Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

A Gothamite woos Iowa pig farmers

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Matt Yglesias writes:

Given what happened to John McCain, I can’t help but think that as the Republican electorate learns more and more about what Rudy Giuliani really thinks about immigration, he’s going to be in big trouble. He managed to somehow pass himself off as an opponent of the comprehensive immigration measure, but the reality is that as mayor he turned New York City into a giant “sanctuary city” and sought vigorously through the courts to preserve that status. This was all unremarkable in what’s probably the most pro-immigration jurisdiction in the country, but it’s really, really, really not where the GOP base is.

I’m not so sure Matt is right that Rudy is going to be called to account for his past ideological, er, peculiarities. GOP primary voters are more hawkish than the electorate in general (duh!) and Giuliani has a story that can be readily adapted to tap into hawkish sentiment. This is a big advantage, and to a considerable degree can overcome past transgressions like friendliness to gay people and lack of immigrant bashing.

But I’ve come to the conclusion Rudy’s single biggest advantage may be his media savvy: the guy’s smooth and articulate in front of a camera, and I think in large part that’s simply the result of where he happened to cut his political teeth. You can’t thrive in the hothouse environment of the world’s media capital without developing a pretty keen sense of how to spin, how to bullshit, how to make answers sound plausible in middle class living rooms, and how to perform in front of a camera.

It has been said that hailing from New York City is a big disadvantage in American politics. Maybe we’re all about to learn how false this notion is.

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September 8, 2007 at 9:47 pm

By the company they keep

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Awesome! My old party just picked up a key new ally in its noble quest to fight the browning of America.

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August 28, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Five billion migrants

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One of the weaker restrictionist arguments I’ve heard in the immigration debate is the one about the huge number of people who are poorer than the US average. I’ve encountered this line of reasoning specifically in response to the position I hold on the issue, namely that immigration is at heart an economic phenomenon, and the best way to handle the “problem” is to legalize that which has hitherto been against the law: non-familial Latino economic migration.

Anyway, I often hear theĀ  countervailing argument phrased in a manner similar to the following comment that appeared recently on a Becker-Posner thread:

“If we were to just grant the “right” to immigrate to every Tom, Dick, Harry and Juanita; the Nation would be overwhelmed.”

Um, but such a proposal is not on offer.

We have a large “problem” with illegal immigration from Mexico because of three facts: a) the large wealth gap between the two countries; b) the fact that our southern neighbor shares a land border with us; and, c) the fact that this land border is very long.

If you changed any of the three above, you’d have a much smaller inflow of illegal immigrants. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), the US can’t really do much about these facts, and hence it will continue to receive large numbers of immigrants from south of the border. The only question is whether or not America decides to provide a legal means for this migration to take place. But these facts are not observable with respect to other places, so, I think it’s safe to say, despite the warnings of the restrictionists, we won’t soon be overwhelmed with illegal immigrants from Indonesia or Mozambique.

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June 10, 2007 at 1:39 am

Stopping roofers and landcapers

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I base much of my argument on how to deal with illegal immigration on feasibility. I simply don’t think it’s feasible to stop illegal immigration via an enforcement only approach, and thus far the evidence overwhelmingly says I’m correct. I therefore prefer to bring some order to the situation. I take the same position with respect to other economics-driven phenomena like drugs: legalization, regulation and taxation is the way to go. I’m not a big fan of black markets.

The evidence suggests there’s a simple imbalance of supply and demand with respect to our labor markets: natural population growth and legal immigration undersupply America’s needs by a half million or so mostly low-skilled workers a year. The market naturally meets this need, despite the law’s lack of recognition. If one is concerned as I am about national security, one is convinced the most sensible approach is to screen, fingerprint, bond, background check and credential these workers — and spend our finite border security dollars trying to stop terrorists. Stopping roofers and landscapers just isn’t a high priority for me.

I’m also candidly disdainful of the arguments of the Samuel Huntingtons of the world. The country has many problems to be sure, but I just don’t see what any of them have to do with immigration, legal or not. The big picture is that the immigration boom — especially that over the last quarter century — has coincided with an economic boom, with America’s victory in the Cold War, and with markedly improved socioeconomic indicis (falling crime, increased educational attainment, a leveling off of drug use, decreases in out of wedlock births, environmental improvements, urban renewal, etc.). About the only problem that is even tangentially related to immigration is wage stagnation, and even Borjas concedes the evidence at best (or worst) points to an extremely modest dampening of wages for an extremely modest portion of the workforce.

I simply continue to be unable to grasp the “crisis” that others seem to be convinced has been visited upon us by all those brown people. And I therefore naturally turn a very skeptical eye toward — and demand rigorous cost benefit analysis — of any scheme designed to stop illegal immigration via an enforcement only approach. Especially when there are only so many dollars to go around, and especially when there exist, you know, actual terrorists who undoubtedly would like to violate our borders to commit actual murder.

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June 7, 2007 at 8:20 pm

In support of open borders

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I know I’m spitting in the wind here, but, can we all please dispense with the term “open borders?” It’s really one of my pet peeves. Who of us doesn’t want to be able to leave the country for a Caribbean vacation? Who of us doesn’t want a nice family from Ontario to be able to drive down to New York to see the sights? Who of us doesn’t want goods and services to be able to flow back and forth across our frontiers? Don’t these things require that our borders be open? Would y’all prefer the borders to be closed as Stalinist Russia?

Now, I realize a lot of people use the term to refer to an insecure border, but all I’m asking for is a little precision in language. Because the thing is, absolutely NOBODY wants the fucking border to be insecure. I strongly suspect even the most whackily post-modern, leftist, downtown Manhattan dwelling, moonbat crazy America hating intellectual doesn’t want, say, an al-Qaeda operative smuggling in a nuclear weapon that might well vaporize his very own apartment building in Tribeca. I repeat: exactly nobody wants insecure borders.

What there is a debate about is how to go about best securing the border and what role, if any, immigration policy plays in this process. There’s also what should be the utterly unrelated debate about immigration itself (how much, what kind, etc.), and how to go about stopping or reducing the illegal variety.

Strangely, the further 9/11/01 recedes into the past, the less we seem to worry about the national security aspects of border control, and the more we seem to worry about, er, overcrowded Northern Virginia boarding houses. Funny, that.

Stopping a nuclear terrorist ought to generate a lot more national heat and fury (and absorb a lot more intellectual and financial resources) than stopping construction workers and dishwashers. This, perhaps more than anything else, is why I’ve come to loathe the new restrictionists: their quest for a chimerical cultural and racial purity is endangering the country, and I resent the hell out of them because of it.

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June 1, 2007 at 11:51 pm

The immigration proposal

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Lots of blog comment debate the last few days on the proposal. Here, in no particular order, are some of my contributions:

From Political Animal:

I think the guest worker proposal as outlined by the media is overly rigid, insufficiently generous, and places little or no emphasis on assimilation (guest workers, for instance, will not be eligible to apply for green cards). Still, it at least begins to chip away at the unworkable policy — the de facto prohibition of non-familial Latino immigration — that fuels the growth in the country’s illegal population.

For what it’s worth, I think the guest worker program and the movement toward a merit-based points system is where the real action is on this bill. The amnesty part — while something I favor for humanitarian reasons — really won’t have that much of an impact either way. I mean, those 12-20 million people are already residents of the United States. They’re already in the workforce. They’re already paying taxes. They’re already parenting American kids who go to American schools. Amnesty will make their lives easier, but the country won’t change very much as a result. But it would be a major change to get control of our borders and sharply reduce the annual inflow of illegal aliens, and to accomplish this I’m utterly convinced that some legal means of permitting Latinos to immigrate will be required.

With respect to the issue of enforcement, all I can say is if we can substantially reduce the number of Mexicans and other Latin Americans trying to sneak into the US — by no longer forcing them to do so because of the existence of a legal method of immigrating — we’re only going to reduce the size of the task facing our border control forces. An army whose enemy has been greatly reduced in size is a stronger, more effective army.

From Matthew Yglesias:

A standard “restrictionist” view is that the “crackdown” should yield results (a 60% drop in illegal immigration? 80%? 99%?) and then we’ll get around to doing constructive things like amnesty, or increases in legal immigration.

Their stance is akin to somebody saying in 1928: “Ok, let’s see if the crackdown by the booze police results in closing all the speakeasies and a 90% drop in alcohol consumption, and then we’ll get around to ending prohibition.”

Sorry, ain’t gonna work. Prohibition — in those days alcohol and in current times non-familial Latino immigration — is the problem. And the solution — a regulated legalization — is the same in both cases. This country — and its economy — are huge. We could easily absorb, say, 800,000 Latin American economic migrants a year. Just hand out some freakin’ green cards, and make the penalties for going outside the system severe. End of problem.

Off the top of my head I suspect we’re spending three or four times in real terms what we were twenty years ago on immigration enforcement. Well-publicized, widely reported workplace raids are a common enough feature in the headlines. We’ve doubled or trebled the number of people working our southern border, and beefed up security and screening resources at airports. Should we do a lot more? Maybe so. But the resources we do spend would yield much more satisfactory results if we reduced the size of the problem by coming at once to the conclusion we are inevitably going someday to reach: an open, free, capitalist democracy sharing a two thousand mile border with a poor country can only manage, not prohibit, immmigration-induced demographic change.

The reality is we can handle a certain amount of economic migration from south of the border. In fact we’re doing so currently, to the tune of 400k-500k annually. And know what? Streets still manage to get swept. And taxes get collected. And the mail gets delivered. And the dry cleaner doesn’t lose my shirts. And people get married, and divorced, and the sun comes up in the morning and sets in the evening. I just don’t perceive the crisis others seem to. I’m certainly not arguing for unlimited economic migration from Latin America. I’m just arguing that our current policy — which basically prohibits it outright — isn’t, well, practical. Nor is it moral.

On population growth and its relationship to immigration, again from Matthew Yglesias’s blog:

Birthrates are tumbling all over the developing world, and the growth of the planet’s human population is slowing dramatically. I’ve seen projections pointing to a shrinking population for Mexico starting about the year 2025. Indeed, although the raw numbers look huge to the uneducated eye, America’s own net rate of immigration — and that includes the inflow of illegals — is barely a third of what it was circa 1900. And this, of course, is set against the backdrop of a country whose birthrate is a fraction of what it was a century ago. The big picture story here is that the rate of population growth in the Untied States — even given the boost created by immigration — continues its long decline. I think that’s largely beneficial, but I don’t think it’s necessary to ratchet it down even further by a “crackdown” on a phenomenon that has helped make the United States the richest and most powerful nation on earth.

In 2006 the US likely received (if illegals are counted) something like 1.5 million immigrants, net, out of a population of 300 million, yielding an immigration rate of .5 %. In 1900 the United States received about 1 million immigrants, net, with a population of 74 million. That’s an immigration rate of about 1.4% — or a rate very nearly three times that of our current era. While it is true that the foreign born population of the United States has increased substantially in recent years as a percentage of the population, this is because America’s natural population growth is slowing down. It is certainly not the result of a sharply higher rate of immigration than that earlier era; as I have just shown, our immigration rate today is much lower than during the Ellis Island era. I would argue that the slowdown in natural population growth helps, not hinders, the ability of the United States to absorb immigration, because it tamps down overall population growth. Indeed, it this slowdown in the country’s natural rate of increase (and the slowdown in the natural growth of the labor force) that makes a steady supply of immigrants all the more desirable, and needed. Were American families as large now as they were in 1900, I might well join the ranks of the restrictionists. They’re not, so I haven’t

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May 20, 2007 at 10:10 pm