Imagine there’s no countries


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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35 Responses

  1. Avatar Sam M says:

    “It’s pretty obvious that until we change this, the incentive to work illegally will simply be too great.” Is it obvious? And too great for what? Ever been to Braddock, PA? I bet the unemployment rate there is 20 percent or so. At least. And right there sits the Edgar Thomson works, a huge steel mill that pays out the ying-yang. I suppose all those uemployed people have a HUGE incentive to go work at the mill for $5 an hour less than the current workers amke. And yet it doesn’t happen, despite the lack of a border fence. See, for various legal and contractual reasons, the steel mill is not permitted to hire those other workers, despite the fact that they are willing to work for less. And guess what? They don’t hire them.

    So if we can keep people from Braddock from walking five feet to work in a steel mill for $40 an hour, why is it we can’t keep thousands of people from Guadalejara from walking thousands of miles to work in chicken processing plants on Maryland’s eastern shore?

    I don’t think the answer is to build higher fences on the border. The answer would seem to be in hammering the hiring company for breaking the law.

    I have said it before, but it bears repeating that I am a fairly open borders guy. But I really don’t think it’s pretty obvious that it’s somehow impossible to keep people from coming here. When the jobs dry up, they tend to go home.

    Maybe that’s not a good idea. But it certainly seems less complicated than building an F-22 fighter plane or running the Department of Education.Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Sam M says:

      @Sam M,

      “I don’t think the answer is to build higher fences on the border. The answer would seem to be in hammering the hiring company for breaking the law. ”

      Propose a mechanism for doing so (spoiler alert: you can’t).

      Keep in mind, you will need to create this mechanism in such a way that it can be implemented in political reality.

      Explain to me how you are going to audit this process, so that (a) the company has reasonable assurance that they are hiring a legitimate worker (b) the worker has reasonable assurance that they can acquire, maintain, and revoke if necessary any documentation required within a reasonable time frame, and (c) the government has reasonable assurance that nobody’s cheating, including the people in the government who provide the documentation to the worker, provide access to the authorized database of workers to the company, engage in auditing the company through whatever oversight mechanism you propose.

      Tell me who is bearing the enormous financial cost of providing this mechanism. Also, for extra credit, come up with at least 6 ways that your mechanism can be bypassed, replicated through fraudulent means, or avoided entirely and explain why those 6 ways won’t immediately just become the new path for illegal immigrants to gain work status. Remember there is enormous economic incentive available: there are millions of undocumented workers in this country.

      It’s a truism of security that audit is entirely overhead. If you make an identity card that costs you $1,000 to make, distribute, authenticate, revoke, re-issue, etc., that same document *will* (not can, but *will*) be made available within a short time frame for half the cost.

      4,000,000 times $500 is a giant pile of money. That’s a damn lucrative market for anyone who wants to distribute copies of that identification. They *will* do it.

      And then you’ve spent a few billion dollars for nothing.Report

      • Avatar Sam M in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

        @Pat Cahalan,

        So you are saying that if I go to the Edgar Thomson works and audit the workforce, there’s a really, really good chance that will find a bunch of union frauds working the line, right? because a lot of unemployed people would do just about ANYTHING to be making $40 an hour. Given that desire, it’s impossible to keep people from getting crafty and cheating.

        That. Or… the union and US Steel found a way to verify whether someone works for the union.

        So whatever process they use to keep non-union workers out, I suggest using that.

        If that ends up being too onerous, I suggest enforcement and leaving the processes up the employers. Works for bars. You hire people to card at the door. To keep business up, they let a few too many people in. A robust enforcement regime notices and raids it.

        So, you keep raiding the chicken processing plants until they figure out a way to figure out who’s legal. Maybe that would be really expensive. Alas, the price of McNuggets goes up accordingly. And they might have to pay more to attract legal workers. That’s not ALL bad, is it?

        Does this mean that nobody cheats and that nobody gets away with getting into bars orworking at the chicken plant illegally? Of course not. But right now, it appears that enforcement efforts amount to… nothing. Harrasing brown people at the border.

        I would prefer harassing the people who hire them illegally. I mean, if you have to harass someone, might as well be them. We make bar owners enforce smoking bans. We make people in the porn industry verify age. And dammit, I swear the last 200 jobs I’ve had required me to provide a SS card and a bunch of other stuff. Can people fake that? Sure. Like I said, no syste, is perfect.

        But as much of an open-borders guy as I am, the whole “it’s impossible to enforce” thing strikes me as about as believable as “if we legalize drugs, there won’t be an increase in use.”

        I just want my side to be honest. If you legalize drigs, more people will take them. And if you crack down on illegal immigration, fewer people will immigrate illegally.Report

  2. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Let’s see, the United States should ‘streamline’ it’s immigration process so that our Mexican neighbors can more easily become ‘Americans.’ Wow, and I was thinking why is this our problem and why isn’t it Mexico’s problem, and why haven’t these people taken up arms and put down their gummint and formed their own republic and then we gringos would have a place in which to flee? Do you think they’d ‘streamline’ their immigration process for us?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      @Robert Cheeks, absofriggin’lutely.

      Do you need me to tell you the story about getting Maribou to this country again? (I love to tell it! Incidentally, it’s our 12 Anniversary today.)

      Truncated version: it would have been easier to give up than to get Maribou, a college-educated, intelligent, hard-working immigrant into this country. As Maribou is a net positive for this country, I wonder how many people similar to Maribou have been dissuaded from coming here.

      Because the laws and government power that you are so enamored with are failing to prevent the people you don’t want to show up from showing up, I’m wondering if you’d be willing to lighten up enough to allow more of the people you do want to show up to do so.

      Or are you just hoping that, maybe, this time… the government will act the way you just know it could if only your party were in charge?Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

        @Jaybird, Happy Anniversary!!!!! I do hope there’s a dinner, booze, and ‘whatever’ involved in the day’s celebration.
        Your response is way to complicated for my feeble brain, however, if the immigration laws are f*cked up, why don’t we write immigration laws that are…judicious? I have no objection to Mexicans becoming Americans by following the law (…it’s that ‘order’ thing).
        I do note that the commie-Dems have had complete control of the legislative/executive process for nearly two years and I’m not aware of any changes in the immigration process but, I’ll admit I’m not focusing on it.
        I have no inclination to support or resist anyone immigrating to the USA, regardless of race, creed, color, edumacation, skills, whatever. If, as you say, the immigration process is a fouled up mess than why don’t you work on unfouling it? You’re a liberaltarian aren’t you? Isn’t that what you people do? Though I wouldn’t think there’s going to be a lot of legislation signed into law in the next couple of years.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          @Robert Cheeks, I’m waiting for collapse.

          Any day now.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          That’s a good point. The way I’d put it is, if we intend the United States to be a republic, we have to have a strong enforcement regime for illegal immigration for the sake of having any immigration policy at all. In other words, the harshest burden of our unwillingness to enforce our immigration laws as they are falls on legal immigrants.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          @Robert Cheeks, let’s me put it like this:

          One of the reasons that I am nominally pro-life is that I believe that people are a positive good.

          I do not see a downside to expansive amounts of immigration that are worse than the downsides that come from half-assed enforcement of overly bureaucratic laws.

          “So make the country efficient!”, is a pretty decent counter-argument but I am not a fan of laws and government. We need less of each and more immigrants.

          Why? Because people are a positive good.

          Laws and government? Dude, they’re like fire. A handy servant but a dangerous master. Positive only when restrained and controlled and *SMALL*.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          @Robert Cheeks, JB, as mentioned before, I agree with your ‘limited’ gummint, understanding that the otherside of the coin is the obligation to maintain ‘order.’
          Where we part company is in your faithful belief in the inherent ‘goodness’ of homo sapien. As you know, as an Augustinian/Aquinian I see man as a being with a ‘fallen nature,’ and we can work from there.
          BTW, old palsy, I do see a downside with unfettered immigration, unless we guarantee that no new immigrant is eligble for ‘welfare’ until they’ve worked here for a period of time. But, we should welcome foreign corporations and give them ‘tax breakes’ and not interfer with when they give their CEO’s large bonuses.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          @Robert Cheeks, we can look at upsides vs. downsides all day long, but I would much rather attend to the problems of too many foreigners pouring in from all over the world than attend to the problems of them only pouring in from one country (and illegally, at that).Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird says:

        You got Maribou in as a fiance, not a wife, right? I think that makes things more complicated.Report

      • @Jaybird, I’m trying to get my Japanese “wife” and our three children into the United States now so I can attend med school. Here’s the super short version: so far the whole process has taken 14 months with at least another 5 or 6 expected; seven immigration law services have been involved, four of them wanted to charge several hundred dollars for a consultation, one didn’t have any idea what it was talking about, one was probably engaging in fraud; estimated total costs including time taken off from self-employment, transportation, lawyers fees, and government fees will be more than 6,000 dollars (which I can pay, since I’m making a Japanese as opposed to a Mexican salary); I also must not marry my “wife” since we have already applied for the fiancee visa, and marriage would mean we’d have to start the whole process over; If I allow the government to sample and document the DNA of each family member it will speed up the process considerably; we all must get medical checks from a government approved facility *somewhere* near Tokyo; my “wife” and I will have Newlywed Game style-interviews to make sure she knows where my moles are and I can say whether she’s a morning person or a night owl of whatever; once we get into the States, we have surprise visits from government agents to look forward to.

        We’re actually not emigrating from a poor country, and the temptation to come in as tourists and overstay our visas, or go to New Zealand instead is pretty real. If we had nothing to lose like most less-fortunate immigrants, why not just walk across the undefended border and live under violation of an unenforceable and arbitrary law?

        On a practical basis alone, without even getting into principles or morality or economics or anything, is there any defense whatsoever of our existing immigration law?Report

    • Avatar Simon K in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      @Robert Cheeks, Whats this got to do with Mexicans? This is about what happens to skilled immigrants and relatives of Americans. Everyone else has no chance, and “everyone else” includes almost all potentially Mexican immigrants. Thats why they use the .. uh .. alternative immigration system.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      @Robert Cheeks,

      “You shall neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

      Or did that get lost along with everything else except the rules against gay sex?Report

  3. Avatar Koz says:

    Why is that chart supposed to scare us of something? It’s made to make things look complicated but if you actually follow the chart it’s actually simpler than the real immigration process.

    Also, let’s note that the chart disingenuously illustrates the time until citizenship in various scenarios. For most immigrants citizenship is a secondary factor, if that. What really counts, of course, is the right to live and work in the US, and that comes a lot sooner.Report

    • Avatar Simon K in reply to Koz says:

      @Koz, . The chart isn’t great. There are a couple of avenues missing and in a few cases you can speed the process up by jumping tracks. But the time from residency to citizenship is actually well-defined – its either 0, 3 or 5 years depending on status. Its the process get to residency that includes the crazy wait times.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to Simon K says:

        I guess that we’re supposed to be shocked that there are long waits for things that lots of people want but only a few can get.Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to Koz says:

          @Koz, If it was literally just a queue, with say a fixed number of residency permits being issued per year, that at least would be fair, although auctioning green cards would probably be fairer, or at least more efficient. The difficulty with the current system – which I think is what the chart is really getting at – is the intricate complexity of the system. There are hundreds of different classes of visa, some of which carry “dual intent” (intent to apply for residency later), and some of which mean you can’t apply for a green card without leaving first.

          These classifications make no sense. If you look at work visas, its crazy – there are two different visas L1-B and H1-B for non-immigrants working in the US in professional jobs, the only difference being that L1 is for people who worked for the same employer before moving and H1 is for people moving to the US to work for a new employer. Why are they different? Who knows, but the treatment is very different. Its quite easy to get an L1-B visa, but there’s strict rationing of H1-B visas. H1-B requires labor cerification to get the visa, but the wait time to get a green card, in spite of having demonstrated your employability, is huge. L1-B visas require you to go through labor certification for a job you’ve already been doing for several years, to get a green card, but once you have labor certification getting the green card is easy. Why? Who knows?

          I’d be very interested to hear anyone – especially a conservative who usually claims government can’t do anything properly – defend this system as being in any way fair or rational.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz says:

          “I’d be very interested to hear anyone – especially a conservative who usually claims government can’t do anything properly – defend this system as being in any way fair or rational.”

          It’s not, especially for legal immigrants and would-be legal immigrants. But, the way out is to build the fence, restrict illegal immigration, and transfer federal government employees toward immigration enforcement instead of what they’re doing now.Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to Koz says:

          @Koz, And turning the border into the Maginot line rationalizes the legal immigration system how?Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to Koz says:


      E.D. will use almost any means to excuse to ell us why illegal immigration is American’ s fault and not those breaking the law. It might might be amusing if he didn’t seem so desperate to excuse illegals.Report

  4. Avatar Lyle says:

    I suggest we look at the points systems in say Canada or Australia. In both cases the family element is de-emphasized in favor of the skills element in both cases if you are unskilled your just plain out of work. Note that if you are Mexican or Canadian and have a college degree and a job offer in a specific list of professions you can get a TN visa. Which is not an immigrant visa but does allow you to work for 3 years with the employer able to apply for an extension. Actually for a Mexican if you could get a couple of extensions then you could retire home a wealth person in your country.Report

    • Avatar Katherine in reply to Lyle says:

      The Canadian immigration system is deeply, deeply screwed up; I have trouble imagining yours being any worse.

      Example: back in the ’90s my church sponsored a refugee family from Kosovo. The husband was a trained and skilled engineer; here, he worked as a taxi driver because Canada didn’t treat his qualifications as transferable. And that happens all the time. We set up a points system so that only trained professionals are working, and then those trained professionals end up working low-wage menial jobs because their education doesn’t count as legitimate here. The system’s been broken for decades.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Katherine says:

        @Katherine, Hmmm, Katherine, would you say that’s more an immigration problem or a credentialling problem? It sounds like his credentials were good enough to get him into the country (at which point the immigration systems job is pretty much done) but that he was running into barriers to entry into his chosen field.Report