It's Time to Face Facts About Illegal Immigration

Efforts to make life miserable for those who are not supposed to be here have not made them leave.

If rain is pouring and you don't want to get wet, you have a few choices. You can stay inside. You can put on a raincoat, grab an umbrella and brave the torrent. Or you can step outside and demand that it stop.

This last option has obvious advantages. It doesn't interfere with your daily routine, and it doesn't require rain gear. The only flaw is that it doesn't work.

lungstruck / photo on flickrlungstruck / photo on flickrCongress faces a similar choice when it comes to immigration laws. A tentative consensus has formed around a package of changes that would let many people living here illegally stay and eventually gain citizenship. But some conservatives are opposed to what they deride as "amnesty." They insist instead on going on an enforcement spending spree, while barring undocumented foreigners from any hope of becoming Americans.

Both ideas reside in a dimension far removed from reality. Efforts to secure the border have been radically intensified in recent years without stopping people from sneaking in. Efforts to make life miserable for those who are not supposed to be here have not made them leave.

Conservatives usually recognize the futility of resisting powerful market forces. They know that price controls and minimum wage laws have a way of backfiring. But some of them exhibit a touching faith that with enough diligence, the federal government can seal off the U.S. labor market from the world.

It can't. When a relatively poor country whose jobs pay little shares a long border with a rich one whose jobs pay much better, many of those in Country A will migrate to Country B -- even if it means they must pay large fees to criminal smugglers, risk death in crossing, do dirty and unpleasant work and endure the constant danger of being arrested and evicted.

Today, the government spends nearly 10 times as much on the Border Patrol as it did in 1993. What does Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, propose now? Tripling the number of Border Patrol officers and quadrupling outlays on surveillance gadgets. But if carpet-bombing the Rio Grande with cash hasn't worked so far, it probably isn't going to work in the future.

The trouble is that border agents have to succeed every time a particular migrant tries to cross, but the migrant has to succeed only once. A 2009 study from the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego found that "of those who are caught, all but a tiny minority eventually get through -- between 92 and 98 percent."

The enemies of the Senate reform plan often sound as though they have a much better solution. But the alternative is not some magic formula that will rid the nation of those residing here without legal permission. It's merely to consign them to inferior status, forever. It's the status quo.

What's wrong with that? Just about everything. It means 11 million people, including 1.7 million brought here as children (the "dreamers"), will go on living among us without the protections of the law.

As a result, they are more likely to be underpaid, more apt to work off the books, more vulnerable to crime and less likely to pay the taxes they owe. There's not much upside for any of us.

If the concern is that undocumented foreigners will impose a fiscal burden, it makes sense to get them out in the open -- where they will remit taxes like other legal workers. They can already get free emergency medical care, and their kids can attend public schools. It's not as though the current situation is a fiscal bargain.

One of those young dreamers who is barred from going to college or joining the military is more likely to become a public burden than one who is free to pursue her vocational ambitions. A youngster whose parents are deported may not be able to get the education to be a productive citizen.

If the concern is that unauthorized immigrants drive down the wages of American workers, it likewise makes no sense to keep them in the underground economy, where unscrupulous employers can pay them less than a normal market wage. Once they can work legally, their wages are likely to rise, reducing any downward pressure on earnings.

No one relishes the task of finding useful ways to address the longstanding results of illegal immigration, but they require attention. Congress can make an omelet, or it can try to unscramble the eggs.

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  • RightNut||

    Queue the bickering about immigration in 3...2...1...

  • DarrenM||

    Queue the bickering about immigration in 3...2...1...

    Of course. What did you think the post was for to begin with?

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  • Fatty Bolger||

    Congress will try to make an omelet, and end up with a shit sandwich instead. It's the only recipe they know.

  • db||

    Congress is the goose that laid the brown egg.

  • ||

    This is why I'm a huge fan of executive privilege, but only when my TEAM is is the Whitehouse.

  • jemkem06||

    my neighbor's mom makes $66 an hour on the internet. She has been without work for 5 months but last month her income was $16989 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site grand4.com
    (Go to site and open "Home" for details)

  • DJF||

    """"One of those young dreamers who is barred from going to college or joining the military is more likely to become a public burden "'"'

    You forget that going to college or joining the military are both burdens to the public, one is subsidized by the taxpayer and the other is 100% paid for by the taxpayers

  • JohnD||

    Supporting the military is one the the few things the government is supposed to do. Not fund tuition, home loans, medicine, tell people what they can grow , etc.

  • SIV||

    it likewise makes no sense to keep them in the underground economy, where unscrupulous employers can pay them less than a normal market wage. Once they can work legally, their wages are likely to rise, reducing any downward pressure on earnings.

    Because nothing leads to higher wages like employers withholding taxes, matching SS "contributions", and paying worker's comp insurance.

  • DJF||

    """'If the concern is that unauthorized immigrants drive down the wages of American workers, it likewise makes no sense to keep them in the underground economy, where unscrupulous employers can pay them less than a normal market wage. Once they can work legally, their wages are likely to rise, reducing any downward pressure on earnings.""''

    But then they become worthless Americans who demand too much and Reason Mag will praise the next batch of illegal's willing to do "Jobs that Americans wont' do". Remember the 1986 amnesty, we needed them to pick our crops and mow our lawns, and as soon as they became legal they refused to do it at the old cheap price and so the next wave of illegals poured in with Reason Magazine cheering them on..

  • tarran||

    My goodness! To the fainting couch!

  • DJF||

    I know, its shocking that a magazine called Reason would have such a poorly reasoned article. I almost had to get the smelling salts.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Well...there goes all pretense of going into work sober.

  • ||

    why did you ever bother with the pretense? You are a drunken master, after all

  • JohnD||

    I thought it was pretty typical of most Reason articles.

  • DJF||

    “”””What's wrong with that? Just about everything. It means 11 million people, including 1.7 million brought here as children (the "dreamers"), will go on living among us without the protections of the law.”””’

    They still are protected by the law, if someone robs them the police will fill out a report just like they will for a citizen. And just like for citizens if they are found to have been breaking other laws when they report a crime then they will be charged with them. You don’t think that when I report a crime, the police don’t check me out and find out that I have 47 parking tickets and 6 citations for failure to mow my lawn?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The difference is when you report a crime, you're most likely certain that the police aren't going to find any violation that will jeopardize your livelihood and home. You have to admit that in certain communities the risk of imprisonment and deportation has a chilling effect on the reporting of crime to the police, and thus, a greater amount of crime is allowed to flourish in these areas due to lack of enforcement.

  • DJF||

    “”””the risk of imprisonment and deportation”””

    47 parking tickets and 6 citations to mow my lawn will both risk imprisonment and the loss of my car and home.

    And deportation is the price you pay for illegal entry, if you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    47 parking tickets and 6 citations to mow my lawn will both risk imprisonment and the loss of my car and home.

    I was assuming that you weren't that bad of a driver. Anyway, my argument also applies for marijuana users and any of the myriad other victimless crimes our state chooses to prosecute.

    Again, if it would mean a overall reduction of violent crime everywhere by removing a barrier to increased and more effective law enforcement in these communities, I would be all for the decriminalization of all victimless crimes.

  • cricket23||

    Illegal Aliens Receive Billions in IRS Tax Benefits

    Friday, 23 Sep 2011 05:17 PM

    By James Walsh

    On July 7, 2011, the U.S. Department of Treasury's inspector general for tax
    administration issued a startling report entitled "Individuals Who Are Not
    Authorized to Work in the United States Were Paid $4.2 Billion in Refundable
    Credits."

    No wonder the nation's finances are in turmoil.


    ******It is clear that unauthorized aliens are filing ITIN tax returns with
    fraudulent data.******


    The Treasury report found that "One common type of
    fraudulent refund involves taxpayers fabricating a Wage and Tax Statement
    (Form W-2) that shows excess withholding and results in a tax refund."


    Read more on Newsmax.com: Illegal Aliens Receive Billions in IRS Tax
    Benefits

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Well that settles it! We can't have these foreigners stealing tax fraud jobs from dishonest Americans! cricket23 fabricates his W-2 fair and square!

  • OldMexican||

    Re; DJF,

    They still are protected by the law, if someone robs them the police will fill out a report just like they will for a citizen.


    The naive is strong with this one.

  • WomSom||

    I like the sound of that man. WOw.

    www.Secure-Web.tk

  • Ted S.||

    Illegal immigrants would provide the alt-text that native born Americans refuse to.

  • Almanian!||

    What difference, at this point, does it make?

    that's now my answer to everything political/governmental

  • Almanian!||

    "Conservatives usually recognize the futility of resisting powerful market forces."

    Gonna have to disagree with you on this one, Steve. See War on Drugs, War on Teh Gaiz, Neverending Wars of Global Imperial Might. Lotsa potential "market" signals being ignored - those are just three examples.

    Besides - what difference, at this point, does it make?

  • SIV||

    There's a war on gays?

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm trying to figure out how Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song figures into all of this.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Well, the land of ice and snow doesn't have a lot of brown people, so it probably fits in somehow for those who like to call people opposed to completely open borders racist.

  • ||

    Because wherever you come from, whatever your beliefs, you can recognise the Zep's awesomeness

  • cricket23||

    Ray Stevens - Come to the USA

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....ure=relmfu

  • General Butt Naked||

    That was awful and belongs nowhere near a Led Zeppelin subthread.

    Jesus.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Conservatives usually recognize the futility of resisting powerful market forces.

    And libertarians usually recognize the futility of ignoring incentives.

  • Cosmo Punch||

    It's Time to Face Facts About Illegal Immigration

    It sure is!

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Poor Americlown, still bitterly clinging to pseudoscientific paradigms and claiming the reason these "studies" are ignored is the NWO-Zionist-Lizard People conspiracy in Academia and not the fact that they are based on disproved theoretical models and faulty methodology...nope, we just can't handle the "truth" about phrenology "Human BioPerversity".

    You're pathetic.

  • Cosmo Punch||

    If you think those are "pseudoscientific paradigms", I'd like to see you back that up. Apparently his numbers, far from being ignored by academia, were good enough to be vetted by three Harvard professors. Where are yours?

  • cricket23||

    " Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida argued this morning on "This Week" that a key provision of the bill, the so-called "pathway to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants, would not give anything away".

    Sure it does Senator, it gives or sells our American citizenship to 11 million illegal aliens that broke our Immigration Laws to get here!

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    It's sad when some politicians and segments of our population want to degrade our American Citizenship to the point where it has no value or meaning.

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    "This amnesty will give citizenship to only 1.1 to 1.3 million illegal aliens. We will secure the borders henceforth. We will never again bring forward another amnestybill like this."

    -- Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy on the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 19869884.

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    DEMOCRATS ARE LIARS!

    "The agreement we just reached is the best possible chance we will have in
    years to secure our borders, bring millions of people out of the shadows and
    into the sunshine of America"
    May 17, 2007

    Ted Kennedy -- Senator from Massachusetts
    Member of the Democratic Party

  • AdamJ||

    The idea that we are somehow giving something away when we allow people to become citizens is profoundly Un-American. This is the protectionism of union thugs and rent-seekers who come up with barriers to entry and insane licensing schemes. If you want to be an American, I'm fine with you becoming one.

    And the crap about them breaking laws to be here incorrectly assumes that there is a legal way to get into this country.

  • DarrenM||

    We are giving away certain rights within this country when giving someone citizenship. You just don't happen to value those rights, so you natually judge them as 'nothing'. This is true with the reverse. If you acquire citizenship in Canada, for example, you are obtaining something of value, rights that apply within that country. You can explain to Canadians, Mexicans, etc., that citizenship within the corresponding nation has no value. I'm sure some will agree.

    Yes, there is a legal way to enter this country (and stay permanently). It's called a 'green card'.

  • JohnD||

    AdamJ, you're a fool. Trying getting into Mexico illegally.

  • AdamJ||

    The current debate on immigration seems way too concerned with what to do with the people that are here and not concerned at all with the people that will be coming. Do current immigrants want citizenship or do they just want to work? This debate over amnesty misses the point; we need to totally overhaul the visa system to allow people a legal way to be here and earn a living because they are coming and people are hiring them.

    On the other hand, Iraq is totally a beacon of freedom and democracy now, so maybe people will just immigrating there.

  • DarrenM||

    I tried to post this before, but I'm not sure it got through. The site was acting flaky.

    My wife regrets getting U.S. citizenship. She would rather have a green card. It's less hassle when she goes back to China. I'd think most Mexicans would prefer this. Normally, anyone coming here and staying illegally would be denied re-entering the U.S., let alone citizenship. It's not unreasonable to deny citizenship to anyone coming here illegally. It's really not much of a burden. You don't get to vote and there are certain government jobs you won't be qualified for. The good news is that you get to pay taxes.

  • Rich||

    It'll get even more interesting as millions of US citizens pour into Mexico in search of a better future.

  • ||

    Once they can work legally, their wages are likely to rise, reducing any downward pressure on earnings.

    Well herpity derpity, problem solved, right?

    Chapman amazingly gets it right in regards to incentives and then forgets it 2 sentences later. The entire reason there is a market for illegal aliens is because they are able to work outside the parameters of the incredible clusterfuck of US labor law - wage controls being a literal drop in the bucket compared to, say, the new health care mandate among the myriad other regulatory burdens employers have to endure. Make them legal and they instantly lose all of their utility to their employers, you'll need a commensurate number of newcomers to replace them, and you can start the cycle all over again. Rinse and repeat ad infinitum until you address the actual underlying causes of illegal immigration rather than the symptom - the presence of illegal aliens.

    It's a lot easier to make the debate a dichotomy between emotional narratives of poor brown childrunz, but setting aside the bullshit, it's somewhat surprising that anybody with more than a handful of brain cells supports this iteration of the exact same formula we've been using to address immigration for 30 years when it doesn't even acknowledge, let alone attempt to address, the more fundamental problems with our system as it exists today.

  • ||

    Unless your contention is that employers hire illegal immigrants because they just love messicans, I think you missed the point (which is rather unsurprising). Low-skilled illegal immigrants have more utility to employers than low-skilled Americans only because of the massive distortions in the labor market created by government - wage floors, as I mentioned, being a relatively tiny component in comparison to other regulatory compliance costs. All else equal, if 2 equally unskilled workers approach you for a job, one comes with $35 per hour in compliance costs in addition to his state-mandated wage, the other comes with $0 per hour in compliance costs in addition to the wage that you and he agree upon, you'd have to be an idiot not to make the deal with the latter worker. By putting that worker on parity with the former worker (by giving him legal status) you've eliminated all the incentive to hire him, which means in all likelihood the employer is simply going to move on to the next batch of illegal immigrants to avoid the same costs since the supply is highly unlikely to ever diminish substantially. Then you can repeat the cycle all over again after that batch of illegal immigrants has settled and had childrunz with dreamz.

    But this is a grown up economic argument. It's really got nothing to do with you.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    No "Solution" to the immigration problem is going to work until we no longer share a 1900+ mile border with an economic basket case. Sadly, the decent of Mexico into chaos is not the kind of problem that will be solved by government action. Quite the opposite! Oh, if we were now the country we were circa 1870, and we decided to invade and conquer that might, possible, work to some limited degree. Under present economic, political, and social conditions? Just another bad choice.

    So Immigration will continue to be a club with which either party can beat the other, since nobody's 'solutions' are going to work worth a goddamn.

  • OldMexican||

    That should be "the descent of Mexico into chaos..."

  • DarrenM||

    No "Solution" to the immigration problem is going to work until we no longer share a 1900+ mile border with an economic basket case.

    We may as well invade now and annex Mexico. Of course, then we'll have to start worrying about those Guatamalans.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    If I thought for a fat instance that we had the right temperament for it I would be in favor of invading tomorrow. We don't. I don't see us GETTING the right temperament any time soon either.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: DJF,

    But then they become worthless Americans who demand too much[...]


    An admission that Americans on welfare are a) worthless and b) protective of their racket territory.

    Reason Mag will praise the next batch of illegal's willing to do "Jobs that Americans wont' do".


    The system will collapse whether the 11 million you mention get into welfare or not. There's absolutely nothing you can do about it; besides, it wll probably be better for the whole country if the system collapses sooner rather than later.

    Remember the 1986 amnesty, we needed them to pick our crops and mow our lawns, and as soon as they became legal they refused to do it


    They refused? All of them? Why, after all we have done for these people! Those ingrates! Free will my ass!

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Yep it's crazy to think that immigrants will respond to the welfare state's perverse incentives in the same way that home grown poor people do.

    In fact, it's racist.

  • ||

    Because a country with a population half that of the NYC metro area, roughly the same geographical area as California, with a completely different tax structure, that shares land borders with equally prosperous countries extrapolates perfectly to the United States. Don't you worry bro. We just need moar taxes and less immigrants and your welfare state will be fine!

  • Eric Bana||

    People talk about our immigration laws as if they are sacred and holy. What irks me the most is when people talk about how their great-grandparents immigrated LEGALLY. Well, your great-grandparents didn't have to deal with hardly ANY of the asinine laws on the books today barring immigrants from this country, now did they? Learn to get your f***ing facts straight.

  • DarrenM||

    People talk about our immigration laws as if they are sacred and holy.

    There is nothing "sacred and holy" about them, but they *are* laws on the books. If there is a problem, then change them. If government just selectively enforces or ignores laws, what is the point in having any?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    "your great-grandparents didn't have to deal with hardly ANY of the asinine laws on the books today barring immigrants from this country, now did they?"

    No, they had to deal with the asinine immigration laws that existed at the time. Immigration law has a tendency to be asinine, racist, elitist, and so forth. If there is a time when we had immigration laws and they WEREN'T asinine, I am not aware of it.

  • DarrenM||

    Efforts to make life miserable for those who are not supposed to be here have not made them leave.

    It can't be that miserable if they choose to stay here. Since you refer to the shared border, I assume you are referring to Mexican illegal immigrants (though I suppose you could be also referring to Canadians). I'm sure you think it's terrible to be born any place other than in the United States, but that's life.

  • Jerryskids||

    I don't give a rats ass about looking at the numbers when the numbers are all about whether or not I, as an American citizen, am better or worse off by giving a non-American citizen permission to live in my country. The only determinant for that is whether or not the particular immigrant thinks he is better off. If he wants to live in my house, wear my clothes, eat my food or drive my car I have the right to say yes or no but I don't see that my country is my country in that way - once he moves here it's his country too. I have no more right to tell someone they can't live in this country than I do to tell him he can't live in my neighborhood.

    Not that this is a popular opinion, of course - lots of people have no problem whatsoever insisting that they have the right to determine who moves into their neighborhood.

  • ||

    I have no more right to tell someone they can't live in this country than I do to tell him he can't live in my neighborhood.

    ^Has never lived in a HOA community...

  • InOurInterest||

    (Part 1) The facts and logic provided by the author are deplorably flawed.

    First of all, we have become the dumping ground for the country of Mexico. The separation of the classes is enormousness there. History has shown that when this happens revolutions ensue. This is why, rather than fix the Mexican socioeconomic infrastructure, Mexico's El Presedente always appears to be in a desperate mode to force the lower echelon of his country onto our backs. Mexico is a virtual pressure cooker that would otherwise explode except for a faulty pressure release valve - our borders.

    As a result, we take the burden of... under the guise of getting some kind of a great deal for our economy by taking on what is essentially Mexico's outcasts. Think about it logically: If it were such a great economic deal, why wouldn't El Presedente be fighting to keep his people in Mexico, rather than pushing them off on the US? To take on a group that has already run down our economic resources like locus is a ludicrous proposition. Try watching the movie Soilent Green. And then there is Rubio's proposition; it doesn't even take into consideration any of the multitude of anchor babies that would surely confuse his design. Cont...

  • InOurInterest||

    (Part 2) Additionally, Rubio claims that he would screen out any criminals? Guess what? The majority of illegal aliens who are here are functioning under stolen identifications (a felony), and by virtue of the fact that they have come here "illegally" makes them criminals by definition. Furthermore, it is demonstrated on a daily basis that many of these individuals participate in other human and drug smuggling. Let's be clear, its not the best and the brightest Mexico's El Presedente is trying to push on our backs, its the dregs of his society.

    The solution is to militarize the border as it is a threat to our country, and let the pressure build up within the walls of Mexico and let nature take its course. If this means that the corrupt government of Mexico will be overthrown and restructured in such a way that it is then fair to its people, then so be it. We can assist in that restructure when it happens.

  • merchantilist||

    The bill makes it clear (under threat of fines) that immigrations can not reveal to police any information they discover about a not prosecuted crime.

  • XM||

    Union membership is dropping fast except for places like California, where SEIU is still steadily gaining Latino members.

    The employers who operate off the books and pay their workers cash under the table won't be able to afford "living wages", health benefits, and safety regulations the illegal laborers may demand once they receive their citizenship. If they start suing people, then that's all she wrote.

    The immigration reform will do nothing. Those who once worked in the "shadows" would be eligible to work at a Mcdonalds somewhere, where they would make less money than they did working for a business owner that paid you cash and allowed you to cut corners or engage in activities that avoided the middleman and save money and time.

  • dstarke||

    Pretty clear that we _do not_ enforce our immigration laws, even to the slightest. We cannot predict what will happen, cause we _never_ tried it!

  • ||

    Well I mean, labor totally isn't an input cost, so minimum wage laws and regulatory compliance costs that double or triple the hourly wage have no economic consequences. So naturally there would be no incentive for employers to dodge those things. They're just trying to deprive you of the beach condo lifestyle to which you are clearly entitled as a lettuce picker or housekeeper. It's not like we can count on markets to work out what a "living wage" is.

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  • igotnuthin||

    So my one question about immigration and the Libertarian response to it is...How can you be FOR open borders when we have a massive welfare state? Isn't opening up Immigration a step that needs to be taken AFTER the massive welfare state is diminished/eliminated? I feel I am a pure libertarian, but I'm not an idiot. I don't support letting more people in to this country until we fix all the government giveaways.

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  • merchantilist||

    When a policy is not successful there are at least two possible conclusions. One is that the policy just won't work and the other is it has been poorly implemented or that not enough of the actions have been undertaken. Enough work place enforcement and a police force that apprehends illegals and report them to a functioning immigration enforcement authority should get the job done. Clearly enforcement has been thwarted by Bush and Obama shirking their duties and by mayor like Bloomberg that has helped illegals violate the laws.

    American workers are unemployed and under employed in the 10s of millions. This is not an economy with labor shortage. The proposed immigration bill would double immigration in the next 10 years, add hundreds of thousands of work permits and give work permits to illegal here only a few months. This is a policy designed to make life difficult for workers and tax payers and also undermine the rule of law.

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