their program is tainted by association with Hitler and no good liberal, or conservative, could ever support a program that Hitler once supported? Well, are you?

Which leads to my fifth quick hit, what makes you think your allies on the anti-Mexican front won't stab you in the back when it comes to your pro-East Asian front?

They might. Look at how the Democrats have sold out the Black community. Each battle must be fought on its own merits. The merits of East Asian immigration are quite distinct from Hispanic immigration. We see far greater assimilation, less crime, better social indicators, and less cultural intransigence. They're not right next door to the US. That battle will play out in the context of those future times. There might be a national mood to shut down immigration for a few decades to allow for greater assimilation. There may be a national mood that East Asians are too successful at competing for jobs at the higher end of the SES spectrum. Or there may be a national mood that East Asians are a net positive to the US, unlike the net negative that Hispanics represent. If the mood is reflective of the first or second scenarios then there will likely be broad support for those who oppose immigration. If the mood is more like the last example, then there will likely be very little support for the activists. Regardless, the particulars of future immigration battles are not germaine to the issue of today.

When you play with authoritarian populists, be careful.

Why are you referencing Liberal issues to me? The authoritarian populists are the ones who are inflicting multiculturalism, affirmative action quotas, instituting Islamic awareness campaigns in our schools, mandating all sorts of language policing, etc on the population.

Look, the whole issue boils down to the fact that illegals pose a net economic drain on the country, in the form of social costs, and that they forestall capital substitution for low-price, taxpayer subsidized, labor. Further, there are cultural issues and quality of life issues that are important to some people, and legitimately so. Further, there are people who enjoy diversity for it's own sake and are opposed to the liberal experiment of homogenization where all diversity must be stamped out. The only response that is mustered by liberals is that to oppose the importation of net tax recipients into our country could be construed as racist, and no good liberal could be associated with that, damn the consequences, for appearance are everything. That is one hell of a weak rationale for the liberal position.

TangoMan said...

You know what? Hitler opposed smoking.

Just in case you thought I was being flippant with this comment, here is a source on Hitler's Anti-Smoking policies:

"Smoking was banned in many workplaces, government offices,hospitals and rest homes. The NSDAP(National sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)announced a ban on smoking in its offices in 1939,at which time SS chief Heinrich Himmler announced a smoking ban for all uniformed police and SS officers while on duty. The Journal of the American Medical Association that year reported Herman Goering's decree barring soldiers from smoking on the streets, on marches and on brief off-duty periods. Sixty of Germany's largest cities banned smoking on streetcars in 1941.Smoking was banned in airaid shelters, though some shelters reserved seperate rooms for smokers. During the war years tobacco rationing coupons were denied to all pregnant women(and to all women bellow the age of 25)while restaurants and cafes were barred from selling cigarettes to female customers.

From July 1943 it was illegial for anyone under the age of 18 to smoke in public. Smoking was banned on all German city trains and buses in 1944, the initiative coming from Hitler himself, who worried about exposure of young female conductors to tobacco smoke. Nazi policies were heralded as marking 'the beginning of the end of tobacco use in Germany'."

So, our contemporary anti-smoking activists have a lot in common, not with those poseur Neo-Nazis, but with the actual Nazis. Damn, we should get people to **Start Smoking** so that they don't inadvertently support anything that the Nazis supported and for good measure we should hound the anti-smoking advocates for the common ground they hold with Nazis.

Of course those who aren't liberals would recognize that the merit of a proposition is independent of the character of those who advance it.

The Constructivist said...

Yes, Hitler opposed smoking and a nutcase helped found the modern environmentalist movement in the US. White supremacists and nationalists are mobilizing today around illegal immigration and mainstreaming themselves in the process. If that doesn't worry you, you're an idiot. Do I really have to remind you who engineered the Chinese Exclusion Act? Or is all that ancient and irrelevant history, too?

Haven't had a chance to check out all these essays on comprehensive immigration reform, but from a quick skim they hit the points I've been emphasizing in my comments about effective (as opposed to symbolic) ways of providing disincentives for illegal immigration such as going after employers and empowering workers (both of which would have the effect of raising the cost of importing and employing undocumented workers and hence raising wages for all low-wage laborers and both of which would better deal with the 40+% of people who are in the US illegally b/c of overstaying student or tourist visas than a wall or fence).

What they don't appear to get into are incentives to reduce immigration to the US from neighboring countries that I've also been endorsing in earlier comments. But as O and I will make commentary on the Senate and House immigration bills our next column, I'll stop here.

The Constructivist said...

Two more pieces on African Americans and immigration.

The Constructivist said...

An essay on immigration and crime.

The Constructivist said...

Speaking of blasts from the past....

The Constructivist said...

O, this guy blogs at Cafe Hayek and disagrees with logic like yours on immigration restriction. Have a response?

Zachary said...

This has to be the most intelligent discussion I've ever witnessed surrounding immigration. I'm an eb-5 green card holder and I tend to agree with the Objectivist.