Jaybird’s Immigration Story

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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  1. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Here’s some fun questions I didn’t touch on but think are relevant.

    Let’s say that we have people from all over the world coming to the US and, between the millions of them, they all speak about 40 different languages.

    What’s the likelihood that they’ll say “it’s essential that our kids learn English!” even if they, themselves, do not?

    Now let’s say that we have mostly people coming here from one country and, between the millions of them, they all speak the same (non-English) language.

    Is that likelihood significantly higher or lower?Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      @Jaybird, It’s a good point Jay, but last I looked the immigration question wasn’t an either/or question. I don’t see how simplifying the immigration process from diverse high skill workers is going to commensurately decrease the immigration of uniform low skill workers. Could you elaborate on that?

      Of course, I’ve already said on this matter that if you genuinely object to mass low skill illegal immigration your only logical target can be the employers, not the immigrants. Any “solution” that ignores that factor is pretty much doomed to failure and is likely only intended as a meaningless sop to low information right wing voters.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
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        says:

        @North, “I don’t see how simplifying the immigration process from diverse high skill workers is going to commensurately decrease the immigration of uniform low skill workers.”

        It won’t decrease the immigration of low skill workers *BUT*!

        *BUT*

        It will decrease the ratio of illegal unskilled:legal skilled significantly from the stratospheric number it is today to something merely vaguely discomforting.

        Which strikes me as a positive good.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          @Jaybird, Well no argument from me there Jay; I’m not immensely exercised on the immigration question. Canada, if my memory serves, vigorously encourages skilled (or wealthy) immigration. Then again Canada doesn’t have a huge permeable border with an impoverished neighbor (well yet).Report

          • Avatar Rufus in reply to North
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            says:

            @North, Canada has a shrinking population, which might give impetus. Actually, I think, if you factor out immigration, the U.S. does too; but it’s not discussed the same way in the states. Also, I think maybe the point system here makes people happier about immigration. It’s a bit like government inspection of meat or something.

            Further to the original post, my wife’s got a medical issue that may or may not block immigration for her, but will definitely make health insurance an issue. Also, she’s probably not willing to take up arms for the U.S., or any country for that matter. I’m in a profession that sucks for hiring right now, and I’m increasingly wondering if the U.S. is circling the bowl anyway. And, yes, American immigration is notoriously labyrinthine. All of this is pushing us towards me finishing the PhD at the American university I’m at and teaching at a Canadian university. I know we get a ton of genius kids from China and India getting science/tech/med degrees at my university, and most of them go back because the immigration system is so punishing.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to North
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            says:

            @North, Knowing your writing as I do Rufus I dare say that America’s loss is Canada’s significant gain.

            As to population decline, well the country can increase immigration very easily if it actually becomes a problem.Report

      • Avatar Bob in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        @North, the Obama administration is doing exactly what you suggest, targeting employers.

        If you missed it, here is a NYT article, from a few days ago, describing an expanded push against businesses using undocumented workers.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/10/us/10enforce.html?scp=1&sq=illegal%20workers&st=cseReport

        • Avatar North in reply to Bob
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          says:

          @Bob, Thanks Bob, good news.Report

          • Avatar Bob in reply to North
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            says:

            @North, this approach seems to be a substantial change and one that might prove effective. Republicans, however, see it differently:

            “Republican lawmakers say Mr. Obama is talking tough, but in practice is lightening up.

            “‘Even if discovered, illegal aliens are allowed to walk free and seek employment elsewhere’ said Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee. ‘This lax approach is particularly troubling,’ he said, ‘at a time when so many American citizens are struggling to find jobs.'”

            Seems the opposite of “lax” to me.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Bob
              Ignored
              says:

              @Bob,

              My understanding is that under the Obama administration, even while unauthorized crossings have declined, deportations have risen.

              Apart from mere partisanship, it’s hard to understand why the current administration’s policies in this area are unpopular on the anti-immigration right.Report

            • Avatar Huck in reply to Bob
              Ignored
              says:

              @Bob, And just to add, Sessions claim of a “lax” approach when it comes to discovered undocumented immigrants is patently not true. The data clearly shows that deportations have been higher in absolute terms, and much higher in relative terms, under the Obama Administration than under any previous administration.Report

  2. Avatar lukas
    Ignored
    says:

    So, given that experience, what does it tell us that many people from all over the world, from developed as well as undeveloped countries, still want to immigrate to the US rather than, say, Europe?

    I hear Canada and Oz/NZ get the “best” immigrants, though.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to lukas
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      says:

      @lukas, I reckon that the EU has a lot of churn for many of the not quite the best of the best but still best guys among member countries.Report

      • Avatar lukas in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        There’s that (well, given that there is complete freedom of movement, residence and employment for EU citizens within the EU, I wouldn’t even consider that immigration, but that’s another story), but ask university students on the streets of Tehran where they would like to emigrate to, and they will tell you that it’s the US, even though they likely have relatives who tried to get in, were frustrated by the bureaucracy and are now living in Toronto or Vancouver.Report

  3. Avatar Koz
    Ignored
    says:

    “I basically agree with the policy implications and the identified incentives here.”

    Really, what do you take those to be?

    One thing those of us in the immigration-mainstream Right (for lack of a better word) like to make a habit to point out is that the current policy / laws / enforcement patterns are tremendously unfair to legal immigrants and prospective legal immigrants who the American people might want to let in for one reason or another and most of whom have to suffer a Kafka bureaucracy episode much worse than Jaybird’s experience.Report

    • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Koz
      Ignored
      says:

      @Koz,

      So given that a Kafkaesque paperworrk/legal struture is a bad thing what problem are we trying to solve with it?

      Specifically what are the issues with amnesty? The only issue I would request that you not bother mentioning is the idea that it would insult those who managed to make it through the Kafkaesque nightmare we have constructed. What nightmare would we face with much easier immigration?Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to ThatPirateGuy
        Ignored
        says:

        “Specifically what are the issues with amnesty?”

        Besides the fact that the American people don’t want it and have specifically and definitively insisted that it not happen?Report

        • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Koz
          Ignored
          says:

          @Koz,

          Absolutely besides that, people can in theory be convinced to change their minds given a good enough argument.

          So what specifically will we suffer from if we do it(Assume someone convinces the electorate that it is a good idea)?Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to ThatPirateGuy
            Ignored
            says:

            Mostly that because of where we are there will be a disproportionate number of low-educated unskilled laborers from Mexico. These immigrants will depress the wages of blue-collar Americans and integrate very poorly into bourgeois American culture.

            If we could solve that problem, that is if we could restrict immigration or favor immigrants who are educated, highly skilled and integrated into larger society (like Canada does for immigrants to there) then more immigration could very well be a good thing.

            Of course, if we want to do this the first step is to slow or stop the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico which is what the Arizona law is about.Report

            • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              How would you react to a guest worker program that made it very easy to come to the country and perform the work that the immigrants are performing now?

              Second what is the evidence that the immigrants will hurt the blue-collar Americans by working in this country? How does it compare to the effects of outsourcing?

              What are the integration issues?Report

            • Avatar Rufus in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              @Koz, Probably the depressed wages argument is the strongest one here. If you look at an industry like meat packing, it used to be the sort of job you could raise a family on. Now it’s very low wages, dangerous conditions, and long hours. And I do agree that having cheap illegal labour is a big part of that. But, surely, the collapse of the unions was also a fairly significant step towards the widespread exploitation of workers in that industry. Before they sold out, succumbed to corruption, or were forced out of several industries, the unions were a strong barrier to exploitation, and building them back up could be a way to protect the wages and rights of American workers without starting with the power of the state, right? Surely unions have to be considered when we’re talking about the falling wages in blue collar industries.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              “How would you react to a guest worker program that made it very easy to come to the country and perform the work that the immigrants are performing now?”

              For the typical industries that you would think of for such things (agriculture, meatpacking, etc) I would oppose it. For educated and skilled labor I would favor it as long as the program is designed to ensure that the workers in it get paid according to American wage scale instead of the wage scale of whatever country they came from.

              But, let’s note that the big practical reason why these things don’t go forward is that people like Jason, MALDEF (and many others) deceptively and cynically argue that the American people have no choice but to accept whoever wants to come. The American people don’t believe that and I don’t either.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              “Second what is the evidence that the immigrants will hurt the blue-collar Americans by working in this country? How does it compare to the effects of outsourcing?”

              There’s studies that claim that blue-collar wages or wage growth (I forget which) are depressed by about a third due to illegal immigration.

              “What are the integration issues?”

              Not speaking English, energies devoted to cultural separatism, etc.Report

            • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              @Koz,

              But, let’s note that the big practical reason why these things don’t go forward is that people like Jason, MALDEF (and many others) deceptively and cynically argue that the American people have no choice but to accept whoever wants to come. The American people don’t believe that and I don’t either.

              I think the American people are, as they are wont to be, wrong. I have doubts that we could truly secure the border and especially that we could do so without doing things that we are presently unwilling to do.

              I respect the fact that you disagree with that assessment, but it is neither cynical nor dishonest in nature. If I believed things were different, my views on immigration would be substantially different than they are. I’d love to see an immigration regime where we could let more in or less in based on what our needs were at a given time. I just don’t think it’s possible.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              “I respect the fact that you disagree with that assessment, but it is neither cynical nor dishonest in nature.”

              I think it is, especially in the context of the immigration issue in our political debates. Among other things, the idea behind GWB’s comprensive reform and a loads of commentary from various people is that we get to “trade” border security for amnesty of the current illegals living here. Besides the anti-sovereignty implications of shopping that deal, obviously if border security can’t be done in any event there’s to premise for that deal. Eg, see below.

              http://theamericanscene.com/2010/04/29/initial-thoughts-on-immigration-reformReport

            • Avatar Travis in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              @Koz, your stance on “integration issues” is thinly-veiled racism.

              For you to argue that somehow Mexican immigrants are going to destroy America, is an argument completely unsupported by history — and, in fact, rejected by history. Countless groups have come here and become part of America.

              We had millions upon millions of Europeans come here without the ability to speak English. They managed to integrate. We had Chinese, Japanese — they all established themselves as part of American society. We brought millions of Africans here in chains, and they’ve managed to integrate.

              “Cultural separatism?” What “cultural separatism?” Spare us the teabagger “Aztlan” nonsense, Mexican people are coming to America because they see a future in American values — freedom and opportunity. They’re *escaping* corruption and oligarchy in Mexico. Why on Earth would they want some crazy separatist scheme?

              Anyone willing to risk their life swimming across the Rio Grande so they can work for minimum wage picking lettuce in the Imperial Valley is quintessentially American.Report

            • Avatar lukas in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              Depressed blue-collar wages wouldn’t be that much of a problem if the US didn’t restrict (to the point of effectively forbidding it) high-skilled immigration to keep salaries at the higher end of the wage scale from falling. Professional cartels such as the AMA and ABA aren’t helping either.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              “For you to argue that somehow Mexican immigrants are going to destroy America, is an argument completely unsupported by history”

              That’s a pretty bad strawman. There’s no part of the restrictionist case that depends on the premise that Mexicans are coming here to destroy America. Mexicans are coming here because they perceive, probably correctly, that it’s in their own economic interest to come here.

              But just because it’s in the Mexicans’ interest doesn’t mean that it’s in America’s interest. And it’s American citizens who have the right and to some extent the duty to act on America’s interest.

              That’s what the restrictionists are doing. And the open borders people are substantially distrusted because they are unable or unwilling to engage the issue on those terms.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to ThatPirateGuy
        Ignored
        says:

        “So given that a Kafkaesque paperworrk/legal struture is a bad thing what problem are we trying to solve with it?”

        We’re not trying to solve any problem with it. It’s a resource issue. We have too many government employees developing green energy projects and monitoring Title IX compliance and not enough sorting through visa and green card applications.

        This problem is exacerbated by the illegal problem. If the bureaucracy didn’t have to handle as many deportation hearings and the rest of it we could be more efficient in processing legal immigrants of whatever stripe.Report

        • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Koz
          Ignored
          says:

          @Koz,
          So how many people do we need to process the paperwork?

          Second what steps could we take to stop people from coming to our country to harvest our crops without filling out the proper paper work?Report

          • Avatar Rufus in reply to ThatPirateGuy
            Ignored
            says:

            @ThatPirateGuy, Also, what level of resources would be required for the forced migration of 11 million people, walling off the border, and ensuring that every Hispanic is in the country legally, given that that’s what the American people want?Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Rufus
              Ignored
              says:

              At the expense of a little digression the American people don’t want that.

              This is hard for some people to get, but mass deportation is a perfectly plausible, legitimate and humane solution to the immigration issue.

              The reason why that has heretofore not got any traction is because the American people don’t want that. Therefore, it is very very important we credit the generosity of the American people to that end.Report

            • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Rufus
              Ignored
              says:

              @Rufus,

              So no mass deportations, but we have to enforce the borders and can’t have amnesty.

              So if we won’t deport them and we build an impenetrable border, what do we do with the 11 million people we just trapped in our country with no legal status?Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Rufus
              Ignored
              says:

              So no mass deportations, but we have to enforce the borders and can’t have amnesty.

              Right, if the American people actually get what they want. Let’s also note that amnesty might gain a great deal more credibility at some later time if this actually happened.

              As for the illegals in that case, either they continue to stay here illegally or they self-deport themselves somewhere else.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to ThatPirateGuy
            Ignored
            says:

            “Second what steps could we take to stop people from coming to our country to harvest our crops without filling out the proper paper work?”

            Build a fence across the Mexican border and deploy the Border Patrol to make sure nobody breaches it.Report

            • Avatar Travis in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              @Koz, except we already have fences and a 20,000-strong Border Patrol. Still they come.

              The East Germans built a concrete wall with machine-gun towers and people still tried to cross it.

              Short of building a 2,000-mile Berlin Wall with an armed guard every 100 feet given shoot-to-kill orders, they’re going to keep coming.Report

            • Avatar Scott in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              @Travis,

              There is no physical fence that stretched across the entire boarder. The Dems wouldn’t let the gov’t build it. I guess they needed more new supporters.Report

  4. Avatar Koz
    Ignored
    says:

    “Before they sold out, succumbed to corruption, or were forced out of several industries, the unions were a strong barrier to exploitation, and building them back up could be a way to protect the wages and rights of American workers without starting with the power of the state, right?”

    I don’t think you can separate those things out.

    In particular, the lower-end labor unions seem to be predicated on the idea that labor isn’t worth very much so we have to establish a cartel to overcharge for it. There’s only so much mileage you can get from that, and I think we’ve gotten all there is.

    We’re much better off having a strong economy 9with a labor force integrated into that economy and the larger culture) with higher wage itinerant jobs so that conscientous but dull employees can earn a decent living.Report

  5. Avatar dexter45
    Ignored
    says:

    Sorry Kos, but the reason that we can’t get rid of the illegals because we need them for construction jobs holds very little sway with me. According to ECandM blog unemployment in the construction industry was at 27.1% as of March 10 this year. Another thing, I do not wish to arrest a single illegal alien. They, like me, are victims of the corps. I would put all the energy into arresting the ones doing the hiring. They have money and problably don’t want to go to jail. If there were no jobs there would be no illegals and we would not need the multi-billion dollar fence. As for illegals helping the economy, I have two stories. About 5 years ago I was working a job with about 100 illegals doing the metal framing and all of them were contract labor. For those not in construction and to make a long story shorter, that basically means that none of them had taxes taken out of their checks and their employer did not have to make the approximately 8% fica bill. Another time we had this laborer whose girlfriend had a baby. Instead of talking about how beautiful the child was, how happy he was that she had ten fingers and ten toes or about the awe and waves of compassion and love that overwhelmed him, he talked about his anchor baby. Finally, the baby was born at the local charity hospital and the mother and child immediately moved into subsidized housing. Mr. Farmer, apology accepted. But with BP killing first the fishing and then the oil field, I think building windmills would be a great idea.Report

  6. Avatar Koz
    Ignored
    says:

    Sorry Kos, but the reason that we can’t get rid of the illegals because we need them for construction jobs holds very little sway with me.”

    Me either (so that argument should prob go to someone else).Report

  7. Avatar dexter45
    Ignored
    says:

    Er sorry, Mr Jason Kuznicki instead of Koz.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Farmer
    Ignored
    says:

    Let’s just open the borders and be done with it.Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to Mike Farmer
      Ignored
      says:

      @Mike Farmer,

      And how long after that will it take before this country turns into a third world cesspool? First we need to secure the border and then we can worry about revising the immigration system.Report

      • Avatar Kevin in reply to Scott
        Ignored
        says:

        @Scott, Well, seeing as we managed to have them for almost a hundred years and not only didn’t become a cesspool but actually thrived I think it’s safe to estimate we could last at least that long again.Report

        • Avatar Scott in reply to Kevin
          Ignored
          says:

          @Kevin,

          Excpet for the fact that illegals are coming here faster and in greater numbers than legal immigrants ever did and these days they don’t bother to assimilate as state and fed gov gov’t now have to cater to them by giving them help in their foreign language.Report

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