The New Colossus

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56 Responses

  1. I do fear that state-level quotas might make the immigration regulations more byzantine and more of an imposition on immigrants’ human rights. In order to have meaningful (by which, I guess I mean enforceable) state-level quotas, we would probably have to devise some system of state-level border patrols, or if not that, state-level regulations on who can travel in or work in that state. I realize we already have that to some degree, with Alabama and Arizona being conspicuous examples, and I assume that all or most states have some policies that control or monitor, at least indirectly, illegal immigration in their borders. But I would hesitate to go on this route further.

    I’m a bit pessimistic as to how fully immigrants would be accepted in “flyover” country. A lot of immigrants are working there already, and I’m not sure if they are as well accepted by people other than those who hire them. If I’m right–and I assume it’s much more complicated than my generalization–that does not mean we shouldn’t allow immigrants or make it easier for them to come in and work, but it would represent a challenge on an order of what already exists.

    I should say that xenophobia and racial preferences and quotas, and to some degree arcane rules and regulations (although I assume the rules and regulations have gotten more complicated since 1924, or at least since 1965) have always been with us, if in varying degrees of intensity (e.g., restrictionist movements tend to be more vocal in times of recession when labor competition is more conspicuous). Again, to the extent that my generalization is true, that does not necessarily mean a restrictionist policy is justified, it’s just an example of the staying power of the challenges.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      To some extent I think it depends on the number of people we’re talking about. The lower-pop places I’ve lived have had comparatively few problems, as far as that goes. The racial problems that have existed tend to be with whatever the majority ethnic group is (tribal, in both cases) and it’s pretty minor (a crude comment here or there). On the other hand, in Canyon County the Hispanic population has shot up markedly and a county commissioner tried to get a state of emergency declared.

      As I mention in my below comment, the nearest city to me could really use a shot of immigration. How welcome would they be? Reasonably so, as long as culture shock were avoided. How to avoid the culture shock? Possibly by managing numbers. Not taking too many immigrants from a single place might help assimilation along. Taking in immigrants from eastern europe (from which there are already a lot of descendents) might also help.

      Which brings to light another question… would the states be able to decide where the immigrants come from? I mean, would they be able to discriminate on that basis? I can think of reasons why it should be so (they’re likely to pick the groups that would cause the least problems) and why it should not be so (they’re likely to pick white peoples).

      I don’t think state border patrols would be required at all. You would do it on the level of jobs and housing. Make it too difficult for them to move to California, they’ll stay put in Idaho. Now, getting them to stay put in Burley, Idaho, might be a little tougher. Maybe you require that they work within a certain number of miles of a particular place.

      Of course, such requirements might be hard for a lot of people to stomach.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      Hillfolk tend to accept people who marry in, no matter their color or creed (lotta Vietnamese women in those towns)Report

  2. Avatar James K says:

    Bryan Caplan has been making a similar argument for a few years. He argues that the gains from immigration exceed even the potential gains from trade (and those aren’t trivial). In fact immigration is the one policy we have that we’re sure will actually improve the lives of people in 3rd world countries.Report

    • Avatar wardsmith says:

      @James, thanks for the reminder about Caplan. I’d read some of his articles like this one and liked what he had to say. Fundamentally, the issue is how we value human capital. Notice that it is suspiciously absent from our corporate balance sheets. Apple’s stock took a 5% hit when Jobs announced he was leaving for health reasons. Companies can have key person insurance, but past a few executives they stop thinking of people as “key”. Having ethnic diversity is known to increase the value of corporations and the wealth of cities From pg 26:

      Given our identification procedure, these findings are consistent only with a dominant production amenity effect of diversity: a more multicultural urban environment makes US-born citizens more productive. The choice of US cities as units of observation makes this result clean from most institutional differences that are generally shown to drive comparable cross-country studies. To the best of our knowledge, in terms of both data and identification procedure, our results are new. These results shed new light on the ongoing policy debate on the opportunity of imposing additional restrictions to migration flows in developed countries.

      This truly is economics 101. Having open doors improves all our wealth. Admittedly attempting to inculcate foreigners to become nothing more than pawns on a political chessboard of the dominant parties is not helpful. Also for libertarian reasons I don’t see attempting to tell immigrants that they aren’t wealthy “enough” and put them on the path to class warfare. Odds are, they’re substantially better off here than they were at home and their children will become even more productive in /our/ society than our own children. This is what has made America great for over 200 years, it is a good formula, let’s not blow it over partisanship (both sides are guilty here).Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      immigration is the one policy we have that we’re sure will actually improve the lives of people in 3rd world countries.

      Well, there’s your problem.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Nice post, WS. Keep sending them in.Report

  4. Avatar Scott says:


    Just because we have open spaces and dying communities in some states hardly provides any reason why we should just import foreigners that don’t speak our language and know nothing of our customs.

    Yes my ancestors were immigrants but I don’t speak German or dance in lederhosen. My family integrated unlike many of the many immigrants today. My family didn’t expect to have every gov’t form translated, they learned the language unlike folks today.

    As for illegals, I’ve yet to have a liberal tell me why asking folks that want to come to our country to obey our laws is so awful. Maybe you can tell us, before you so casually dismiss those that ask folks to obey the law.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      Because it’s an unjust law. You can’t tell a migrant farmer from Juarez to wait in line, because there is no line for unskilled laborers to wait in.Report

      • Avatar Scott says:


        Yes, you can tell them to wait. Last time I checked we don’t need tens of thousands of illiterate unskilled workers. The world and this country have changed, this country’s needs have changed. Being allowed to live here is a privilege, not something you should get just b/c you are breathing come from a third world cesspool and want to live here.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

          The crops rotting in Alabama and other states that passed draconian immigration laws showed we still need low-skill workers because guess what, a unemployed office worker can’t be a good fruit picker immediately. Because fruit picking is a skill.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            “The crops rotting in Alabama and other states that passed draconian immigration laws showed…”

            …that there’s a market for mechanized fruit-pickers?Report

          • Avatar Scott says:


            Sure picking fruit may take some instruction but it is hardly a skill like welding or operating machine tools. I can train anyone to pick fruit but not to weld or operate machine tools.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

              Actually, I’d make the argument it’s easier to train your average white-collar worker to work at a welding shop than to train them to pick fruit. To be blunt, a lot of American’s simply don’t have the physical ability to do the work as quickly as it needs to be done.

              From the NYT –

              This year, though, with tough times lingering and a big jump in the minimum wage under the program, to nearly $10.50 an hour, Mr. Harold brought in only two-thirds of his usual contingent. The other positions, he figured, would be snapped up by jobless local residents wanting some extra summer cash.

              “It didn’t take me six hours to realize I’d made a heck of a mistake,” Mr. Harold said, standing in his onion field on a recent afternoon as a crew of workers from Mexico cut the tops off yellow onions and bagged them.

              Six hours was enough, between the 6 a.m. start time and noon lunch break, for the first wave of local workers to quit. Some simply never came back and gave no reason. Twenty-five of them said specifically, according to farm records, that the work was too hard.

              On the Harold farm, pickers walk the rows alongside a huge harvest vehicle called a mule train, plucking ears of corn and handing them up to workers on the mule who box them and lift the crates, each weighing 45 to 50 pounds.

              “It is not an easy job,” said Kerry Mattics, 49, another H-2A farmer here in Olathe, who brought in only a third of his usual Mexican crew of 12 workers for his 50-acre fruit and vegetable farm, then struggled to make it through the season. “It’s outside, so if it’s wet, you’re wet, and if it’s hot you’re hot,” he said.
              Still, Mr. Mattics said, he can’t help feeling that people have gotten soft.

              “They wanted that $10.50 an hour without doing very much,” he said. “I know people with college degrees, working for the school system and only making 11 bucks.”Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Sadly, you are confusing skill with endurance or the willingness to tolerate/endure hard physical labor. The two are quite different.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                picking strawberries takes little skill. picking apples takes A ton of skill. Some things depend on picking ripe, others don’t.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          … bullshit. got plenty of farm jobs that you need skilled hands for.Report

    • Avatar wardsmith says:

      Scott, by all means let’s help them assimilate. The immigrant enclaves in some of our cities are clearly counter productive. Warehousing immigrants so you’ll have guaranteed “voters” in your district is one of the problems.

      Scott, if your ancestors were German and came off at Ellis Island, they answered a couple of questions and were granted “legal” citizenship immediately. Compare that to today’s thousands of pages of rules and regulations, quotas, waiting periods and dozens of conflicting authorities and departments. If you personally had to re-immigrate into this country there’s a good chance you wouldn’t make it.

      To solve the “illegal” problem, make it easier to be “legal”. Voila problem solved.Report

      • Avatar Scott says:


        So your solution to folks breaking the law is make it easier for folks to get in? What about the people that obey the law and do the right thing? Why is their such resistance to expecting people to obey the law?Report

        • Avatar James K says:

          If a rule is foolish, then the rational response to mass-rule-breaking is to abandon the rule. To do otherwise would be to yield all to stubbornness.Report

          • Avatar Scott says:


            With that logic we should legalize murder, domestic violence and a few other crimes.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              If a rule is foolish, then the rational response to mass-rule-breaking is to abandon the rule.

              Scott, everything need not be taken to a reductio ad absurdum. We as a people—and as persons— ignore foolish laws all the time.

              We just haven’t got around to repealing them yet. We just fucking ignore them. It’s illegal to solicit a blowjob from an elephant on the streets of Loredo. You could look it up.

              I will admit herewith and in front of all and sundry that I have smoked marijuana. Illegally, here within the shores and boundaries of these here United States.

              [It was the kind, BTW. 😉 And more than once.

              Considerably more than once…]

              Our ideal is that we’re a nation of laws, not men, but you wouldn’t want to live in a nation of laws without men. As big an ass as the next fellow is, the law is an even bigger ass.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Thanks for responding. When I post late at night only my snark comes out.

                The point I was really trying to make is that mass rule breaking does not necessarily mean that a law is foolish (whatever that means), it could just mean that lots of folks are desperate enough to break it.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Scott, I’d like to see some flesh on the bones of yr point, look at commonly-ignored laws and perhaps detect a pattern.

                One would think that too many inane laws would foster a disrespect for law in general, then a cafeteria approach. Perhaps we are already there or at least on the precipice—the broken windows thing not so much lax enforcement as unenforceability.

                Dunno about you, but lately I feel like breaking a window just for the hell of it. So far, it’s only tearing off all the tags on the furniture that say Do Not Remove This Tag Under Penalty of Law. But I’m fit to bust out soon.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                TVD, you could do an article on Prohibition.

                The growth of the illegal liquor trade under Prohibition made criminals of millions of Americans. As the decade progressed, court rooms and jails overflowed, and the legal system failed to keep up. Many defendants in prohibition cases waited over a year to be brought to trial. As the backlog of cases increased, the judicial system turned to the “plea bargain” to clear hundreds of cases at a time, making a it common practice in American jurisprudence for the first time.

                The greatest unintended consequence of Prohibition however, was the plainest to see. For over a decade, the law that was meant to foster temperance instead fostered intemperance and excess. The solution the United States had devised to address the problem of alcohol abuse had instead made the problem even worse. The statistics of the period are notoriously unreliable, but it is very clear that in many parts of the United States more people were drinking, and people were drinking more.

                There is little doubt that Prohibition failed to achieve what it set out to do, and that its unintended consequences were far more far reaching than its few benefits. The ultimate lesson is two-fold. Watch out for solutions that end up worse than the problems they set out to solve, and remember that the Constitution is no place for experiments, noble or otherwise.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                WSmith, a lot of Xs don’t quite equal Y. Drug prohibition rather eased in in stages, and since drugs weren’t an extant part of culture, there wasn’t the societal implosion that banning alcohol caused.

                If ever there were an X that looked like a Y, it’s drugs and alcohol, but even that doesn’t quite hold.

                Yes, the Reefer Madness of the 1930s was silly, but it seems to have held for a generation anyway. And yes, it’s turned out to be a relatively harmless drug.

                But even putting other drugs under the same umbrella as marijuana is facile, but not helpful. Opium dens were recognized as life-destroying, as heroin is today. Cocaine remains problematic: powder cocaine is a recreational drug for the relatively affluent, but crack isn’t a recreation for many or most, it becomes a way of life.

                So not only are alcohol and drugs not exactly comparable, neither is Drug A with Drug B.

                Yes, I think the pot ban has brought a level of disrespect for Law as inherently respectable, but there are other factors involved as well. Alcohol was legal, then it wasn’t. I’d say it was re-legalized not just because of the social cost of prohibition, but on the whole was seen as a societal negative only by a minority.

                [I happened to run across something the other day that maintained that on the whole, Prohibition brought less drinking and the pathologies associated with it. Not inclined to track it down again, but it seems a possibility.]

                So I guess my larger point is that I don’t know. It seems logical that inane laws cause disrespect for Law in general, but am unsure where the tipping point is.

                But at the rate we’re going, it’s gotta come someday, where a parallel way of doing things becomes the normative, a “black market” of societal conventions, if you will. I made a joke the other day about “civilized” bureaucracies depending on bribes and not their state salaries, and was absolutely mystified that it was taken literally and not sardonically.

                Much of the world operates that way. In the West, we take law & order for granted.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                TVD, I still think you’re the perfect man for the job. You could be very Obama-esque, with on the one hand, on the other hand, on the other other hand, on the other other other hand arguments, sort of like Kali on steroids. 😉

                Fundamentally we are in complete agreement BTW, it would just be more fun to hear it out of your head than the disorganized mess it is in my own.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Yeah, I like hearing things from Tom’s point of view. I was saying to the spouse recently that you can tell that TVD’s a musician. His prose reads like jazz in it’s rhythm and meter. I dig it.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                the mining towns and places that wanted prohibition also had ladies upset enough to take an axe to the local liquor establishment. As these were predominantly the locations that had problems…Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                “the mining towns and places that wanted prohibition also had ladies wives upset enough to take an axe to the local liquor establishment. As these were predominantly the locations that had problems prostitutes…Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                corrections partially noted. drink was a large portion of men’s expenditures, even where prostitution was infeasible (mountain towns simply drove out the prostitutes).Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Just for you Kimmi, Molly Be Damned and the real Molly B’Damn. I’ve even been to Molly B’Damn days there long ago. They not only didn’t kick her out they honored her.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I lived in Salt Lake City for a few months about 20 years ago, back when even having a beer with dinner was next to impossible. I have never done so much drinking in my life.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Huntsman was very much on the angels’ side of the issue (which is to say, in opposition to the saints) , which isn’t easy to be when one of the two major newspapers is owned by the LDS Church. I heard a lot about his efforts, but have no idea if he succeeded, which means he probably didn’t.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Last year there was beer in the supermarkets in SLC.Report

            • With that logic we should legalize murder, domestic violence and a few other crimes.

              No, because the laws against murder and domestic violence are not foolish.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              James K: “If a rule is foolish, then the rational response to mass-rule-breaking is to abandon the rule.”

              Scott: “With that logic we should legalize murder, domestic violence and a few other crimes.”

              Begging the question of whether murder, domestic violence, and “a few other crimes” actually occur so often as to represent “mass rule-breaking”.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Between 12,000-16,000 murders a year since the early 90s, fairly consistent even as the population has gone up to 300+ million.

                The FBI has oodles of pages of stats on murder, if you’re morbid like me.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                I’m not seeing an argument that this is “mass rule-breaking”. I’m seeing numbers. In fact I’m seeing numbers that are going *down* in crime per-capita so I’m not sure where you’re going with this.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      Your country has been successfully importing foreigners that don’t speak your language and know nothing of your customs for 200 years. The immigrants themselves are foreigners, the kids are half-in-half and the grandkids are basically Americans with funny names.

      What makes you think anything has changed?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:


      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        My grandmother came to this country when she was 16. She always spoke with an accent. Her parents weren’t terribly good with English.

        What people forget is that legal documents are serious business. Do you really want someone signing something they don’t understand??? Do you want people getting the impression that they can’t talk with police, because the police won’t understand them??? Bear in mind, that we have locked people up in insane asylums for speaking weird foreign tongues (to be fair, that was an accident.)Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Ironically, on Friday the 28th of Oct, Maribou and I drove up to Denver to update the biometric info on her Resident Alien card.

    They had a new machine that did fingerprints. It used lasers and water instead of ink and paper.

    My ancestors stepped off of a boat and were told that their last names were too hard to pronounce, they had to make it something American… and, poof, they were as American as their new last names.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      they had to make it something American… and, poof, they were as American as their new last names

      That reminds me. Four of my cousin sisters have migrated to the US. Many Indians don’t really have surnames per se. Rather, things are extremely idiosyncratic. For example, in my family, my father’s name is the first name there followed by my own name. But in some of my cousins’ families their father’s name comes last and their own name is their first name. i.e. that is, until they got married and their husbands’ names (each sister had one husband. This is not the mahabaratha) took the place of their father’s name.

      So, in an indian household, it is unlikely that a father would share the same last name as the rest of his family. Instead, the rest of the fmily will use the father’s (or husband’s) first name as their last name. (Puts a whole new spin on the meaning of taking your spouse’s name)

      But, american law does not recognise this. Instead, under American law, the last name of the father is carried over to his children. That, at least seems to be the way things are done…

      Just poining out how odd this is…Report

  6. Avatar dexter says:

    Jaybird, was the original immigrant Cyonitta Cristatta?Report

  7. Avatar Will Truman says:

    The town where I substitute teach is one of those that pretty desperately needs new blood. One of the elementary schools I sub for used to be an intermediate school, but they didn’t have enough kids to justify two of those, so they closed down a couple elementary school and changed one of the intermediates to a middle school and the other to an elementary school.

    One of the things that strikes me about the place is that nobody really knows what to do. It once got by on mineral wealth it can no longer exploit and industries that are shells of their former selves. There’s just no vitality. The best and brightest just leave. I think an armshot of immigrants would to this place very well. My concern is, though, that… they’d leave just as the kids do.

    Even in low-population flyover states, the cities (such as they are) tend to do pretty well, migration-wise. Fargo, Sioux Falls, Missoula, Boise. So the concern is that you help them prop up Dunn County, and they end up in Fargo. Which isn’t necessarily bad, mind you, but it doesn’t help reinvigorate the former. Would states have the ability to tell them to stay put? Or would we be relying on the fact that they would plant roots wherever we put them? Or that working the wheat fields Burley would be enough to keep them from moving to Boise?

    This isn’t to shoot your plan down, but it’s a concern. Your thoughts?Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      I suspect in the case you mention there is nothing to be done. Any human community is first an foremost an economic unit. If the economic justification for the town is gone then it is probably dead already.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      What James said. Changing technology, economics and sociology are trending towards greater urbanization and fewer smaller towns. Ecologically I’d even hazard that it’s a positive trend. Obviously, of course, it’s pretty harsh to tell a resident of a small town that it’s probably more sensible to let the community turn back into wilderness or farmland.Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Great post. I have questions, though, concerning the idea of a state allotment of immigrants. The first is, would they be required to live in that state for some number of years? If not, it seems like you might get 500 to emigrate to South Dakota next year, only to see them immediately pack up their bags and move to California.

    I know that most here are pretty anti-nation and pretty pro-state, but I like that we’re one big country and can move about as we wish.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      I think this is my basic problem. If we’re going to have fifty different standards for everything, including immigration, Social Security, Medicare, and all the rest like many libertarians want, why are we one country? Just break the sucker up and sign a mutual defense treaty.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        Actually Jesse, that doesn’t sound that bad to me at all. I think our federal gov’t has gotten too big for its britches and your solution might be just the medicine it needs. Our founding fathers had similar ideas but things change – oftentimes for the worse.Report

    • Avatar wardsmith says:

      Tod, (and Mike) Thanks! Erik surprised me by posting this on the main page, I was shooting for a sub(blog) where I could hide in pseud0-anonymity.

      The theory of the EU was that they could benefit from the ability to travel from country to country more freely without having to deal with passports and monetary exchanges. Compared to traveling out west in the US, with the same miles on your car you can hit 10 or 12 countries depending on how you’re aimed. The other element of their experiment was to gain precisely the kinds of economic benefit that the /Italian/ authors of the paper I linked to above were touting. For all our flaws, the Europeans could learn quite a bit about stewing a melting pot from us. When they attempt it they don’t do so well.Report