Why Immigration Makes America Better

Nothing says “big government” like controlling individuals through massive federal programs, electrified fences, and biometric ID cards.

Speaking at a “Stop Amnesty” rally in Richmond the other day, Iowa Rep. Steve King explained why Americans should be banned from Canada.

“If you bring people from a violent civilization into a less-violent civilization,” he said, “you’re going to have more violence, right? It’s like pouring hot water into cold water. Does it raise the temperature or not?” Since Canada’s violent crime rate is less than half that of the United States, the next step should be obvious: Secure the border – the northern one – to make sure Canada is not overrun by violent Americans.

Obviously, King was trying to make a different point: He was trying to explain why America should seal its southern border to keep out immigrants from Latin America. But his argument works just as well the other way around. For that matter, it works just as well as a rationale for banning immigration from South Carolina to Maine.

That’s not the only reason King is – with apologies to Australian lawmaker Tony Abbott – the “suppository of all wisdom” about immigration. To make matters worse, his argument is empirically wrong on two counts.

First, he says crime in the Americas increases the farther south you go. That would be news to nations such as Argentina and Chile, whose crime rates are lower than ours. Second, he is wrong to suggest adding more immigrants would raise the U.S. crime rate. In fact, the opposite would happen.

That is not new information. Five years ago the Public Policy Institute of California noted that U.S.-born adult men are more than three times as likely to be in prison than foreign-born men, and that “noncitizen men from Mexico ages 18-40 – a group disproportionately likely to have entered the United States illegally – are more than eight times less likely than U.S.-born men in the same age group to be in a correctional setting.”

Similar findings have been reported again and again. As many observers have noted, U.S. crime rates fell rapidly from 1990 to 2010. During that same period, the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. tripled, and foreign-born residents of all kinds grew from 7.9 percent of the population to 12.9 percent. Immigrants from Latin American countries have lower incarceration rates than native-born Americans and, according to the Immigration Policy Institute, “this holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population.”

To be fair, the crime picture is not uniformly sunny. For example: The U.S.-born children and grandchildren of Latino immigrants tend to start committing crimes at higher rates than their parents and grandparents. Perhaps it’s the bad environment, eh? To borrow King’s analogy, maybe America’s boiling cauldron of violence tends to heat up the cool waters of immigration that get poured into it.

King’s remarks raise another issue. Ostensibly, he was speaking about illegal immigration. But his comments apply just as well to immigration of the legal kind. This might be awkward for immigration hawks, many of whom insist they don’t mind if foreigners come to the U.S. legally. Then again, maybe not: King’s visit was arranged by the hard-line group NumbersUSA.

NumbersUSA does not simply want to reduce illegal immigration. It wants to reduce all immigration. In fact, it wants to limit every form of population growth.

“The 1990s saw the biggest population boom in U.S. history,” the group says on its website. “This is truly astounding news coming three decades after widespread agreement among Americans that the country was mature and probably already overpopulated. No wonder Americans became increasingly alarmed at their deteriorating quality of life due to sprawl, congestion, overcrowded schools, lost open spaces and increasing restrictions on their individual liberty caused by the new population explosion!”

Population control? To the Tea Party Patriots and other conservatives who helped organized the Richmond event, that should sound more like a UN-driven, big-government conspiracy than sound, small-government philosophy. If so, then they might want to read a recent piece about NumbersUSA in The Atlantic.

“The Little Group Behind the Big Fight to Stop Immigration Reform” explains that while opposition to amnesty “is generally considered a right-wing view . . . NumbersUSA’s roots are more unorthodox than that – in the population-control movement that has counted environmentalists and abortion-rights activists among its allies. When [Executive Director Roy] Beck started the group in 1996, he was working for John Tanton, a reclusive 79-year-old ophthalmologist who lives in rural Michigan and once founded local chapters of the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood.”

Granted, politics makes for strange bedfellows. But some Tea Partiers who wake up to their newfound partners’ full agenda might want to chew their own arms off. In fact, they might want to rethink the entire conservative platform on immigration. Nothing says “big government” like controlling the free movement of individuals through massive federal programs, electrified fences, biometric ID cards, and mandating government permission slips before businesses can hire willing workers.

To borrow from King one last time: If you have a free society and you pour all those elements into it, you’re going to have less freedom, right?

This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  • ||

    A. Barton Hinkles on Why Immigration Makes America Better

    Are there more than one of him now?

  • April06||

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  • Raston Bot||

    But some Tea Partiers who wake up to their newfound partners’ full agenda might want to chew their own arms off.

    Coincidentally, in a post about immigration, that move is known as "the coyote."

  • creech||

    Rep. King is undoubtedly correct that his Irish ancestors should have been kept penned up in Hell's Kitchen with the large criminal element instead of finding him eventually let loose on Long Island to join that criminal gang known as "U.S. Congress."

  • Inigo M.||

    Wrong King. I think the one in the article is from Michigan, not NY.

  • WTF||

    According to Rep. Steve King, “If you bring people from a violent civilization into a less-violent civilization, you’re going to have more violence, right?

    Like the Irish?

  • JohnD||

    No, like the Italians.

  • R C Dean||

    I like the photo selection here, from after the La Raza folks got the message that marching under Mexican flags isn't good PR in the US, so they switched to US flags.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    “This is truly astounding news coming three decades after widespread agreement among Americans that the country was mature and probably already overpopulated.

    The US is not even close to being overpopulated.

    Population density of the continents:

    North America - 32 people per square mile
    South America - 73 people per square mile
    Europe - 134 people per square mile
    Asia - 203 people per square mile
    Africa - 65 people per square mile
    Australia - 6.4 people per square mile

    The population density of the planet (including all land area) is about 105 people per square mile. If Antarctica is eliminated (since it has zero population density), the world population density rises only to 115 people per square mile.

    The population density of the United States is approximately 76 people per square mile.
  • Libertymike||

    How do you define overpopulated?

    The relative scale is not the answer; it usually is a sanctuary for those who have lost an argument.

  • anon||

    How do you define overpopulated?

    A boogeyman.

  • Almanian!||

    BOO!

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    So do you think the US is overpopulated? If so why?

    If you look at the population vs. arable land, the US is number 205 on the list of countries. We are no where close to being overpopulated.

  • Almanian!||

    Agreed. Like, seriously - other than LA and New Nawk, a few other places that are beyond claustrophobic, one thing we gots is LAND and SPACE.

    Our trip out west a couple years ago was...enlightening. But even in MI, which is relatively well settled....miles, and miles, and miles of forest with not a human being to be seen. Ohio - same. Indiana - same. Illinois - same. And that's just in the neighborhood...

    Overpopulated? Not the US.

  • Rhywun||

    You want that space, you buy it.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Man, Vermont and most of New England is, like, all trees.

  • XM||

    "North America - 32 people per square mile"

    Is that because Canada is the second largest country in the world but has less population than the state of California?

  • Calidissident||

    Read the rest of his comment. The US's population density is higher, but still well below the density of Europe or Asia

  • Calidissident||

    Better? Worse?

    Define "overpopulated" in a way that doesn't mean "more populated than I would like" and prove the US is overpopulated. Having a greater population density than Australia does not make a country overpopulated

  • Calidissident||

    As I thought. Great arguments, American

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    After all, what else is "overpopulation" other than "more populated than I would like."

    Exceeding the carrying capacity of the land.

  • ||

    Exceeding the carrying capacity of the land.

    Given trade, this is not the case at all.

    Manhattan would be way overpopulated by this metric. And yet people survive there, and survive well.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Given trade, this is not the case at all.

    Manhattan would be way overpopulated by this metric. And yet people survive there, and survive well.

    That was kind of my point. You also have to look at exceeding the infrastructure demands (sewer, utilities, transportation, etc). Look at Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan; all greatly in excess of NYC and doing fine.

  • JohnD||

    The problem is that too many live in large cities.

  • Libertymike||

    Who in their right mind would ever vote for Peter King?

  • anon||

    Just imagine how bad the alternatives must have been.

  • Inigo M.||

    I don't know, but the representative quoted in the article was Steve King, not Peter King. No relation, so far as I know.

  • Almanian!||

    Well I think the important thing is just this:

    A. Barton Hinkleheimerschmidt!
    His name is my name, too!
    Whenever we go out
    people always shout,
    "There goes A. Barton Hinkleheimerscmidt!!"
    LALALALALALALA!

  • Raven Nation||

    Reason discussion boards, where the learning never stops.

  • Almanian!||

    We are here to annoy and serve.

  • Raven Nation||

    You are succeeding.

  • Art Vandelay||

    "...and serve."

    So when are you bringing me that drink I ordered!

  • OldMexican||

    Why Immigration Makes America Better


    You don't need to go into complicated explanations. You only need to know 2 things to know why immigration makes America better.

    1. DIVISION OF LABOR
    2. COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE

    That's it. Most pundits and talk-radio hosts never grant consideration to either of these two very basic (and very real) economic concepts because of either economic ignorance or denial.

  • anon||

    2. COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE

    To be fair, trying to get idiots to understand how someone, somewhere, might do something better than someone else (due to any number of reasons) has proven itself to be an exercise in futility for me.

  • XM||

    What jobs can immigrants do better than "Americans" by default because they're not from here?

    The vast, vast majority of immigrants (even among Latinos) will never sign up for random seasonal fruit picking jobs and aren't fit for them. Some of them are barely qualified for sales or retail.

    If you assembled super cool cutting edge robots in Japan and moved to LA, chances are, you'll be working at a broken down computer repair shop. Unless you're family is rich, and your cousins in America have mad connections. Well, that's actually true for some Asians.

    It's ultimately freedom and innovation that makes America better, immigrants are major players. But many aren't. Whenever I read immigration related online articles in Korean language newspapers, half the commentators wish their fellow immigrants would just go home, or boast how things are actually better in Korea. At least they're not white, huh?

  • Calidissident||

    I don't think anyone should ever take online comment sections as a good barometer of anything. Selection bias and all that

  • ||

    What jobs can immigrants do better than "Americans" by default because they're not from here?

    Please google "comparative advantage".

  • Sidd Finch||

    The comment he responded to wasn't about comparative advantage.

  • anon||

    What jobs can immigrants do better than "Americans" by default because they're not from here?

    "Doing better" includes doing cheaper.

  • hotsy totsy||

    "If you assembled super cool cutting edge robots in Japan and moved to LA, chances are, you'll be working at a broken down computer repair shop."

    But then, why would you come here?

    "Unless your family is rich."

    How did they get rich? Did they possibly produce something that other people valued and were willing to pay them for?

  • XM||

    Because you want your kids to attend the UC system and achieve their American dream.

    Did you ever see movies or TV shows where struggling immigrant says "I was a surgeon in my country (or some big shot)". That happens in real life.

    Well, not as much now. I think most Asians will just send their kids here for education but stay home.

  • Inigo M.||

    Only a fool of a robotics expert would move to LA and go to work in a computer repair shop. (Do they even have many of those anymore?)

    Especially today, with online resources such as LinkedIn, there is no reason not to make the right professional connections to open doors. Even pre-Internet, you could establish connections through an institution such as a university, or the Japanese representative office of a US company (or vice-versa).

    Anyone smart enough to build cool, cutting edge robots could probably figure something like this out.

  • Sidd Finch||

    2. COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE

    To be fair, trying to get idiots to understand how someone, somewhere, might do something better than someone else (due to any number of reasons) has proven itself to be an exercise in futility for me.

    Uhmm, that's just plain old advantage.

  • Cytotoxic||

    does it improve wages for American workers?

    1) I don't care. 2) It does.

    welfare, crime, or social degradation.

    Those things inversely correlated with immigration.

  • hotsy totsy||

    "The question is simple, does it improve wages for American workers?"

    Why would that be an important question? It's up to each individual American to improve his OWN wage. For example, if he has to compete with uneducated people, then GET AN EDUCATION.

  • Hawk Spitui||

    1. DIVISION OF LABOR
    2. COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE

    Those might be a rationale for trade, but unless you're positing that for some reason the current population of the US is incapable of dividing their labour or specializing in specific skills, it has nothing to do with immigration, whatsoever.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Hawk Spitui,

    Those might be a rationale for trade


    Division of labor pertains to productivity, not just trade. Comparative advantage pertains to productivity, not just trade.

    Please wet yourself with some economics before attempting to spar with the big boys.

  • ||

    unless you're positing that for some reason the current population of the US is incapable of dividing their labour or specializing in specific skills, it has nothing to do with immigration, whatsoever.

    It is readily apparent from the numbers of high-skilled immigrants that the US could use more specialization in, say, high tech.

    But the point you completely miss is that in order for the population of the US to increase its specialization, someone needs to do the jobs that require little or no specialization. If you do not open those up on a free labor market, that production must induce through high wages US residents to take lower skilled jobs than they are qualified for, or, more likely, that production simply does not happen.

  • Hawk Spitui||

    If there was a shortage of labor to preform those jobs, then wages should already be going up. Given that wages are not going up, there is apparently no shortage of labor.

    Further, as Peter Schaefer points out here, when wages fall below the cost of living, the difference will be subsidized by public services. In other words, the price of labor isn't getter cheaper, you're merely socializing the cost and privatizing the profit.

  • Hawk Spitui||

    And the basis of your assumption that higher immigration leads to greater productivity is...?

  • OldMexican||

    As many observers have noted, U.S. crime rates fell rapidly from 1990 to 2010. During that same period, the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. tripled


    I hate to point out a very important fact that reads as politically incorrect, but it has been seen that as immigrants start to populate those places that were previously occupied by black Americans, the crime rate in those neighborhoods tends to go down. I am saying this not to disparage black Americans since most of their problems stem from a policy of systematic undermining of their communities through welfaris and the war on drugs, but to point out that what Rep. Kind says is just not true at all and is in fact an example of what experts would call (using the medical term): lying his ass off.

    http://www.immigrationpolicy.o.....nd-crime-0

  • PH2050||

    "Call a spade a spade" LOL

  • Cytotoxic||

    Nope.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Yeah well, our (Canada) rape and assault figures aren't so hot - I believe worse than the USA on a per cap basis.

  • Cytotoxic||

    The major reason for that is race, Black Americans

    So clearly we should live in terror of Mexicans crossing the border.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: XM,

    What jobs can immigrants do better than "Americans" by default because they're not from here?


    The answer is all those jobs where the labor cost has to be lower than the expected productive output. Those jobs.

    The vast, vast majority of immigrants (even among Latinos) will never sign up for random seasonal fruit picking jobs and aren't fit for them.


    If they aren't, then there is no demand for their labor and thus they will not come. As simple as that. Besides, it is not only fruit picking where immigrants are productive enough - and cheap enough - to make their hiring more sensical.

    In order for the market to convey the right signals, the market for labor must be free.

  • bassjoe||

    Citation? Or do you just prefer to say the same thing multiple times on conjecture?

  • bassjoe||

    Also pre-naturanlized immigrants do NOT get deported. They GO TO PRISON

  • ||

    It essentially means that the new immigrants will be better able to do certain jobs than natives.

    Please google "comparative advantage".

  • Jake345||

    actually that did happen, idiot

  • Jake345||

    Nothing says “big government” like controlling individuals through massive federal programs, electrified fences, and biometric ID cards....

    or better

    Nothing says “big government” like allowing poor immigrants move into a country and vote for socialistic policies and wealth transfers..

  • Homple||

    Forget it, Jake, it's reason commenters.

  • Calidissident||

    "Nothing says “big government” like allowing poor immigrants"

    Allowing poor immigrants to move here does not require government action, simply inaction. I don't see how government not doing something is big government

    "vote for socialistic policies and wealth transfers."

    Because native born Americans don't vote for that? Since when is voting preference ingrained in DNA?

  • PH2050||

    Holy shit the title is pure Merkin bait haha

  • bassjoe||

    These articles are great. The libertarians battling the big gov "law and order" jingoists (who like to think of themselves as libertarian) in the comment thread.

  • laurenrhoades||

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  • Ann N||

    What the article gloriously misses is that if we had a secure border we could safely assume all persons inside were either tourists who needed visa paperwork, or legal citizens.

    if we got rid of porous borders we would not, as citizens, need to hand our 'papers to the KGB' upon request.

    immigrant invasion helps statists create several probelms that need fixing. the fact they are poor and vote democrat is just a bonus.

  • ||

    ...tourists who needed visa paperwork...

    There are 5 million of these.

  • granite state destroyer||

    "Since Canada’s violent crime rate is less than half that of the United States, the next step should be obvious: Secure the border – the northern one – to make sure Canada is not overrun by violent Americans."

    If large numbers of African-Americans and Southern whites started moving to Canada, Canada would be completely justified in trying to secure its border with the US. Luckily for Canada they don't get many immigrants from their violent neighbor to the South.

  • Michele Lavigne||

    Yes, this is obvious fact that people take their civilization with them where they go and it has been seen that they live in more civilized manner in other country than they live in their own country.

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  • Federale||

    Lazy immigrants on welfare, such as the 57% of Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, will not improve America. They will vote for higher taxes and more welfare spending, more free healthcare, more regulation of business, more gun control, and less freedom. Immigrants are bad for free enterprise, immigrants are bad for the 2nd Amendment, immigrants are bad for lower taxes, immigrants are bad for lower welfare spending, and immigrants are bad for cheaper, freer healthcare. They will vote for more pot and taxpayer funded abortions, the only two issues that "libertarians" care about.

  • Federale||

    Immigrants commit more crime than white Americans. Immigrants have higher welfare use rates that all Americans, and much more than white Americans. Immigrants are a net drain on the country. Claiming that they work harder than America's welfare class, most blacks and Hispanics, is not evidence that immigrants are good for America, but just saying they are better than our welfare class. Just saying something does not make it true. 57% of Mexican immigrants are on welfare. That is evidence enough that immigration is bad for America. One should also note that not many Americans immigrate either legally or illegally to Canada.

  • Federale||

    Immigrants commit more crime than white Americans. Immigrants have higher welfare use rates that all Americans, and much more than white Americans. Immigrants are a net drain on the country. Claiming that they work harder than America's welfare class, most blacks and Hispanics, is not evidence that immigrants are good for America, but just saying they are better than our welfare class. Just saying something does not make it true. 57% of Mexican immigrants are on welfare. That is evidence enough that immigration is bad for America. One should also note that not many Americans immigrate either legally or illegally to Canada.

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