Monday, June 11, 2007


Immigration Policy Confronts Reality
By Steve Chapman
June 03, 2007

[All emphasis added]
[I]llegal immigration is one of those phenomena that show the ineffectuality of laws in impeding humans from pursuing their interests. [...] Mexicans and Guatemalans and other illegal immigrants come here out of an elemental and healthy desire to improve their lot. Once they arrive, they get willing cooperation from Americans who find these foreigners can also enhance our welfare.

Both illegals and natives gain something from this movement of people. To suppose that policies emanating from Washington can overcome these drives is like assuming that laws against sodomy can neutralize
libidos. [...]

Mexicans making $15 a day have a huge incentive to go where they can make $15 an hour. Like water rolling downhill, they are naturally drawn to places where they will be better off.

Of course, we often alter or stop the flow of rivers by damming them. But damming people is harder, since they, unlike H2O, have the means and the motive to outwit such efforts. Thus the paradox discovered by Princeton sociologist Douglas Massey: As we have increased our efforts to seal the Mexican border, migrants have been diverted to remote areas that are harder to patrol, so much so that the rate of apprehension has actually fallen.

Even if the border could miraculously be made airtight against trespassers, it would do nothing to stop foreigners from coming on tourist or student visas and then staying on after they are supposed to leave. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, as many as 45 percent of the foreigners here illegally arrived with the blessing of the law. Build a 2,000-mile fence, and more will come that way.

Hardliners think the way to get rid of illegal immigrants is to get rid of the jobs they fill. In the Senate bill endorsed by President Bush, advocates of tougher enforcement got a new system for employers to verify that their workers are entitled to be here. Anyone newly hired (and, in time, anyone with a job) would have to pass a check of federal databases.

It's a fine idea in theory, but note that it requires government authorization for every employment decision in a large, dynamic economy, an approach that is just slightly at odds with the free market. It also presumes a level of efficiency that conservatives do not usually expect of government.

In practice, as a small-scale pilot program begun in 1997, the verification system has proven fallible. Randel Johnson, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, recently testified before Congress that the databases "are not always up-to-date, there is a high error rate in determining work authorization, and the program is incapable of capturing identity fraud." The Society for Human Resource Management estimates the new system will increase the administrative burden on employers tenfold.

Those who endorse a vigorous immigration crackdown are upholding a sound conservative idea -- namely, the rule of law. But for law to effectively rule, it has to accommodate reality. Believing that immigration enforcement can wall us off from people who are prepared to endure huge sacrifices to come here is more in the realm of dreams...

Via Let's Fly Under the Bridge blog.

Remember the introduction of the I9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms, and how that was supposed to stop illegals from getting jobs ?

What happened was that illegals just presented false, stolen, or rented SS numbers and IDs.

Further, as Mark Steyn writes, (hattip: Thought Mesh blog):

[T]he truth is that America's immigration bureaucracy cannot cope with its existing caseload, and thus will certainly be unable to cope with millions of additional teeming hordes tossed into its waiting room.

Currently, the time in which an immigration adjudicator is expected to approve or reject an application is six minutes. That's not enough time to read the basic form, never mind any supporting documentation. Under political pressure to "bring the 12 million undocumented Americans out of the shadows," the immigration bureaucracy will rubber-stamp gazillions of applications for open-ended probationary legal status within 24 hours and with no more supporting documentation than a utility bill or an affidavit from a friend. There's never been a better time for Mullah Omar to apply for U.S. residency.

Remember the 1986 amnesty? Mahmoud abu Halima applied for it and went on to bomb the World Trade Center seven years later. His colleague, Mohammad Salameh, was rejected but carried on living here anyway. John Lee Malvo was detained and released by U.S. immigration in breach of its own procedures and re-emerged as the Washington sniper. The young Muslim men who availed themselves of the U.S. government's "visa express" system for Saudi Arabia filled in joke applications – "Address in the United States: HOTEL, AMERICA" – that octogenarian snowbirds from Toronto who've been wintering at their Florida condos since 1953 wouldn't try to get away with. The late Mohammed Atta received his flight-school student visa on March 11, 2002, six months to the day after famously flying his first and last commercial airliner.

All the above passed through the legal immigration system. Whether they were detained, rejected, approved or posthumously approved, in the end it made no difference. Because U.S. immigration had no real idea who these men were.

But, don't worry, they'll be able to handle another "12 million undocumented Americans" tossed in for express processing...


Blogger Harry Eagar said...

It's a little more complicated than that.

Not every American benefits from cheap labor, either imported from Mexico or exported to China.

The same dynamic that uses public money for tennis courts but not for bowling alleys is at work.

June 11, 2007 8:54 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Very few Americans don't benefit from cheap labor, although most benefit in ways that they could learn to do without, if need be.

Everyone who eats benefits, and everyone who buys clothes at Wal~Mart benefits (that largely would be the bowling alley set, not the tennis players).

Primarily, those that don't benefit are the unskilled and/or marginal workers, fewer than 10% of the workforce, who have to compete directly with illegals for jobs.

And, for the record, Americans do spend public money on bowling facilities, just as they do on public skateboarding and softball. (Also here, here, and here).

June 11, 2007 9:16 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I would modify what Harry said to: Not every American pays the same for cheap labor.

New Hampshire, and Hawaii, residents get all the benefits, with scarcely any of the costs.

Not so for Los Angeles.

IFIWLGKOATI*, I would set the citizenship bar, in terms of education, pretty high, then let everyone who could hurdle it in. As as start, they would have to read, and demonstrate, understanding all the founding documents.

They may well be sufficient to neutralize the toxin of Islam.

June 11, 2007 1:47 PM  
Blogger David said...

Hey, synchronicity, as I was just asking AOG if he would have the threshold for immigration into the country be the same as the test for citizenship. Is that what you mean, Skipper?

June 11, 2007 3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever the specific issues arising from current Mexican immigration, it's hard not to have the sinking feeling this is all part of a 1920-30's style retreat from the world on the part of the U.S. or even 1850's style nativism. You used to wile away your leisure hours trying to figure out how to cross the Canadian border, but now appear fixated on how to seal it. Nobody is racist in the old-fashioned sense anymore, but there seem to be a lot of respectable debate about whole cultures and religions being incompatible with some ambiguous "American way" nobody bothers to define. Everybody claims to be pro-immigration, but many seem to think that only means filling immediate labour shortages or importing young bachelors with strong backs to fund social security, not creating new proud Americans with homes and families and filling new schools with their kids. Stricter tests and educational requirements, "sealing" unsealable borders, opposition to family reunification, hedging all bets on deportation, the lack of interest in getting tough with Mexico, fixation on Cinque de Mayo and who rooted for whom in the USA-Mexico soccer match, etc.--it's is all well and good to dissect and debate these individually, but they add up to a whole. There isn't much sense of immigration being a mutually advantageous deal and a reciprocal existential bargain--more like a gift the immigrant bloody well better tell us he is grateful for over and over and over as we remind him what a burden he is and keep him on perpetual edge about whether we might change our minds after we audit his original application.

Add in the growing desire to retreat from foreign adventures generally as well as anti-growth and anti-people thinking, Brights spooked by religion, the inability to enforce assimilationist norms proudly and gracefully as opposed to punatively and crabbily and you have a nice recipe for a xenophobic stew, both domestically and abroad. I imagine it will work about as well as it always did.

June 12, 2007 3:33 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

I think things will generally work out ok, although there might be a few bumps on the way.

American society's far too mixed and business-like like to develop much in the way of xenophobia.

June 12, 2007 8:06 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'nobody bothers to define'

Well, I've given my defintion. Huntington in 'Who Are We?' defines it.

Our definitions are not exactly the same but mostly overlap.

Maybe I'm nobody but Huntington is somebody.

Besides, if there isn't an American Way, why do Oro, Skipper etc. keeping finding differences between the US and other countries?

June 12, 2007 9:15 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I was just asking AOG if he would have the threshold for immigration into the country be the same as the test for citizenship. Is that what you mean, Skipper?

Well, kind of, sort of, probably.

It think it is much easier for the rate of immigration from Islamic countries to become too high, than from Latin America.

It is all about assimilation, which is affected, in large part, by the starting point.

The Anglosphere has a very short distance to travel. Not so for the Islamosphere.

There is a tradeoff between assimilation and rate that varies by the originating culture, and would be helped by making all immigrants read -- and understand -- your Founding Documents.

Of course, unless we are willing to secure our borders, we are effectively throwing up our hands at the whole thing.

June 13, 2007 7:45 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

The American Way, at least according to cultural anthropologist Dr. L. Robert Kohls, the Director of International Programs at San Francisco State University.
Written in 1984.

June 13, 2007 9:21 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Wbere are the public 10-pin lanes?

June 14, 2007 8:25 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

It's an illustration of the priorities of blue-collar voters.

There would be public bowling alleys if that bloc really wanted 'em.

June 14, 2007 12:52 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I doubt that.

The blue-collar voters are, I'm sure, completely uninterested in paying for grand opera, but they pay for it nevertheless.

But your faith in the responsiveness of local government is cute.

June 14, 2007 7:06 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

All taxpayers pay for stuff that they'd rather not.

If enough voters want something, they get it, and "enough" doesn't necessarily have to be a majority, just a large minority.

Bowlers either don't compose enough of the voting population, or they don't care too much if there aren't publicly-funded alleys.

It's not so much that I think governments, local or otherwise, are very responsive, I just assume that voters are lazy.

June 16, 2007 2:29 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

It isn't just 10-pin bowling.

It's opera and Grand Ole Opry, art museums and tractor pulls and on and on.

The poor pay for their amusements, and they pay for the amusements of the rich, too.

And, my, how the rich scream when someone proposes to pull the teat.

June 16, 2007 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Public parks, public pools, public beaches, subsidized sports leagues and facilities galore, public libraries, subsidized day camps in the summer, public festivals and concerts, school trips and outings, school athletics, museums, etc., etc. I'd wager the cost of all these far exceeds the costs of the pleasures of the hoity-toity crowd.

June 18, 2007 7:33 AM  

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