Friday, October 07, 2005

So tell me, immigration opponents, what's the big deal?

Would somebody please educate me?

Reading through the
great posts at Rep. Pena's blog and the comments from Wednesday's Grits post, I've been wondering: The main, non-racist source of opposition I hear toward illegal immigration is that, when people cross the border illegally, they may cut rancher's fences or vandalize property. From a public policy perspective, both of those are de minimus problems compared to the benefits to tens of thousands of business and households that rely on hundreds of thousands of illegal Mexican laborers. Plus, those negative side effects are purely consequences of immigration's illegal status, not inherent problems with immigration.

Otherwise, besides those with overtly racist motives, the main criticism seems to be that immigration is "illegal" and therefore immigrants are all "criminals." But those laws against immigration are national choices, and if the consequences of our choices become too dear -- if the detriments outweigh the benefits -- then they could be easily changed to "decriminalize" that segment of the workforce.


So besides one's punitive attitude toward any lawbreaker -- let's put that aside for purposes of this discussion -- can somebody tell me, with the U.S. unemployment at 5%, what is the big harm from immigration, illegal or otherwise, that we're trying to prevent? Don't we need more workers paying to keep Social Security and Medicare solvent? What's the big deal? And does any suffering that results from immigration outweigh these harms from its illegality:

  • ranchers woes, cut fences and vandalism from using non-official crossings,
  • inability of law enforcement to locate witnesses or crime suspects because of a lack of documentation, even home addresses, for immigrants,
  • creation of the ruthless coyote industry,
  • establishes routes, masks movements of real criminals, drug runners, etc.,
  • creates a homeland security hazard in event of bioterrorism attack, etc., or any catastrophe where evacuation is required, since authorities don't have home addresses for hundreds of thousands of people,
  • victimization of immigrants by employers, criminals, coyotes, etc.,
  • creation of a class of criminals (like the confidential informants in the Dallas "fake drug" scandal) who are less likely to be targeted by law enforcement because they mainly prey on undocumented immigrants,
  • heightened indigent care burden on local public hospitals and emergency rooms because of inability to qualify for Medicaid and CHIP,
  • creation of categories of labor with no recourse to enforce state and federal labor laws, and
  • overwhelmingly wasted federal law enforcement resources (immigration cases are now 1/3 of the federal total, more than any other type)?
Those are just a few off the top of my head. Maybe some commenters can think of other negative consequences from the choice of making immigration illegal. Or maybe somebody can explain to me the terrible harm that's befallen this country without me knowing it based on the presence of a few more people with brown skin?

Opponents of legal immigration, please tell me, what part of this problem wouldn't be made better if nearly all immigrants from Mexico entered the border at legal crossings, were given identification that included a description, thumbprint and home address (e.g., a DPS drivers license or ID card), and were allowed to work legally, pay taxes, and find recourse under the labor laws? In what way would that be worse than the status quo?

Texas used to be part of Mexico. Our state is home to lots of folks who moved here from there, and their kids, and their grandkids. I think we're better off for it. For the life of me, I just don't get the complaint.

21 comments:

Scott Chaffin said...

I don't get it. Who's arguing against legal immigration?

Mike said...

People are afraid. The "other" is a convenient target for their fear.

My Sunday school class recently hosted speakers with opposing viewpoints on immigraiton.

One of the speakers, a former member of the Bush administration, said illegal immigrants consume more government funds in social services than they produce in taxes.

Neither speaker delved into the overall economics of immigration.

Personally, I think we should throw open the borders and allow most any non-criminal in.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ Scott, Bottom line: would you support changing the laws to let most Mexican workers who want to enter the country to work do so legally? If so, you could end illegal immigration overnight, by legalizing it so everybody has an ID card, a registered home address, so they're not exploited at work, etc. Legal and illegal are semantics -- economics says they're coming, so how do we best integrate them into society, is my point. Whaddya think?

Scott Chaffin said...

No, I'm not a big fan of the guest worker plan that you describe. You've just generated a caste system. I could drudge up tales of horror about the German guest worker program for Turks, but I imagine you're familiar with it. Why limit it to Mexicans, anyway? Could you even do that?

On the other hand, I am perfectly happy with [some number]* of potential new American citizens. We've always absorbed and welcomed those committed to our notions of being a citizen (the "integration" part you speak of). There is a qualitative difference between America and Mexico, and we should not surrender that distinction in the interests of expediency.

* [some number], of course, is not infinite.

Scott Chaffin said...

Heh...dredge, not Drudge.

Curtis said...

The really interesting thing is that most people, especially those debating, don't even understand what illegal immigration means. They don't understand what an admission means under immigration law, they don't understand Amnesty programs, they don't understand asylum procedures. What they understand, from all I can gather, is that they are upset when someone who speaks another language and is a different color is standing in front of them at the grocery store, passes their car on the road, etc.

I know from practicing immigration law that there are even many immigration attorneys who still don't understand much of the nuance. Just like most people don't understand the tax code, most people don't understand the immigration and nationality act either.

OSAPian said...

Something like 30,000 of the inmates in California's prison population are illegal aliens. I'll bet the same applies in Texas. That is a big deal.

Congrats on your first year.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ OSAPian: You're right, that may be the biggest identifiable detriment from current immigration practices. But don't you think that if most immigrants came through checkpoints and got IDs, if there were no demand for coyote services, that the US could better screen immigrants with prior criminal records from entering to work? Moreover, to the extent poverty and desperation contribute to crime, wouldn't it lessen those pressures to integrate immigrant workers better into the workforce, let them earn minimum wage, have access to labor laws, etc.?

Even if you disagree with that line of argument, though, does the fact that CA has imprisoned 30,000 out of >2 million undocumented immigrants outweigh the harms listed in my post? Since it's happening anyway, is that really an argument against legalizing immigration flows?

@ Chaffin: no one's asking anyone to tolerate an "infinte" number of immigrants, only a number equal to the level of demand by US businesses for immigrant labor. To me, this is a market question.

@ Curtis: I'll admit I don't know much about immigration law, either. I do know, however, that a lot of the over-the-top rhetoric I hear on the subject doesn't add up.

Thanks, folks. These aren't rhetorical questions. I'd honestly like to figure out what the non-race-based motives are for opposing southern immigration. Let me know what else you've got.

Anonymous said...

osapian, I think you kind of made Grits' point. By treating ALL undocumented immigrants as criminals, don't we make it harder to distinguish between hard-working people looking for jobs and real criminals who commit actual crimes? If the real concern is crime, we should probably focus resources on targeting the serious crooks, not the worker bees.

I think the biggest problem with Latin immigration is the failure of many to assimilate. For that to happen, illegal aliens would have to be offered a chance at citizenship as a carrot, but it's hard to assimilate when you can't even get a drivers license.

I'm not sure I support open borders, but what we're doing isn't working, and I do think a lot of the venom you hear on immigration really does come from plain old garden variety racism.

Anonymous said...

Chaffin: the U.S. has a long history of specialized immigration plans with Mexico. Bracero Program, etc. Nothing legally questionable about it, although one can debate whether similar arrangements should be negotiated with governments in Central America, Carribbean, etc.

Another cause of the immigration-fighters, as flared up in the Sierra Club a couple years ago, is the "overpopulation" argument. U.S. is growing beyond its resources, immigration adds to the burden, etc. Lots wrong with this argument -- for example, rich white people with Hummers do a lot more to tax our environment than poor Mexicans. But the argument is out there ...

Scott Chaffin said...

Well, this has deteriorated into a legal discussion, and IANAL. It's fairly clear that nobody is against immigration or immigrants. Which is what I said in my first post :-)

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@Chaffin - You realize virtually all illegal immigrants would enter the country legally if they were allowed to, right? Given that, your comment seems either contradictory or tautological, I can't quite tell which, but there's something there I'm missing.

Or maybe you're just saying we should give most foreign workers (at least the non-criminal, non-mentally ill, etc.) a reasonable path to citizenship, in which case you and I are pretty much on the same page. :-)

Anonymous said...

There were some additional comments offered on this topic on this string.

edcrunk said...

why should i pay for someone's children to go to school. do you realize how many illegal aliens are clogging up our jails? why should i play by the rules but they shouldn't? and yeah, it's a big problem with tracking the criminal element that have no problem dissapearing back across the border.

Anonymous said...

I have no issue with legal imigration.
I wonder what part of Texas you are in as we here in North Texas are drowning in illegal imigration and its affects.
In Dallas County Parkland Hospital teters on bankruptcy because of the overload of indigent care.
In any supermarket you will find that the primary currency used by illegals is food stamps. How do you say that there is no cost to this. Yes you'll get your lawn care cheap but you'll pay for it in taxes to subsidise this "Cheap" labor pool.

Anonymous said...

I don't relish the thought of living in a third world country. My neighborhood is already heading that direction. I cannot converse with 70% of my neighbors. Property values are already on the decline. That is a big investment for my family. We just had a nice couple with one child move in a few months back. About two weeks later there were seven adults, eight school aged children and six cars parked in the front yard. Nice! If I wanted to live in Mexico I would move there but they won't let me own property in Mexico. They care about their culture, history and monopoly on people doing well.

Our local school district can't figure out why the overcrowding because they're not use to 5 families living in one single family dwelling. What does this mean? Higher taxes.

The local hospitals are going broke. They figure up to 80% of unpaid bills are from illegal aliens. What does this mean? Higher taxes.

Texas Department of Corrections figure 55-65% of inmates are illegal alliens. What does this mean? Higher taxes. By the way you don't serve time in TDC for being an illegal allien. I guess they did something to someone.

Try getting in an accident with an illegal allien. Your insurance company will love you for that. What does that mean? Higher insurance rates to pay for people that are here illegaly and can't afford to be driving much, less buy insurance.

It is a slap in the face to everyone who stood in line and learned the rules. This one particular group gets carte blanche. Get here and we'll print signs so you understand things. What does that mean? Higher taxes. Do we do that for any other ethnic group? No! We'll pay for you to have as many children as you can't afford, educate them in English and Spanish, so you can send your extra cash back to Mexico to better their bottom line as caring third world country.

Call me a selfish asshole, but I am tired of it. I have a family to take care of also.

Trouble@Pleasemoveon.com

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ the last anonymous, you write:

"The local hospitals are going broke. They figure up to 80% of unpaid bills are from illegal aliens. What does this mean? Higher taxes.

"Texas Department of Corrections figure 55-65% of inmates are illegal alliens."

Those stats are completely false -- neither figure in reality is even close to what you cite. And to the anonymous before that - you can't sign up for food stamps if you can't even get a driver's license or other ID. It's just not true, as far as I know - if you've got citations to demonstrate what you say is correct, let me know. I doubt it, though.

As Mark Kleiman says, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

Anonymous said...

If it helps you to feel better about yourself or at least less guilty of your life go live in Mexico. I think what would help is for you to go their and convince the downtrodden to change the Mexican government as well as South American countries to treat theri people better.

I am also very tired of the needy coming here for help and then bitching about how terrible the American Government is. The only reason people such as yourself won't go their to bitch or to improve things to solve the real problem is they don't have any cash for you.

The real problem is in Mexico. Oh I guess they've never emotionally recovered from our stealing all the land which is rightfully theirs anyway. You guys are always the same.

Why don't you at the least start a movement here in this country focusing media attention on the Mexican Government. They have everything a country needs to take care of everyone but their history of corruption gets in the way. It is much easier to come here though and stick your hand out. You ought to start checking your facts about the cost of education, health care and criminality. What good does it do for everyone to be bankrupt. Or is that the communist mantra of sharing the pain equally. That way no one has anything.

Mexico is the problem. Go get them tiger.

Trouble@pleasemoveon.com

AMERICAN CITIZEN said...

LISTEN CLOSELY---I WAS BORN IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA---I AM THE TYPICAL US "MUTT"--GENERATIONS OF MIXED NATIONALITIES----BUT THEY ALL CAME TO THE SHORES OF AMERICA LEGALLY---MANY YEARS AGO----
THEY WERE WILLING TO WORK HARD AND LEARN THE LANGUAGE OF THE UNTIED STATES OF AMERICA(I GUESS-IT WAS ENGLISH)
NOW--I AM ALMOST 56 YEARS OLD
A WIDOWED FEMALE-WORKING AS A COMPANION/SITTER FOR THE ELDERLY IN MY LITTLE TOWN.
I REALLY CAN'T GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT IDENTIFICATION----OF SOME SORT---
IS THIS ALSO TRUE OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS????
I HAVE TO PAY FOR HEALTH INSURANCE OUT OF MY OWN POCKET.
IS IT TRUE THAT THEY(ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS) GET MEDICAL HEALTH SERVICES-WHETHER THEY ARE INSURED OR NOT?
I ONLY MAKE ABOUT $20,000-ANNUALLY BEFORE TAXES---
IS IT TRUE THAT THEY ARE MAKING IN SOME CASES-AROUND $25,000--IN OUR COUNTRY?
WE NEED TO TAKE CARE OF THIS PROBLEM---NIP IT IN THE BUTT--NOW*
WHAT ARE THEY BRINGING INTO THE COUNTRY---BESDIES THEMSELVES--
DRUGS?-DISEASES?--THEY WILL DO WHATEVER THEY NEED TO DO TO GET "MONEY"---IF THEY CAN MAKE EXTRA MONEY SMUGGLING DRUGS OVER THE BORDER(ON THEIR WAY TO WORK)-DON'T YOU THINK-THEY WOULD DO IT?

I AM VERY CONCERNED---IF THEY HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE--THEN COME IN--LEGALLY---
WELCOME---LEGAL ALLIENS*****

William Marconda said...

Every person that wants to come to the United States and visit, work, go to school,, whatever, needs to be checked for criminal background,
health /comunicable disease problems, pre arranged places to stay with friends/family, etc.

Since the huge influx of illegal aliens into the U.S. there has been a constant increase in the occurrance of hepatitus, T.B., Polio (which was previously wiped out), virulent strains of std's, hospital trauma acenter closings due to non insured illegals using the emergency rooms as sources for G.P. visits, extremely high cases of social security number thefts, increased drug trafficking and increased drug violence both within and without the U.S. borders. Anyone that believes they are not a major problem and will only become an even greater problem given any form of amnesty cannot be a REAL AMERICAN. As a REAL AMERICAN we think of our country first and foremost before allowing illegal immigration to become the normal means of entering this country and causing the detriment that it has caused so far. It is literally causing our country to become a third world nation with no "melting pot" to absorb the various peoples that have come here. They want the U.S. government to change its laws and legal system to coincide with their idea of law and justice. They are not interested in assimulating but rather choose to cause divisions and financial catastrophies in addition to the health concerns already visited upon us. You need to either get educated in a fair and balanced fashion or go live in the country your favorite immigrants come from.

William Marconda said...

Those stats are completely false --" neither figure in reality is even close to what you cite. And to the anonymous before that - you can't sign up for food stamps if you can't even get a driver's license or other ID. It's just not true, as far as I know - if you've got citations to demonstrate what you say is correct, let me know. I doubt it, though."
The above is your quote Mr. Grits. Food stamps are no problem. The illegals receive information from their government and their consulates in the U.S. on how to get around the requirements that apply to the rest of us LEGAL folks. You are either very ignorant of the world around you or you are not who you contend to be.