Thursday, June 07, 2007

Immigration Myths

The immigration debate is full of many myths promoted by supporters of amnesty.


"Jobs that Americans won't do"

There are no jobs that Americans won't do. This myth ignores the role of prices. Illegal immigrants are willing to do the jobs for less. Even in fields that are traditionally associated with illegals, Americans usually still constitute the majority of the workforce.

"Our economy needs illegal immigrants"

No, it doesn't. Economies are dynamic. Ours would survive just fine without illegals. If having lots of cheap, unskilled labor were the key to economic success, the third world wouldn't be so poor. In fact, the key to economic success is investment in new technologies that save labor. Importing cheap labor discourages this investment and may actually harm the economy over the long run.

"Immigration is a product of the free market"

Much of our immigration problem is caused by government policies. The welfare state encourages illegal immigrants to come and discourages them from leaving. (Half of the 'great wave' of the early 1900s went home.) Illegals who cause problems for their employers can be deported. Many illegals are paid under the table and hence don't have to pay taxes. Many of the immigrants who come to America are fleeing the destitution caused by restrictive government in their home countries.

"We shouldn't restrict immigration, we should end the welfare state"

Some libertarians make this argument. Whatever the merits of ending the welfare state, as long as we have it, unrestricted immigration is untenable. As Milton Friedman pointed out, unrestricted immigration is incompatible with the welfare state. Immigration of poor people costs taxpayers billions of dollars, and so is a net restriction of freedom. Ending the welfare state is politically impractical now, and allowing lots more poor immigrants will make it even harder.


"Hispanic immigrants are social conservatives"

See this article by Heather McDonald. Representatives of majority Hispanic districts almost always support legal abortion and other socially liberal causes.

"Hispanic immigrants are Catholics"

Latin America is only nominally Catholic. When it was colonized by Spain, the Catholic church was established as a state church. Despite, or rather because of this, the faith never really took hold. Actual church attendance rates are generally 5-10%.

"Hispanic immigrants are natural Republicans"

Why? They are not social conservatives, and few would accuse them of being fiscal conservatives. Historically, new immigrants vote Democratic unless they are refugees from communist countries like Cuba.

"Illegal immigrants aren't criminals"

Yes they are. Illegal immigration is a crime, and for very good reasons. In addition, one-twelfth of illegals are criminals even beside coming to America illegally.

"Immigrants don't have higher crime rates"

In most cases, they do. For example, Mexico has crime rates that are significantly higher than in the United States. This carries over to Mexican illegal aliens and Mexican-Americans. Crime rates are determined more by culture than any other factor and are not easily changed.

"Most immigrants aren't terrorists, so we shouldn't restrict immigration"

It only takes a few terrorists to do a lot of damage. Most of the 9/11 terrorists were here illegally. A rational immigration policy would screen out terrorists, and to do that, we need to secure the borders and develop functional controls on tourist and student visas.

"Immigrants love America"

Some do, some don't. Some are indifferent. Some hate America, as can be seen in the pictures linked from this post. A rational immigration policy would distinguish between those who love America and those who don't.


"America is a nation of immigrants"

Obviously, a large majority of Americans are native-born. This is only true in the sense that Americans have ancestors who immigrated. But the same is true of every other nation on Earth, including Britain, France, Japan, etc.

"America has always had high levels of immigration"

Wrong. America has alternated between high and low levels of immigration. For example, America had low levels of immigration between 1930 and 1965.

"People had the same complaints about immigration in the past, and they were wrong"

They weren't wrong. Past mass immigration caused tremendous social and cultural problems. These problems were eventually solved, but that doesn't mean that they didn't exist. These problems were solved by cutting off immigration and aggressively promoting assimilation, which still took decades.

"Today's immigrants will assimilate just like past immigrants did"

There are a number of differences that make assimilation today less likely. The 'great wave' was cut off, which has yet to happen with today's wave. In the past, assimilation was aggressively promoted, while today the dogma of multiculturalism discourages assimilation. Past immigrants came from many different countries with different languages. An unprecedented percentage of today's immigrants come from a single county, Mexico, and speak a single language, Spanish. Past immigrants had to cross an ocean, while many of today's immigrants are from a country next door. Mexico has a historic grievance against us, while the sources of past immigration did not. Past immigrants were virtually cut off from their homelands, while communications today make it possible to keep in touch with the home country and maintain its culture. In the past, America didn't have a welfare state, so many of those who didn't succeed went home.

"We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us"

The only reason that the American Southwest was ever a part of Mexico is that it was colonized by Spain. When Mexico became independent, it became Mexican by default. It had few Mexican inhabitants. It was largely unsettled, and most of its few inhabitants were American Indians. The territory was settled by Americans, and was only under the control of Mexico for a few decades.

"We should follow the words of the Statue of Liberty"

The Statue of Liberty had nothing to do with immigration. Its famous poem was added years after it was built, and is in no way official government policy. Yet even that poem contains the crucial qualifier "yearning to breathe free", which is much different from "yearning for a better job".

"The Bible demands open borders"

Wrong. See this article by Rabbi Aryeh Spero.


"We can't deport 12 million people, so we need amnesty"

This is a false choice. Whether or not we can deport that many people isn't the issue. Mass deportation is a straw man. The policy that immigration patriots are advocating is attrition. That means secure the borders, step up interior enforcement, end catch-and-release, and hold employers accountable. This will discourage illegal immigration and encourage voluntary deportation.

"We can't secure the border"

Let's try it and see.

"We need a comprehensive solution"

Why? Why not secure the border before discussing whether amnesty or guest workers are necessary? Given the many past broken promises of immigration proponents, there is no reason to trust such deals.

"It's not amnesty if we require that a fine be paid"

It is illegal for illegal immigrants to be in this country. Any policy that allows them to stay legally is by definition amnesty. Besides, paying a fine is a joke when legal status makes immigrants eligible for government benefits.

"The problem is illegal immigration, not legal immigration"

The problems of illegal immigration would not disappear if illegals were legalized. The cultural and economic problems are pretty much the same either way. Fiscally, legal immigration is actually worse since legals are eligible for more government benefits.


"Opponents of amnesty are racist/xenophobic/nativist/jingoist/hate Hispanics"

Roughly seventy percent of Americans support immigration enforcement. This includes many people of all races. In 2004, Arizona passed proposition 200, which banned welfare for illegals, over the opposition of "conservatives" John McCain and John Kyl. It got 47% of the vote from Hispanics, more than President Bush got. Do 47% of Hispanics hate Hispanics?

"Opponents of amnesty are anti-immigrant"

Wrong. Most immigration patriots favor some legal immigration. Immigration is not all or nothing. Immigration can be beneficial at low levels and detrimental at high levels. Some immigrants benefit America while others harm America.

"Your grandfather was an immigrant, so it's wrong for you to support restrictions on immigration"

If admitting 'your grandfather' benefited America, then you should be grateful and advocate policies to protect America. If admitting 'your grandfather' hurt America, then if anything you are even more obligated to advocate polices to protect America to make up for it. Right or wrong, past immigration policies cannot be changed. We can only act in the present and affect the future. The question is what policies are best for America today.


Anonymous said...

If someone points out the flaws in these arguments Allan, are you going to run for the hills and remove the comments option?

It's easy when you don't have to respond to anyone isn't it?

Exposer of Frauds said...

Here is your challenge Allan. You spend an awful lot of time railing against immigration.

Explain your concept of America. What is America to you? How do you define it? What does it mean to be American?

If you cannot do this, nothing you have written on the subject of immigration can be taken seriously.

I await your response.

Anonymous said...

Natives americans are the only ones who know what happens when you don't control immigration...
Who do you think you are? just an ignorant immigrant who exterminated many others and now pretend to know the truth about immigration!