‘Bam’nesty

According to the New York Post, “President Obama’s temporary-amnesty program has paid off for 454,000 young immigrants who were brought here illegally.”

That’s all well and good, and I don’t begrudge a single one of those young immigrants his or her good fortune. But let’s be clear here: The biggest losers from our country’s heartless immigration policies are not the young people who have managed to find their way here only to risk deportation. The biggest losers are those who never got here in the first place.

If it were my job to remedy the evils of American immigration policy, I’d start by making it easier to get here, not easier to stay here. Or to put this another way: If the President is willing to allow 454,000 young immigrants (and no more) to be here, I’d prefer he deport everyone who’s already here and bring in another 454,000 to replace them. That way, a million people get at least some opportunity to reap the (relative) benefits of American education and American freedom, as opposed to a lucky half-million reaping all the benefits while another half-million get nothing.

It would be better, of course, to welcome everyone.

(Note: For the background on why I call existing policy “heartless”, and for an attempt to quantify exactly how heartless, see Chapter 19 of The Big Questions.)

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49 Responses to “‘Bam’nesty”


  1. 1 1 Henry

    I understand your sentiment. However, we do have to weigh up the disruption that deportation and immigration entail. A long term illegal immigrant has established ties in the US that are costly to cut, whereas a potential immigrant’s gains by moving to the US are reduced by the fact he has to cut his ties with his home country.

  2. 2 2 Nickolaus

    Henry — Neither you nor the US government is in any position to “weigh” the disruption and benefits of each individual’s choice to immigrate or not. “We” don’t have to weigh anything. “We” do, however, have an obligation to act morally.

  3. 3 3 suckmydictum

    I have not given much thought to your proposition, but is there not a case to be made that the people who already have immigrated illegally are more likely to strongly prefer being here? Why should focus on the people who are not here when it’s pretty clear that on average, they don’t prefer to be here as much as those who already are?

  4. 4 4 Steve Landsburg

    #3: Good point.

  5. 5 5 TjD

    I am assuming that it is only the opposition that has stopped Obama from making it easier to get here. With the aging population it makes only sense to make it easy to come here.

  6. 6 6 Roger

    I thought that you believe in revealed preference theory. If foreigners decide to come here, legally or illegally, then they are presumably winners for being able to do what they decided to do. Not losers, as you call them.

    The city of Stockton California is now bankrupt, partially as a consequence of its large population of unassimilated immigrants. Who do you want to pay for that?

  7. 7 7 Michal

    Is this a ‘sunken benefit’ argument? Why exactly, looking at the world on April 8th, 2013, it is better that Mr A, not Mr B is in USA?

  8. 8 8 Pete

    @Michal, #7: If Mr. B has been in the country for much longer than Mr. A (5 years as opposed to zero), then one could make the argument that Mr. A will receive a greater marginal utility from coming into the country than Mr. B would from staying. I see your point, though, and so does Steve, I think. I’m saying that based on his final thought: “It would be better, of course, to welcome everyone.”

  9. 9 9 Al V

    #2, Vis-a-vis the prior discussion, and David Friedman’s response, please define “morally”.

  10. 10 10 Ken Arromdee

    Wouldn’t the same arguments used here also justify other actions that have nothing to do with immigration? For instance, if morality requires that we let in more immigrants on the grounds that it benefits them, wouldn’t morality equally require just directly giving our money to third worlders (or to poor people in general)? After all, each dollar you own clearly would provide greater marginal utility to a third worlder than to yourself, at least until you’ve given away enough to take yourself down to subsistence level.

  11. 11 11 Tristan

    @#10

    you said: “After all, each dollar you own clearly would provide greater marginal utility to a third worlder than to yourself, at least until you’ve given away enough to take yourself down to subsistence level.”

    By its very nature we’re incapable of comparing the marginal utility between two different people. See ordinal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordinal_utility) versus cardinal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardinal_utility) utility.

  12. 12 12 Steve Landsburg

    Ken Arromdee:

    For instance, if morality requires that we let in more immigrants on the grounds that it benefits them, wouldn’t morality equally require just directly giving our money to third worlders (or to poor people in general)?

    I have absolutely no idea how you got from point A to point B.

  13. 13 13 Jack

    I think he got to point B by forgetting that immigrants give us value (usually in the form of their labor) in exchange for the money we give themselves.

  14. 14 14 Jack

    I think he got to point B by forgetting that immigrants give us value (usually in the form of their labor) in exchange for the money we give themselves.

  15. 15 15 Guest 1c

    Steve, could you perhaps expand on how you would implement this? The USA already has a large range of temporary visas, all with quite specific conditions in terms of activities. (http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1286.html)
    Some, such as H1b, can provide a pathway to immigration

    Would you increase the number in some or all of these existing visa classes? Or would you create a new class of visa that has different rules around activity and/or avenues to immigration?

  16. 16 16 Steve Landsburg

    Guest1c:

    Steve, could you perhaps expand on how you would implement this?

    No time for a long reply, but why would you assume the implementation involves visas, as opposed to the elimination of visas?

  17. 17 17 Jack

    I sometimes wonder how much wealth would be created simply by there being a “United States of the world” and a common language. A common language is more possible now in the age of the Internet and tv, but I suppose the main hindrance to a one world government is culture. But you’d think at some level of wealth increase, these cultural concerns could be dealt with. But unfortunately as we’ve seen with the Euro… If you don’t have common language and common culture, there can be major problems that crop up since people may be freer to move but can’t practically do so.

  18. 18 18 Ken Arromdee

    I have absolutely no idea how you got from point A to point B.

    You argued that the fact that immigrants get benefits is a reason why we are morally obliged to permit immigration, and that various policies on immigration should be preferred on a moral level based on the effect on the marginal utility of the people affected by the policies. Furthermore, you imply that the effect on the existing citizens is not even to be considered as part of that marginal utility calculation.

    If that argument is accepted, and if it is based on anything like coherent principles, then it should apply to non-immigrants. A policy of giving your money to third-worlders would be a moral obligation 1) because marginal utility is gained by third-worlders and whether you gain or lose isn’t something even to consider, and 2) even if you ignore that part of the original argument and consider it, the marginal utility gained by the third worlders still exceeds that lost by you.

  19. 19 19 Ken Arromdee

    . But you’d think at some level of wealth increase, these cultural concerns could be dealt with.

    In the normal course of things, wealthy countries have better culture because having a dysfunctional culture prevents the country from getting rich in the first place, and the choice is to improve or stay poor. If the wealth is just handed to the country by luck, then they never have to fix their culture to get rich. Some of the most socially and culturally backwards countries in the world are the ones that lucked into huge oil deposits.

  20. 20 20 suckmydictum

    I think I would phrase my objection as follows:

    A grouchy old man and his wife maintain a nice pool in their backyard which they never use. By means of some physical barrier, they keep anyone else from using it. They begin to have problems with teenagers getting over the barrier to use the pool late at night. The old man doesn’t want to, but eventually his wife convinces him to let other people use the pool. The old man agrees, but insists the teenagers who originally broke the barrier cannot use the pool. His reasoning is that since the pool can only accomodate so many people and there are plenty of other people besides the teenagers who will use it if its use is permitted.

    Now apart from a parent telling her sons who don’t like a toy the same amount as each other to share the toy out of her desire for them to have equal time with it, I can’t really think of other instances like this, especially in public policy decisions. I think that’s why I’m suspicious.

  21. 21 21 Guest 1c

    @steve
    “why would you assume the implementation involves visas, as opposed to the elimination of visas”

    An interesting question. I was thinking in terms of what happens at an international border (and specifically at LAX because it’s the port I’m most familiar with). I assumed the US wants to do two things:

    (a) Distinguish between a US citizen/resident returning home and everyone else.

    (b) For ‘everyone else’, distinguish between someone entering the US for a short visit (e.g. transiting as part of their travel itinerary, holiday, business meeting) and someone there for another longer-term reason (e.g. employment, study, being with family – not sure that it matters).

    If no distinction is made at (a), it seems by definition there is no immigration, and therefore no illegal immigration.

    If a distinction at (a) but not (b), the first 454,000 non-citizens/residents coming through all international ports across some arbitrary time period, would be allowed in. The door would close until the next time period.

    This happened with H1-B visas in 1998. There was a limit to the number of visas that could be issued (which interestingly almost no-one, including experienced immigration lawyers and lawmakers, knew). The number was reached very early in the year, and the Immigration Service stopped issuing, or even processing, H1-B visas – at the height of the dot.com boom. For months, thousands of specialist foreign workers with job offers in California were unable to move to the US.

    If there is no separation at (a) or (b), you’d have a more extreme version of the above because the magic number, 454,000, would be reached much sooner.

  22. 22 22 Dmitry Kolyakov

    A good recent article from the Financial Times on US immigration:

    http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b398ee8e-9d4b-11e2-a8db-00144feabdc0.html

    (those without subscription can just Google the title or the link address)

    A quote I especially liked: “By contrast, the Byzantine US visa system does its best to deter educated foreigners while in practice accepting an outsized share of the world’s migrant poor”

  23. 23 23 Ken Arromdee

    I can’t really think of other instances like this,

    I can. Imagine an event–I was thinking of a science fiction convention but it also applies to concerts and such–which can serve about 5000 people. Accordingly, they limit membership to 5000 people. If they are past the membership limit, you cannot get in even if you pay and even if attending the event would be beneficial to you.

    Now, they take 5000 people and then close memberships. A 5001st person comes along and points out that it’s easy to add a 5001st person. The 5000 people have plenty of space, after all, and adding a 5001st person would diminish the space available to each of the 5000 attendees by a negligible amount. Furthermore, argues the 5001st person, having him attend is beneficial to everyone because he still has to pay the membership fee, and he’ll probably be buying snacks once he gets in.

    Question: What is wrong with the reasoning used by the 5001st person?

  24. 24 24 Dmitry Kolyakov

    @3 and 4
    “… is there not a case to be made that the people who already have immigrated illegally are more likely to strongly prefer being here? ”

    Are you controlling for respect for the law here?
    Can it be that someone who equally “strongly prefers being in the US” but does not go there illegally because he is a law-abiding person would be a greater asset to the US than someone otherwise equal who starts his encounter with a country by breaking its laws?

  25. 25 25 Dmitry Kolyakov

    @12

    “I have absolutely no idea how you got from point A to point B”

    Professor Landsburg, do you honestly have no idea here? I believe Ken Arromdee merely reacts you the argument you presented (which is so far only about benefits to immigrants and potential immigrants).
    I think by now most of us know there is also an implied part to your argument – an assumption that immigrants (apparently all of them) present a net benefit to the current US citizens. I guess if you do not want to defend this assumption then Ken’s objection is perfectly reasonable.

    However if you do, perhaps a post focused on why exactly you think the people with the social profile of current illegal migrants present a net benefit to the current legal residents would be most appreciated and instructive.

  26. 26 26 suckmydictum

    @24 – I’m not sure “respect for the law” has much of a place in a discussion about people preferences without that law. The existing laws are being amended in some way that would decrimininalize some aspect of immigration to better expose the preferences of immigrants. I was pointing out that we already have a good first approximation of those preferences (revealed by illegal immigration).

  27. 27 27 Dmitry Kolyakov

    @26 I am sorry I am not sure I understand your reply.
    Breaking the law is still breaking the law, even if many people do not like that law or if some people expect it to be changed in future, isn’t it? Only honoring the laws that one likes is not exactly honoring the laws.

    So if you are not controlling for respect for the law, i.e. for the quite obvious fact that there can be millions with a stronger preference than the illegals, who are deterred by the aforementioned respect for the law, your approximation can probably pass as “first” but hardly as “good”

    To put in in a form of an example – Is robbing a bank (even for someone who thinks robbing banks should be legal, or who believes that tomorrow it will become legal) “a good first approximation” of a desire to have more money?

  28. 28 28 suckmydictum

    @23 – to answer your question, the 5002nd person could use the same reasoning as the 5001st and be on even firmer ground because he’s diminishing everyone’s space by an even smaller proportion than the 5001st did. That’s why I think the 5001st’s reasoning is wrong. Are you dismissing the notion that if X gets in line before Y, it’s reasonable to assume, on average, that X will prefer to attend more than Y?

    I guess I think your analogy is not exactly pertinent: SL said, to use your analogy, that the organizers of the convention might do better to throw out the 5000 people who had been there a while and let others in rather than to let the originals stay there indefinitely. I can’t think of a public policy outcome that has ever worked like that and I’m not sure your analogy addresses this proposition.

  29. 29 29 suckmydictum

    @27 – I apologize for not being clearer.

    I don’t accept your “quite obvious fact that there can be millions with a stronger preference than the illegals, who are deterred by the aforementioned respect for the law…”

    You think there is some person who has not immigrated illegally but has the same (or equally strong) preferences as an illegal who does. I think you’re mistaken by definition.

  30. 30 30 suckmydictum

    @27 – not to forget the bank robbing analogy, yes, in the absence of other evidence, robbing a bank is an excellent first approximation in measuring a person’s preference to have more money.

  31. 31 31 Ken Arromdee

    Are you dismissing the notion that if X gets in line before Y, it’s reasonable to assume, on average, that X will prefer to attend more than Y?

    I’m dismissing the idea that immigration doesn’t harm the existing residents. Which is a weaker version of “harm to the existing residents should not even be considered”. Steven’s original post seems to be using some variation of this. Of course it’s not possible to determine exactly which version he’s using.

  32. 32 32 Ken Arromdee

    You think there is some person who has not immigrated illegally but has the same (or equally strong) preferences as an illegal who does. I think you’re mistaken by definition.

    When we decide that people’s preferences should be accommodated, we don’t allow the preference against committing crimes to count. Technically, it is a preference, but it’s not one that most of us are willing to consider.

    The bank robber may prefer to have money more than a non-robber who assigns a higher utility to money, if “preference to have money” is a combination of the utility of money and lack of respect for the law, but if we have some money and want to give it out based on revealed preferences, we would only use “utility of money” when giving it out, and ignore the other component.

  33. 33 33 suckmydictum

    @31 -

    “I’m dismissing the idea that immigration doesn’t harm the existing residents. Which is a weaker version of “harm to the existing residents should not even be considered”. Steven’s original post seems to be using some variation of this. Of course it’s not possible to determine exactly which version he’s using.”

    Yes, his post makes no reference to costs or benefits of immigration to existing residents. This is exactly why I’ve chosen to focus on the relative utility of illegals immigrants vs. potential immigrants and not existing non-illegal residents.

  34. 34 34 Dmitry Kolyakov

    I believe this distinction between “preference to have money” and “utility of money” is a somewhat anti-Occam complication, but if it helps someone…

    “You think there is some person who has not immigrated illegally but has the same (or equally strong) preferences as an illegal who does. I think you’re mistaken by definition.” – I am not sure we are sharing the definitions here, I am not even quite certain which definition you mean…

    Let’s imagine 2 friends, say Juan and Carlos who are strolling along the border fence somewhere in Tijuana. Juan is dreaming about life in the US, respects American values and laws and has taken extensive English courses to help him better integrate. He has applied for every possible legal way to get to the US, but has so far been not successful. He, however is studying hard, both English and professional skills needed in the US to become eligible in future.
    Carlos, however is a not very law-abiding drunk who has little to lose simply because he never gave much thought to his future or made much investment into it. He however, figures that welfare and criminal opportunities might be better on the other side of the fence. Suddenly they see an unguarded hole in the fence.

    So a couple of questions to you:
    Who is more likely to jump into that hole?
    Who’s desire to become a member of the American society is greater?
    Whom is the US better off having?

    “not to forget the bank robbing analogy, yes, in the absence of other evidence, robbing a bank is an excellent first approximation in measuring a person’s preference to have more money.” – What exactly do you mean by “absence of other evidence”? One person has committed a crime, another one has not. Or is your assumption is that the only possible reason some people do not commit crimes is that they just do not need the money?

    Actually I guess your logic is somewhat convenient – you can never be robbed. If some junkie puts a knife to your throat you instantly recognize that his preference to have more money is simply higher than yours and give him your money at free will, right?

    I see only two possible explanations: either you really believe that any knife-carrying violent hooligan simply needs money more than a breadwinner for a large family who has to toil away all hours the God sends, or you do not think too highly of the concept of scientific control…

  35. 35 35 suckmydictum

    @32 -

    “When we decide that people’s preferences should be accommodated, we don’t allow the preference against committing crimes to count. Technically, it is a preference, but it’s not one that most of us are willing to consider.”

    I’m not exactly sure who “we” are. You can’t possibly mean professional economists (which I am not). I think you must mean a general, societal “we”.

    Even if I agreed with you that preferences against committing crimes are not considered in general, I would argue that they are absolutely necessary to consider in conversations about removing/changing the laws against those crimes.

  36. 36 36 Ken B

    @20:
    Would you want city council to hire a convicted embezzler as treasurer? Can convicted felons lose their franchise?

  37. 37 37 suckmydictum

    @34 – first, I’ll address your three questions.

    1. Who is more likely to jump into that hole?

    I have no idea, and I don’t think you really do either. If one of them does and the other doesn’t, then we have actual evidence for who prefers to be in America more.

    2. Who’s desire to become a member of the American society is greater?

    Again, given your thought experiment, I don’t think we have enough information to answer that unless one of them actually goes through the hole and the other doesn’t.

    3. Whom is the US better off having?

    As I said before, we’re talking explicitly about the relative welfare of immigrants, not that of the US.

    As for your robbery example, I think the reason that so many people surrender to muggers and give them their money is the implicit admission that that money means less to them than to the mugger. Also, this is somewhat off topic since no one is considering overturning mugging or robbery laws, but immigration law is under review.

  38. 38 38 suckmydictum

    @36 – OK, I hate to say this again, but we’re limiting our discussion to the welfare of immigrants and potential immigrants, or to use your example, embezzlers. SL’s original post did not address the costs and benefits to the US as related to changes in immigration law.

    I wouldn’t want an embezzler as treasurer, but that’s because we would be having a conversation about the welfare of the city not just the relative welfare of embezzlers. And just like before, I’ll point out that no one is considering changing embezzlement law, whereas immigration law is up for review. As a result, discussion about the preference about illegals and potential illegals and soon to be legals are pertinent.

  39. 39 39 RichardR

    If you favour more immigrants and follow the logic to its extreme, suppose all 6.5 billion non-Americans emigrated to America. Would America and the world be better off if everyone lived there? And if not which immigrant would be the turning point? In other words when would America have had too many immigrants?

  40. 40 40 Dmitry Kolyakov

    @37

    “Also, this is somewhat off topic since no one is considering overturning mugging or robbery laws, but immigration law is under review” – But how do you really know what is “under review” and what is not? How some guy convinced that mugging laws should be amended is less entitled to “reviewing” the law than someone who wants to make illegal migration legal? Because the latter guys are getting more press coverage as a result of a political struggle for votes of a certain ethnic group?

    How is a “review” relevant anyway? Until the law changes (and in any case it most certainly will not make _all_ illegal migration legal), breaking the law is, well, breaking the law.

    “3. Whom is the US better off having?

    As I said before, we’re talking explicitly about the relative welfare of immigrants, not that of the US.”

    I am absolutely not claiming you have previously talked about it – I am just asking this question, which, unless you believe that the primary business of the US government is the welfare of foreigners with no regard to the welfare of Americans, can be relevant. You are of course free to refuse to answer or to evade it just as you did.

    “the implicit admission that that money means less to them than to the mugger” – OMG. Pretty much every evil under the sun can be rationalized or even justified by continuing this line of thought…
    Example – “the Jewish extermination camp prisoners were implicitly admitting that their golden teeth were more valuable to the noble cause of Nazism than to them…”

    OK, I surely can not force you to answer my questions seriously as I am not a mugger with a knife at your throat whose preferences you would apparently give more weight to.
    But, given your position on this issue leads you to evade properly answering even the most obvious questions – maybe it is time for some reflection?
    That’s just a suggestion, I am a (mostly) law-abiding person, so my preferences do not count for much in your paradigm…

  41. 41 41 suckmydictum

    @39 – By the well-known rules of blog combat, I think you lost the exchange when you mentioned the nazis (see Godwin’s law).

    This will be my last comment on this thread in reply to you, but to address your grievances, I don’t think any impartial reader of my comments would believe I was making excuses for embezzlers or muggers or am convinced “mugging laws” need to be amended. The robbery example was your confused analogy, anyway.

    As for what laws are or are not under review, it’s pretty clear that immigration laws are under review, and it’s not just my opinion. The Post reported on the president’s proposal. The reason that they are under review is for the reasons SL briefly discussed: they’re heartless and are probably not economically efficient.

    My original thesis, was, I think, clear, and SL was gracious enough to concede me my point in 4: if we just consider the welfare of immigrants and potential immigants, I’m not sure why SL favors moving people out and moving other people in when there’s good evidence that the people already here prefer to be here more than those who aren’t here. Yes, they broke a law which is – and I think most economists agree – not good policy.

  42. 42 42 iceman

    I think SL has made his position clear that the impact on existing residents is outweighed by the benefits to poorer immigrants (leaving open to debate which particular immmigrants maximize this), e.g. from taking jobs which “drive down wages” slightly (from what some would argue were by definition artificially elevated levels). However, concerns over the longer term impact on the “culture” that produced the wealth seem valid. While everyone seems to agree we could do a better job of allowing *skilled* workers to come, this post suggests that is missing the point. Perhaps most of us could agree to the idea that (almost) anyone be allowed to come here seeking to work and contribute (which makes us collectively better off, and in a way that does not obviously violate anyone’s rights e.g. to protect a given wage level), but not as citizens with the attendant entitlements to vote and receive public benefits? Perhaps the rub is the latter part of that statement is not politically possible.

    BTW @ Ken A #19 — hear hear.

  43. 43 43 Dmitry Kolyakov

    @ 41

    So you glorify breaking the law for several posts, but then when someone mentions a single word you do not like you pretend to be offended? Nice try.

    You apparently expect strangers to abide by “laws” of your liking, but completely ignore the fact of breaking of very real US laws for the purpose of your discussions? (the fact that the President, the Pope or whoever is “reviewing” the law is, for the umpteenth time, _mighty irrelevant_ until the law actually changes to abolish the concept of illegal migration which is not happening anytime soon)

    Does you phoney “law” prohibit mentioning the word “Nazi” when discussing European history? You’ve made an obviously controversial statement (partially) justifying violent crime. If that is not what you meant the onus is on you to explain. I gave you an example of yet another awful crime that can be justified by the very same logic. This is an ad absurdio example aimed at demonstrating internal contradictions of your position in this discussion, and not a comparison linking you or anyone personally, or their worldview to that of Nazis. I am sorry if rebuffing your statements makes you feel bad. The “law” you mentioned is about comparisons, not examples btw, so I guess you own favorite “law” can be safely added to the list of stuff you are not really reading, right after my posts.

    That is why I will not relate to the points you reiterated in your last reply – they yet again demonstrated that you have not really read (or stubbornly pretend not to understand) my previous rather detailed replies to you.

    Although I recognize that given the obviously demonstrated internal inconsistency in your position you need some escape path and pretending to be offended and slamming the door is one of the universal favorites, I still believe that awarding yourself a “victory in combat” on your own invented terms is quite in bad taste.

    PS. I have been respectful enough to look your “law” up – have you figured what scientific control is, yet?

  44. 44 44 Dmitry Kolyakov

    @42

    “Perhaps most of us could agree to the idea that (almost) anyone be allowed to come here seeking to work and contribute (which makes us collectively better off, and in a way that does not obviously violate anyone’s rights e.g. to protect a given wage level), but not as citizens with the attendant entitlements to vote and receive public benefits? Perhaps the rub is the latter part of that statement is not politically possible.”

    This is so much better than mindless chants “open all borders” or frivolous pseudo-legal or pseudo-philosophic arguments as to why anyone has some God-given right to live anywhere.

    It is very important to make a clear distinction whether we are excluding those proposed additional migrants from the welfare and voting systems or just dumping them on this already malfunctioning social infrastructure. These are 2 very, very different cases.

    As you correctly observed though the tiny problem with the first option is that it is currently highly unrealistic from a political perspective.

    Another one is how exactly can we achieve this:
    “in a way that does not obviously violate anyone’s rights e.g. to protect a given wage level”? I believe this is the explicit opposite of what many proponents, including Professor Landsburg are advocating, for them “driving down (some) wages” is one of the advantages.

    I can not see how with a completely free access to the labor market the wages will not rather soon be equalized with the wage levels in the poorest of “labor exporting” countries (the possible smallish difference can be the costs of moving to the US, but then again, some migrants may even agree to work for less in exchange for a chance to live in a safer cleaner environment with better infrastructure)

    But still thank you for mentioning this important distinction!

  45. 45 45 Zazooba

    Which of you supporters of unrestricted immigration are willing to come explain to my grandchildren thirty years from now why you gave their country away?

  46. 46 46 Zazooba

    Any comments on Borjas recent work finding that loose immigration is a huge transfer from the poor to the rich (about $400 billion per year)?

  47. 47 47 Steve Landsburg

    Zazooba:

    loose immigration is a huge transfer from the poor to the rich

    I assume you’re not counting $2-an-hour Mexicans among the poor?

  48. 48 48 Zazooba

    Steve:

    The $400 million figure, as I understand it, is the transfer from poor Americans to rich Americans.

  49. 49 49 Henry

    Dmitry, you’re arguing an irrelevant point when it comes to the topic the author introduced. In fact, the points you make indicate that you’re not familiar with immigration, legal or otherwise. Focusing on the legality of illegal immigration and implying an automatic negative impact to society from breaking immigration laws. The leap of faith is that breaking a law negatively impacts society. That’s not true. They are plenty of laws that are, were and can be broken without a negative impact to society. Think of Rosa Parks, she was breaking the law. Think of all the sodomy laws that were and are routinely broken. Think of jaywalking. Think of the legality of unlocking your phone. The list goes on.
    The second reason why your point is irrelevant and that explains your lack of knowledge regarding immigration is you assume illegal immigrants are poor Latinos who cross the border with the intent to break immigration laws. What you don’t seem to realize is the number of illegals who just overstayed their visas. The Canadian or European who came here as an engineering student and now works as a tennis instructor. He’s an illegal. The Asian who came here as an engineering student and works at a local restaurant to support himself. He’s an illegal. You get the point? It’s absolutely possible to contribute positively to society while being in violation of some immigration policy.
    Now, where you and the author would be wrong, but you never even get there due to your focus on irrelevant points mentioned above, is in the assumption that immigration only benefits the immigrant and that more immigration would benefit more immigrants. The part that is not understood is that a lot of immigrants would leave if they thought they could come back. The main purpose of immigration isn’t to take advantage of government services, which are really minimal compared to what’s offered in Zthe rest of the developed world. Indeed, if that were the case, more people would be flocking to Canada than the U.S. the main goal of immigration is for jobs, which is why immigration stops during recessions.
    A recognition of this and other factors is what’s behind the immigration reform debate and what people seem oblivious to

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