Immigration

The One-Man Wall

How a single Arizona legislator's obsession has changed immigration policy for the worse

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Russell Pearce was far from home the day his son got shot. Minutes from the White House, the state legislator was preaching the Pearce gospel. "They're taking jobs away from Americans," he told a small audience at a prominent DC think tank. "Health care systems are failing. The education system has imploded. Eighty percent of the violent crimes in Phoenix are involving illegal aliens." Pearce speaks softly, and he has a sad-puppy look about him when he mentions the men and women he has devoted his life to pushing back behind the Mexican border. "You can't continue to pander and have pathetic policies that hurt America."

Moments later, a Brookings Institution staffer handed Pearce a note instructing him to call his wife LuAnne—"now." Pearce's son Sean, a sheriff's deputy in Arizona's Maricopa County, was being airlifted to a hospital with a bullet lodged in his abdomen. Plane delays and red lights slowed an excruciating trip to a crawl. LuAnne called back with an update. "You're not going to believe this," she said. "Sean was shot by an illegal alien.' "

Rep. Russell Pearce talks little about himself and much about state politics, but his personal life has an uncanny way of colliding with his political obsessions. Like his son, Pearce bears a wound from his days in law enforcement: 30 years ago a Latino gang member put a bullet in his right hand, leaving it permanently disfigured. In a state where most people—Latino or otherwise—are transplants, the Republican lawmaker can honestly say that he has been observing the transformation of Arizona since the day he was born. For decades, he has watched, horrified, as his native city spread like syrup over the pancake-colored desert. Arizona is now the second fastest growing state in the nation, and the Phoenix-Mesa metropolitan region, where Pearce was born, raised, and elected, is the fastest growing region in the state.

Sun-seeking natives drove most of that growth, but over the last decade Arizona has become a major corridor for unauthorized immigrants. In the mid-1990s, federal authorities took Vietnam-era landing mats and erected a steel wall between Tijuana and California. Border agents, once a rare sight, began to dot the more populated Texas and California borders. So those who aspired to work in America charted a course right through the middle, braving the Sonoran Desert in hopes of avoiding armed guards. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 10 percent of Arizona's work force in 2005 was undocumented, twice the national average.

Pearce aims to change that, one way or another. He has been a state legislator for only eight years, but he has used nearly every political position he has held, from deputy sheriff to director of the Arizona Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Division, to crack down on undocumented workers. He wants to end birthright citizenship, slash immigration quotas, and throw up more walls. He has proposed that officials at the state's Child Protective Services be required to root out undocumented children. The representative of a city named Mesa, Pearce co-authored an initiative to ban the use of Spanish in most official communications. Most of all, he thinks anyone who puts "profits above patriotism" ought to be kept from doing business in the state of Arizona. In the summer of 2007, Pearce finally got his wish.

In July of last year the Arizona legislature passed Pearce's Fair and Legal Employers Act, also known as the Legal Arizona Workers Act, the most severe state-level anti-illegal immigration measure in the country. Under the bill, any company caught "knowingly" hiring someone not authorized to work could have its business license suspended. A second offense would bring permanent revocation. All employers would be required to use E-Verify, a federal electronic verification that is voluntary in the other 49 states. (See "Get in Line!," page 38.)

Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, had already vetoed "13 or 14" of his bills, so Pearce had a press release ready to go for when Napolitano rejected this one. But the veto never came. Napolitano called one of the provisions a "business death penalty," then signed anyway.

At a time of economic downturn, Pearce has volunteered the state for a radical experiment in state-level border control, an initiative emulated with varying degrees of success by state legislators in Oklahoma, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, and elsewhere. On the national level, Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) wants to force every American employer to check federal databases before hiring anyone. Shuler's bill is in limbo, and several state laws aimed at punishing employers of undocumented workers are tied up in the courts. But punishing employers polls well among the electorate, draws bipartisan support, and continues to tempt politicians in search of a movement.

Supporters of sanctions say they are the most effective way to keep undocumented workers from flooding the country; opponents say they will cripple legitimate businesses and force immigrants underground. No one really knows the full effect sanctions will have on an economy that has come to depend on Mexican builders, servers, janitors, nannies, and day laborers. Thanks to Russell Pearce, Arizona is about to find out.

Sheriff Joe and His Rival Ex-Deputy

Maria (her name, like those of other immigrants, has been changed for this story) is leaving Phoenix. It's not that she lacks papers. She is a permanent resident employed by the local school district, and she has lived in the U.S. for 17 years. But like many Latinos working legally, she has a close relative who is undocumented—her teenage son, Luis.

Last year, Luis witnessed a hit-and-run accident that left a Phoenix bicyclist on the side of the road. Maria says her son got out of the car, ran to the victim, and called the paramedics and police. When the police arrived at the scene, they asked for Luis' account of the accident. They then inquired into his immigration status and promptly arrested their witness. Luis was eventually released, but Maria resolved to go somewhere more welcoming—Utah perhaps, or Canada. She won't be leaving alone.

While it is difficult to know how many immigrants are packing up and moving on, Phoenix residents see evidence of a minor exodus. Apartment complexes that cater to low-income Latinos tell the local press that vacancies are up. Nancy Nicolosi—co-owner of Nicolosi & Fitch, which manages 3,000 apartments in Tucson—told the Arizona Star in January that the number of people disappearing with rent unpaid had jumped more than 300 percent during the previous year. A month later The New York Times reported that school districts in heavily Latino districts had seen sudden drops in enrollment, a sign that parents may be pulling their kids out of school and heading out of state.

In theory, the employer sanctions bill was meant to rid the state of illegal, not legal, immigrants. In practice, legal workers are the husbands, wives, parents, and children of the undocumented. As with a tumor surrounded by healthy tissue, it is impossible to excise the unauthorized without losing the productive, legal workers attached to them.

Sanctions aren't the only reason an immigrant in Arizona, with or without papers, might abandon his apartment, grab his kids, and find a new place to do business. In 2006 the state's economy was growing at a rate of 6.7 percent, double the national average. In 2007 growth slowed to 1.8 percent, and in 2008 it's expected to slow further as housing prices drop and once-plentiful construction jobs grow scarce. For her part, Maria is leaving neither because of the law nor because of the economy. She is simply tired of being harassed by a county that has turned its sheriff 's deputies into immigration informants.

It is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio who unleashes Pearce's legislative efforts upon Arizona. Typically, local sheriff 's deputies would not be empowered to enforce immigration law, a responsibility specific to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but Arpaio has an agreement with the federal government allowing 160 of his 750 deputies to arrest and detain thousands of undocumented workers. When Pearce passes a sanctions law allowing investigation of businesses suspected of hiring illegal immigrants, Arpaio can show up and begin arresting amusement park employees by the dozen. When Arpaio needs more funding to enforce a state "human smuggling" law aimed at workers themselves, Pearce can arrange it. The sheriff says he has turned over 15,312 men and women to ICE so far.

Pearce and Arpaio may seem like natural allies, but this cozy arrangement follows more than a decade of personal strain between the two public servants. Arpaio has been talking about "illegals" for only a few years. He first became famous for his harsh treatment of prisoners in the mid-1990s when he dressed Maricopa County's inmates in cartoonish black and white striped uniforms, shackled female prisoners in chain gangs, forced male inmates to wear emasculating pink underwear, and fed his charges green bologna. When federal law required that he give each inmate more room but the county refused to grant funds for a new brick-and-mortar jail, Arpaio built an internationally notorious "tent city" with barbed wire and surplus army tents donated by the Pentagon. The sheriff was unworried by the prospect of exposing inmates to 115-degree desert afternoons; if the tents were good enough for U.S. soldiers, he figured, they were good enough for convicts. Today, at the entrance of the still-standing jail, images of American soldiers in Iraq hang over a warning not to complain.

When he first ran for sheriff in 1992, Arpaio vowed not to serve more than four years. Russell Pearce, a decorated former officer with ambitions to succeed Arpaio, agreed to be his chief deputy for a single term; he says he was promised a fast track to the top slot. But Arpaio liked playing chief, and references to his one-term pledge dropped off considerably during his first year in office. Pearce eventually left in 1993, disappointed but unwilling to wait for the immensely popular Arpaio to tire of the job.

According to Pearce, Arpaio's attention-grabbing tent city jail was not the sheriff 's idea but his. It was Pearce who thought to use military surplus left over from Operation Desert Storm, Pearce who "refused to hang a 'no vacancy' sign on the county jail," Pearce who saved taxpayers millions while keeping them safe. "Sheriff Arpaio ran to be a one-term sheriff, and he changed his mind," he recalls. "In fact, I have an affidavit in my safe where he committed to [serve] one term, and so that was part of the deal, but you know what? I'm not an ego-driven guy, and like I told him, it doesn't matter to me."

The sheriff 's star continued to rise throughout the '90s, fueled not a little by his universally acknowledged yen for publicity. He espoused a militarized version of community policing, greatly expanding an existing network of volunteer posse members and acquiring an army tank to ride during Phoenix parades. He was engaged and unsubtle. But unlike Pearce, Arpaio was not a born border warrior, and he did not become one until public anti-immigration sentiment in the state reached a peak late in 2005.

After leaving the sheriff 's office, Pearce bounced around for a while, serving as the director of the Motor Vehicle Division until Republican Gov. Jane Hull canned him. One of the agency's employees had erased a driving under the influence charge from a woman's records as a political favor, and Pearce took the fall. (His then-20-year-old son Justin also left the division in disgrace, after printing state-issued IDs for his underage friends.) In 2000, Pearce was elected as state representative of Mesa, a conservative, Mormonfounded city east of Phoenix, on a platform of low taxes, strong values, and closed borders.

Four years in, thanks in part to term limits, Pearce managed to position himself as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, giving him crucial leverage over other legislators. He wasn't a publicity hound like Arpaio, but he would gladly stop and talk to anyone about immigration. And Arizona residents were ready to talk. "Russell did what bright lawmakers do: found an issue, made it his own," says Howard Fischer, a Phoenix-based journalist who covers the state legislature for Capitol Media Services. "He built a popular base of support, and he has found a willing audience throughout most of the rest of the state, much the same as the sheriff has found an audience."

Tapping into frustration over crowding, crime, and identity theft, Pearce found resonance in his own district while convincing his state colleagues that their constituencies, too, demanded action on immigration. Public anger was rising, and Republicans who would rather have treated immigration as a federal responsibility found themselves sidelined as Pearce hammered away. In the Arizona Republic, moderates accused the party of running a "dictatorship" and blacklisting dissenters.

Pearce's first important anti-immigration trophies were Proposition 200, a 2004 voter initiative that forced residents to prove their citizenship before registering to vote, and Proposition 103, a 2006 measure establishing English as the official language of Arizona. Prop 200 passed with 56 percent of the vote, and Prop 103 with 74 percent. "There was a lot of dry wood ready to catch fire, and Pearce was a spark," says Rodolfo Espino, an assistant professor of political science at Arizona State University. "Couple that with the failure of comprehensive immigration reform and a housing boom that created a tremendous need for workers."

The Fair and Legal Employment Act, which had faced stiffer opposition, was not, in the end, everything Pearce wanted. His initial proposal would have revoked business licenses on the first, not the second offense; anything less, he suggested at the time, would be "amnesty." But when the slightly less severe act finally passed, the man who had long languished under the shadow of "America's toughest sheriff" suddenly found himself on national news shows, talking up what he liked to call "the nation's toughest immigration law."

Employers or Enforcers?

Sheridan Bailey won't argue with that description. The sanctions law took effect on January 1, so the 64-year-old president of Ironco Enterprises, a steel fabrication firm in Phoenix, axed 30 percent of his work force just before Christmas of 2007. Most had families. One was an iron fitter who "could work circles around any other fitter" in the joint. Another had been in the United States his whole adult life. "He has been here since he was 5," says Bailey, with visible frustration. "He looks and talks—well, not exactly like me, but he's as American as anybody else."

To attract replacement talent, Bailey raised wages for some workers as much as 35 percent, but he says a labor shortage remains the greatest constraint on Ironco's growth. He tried forming a training program that recruited native-born Arizonans for the position of project manager, which pays $75,000 a year. "'Look,' we said, 'we'll train you to be welders and fitters; if you're sharp and hardworking, you can become a project manager,' " he recalls. "But none of those guys lasted more than 90 days. They couldn't show up on time. They couldn't park their car in the right place. They couldn't follow direction, so what we learned is you can't just go to recruit young people to do this kind of work."

Bailey turned to Alongside Ministries, an organization that helps ex-convicts find work. He tried U.S. Vets, an organization that helps ex-soldiers who are having trouble adjusting to civilian life. He asked a missionary friend for help recruiting refugees. "No matter what you raise the wages to," he says, "there aren't enough warm bodies." Construction delays are costly, so contractors can't take jobs if they aren't sure they'll have an adequate work force. Unable to find enough capable laborers stateside, Bailey eventually tried outsourcing metalwork—to Mexico.

In 2000, when the last U.S. Census was taken, 20 percent of Arizona workers in construction-related trades were non citizens. While an estimated one in 10 employees in the state are undocumented, the percentage in residential construction, tourism, food service, and commercial construction is much bigger, so that's where the sanctions law is hitting hardest. Mike Sutter, who owns a masonry business in El Mirage, says he "easily" could have doubled his business last year had he not faced a shortage of ready workers. "I can't tell you how many high school career days I have been to," says Sutter. "We offer kids $13 an hour with no experience. That's a good wage. But it's hot out here."

Employer sanctions have been a boon to at least two occupations: employment law and human resource management. Jason LeVecke, co-owner of 60 Carl's Jr. restaurants in Arizona, has hired two national law firms to audit each of his 1-9 forms, the documentation required to verify an employee's identity. Both Bailey and Sutter used to employ part-time H.R. people; now the position is full time, though Sutter comments that the "girls in H.R. are scared to death they're going to make a mistake and get fired or go to jail."

None of Sutter's office employees are currently doing time in Arpaio's tent city, but it's no easy task to decide which Latinos are eligible to work in Arizona. Employers who too zealously investigate potential hires will violate laws meant to protect privacy and guard against discrimination. Employment attorney Julie Pace, who represents businesses attempting to overturn Pearce's law, says the legal situation is so complicated that most immigration lawyers do not understand it. She represents employers who are being simultaneously charged by ICE for having hired undocumented workers and by the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division for racial profiling in an effort to avoid hiring undocumented workers. Going over and above the demands of any one law can mean fines, a license suspension, and, increasingly, asset seizure.

An uncertain business climate creates its own problems, apart from any actual enforcement. LeVecke, the Carl's Jr. franchisee, is part of a group of business owners who have challenged the law in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. He says he'd like to expand in his native Arizona but doesn't want to risk his business license on the chance that an irresponsible manager will make a bad hire. "Businesses through-out the country have heard that Arizona is a place where you can lose your license," he says. "Even if we undo the law, the reputational damage is going to take 10 years to turn around."

The Scars of Enforcement

Pearce has a historical analogy handy for those who might worry about his law's economic impact. "The arguments they're using—it's kind of interesting—are the same arguments that were used when we tried to abolish the horrific, barbaric practice of slavery," he says. "Who'll bring in the crops?" The comparison casts Pearce as an abolitionist, but he prefers to portray himself as a soldier standing alone against invasion.

As a child, Pearce says, he and his 12 brothers and sisters ran around the streets of Mesa barefoot, too poor to buy shoes and too oblivious to know they were poor. He describes his childhood in sharply Manichean language: His mother was an "angel," his father an unreliable drunk who stole from saintly Mom. His mother, a bank teller, kept house from before her children awoke until after they'd gone to sleep; his father dallied as a mechanic "when he worked at all."

The family lived in central Mesa throughout his childhood, though the elder Pearce's inability to hold a steady job kept them from settling into any one residence for very long. "It kind of offended him that every month somebody'd want rent," the legislator says dryly, not without affection. "We moved a lot." They didn't move far; by Pearce's count, they lived in seven houses on one street alone.

It's impossible to know to what extent Pearce's childhood affected his politics and to what extent his politics affected the way he tells the story of his childhood. But as a legislator, Pearce has been almost fanatical about the right to keep what you earn. In 2007 the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers named him a "hero" for his near-perfect voting record as a fiscal conservative. The immigration issue, as he sees it, is in the same vein; he is convinced that undocumented workers are leeching off hard-working, salt-of-the-earth Arizonans. "The Mexican government," he says in a typical crowd pleaser, "is in their 12th edition of their little book of how to break into America and get free stuff." He carries at his fingertips numerous factoids to this effect, most of them culled from papers by the conservative Heritage Foundation and studies commissioned by the restrictionist Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Pearce signed up with the Maricopa County Sheriff 's Office in the early 1970s. He took naturally to law enforcement and the charge of upholding respect for rightful authority. Eight years on the job, he walked up to a Tastee Freez and confronted a teenager who happened to have a Maricopa County Sheriff 's Deputy patch on the seat of his pants. Pearce ordered the adolescent, whom he remembers being named Armando, to remove it; Armando said he couldn't. So Pearce "helped him take it off with one good rip." Standing with the offending patch in his hand, Pearce noticed six Latino adolescents—he calls them "little gangbangers"—at an adjacent park.

The kids were carrying paper bags, which Pearce figured weren't covering bottles of Pepsi. He asked for their names and addresses, and when they failed to cooperate, he pulled out his handcuffs and shoved one against his patrol car. Another responded by unleashing his Doberman on the deputy. Still restraining the kid that he was handcuffing, Pearce whacked the dog with his flashlight. The dog yelped, a shotgun went off, and Pearce felt a bullet pierce his chest and lodge into his back.

"My first reaction was, these guys aren't going to get away with this," Pearce says. He placed a hand on the wound and tried to chase them down, but the only kid he snagged was Armando—a witness who was familiar with the shooter. Shoving him into the cop car, Pearce noticed blood and demanded to know where the kid was hurt. Armando kept insisting that he wasn't hurt at all. Pearce realized that the blood was his own, and that he'd just lost his right ring finger.

No one has ever accused Russell Pearce of insufficient zeal in rooting out lawbreakers. Even today, from his perch in the statehouse, Pearce prefers to view himself as an enforcer of laws rather than a maker of them. "We're not trying to create new laws," he explains. "We're just trying to put into place a process that ensures the rule of law, that people follow the law and do what's right."

Like fellow Arizonan John McCain, a man he has called "treasonous" for his support of comprehensive immigration reform, Russell Pearce bears the physical scars of total commitment to a creed. But while his obsession with law and order cost him a finger, his son's shooting probably says more about what's it like to be Arizona's most notorious anti-immigrant legislator. Once again Pearce's personal and political lives collided in a bizarre public spectacle, and once again he found himself thrown into an awkward partnership with Joe Arpaio.

On November 22, 2004, three weeks after Arpaio's fourth re-election, more than 300 sheriff 's officers were transferred to new positions. As the East Valley Tribune's Mark Flatten later reported, the transfers followed a curious pattern. According to the Mesa paper, almost no one who had openly supported or contributed to the campaign of Arpaio's challenger was promoted. Many were transferred to less desirable jobs—from patrol to property room, or detective to patrol.

The transfers extended to the SWAT team that employed Sean Pearce, an elite unit manned by experienced deputies. "When you look at a lot of these transfers," former SWAT team member Keith Frakes told the Tribune, "they were punitive in nature. I think they kind of lumped the whole SWAT team into that a little bit."

In place of experienced team members, Arpaio assigned to the SWAT team Joel Fox and Dave Trombi as commander and lieutenant, respectively. Fox had served as a part-time SWAT member years before, and Trombi had no SWAT experience to speak of.

In December 2004, Sean Pearce and other members of the team broke down the door of a Mesa mobile home and stormed into the trailer to serve a warrant. They were greeted with gunfire. From behind a Christmas tree, 22-year-old Jorge Luis Guerra Vargas hit Sean in the abdomen and deputy Lew Argetsinger in the hand. Chaos ensued. Fox called in the wrong emergency code, gave dispatchers the wrong address, and failed to tell paramedics that Pearce and Argetsinger had been shot. "We [were] left bleeding in the street for way longer than we should have been," Argetsinger later told the Tribune.

Arpaio came to visit Sean in the hospital, where his mother LuAnne was waiting by his side. She reportedly refused to shake the sheriff 's hand, a hostility that would be echoed by her recovering son. Sean recovered fully from the wound but was publicly critical of the department transfers, telling local journalists that it was a mistake to rob the team of experienced men. A day after he and Argetsinger spoke to the Tribune, they were both placed under internal investigation, ostensibly to determine whether they had followed procedure during the raid. As officers under investigation, they were prohibited from talking to the press.

So Sean's wife talked instead. She told the Tribune that her husband was being "treated like a criminal by the sheriff 's office" and was having a hard time adjusting to his new desk job. Sean filed a complaint with the Industrial Commission of Arizona accusing the sheriff 's office of creating an unsafe work environment.

Rep. Pearce was notably quiet. Never one to seek out the media, he did not do so now. He continues to wave away questions about whether the country sheriff placed his son in mortal danger. Arpaio would soon be taking a more public stance on immigration, and the men are publicly supportive of one another. "Shame on folks who can't set aside their difference where there are big issues like immigration on the table," Pearce told the Tribune in 2007. "The No. 1 issue is immigration, and [Arpaio] has been in front on that." As late as April 2005, Arpaio told the Arizona Republic that "illegal immigration is not a serious crime," but he was about to have a change of heart. Today "Illegal immigration stats" appear prominently on the Maricopa County Sheriff 's Office website, right under a picture of Sheriff Joe's tank.

Turn Off the Lights

Pearce is not far off when he claims to be simply an enforcer of a regime that preceded him. Undocumented immigrants are here illegally, and the businesses that hire them do so unlawfully. The sanctions bill simply increases existing penalties for activities that have long been illegal. And yet for immigrants and small business owners, the law represents a violent break with the existing consensus, a ripping apart of a vital, delicate network of mutual cooperation.

Phoenix, which sits in the center of the state, has always had a fluid relationship with cities to its south. John "Jack" Swilling, who founded the town site in the 1860s, was married to Trinidad Escalante, a native of the Sonoran state of Mexico. A full half-century passed before Arizona became a state, and the peripheral, free-wheeling territory reflected its boundary status: In 1870, according to the first federal census that measured Arizona territory, the city was about half Mexican. Today Phoenix maintains tight economic and familial ties with Sonora and the wealthier Mexican state of Chihuahua; Mexican Phoenicians are very likely to have family in one of these places, and the flow of people to and from rises and falls with Arizona's economy.

When government intervenes, that flow is disrupted and distorted. The deserts separating Arizona and Mexico are not an especially inviting place to cross the border, but federal authorities drove immigrants into the state by raising the number of border patrol agents to the east and west. By increasing the costs associated with crossing, the federal government encouraged the rise of paid smugglers, known as coyotes, and the violence that came with their ascendance.

The United States allots exactly 10,000 visas a year to low-skilled workers in occupations that require less than two years of training or experience and who want to stay permanently. Beyond that, there is no legal way for a low-skilled foreign laborer without naturalized American family members to seek permanent residence in the United States. There is no line in which to wait. (See "What Part of Legal Immigration Don't You Understand?," page 32.) Temporary visas for low-skilled nonagricultural workers, known as H2Bs, are capped at 66,000 a year. Yet Arizona alone, by Pew's estimates, employed between 260,000 and 292,500 undocumented workers in 2005. Many of them have been working in Arizona for years and have become an integral part of the economy as it functioned until January 2008. Employers looked the other away, paid occasional fines when ICE came knocking, and largely saw such penalties as a cost of doing business.

Americans moving from California and the Midwest require men to build their new homes and landscapers to maintain them. They create new demand for servers and busboys, janitors, and nannies. The majority of the low-skill foreign workers they attract have no avenue through which to seek legal documentation, but they require the same social services as native-born Americans: public schools, law enforcement, and roads. Deporting hundreds of thousands of undocumented low-skill workers would save Arizona taxpayers on emergency room care, but would likely raise prices and slow economic growth. "You have to look at a budget comprehensively," says Jason LeVecke. "I could look at the costs of the electricity used to run my business and say, 'Gosh, it's gotten really expensive. If I just turned it off, we'd save a lot of money.' "

Scholars have long attempted to quantify the costs and benefits that come with undocumented immigrants. Workers without status, in addition to using schools and emergency rooms, pay sales, excise, and property taxes (sometimes indirectly, through rent). A 2007 study by University of Arizona researchers found that noncitizens, most of whom are undocumented in the Copper State, cost Arizona $140 million a year in health care and $89 million in law enforcement. The price of educating every student classified as an "English language learner," which includes some citizens, was another $540 million. All told, the study said illegal immigrants are costing the state about $1.4 billion a year. But the economic activity they generate provides $1.5 billion in tax revenues, yielding a net benefit to the public treasury, the study concluded.

Arizona's Coming Ghost Towns

Not everyone accepts those findings. Also in 2007, a study from the Congressional Budget Office found that "the tax revenues that unauthorized immigrants generate for the state and local governments do not offset the total cost of services provided to these immigrants" (italics added). The study concluded that undocumented immigrants had a "most likely modest," but decidedly negative, impact on state coffers.

How much do state-level budgets tell us about the impact of immigration on the economy? According to the Harvard economist Gerald Jaynes, not much. Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Immigration in 2007, Jaynes deemed "analyses that purport to measure the benefits of immigration by comparing taxes paid by immigrants to the cost of public services they consume" to be "egregiously incompetent and misleading." There is more to wealth creation than tax receipts; noncitizen immigrants are woven into Arizona's economic life, responsible for 8 percent of the state's economic output. They lower the costs of new housing, tourism, and food service. In 2007, before the employer sanctions law took effect, University of Arizona researchers estimated that a 15 percent reduction in immigrants in the construction sector would result in a loss of 56,000 fulltime jobs (for both citizens and noncitizens) and $6.6 billion in output. A 10 percent reduction in immigrants in the manufacturing work force would result in the loss of 12,000 full-time jobs and $3.8 billion in output. When immigrants leave, they take jobs with them.

As the threat of national employer sanctions looms, policy makers will look to Arizona to see how well an economy can adapt to an overnight loss of workers. Right now, good data are hard to come by. The state has seen a decline in home prices sharper than most, but it is difficult to assign responsibility to Pearce's legislation. "Clearly there is an effect," says Arizona-based economist Elliot Pollack, "but we do not yet know how to measure it. My expectation is that when the economy does come back, it will be difficult getting construction workers, and prices will be higher than they otherwise would have been for labor." Masked by a weak economy, the effects of Pearce's law may reveal themselves when the market picks up again and employers are once again attempting to hire in droves.

Researchers at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University are working on a two-year study that will attempt to quantify the economic impact of the nation's most punitive employer sanctions law. But it is highly unlikely that even the most damning results will deter Russell Pearce. By his own logic, entrepreneurs ought to be hurting; every going-out-of-business sale is just more evidence that Arizona is overcoming its addiction to cheap, illegal migrant labor. "Businesses are closing," he proudly told a correspondent from NewsHour with Jim Lehrer in June. He's forcing Arizona to quit cold turkey, and not every mom-and-pop operation will survive the painful withdrawal.

"Just like Disneyland or any other theme park learned a long time ago," Pearce likes to say, "if you want the crowd to go home, you've got to shut down the rides, turn off the lights."

Jason LeVecke of Carl's Jr. is not impressed. "I prefer not to think of my business as a ride," he says. "And I prefer not to turn it off." LeVecke won't get to decide whether his or any business survives; voters will. Pearce is running for state Senate this year, and he is being challenged by another conservative Republican Mormon who wants to roll back Pearce's sanctions before more immigrants flee and more businesses close down. Come November, Arizonans will have to decide whether they like the looks of their new state—lights dim, park closed, neighbors well out of sight.

Kerry Howley is a senior editor of reason.

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  1. The UBGD (united brotherhood of giant douchebags) has recently denied Pearce membership. Apparently, members felt that his mastery of douchebaggery was at such a high level that he no longer fell within guidelines.

  2. Sheriff Joe… dressed Maricopa County’s inmates in cartoonish black and white striped uniforms, shackled female prisoners in chain gangs, forced male inmates to wear emasculating pink underwear, and fed his charges green bologna

    Oh, THAT Sheriff Joe. We saw a video of his prisons in a Law & Justice class I took, and it was really obscene to see how much pleasure he got out of blatantly mistreating people. It’s eerie to see Foucault’s description of the penal society played out in exacting detail.

    But it’s not surprising to find that douchebags of a feather…

  3. Jason LeVecke, co-owner of 60 Carl’s Jr. restaurants in Arizona, has hired two national law firms to audit each of his 1-9 forms, the documentation required to verify an employee’s identity.

    It’s probably too late to correct it for the actual print edition, but it should be “I-9” (with the letter “I”, instead of the number “1”).

  4. I am likely going to drive to Vegas while visiting my sister in Tucson and that will take me right through Sheriff Joe’s fiefdom.

    Oh joy.

  5. Epi,
    watch yer speed in the destruction zone on I-10 in tuscon. The cops are sellin lotsa high speed permits.

  6. Epi,

    Sister in Tucson? MENTIROSO!!!!! You’re a “coyote” aren’t you?

  7. and his sister’s a fox

  8. Bow chicka bow wow! Thanks for giving me the chance to say that, brotherben.

  9. MENTIROSO!!!!!

    Naga, plz RTFA. All Spanish will be BANNED.

    You’re a “coyote” aren’t you?

    I think he’s more a mula de drogas.

    “Have you ever…pooped a balloon?”

  10. You’re a “coyote” aren’t you?

    First you call me a liar, then accuse me of being a human trafficker? You have some brass cogliones, Mr. Sadow.

    and his sister’s a fox

    Ha. Actually, my friends always dug her, which made me cringe.

  11. I thought part of the guy code was that a friend’s sister was off limits?

  12. THE ECONOMY IS THE MAJOR INGREDIENT THAT WILL GIVE CREDENCE TO EITHER OBAMA OR MCCAIN’S PATH TO THE PRESIDENCY. THAT”S WHY TAXPAYERS CAN NO LONGER SUPPORT THE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS, PARIAH BUSINESSES EXTRACT FROM US WHEN THEY HIRE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.

    HOW MANY ILLEGAL ALIENS ARE LIVING IN YOUR STATE? HOW MANY JOB’S HAVE PARASITE EMPLOYERS GIVEN TO ILLEGAL ALIENS. NOT JUST THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY, BUT CONSTRUCTION WORK AND OTHERS SERVICE INDUSTRIES. COULD IT BE BECAUSE THEY CAN BE PAID UNDER THE TABLE. IN MOST CASES NO IRS, STATE, WORKERS COMPENSATION. NO HEALTHCARE IS PROVIDED, BECAUSE THAT IS EXTRACTED FROM OUR TAXES.

    Only elect hard-line anti-illegal immigrant politicians. Gov Richardson gave drivers licenses to illegals in N.Mexico. Illegal Immigration is lowering wages and stealing jobs from legal Americans. This major issue is costing taxpayers too much. Higher property taxes, free health care, education and a multitude of government welfare programs Just take a look at ‘Sanctuary City’ California’s financial demise. $ 11. billion dollars is attributed to the illegal immigrant welfare, who have drained the states funds.

    If we enact the Federal SAVE ACT (H.R.4088) enforcement only law. Millions of illegal aliens will leave by self-deportation. ATTRITION! No job, they will leave of their own accord. Only anti-American groups and Liberal-Democrat-Socialists are stopping this law. ASK THEM WHY?

    http://www.numbersusa.com have the uncensored truth? IT’S YOUR FAMILIES FUTURE. DEPORTATION OR OVERPOPULATION.
    IF WE DON’T STOP IT NOW, THEY WILL KEEP COMING..

    JOIN 756.000 other American patriots at http://www.numbersusa.com , to stop the travesty of our immigration laws. Learn about Immigration governmental corruption at http://www.judicialwatch.org

  13. Espanol made my comment readable. Also, I’m not seeing you deny it, Epi.

  14. Dagny T.,

    I think Epi would need a quirky sidekick to be a coke mule.

    “Mac: Do you want to shove heroin into your ass?
    Charlie: Dude, I don’t want to shove anything in my ass!
    Mac: Alright! This is the perfect opportunity to prove how hard we are, and not have to shove anything up our asses!”

  15. I think he’s more a mula de drogas.

    I carry them in my bloodstream!

    I thought part of the guy code was that a friend’s sister was off limits?

    Ha ha ha, that’s funny.

    1) Like I would keep my hands off of a friend’s sister if we were into each other.
    2) My sister is about 100 times more dangerous than any of my friends.

  16. I think Epi would need a quirky sidekick to be a coke mule.

    Or maybe that’s what the stop at the hot sister’s place is for. Her name isn’t Sweet Dee, is it, Epi?

  17. Mac: Alright! This is the perfect opportunity to prove how hard we are, and not have to shove anything up our asses!

    “I’m so hard that people are scared of me and they should be. ‘Cause I’ll explode all over them.”

  18. Researchers at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University are working on a two-year study that will attempt to quantify the economic impact of the nation’s most punitive employer sanctions law.

    Being an academic myself, I have no doubt these studies will leave out collective costs (extra traffic, wear and tear on parks, public infrastructure, etc) and more importantly will not even address the cots children of illegals (who are ‘US citizens’ due to a quirk in the Constitution) who obviously wouldn’t be here if the law was enforced.

    Its got to be said again and again, you ‘libertarians’ are insane in promoting immigration. What mass immigration (legal and illegal) gets you is a population that requires massive amounts of wealth transfer and has the political power to pass it –see Fabian Nunez in California. You are setting this country up for PRI style rule.

    But I suspect that deep down most writers for Reason don’t really care about individual rights or curbing state power. What you really want is transformation of our current society — demographically and culturally. All this stuff about limiting the government is just eye-wash.

  19. Her name isn’t Sweet Dee, is it, Epi?

    No, but I could see my sister and I getting into Dennis/Dee trouble. She’s mellowed a bit, but she used to be pretty nuts.

    Frank: There is nothing more threatening to a man than a woman who is smart and attractive. We have to pretend you’re both!

    Sweet Dee: Wow, you’re a horrible father.

  20. Episiarch,

    Shenanigans at your sisters side? Sweet! Like when Dennis/Dee go on welfare!

    “Let’s all recognize that this is a little awkward situation between friends at the welfare store and let’s go our separate ways, okay?”

  21. Shenanigans at your sisters side? Sweet! Like when Dennis/Dee go on welfare!

    She also always has hot friends. Plenty of them 😉

  22. What you really want is transformation of our current society — demographically and culturally. All this stuff about limiting the government is just eye-wash.

    You do realize that freezing society at your preferred ethnic/cultural mix requires lots of government power, right? Reducing the size and scope of government isn’t going to somehow magically prevent people you don’t like from attempting to exercise their freedom to live and work where they want.

  23. I am green with envy, Epi. My brothers only female friends are not only skanky but ugly. (sigh)

  24. What you really want is transformation of our current society — demographically and culturally.

    i’d be curious to hear reason’s master plan in this particular area.

  25. But I suspect that deep down most writers for Reason don’t really care about individual rights or curbing state power. What you really want is transformation of our current society — demographically and culturally. All this stuff about limiting the government is just eye-wash.

    Society transforms, end of story. I think most folks around here would prefer it happen without government coercion. Government regulating immigration can only be achieved by stomping on individual rights and increasing state power.

  26. Mitchell
    Being an academic myself, I have no doubt these studies will leave out collective costs (extra traffic, wear and tear on parks, public infrastructure, etc)

    What’s a “collective” cost? Because it sounds to me like a red herring.

    [A]nd more importantly will not even address the co[s]ts [of the] children of illegals (who are ‘US citizens’ due to a quirk in the Constitution) who obviously wouldn’t be here if the law was enforced.

    Same could be said about any other person that is born in the U.S., and so we could have a discussion about the morality of Americans having children, considering they would “cost” someone, too. Again, sounds more like a red herring.

    Its got to be said again and again, you ‘libertarians’ are insane in promoting immigration. What mass immigration (legal and illegal) gets you is a population that requires massive amounts of wealth transfer and has the political power to pass it –see Fabian Nunez in California. You are setting this country up for PRI style rule.

    Americans already have a P.R.I.-like rule, even without the immigrants: the Dem-agogues and the Republi-rats are one and the same. Also, not all immigrants (illegal or otherwise) come from Mexico. Plenty of them come from other countries, especially Asia.

    (For those that do not get what PRI means, it stands for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, the Mexican party that ruled Mexico for 80 years, controlling all from elections to the economy… somewhat akin to what gringos have now.)

    But I suspect that deep down most writers for Reason don’t really care about individual rights or curbing state power.

    That’s a “no true Scotsman” fallacy, Mitchell. A person has a natural right to migrate – people do that all the time. Immigration becomes illegal only due to the State’s caprice, not because of something fundamentally wrong with migrating. As for the political power immigrants obtain, that is a failing of modern democracy and not a particular characteristic of migrants.

  27. I love Reason – except for the open-borders bit. I don’t want to live around Mexicans – pure and simple – they’re not my culture and personally I was very happy before they got to my hometown. There were none in my area when I was a kid 15 years ago. Now much of my town is Mexican. If I wanted to live with them I would have moved to Mexico long ago. My family has lived in our area for 300 years. And our organic local culture is being changed and the locals, Blacks and Whites, are being outnumbered by Mexicans and they’re pretty mad about it. I’m for closing the borders, ending birthright citizenship and doing all else we can to reduce the number of them in our State. I have absolutely zero against Mexicans – who stay in Mexico.

  28. organic local cultures change, homeslice. that’s what makes them organic.

  29. From Brittanicus’ post:
    Illegal Immigration is lowering wages and stealing jobs from legal Americans.

    What’s a “legal American”? Because there are non-native LEGAL immigrants. Also, immigrations is NOT by itself lowering wages – that’s being done by inflation, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood FedRes chairman. Anyway, even on the face of lowering purchasing power, immigration allows companies to maintain or even lower prices on certain goods, especially food. Take out the immigrants, and first to go up will be food prices.

    This major issue is costing taxpayers too much.

    Government costs the taxpayers too much, not immigration.

    Higher property taxes, free health care, education and a multitude of government welfare programs

    The quarrel is with the welfare state then, not immigration. Also, it is kind of hypocritical to point out the costs of, let us say, educating the children of illegal (or undocumented) immigrants, when education is not optional – the State can take their kids if they are not send to school. What to stop the hemorrhage? Get rid of compulsory education, which is lousy and expensive anyway.

    Just take a look at ‘Sanctuary City’ California’s financial demise. $ 11. billion dollars is attributed to the illegal immigrant welfare, who have drained the states funds.

    You cannot get welfare without a SSN, so those funds are being funneled to American-born people mostly. It’s a red herring anyway – the problem is not immigration but the welfare state itself.

  30. I have absolutely zero against Mexicans – who stay in Mexico.

    I imagine you feel the same even for those Mexicans that are in the US legally, right? I mean, just to know where you stand…

  31. ” Francisco Torres ”

    You are either a legal immigrant or a Citizen of the U.S.

    If you are a Citizen of the U.S. of Latino decent your not Mexican or any other South American Nationality, you are a American. Period!

    If your heritage confuses your nationality, well this is common problem created by the Liberals need to be Politically Correct all the time and understandable. Easily Corrected by stop calling yourself by your Heritage and call yourself by “Citizenship” regardless of RACE.

    If you are here Illegally then you are a criminal regardless of you nationality and you should be deported. Period!

  32. Francisco Torres, there were basically zero Mexicans in my State only 15 or 20 years ago – I never even saw one until I was probably 12 years old. The people of my State (predominently Scots-Irish and Black Americans) have lived in our same area for 300 years. I have much more loyalty to it than I do to the Empire (as I refer to the US). Personally, I would say that California or Illinois can have as many Mexicans as they want. That’s not my issue. California and Illinois are not my lands – I really care nothing for them to be honest. I would just assume they went their way and we went ours. I would strongly prefer my own State’s population stays predominently as it has been for the last 250-300 years – Scots-Irish and Black Americans. To me, that’s my country – our shared land and culture, heritage, history, etc – not the Empire, so I naturally have no regard at all for its citizenship laws and all. As I said I have nothing against Mexicans who stay in their culture and land. An occasional visitor or whatnot from Mexico would be warmly welcomed in my area – we just don’t want to be replaced (and that is very much what is happening).

  33. The paranoid rantings of the anti-immigration crowd is truly depressing but enlightening. First it shows that conservatives know jack-all about free market economics. Second, it proves they have no desire to have small government.

    Take a look at the moronic post by Brittanicus. Anyone dare try to figure out how many economic fallacies, along with factual errors, he has compressed into his little rant? It appears that each sentence contains at least one and some manage more than one. Of course he even falls for that Green crap about overpopulation.

    I swear the anti-immigration crowd were beaten by their mothers with a “stupid stick” because they exhibit some of the least informed positions I’ve ever seen. They are economic illiterates who don’t comprehend the most basic principles of market economics. If you thought socialists were dumb when it comes to markets then take a look at the nativists and their fallacies. The typical socialist almost looks like at a Misesian compared to them.

    Mr. Young’s silly view is that the only way to stop big government is to have big government. To advocate freedom in migration, he says, means you oppose individual rights and want big government. And apparently the only way to stop this is to violate individual rights and have big government. Alas, the logic of bigotry.

    At least Michael is honest to admit he’s a bigot who doesn’t want to live around Mexicans. Personally I would prefer to live next to someone who is willing to go through a major effort to find a job than next to some pampered, whining bigot who thinks he’s entitled to mould the world into his own stilted image. But at least this would-be sheet-wearer seems to say he’s happy with Blacks staying and is happy with Mexicans in Mexico. But why stop there? Why not send the Blacks to Africa and the Poles back to Poland, and the Japanese back to Japan. I suspect there are more than a few native Americans willing to send all people back to the countries from which they, or their ancestors, came. Where would Michael be deported to? I just want to make sure I don’t end up in the same country.

    To me the strongest case for immigration is the hope that we can have more people who truly understand the value of freedom and don’t try to cloak their bigotry and prejudice in American values. The real anti-Americans are the cry-baby bigots who want to blame their own inadequacies on immigrants.

  34. If I wanted to live with them I would have moved to Mexico long ago.

    We have this silly thing called property rights in America. If you don’t want any Mexicans mixing into your “organic” culture, you can always purchase enough land around yourself to keep ’em out.

  35. “”If I wanted to live with them I would have moved to Mexico long ago.”

    We have this silly thing called property rights in America. If you don’t want any Mexicans mixing into your “organic” culture, you can always purchase enough land around yourself to keep ’em out.”

    We USED to have something called freedom of association in the US. Now when you exercise that right, it’s called illegal discrimination.

  36. We have this silly thing called property rights in America. If you don’t want any Mexicans mixing into your “organic” culture, you can always purchase enough land around yourself to keep ’em out.

    We also have things called sovereignty, rule of law, and democracy. If the citizenry decides, through their elected representatives, that they don’t want to let certain people in, for any reason or no reason at all, that is their prerogative. And they have exercised it. Deal.

  37. We USED to have something called freedom of association in the US. Now when you exercise that right, it’s called illegal discrimination.

    I’m all for freedom of association. I think people should be free to associate or to not associate with anyone they want.

    Employers, however, are not free to associate with anyone they want. That’s where freedom of association is actually lacking.

  38. We also have things called sovereignty, rule of law, and democracy. If the citizenry decides, through their elected representatives, that they don’t want to let certain people in, for any reason or no reason at all, that is their prerogative. And they have exercised it. Deal.

    Ah. Might makes right. I should’ve figured…

  39. ….A HARD TIME RESOLVING TODAY’S MATH PROBLEM…..

    (A) equals the 4 to 5 million non-immigrants (illegals) who have overstayed their visas, and remain in our United States (source: Pew Hispanic Center)

    SOUTHWEST BORDER APPREHENSIONS (Source DHS/CPB)
    1987–1,190,488——1995–1,394,554——2003—-905,065
    1988–1,008,145——1996–1,649,986——2004–1,139,282
    1989—-954,243——1997–1,422,829——2005–1,189,108
    1990–1,169,939——1998–1,566,984——2006–1,071,972
    1991–1,197,875——1999–1,537,000——2007—-858,638
    1992–1,258,482——2000–1,643,679——2008—-660,288 (ends 9/30)
    1993–1,327,259——2001–1,235,718
    1994–1,094,717——2002—-929,809
    ———9,201,148————-11,380,559—————5,824,353

    FACT: In the last 22 years, over 26 million illegals, have been apprehended, crossing our Southwest Border.

    FACT: Less than 1, out of 4, were estimated to have been apprehended.

    (B) equals the number of illegals that entered our United States between 1987 and 2008????

    A + B equals the Total Number Of Illegals In Our United States

  40. ‘co-owner of 60 Carl’s Jr. restaurants in Arizona’

    What I think a lot of people don’t understand is that MANY businesses would not exist if they couldn’t hire illegal immigrants.

    An example of this being that, without illegal immigrants, there could not be a Carl’s Jr. every 1/4 mile selling $.99 hamburgers because they can pay their employees minimum wage and buy beef for $.79 per pound from companies like Agriprocessors.

  41. ‘Ah. Might makes right. I should’ve figured…’

    This is not ‘might makes right’. This is known as ‘We the People’ creating law.

  42. This is not ‘might makes right’. This is known as ‘We the People’ creating law.

    ‘We the People’ also created law that enabled and enforced slavery, Jim Crow, and the drug war. Does that make those right?

    No name commenter’s “argument” is predicated completely on sovereignty, not on rule of law or on democracy as claimed. Unless he wishes to reappear and construct an argument that democracies always do the right thing, he is essentially defending whatever the government happens to do.

    Positive statements such as “sovereignty means that the government can do whatever it wants in the territory it governs” are non sequiturs in normative arguments such as “what should governments do”.

  43. A + B equals the Total Number Of Illegals In Our United States

    You are missing the math that shows that no illegal can leave the United States.

  44. Why does no-one make the point that paying illegal immigrants less than minimum wage (and lets be realistic here, why else are you hiring illegals) is basically the same thing as Nike having five-year olds produce shooes for pennies a day?

    At the end of the article, he’s right that businesses are not healthy that rely on cheap labor – but it’s not healthy for the labor as well in the long run, as it creates a very real underclass and makes it even harder for the poor to move up in life.

  45. @him There is hardly any such thing as an “anti-immigration” crowd. There is a very real “anti-illegal-immigration” crowd, and with good reason. It’s not fair to let people cut lines – it really is that simple. People wait in Mexico (or Canada or Ireland or wherever) to get in legally with a limited number of slots, why exactly should some people be able to get in just because they can walk really well? Do we honestly want a bunch of cheaters as the primary inflow to our culture?

    We obviously need to contain illegal immigration first to stop the cheating – but then make it MUCH easier to immigrate legally and increase throughput in the system and favor people with families here already.

    1. Read the article. The problem is there is NO LINE for unskilled workers.

  46. Why does no-one make the point that paying illegal immigrants less than minimum wage (and lets be realistic here, why else are you hiring illegals) is basically the same thing as Nike having five-year olds produce shooes for pennies a day?

    Perhaps because (a) illegal immigrants are generally not paid less than minimum wage, and (b) illegal immigrants are generally adults capable of making their own employment decisions.

    We obviously need to contain illegal immigration first to stop the cheating – but then make it MUCH easier to immigrate legally and increase throughput in the system and favor people with families here already.

    Why in that order? If we make it MUCH easier to immigrate legally, then illegal immigration will slow to nil as labor demand can be satisfied by legal immigrants. In particular, if the only illegal immigrants are those who have individually been denied entry due to specific and valid reason, then there will be zero incentive for anyone to employ illegal immigrants.

  47. Mr. Young’s silly view is that the only way to stop big government is to have big government. To advocate freedom in migration, he says, means you oppose individual rights and want big government.

    No, I am simply stating the empirical fact, when you have massive immigration by poor people into your country they are going to organize to give you big government. In a democracy, that is what you are going to get. You are being short-sighted. Its already happened in California, it will procede apace in Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, anywhere that is impacted.

    Why in that order? If we make it MUCH easier to immigrate legally, then illegal immigration will slow to nil as labor demand can be satisfied by legal immigrants.

    If we open our borders, I standard of living will shrink to that of Bangladesh. There is simply no doubt. Look at the colonias along the Texas border, they might as well be in Mexico, they are that poor. I’d rather my whole country not become like that. Those of you who love cheap labor are free to pursue it abroad (well, actually you aren’t because most countries enforce their immigration laws)

    You know why Ms. Howley fears this politician — she is afraid this experiment will work.

  48. I wonder how do libertarians solve the cultural clashes that inevitably arise with unlimited immigration? My impression is that most of them just close their eyes and proclaim “No way, everyone will pursuit happiness via good jobs and we will all get together on a yellow submarine”.

    This is not a lame attempt at trolling. I am very much pro-business. But I am an European too, and half of my family lives in the Balkans. Given their life stories, I am NOT optimistic about the ability of various cultures to live together without periodic outbursts of violence, from gang-level to war-level. And it is not the state’s fault; the Balkans have been a toxic cauldron of hatred already in times when the society there was basically anarchic or tribal.

    Even the USA is a good example, albeit people do not realize it. The Amerindians of the Great Plains just got pushed into reservations, because their concept of liberty (no individual ownership of land, huge hunting grounds etc.) was seriously incompatible with the concept of liberty of immigrant farmers (land divided into individual farms). At the end of the day, the concept that had more firepower won.

    I have traveled around the Middle East and I am also aware that for Muslim fundamentalists, the concept of liberty is equality between Muslim men and subjugation of religious minorities and women of all kinds. They view it as a state of things given by God and are willing to use sword to enforce it.

    How would a quarter-Indian, quarter-Balkan, quarter-Anglosaxon and quarter-Muslim society look like?

    My possible answer: a lot of bloodshed and, at the end, emergence of a single victor who utterly marginalizes the rest.

  49. Libertarianism should not mean limiting the power of the government in protecting the borders. In fact, guarding the borders and controlling the flow of non-citizens through it should be one of the few legitimate governmental powers. It stands at an intermediary position between internal law enforcement (police) and external defense (army).

    Articles like this, that e.g. blame the US gov for the activities of the coyotes, together with approving quotations apeparing elsewhere from certified leftso loonies such as Glenn Greenwald of Salon, show that Reason is a pseudo-libertarian publication. Maybe it was some time ago but by today it is Libertarian in name only.

    Don’t let the ads for Palin tee shirts deceive you.

  50. The Americans are uniquely lucky nation in the whole history of the world, and they do not realize it. They have an extremely big and fertile country and population which basically adheres to the same values. Therefore, they do not realize that people can be divided very seriously when they profess different sets of values. Up to war and genocide.

    The American Civil War was an example of what happens if two incompatible sets of values clash. It was an extremely ugly clash, which resembled the First World War, and, if barbed wire existed in the 1860s, it could easily have stretched for 15 years instead of 4. But it happened long ago and its atrocities are forgotten. So contemporary Americans think that peace and business and liberty are the natural state of the society, and not a big exception that is caused by relative uniformity of American values and culture over all the USA.

    At the same time, Israelis and Syrians have waged a 60-year old war about the Golani, a place of size of New York City, and no end seems to be in sight anytime soon. And the core of the conflict (1948 independence war) was ethnic and religious, not statist. It only assumed statist form because it was more effective in warfare.

    At the same time, Colombian FARC has been killing scores of people in the name of Marx and Lenin.

    At the same time, Kosovars and Serbs must be separated by troops from the rest of the world, to prevent genocidal rage. And no, Kosovo is not a particularly big-government state.

    I think that pro-immigration folks who are not pro-assimilation at the same time (yes, assimilation worked in US history) should seriously study history of mankind and devote some time to the parts that describe war and strife from conflicts of civilizations and cultures.

  51. i’d be curious to hear reason’s master plan in this particular area.

    What master plan? The inclination to disrupt society via immigration is derived from the same motivation as an adolescent’s inclination to fart at the dinner table. Mr. Young is correct – Reason and it’s minions have little interest in any actual philosophy of liberty (notice they consistently fail to articulate one), and a lot of interest in merely giving the dominant mainstream culture a slap in the face. Note that the issues they champion as “freedom” have no consistent philosophical basis, the only thing they have in common is that most Americans find them objectionable. There’s nothing libertarian about them at all, they’d be more aptly described as the Post-Socialist Left. Think of them as Yippies for Profit.

  52. Kerry Howley, what a beautiful well-researched swansong for Reason. You will be missed immensely (Please don’t leave!). You have written a well researched story that splits libertarians down the middle, so I have seen by the comments. Me, I am hardly a xenophobe; I used to work ditches with my brown brothers from Mexico paying my way through college. Now I work on airplanes with many a ‘gay’ colleague. I understand the world in a weird way that non-travelers may not. I am NOT their superior, I just see things they may not. AND THAT HAS MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE:

  53. Fellow Libertarians,

    It’s not our brown brothers that are bringing us down, it is policy that says to anyone “There is free shit here!” But free shit goes out to everyone (white-trash & niggers included). I always thought that we Reason-able peeps were anti-free-shit.At the same time niggers are peeps & so are white-trash. (Those eponyms are creepy shit)

    I understand that that happens, but let’s enumerate the figures honestly. Kerry’s stories were mostly anecdotal, fair enough, but she gave some interesting figures as well. Are they honest?

  54. If we open our borders, I standard of living will shrink to that of Bangladesh. There is simply no doubt.

    What is the source of your confidence? There is certainly no economic explanation for such a fall in standard of living. What’s the mechanism you predict?

    Also, when the borders were open prior to World War I, what country’s standard of living did the US’s shrink to then?

  55. MikeP: I can think of one mechanism, which can be observed at work in Western European cities, in “problematic” neighbourhoods where immigrants from the Near East and Africa often reside.

    1. The local indigenous population is resentful against newcomers. They do not get jobs even if they try (and some cultures do not really appreciate the “work for money” approach to work, so not everyone really tries). Quite often they also cannot get any jobs because they have no useful qualification.

    2. From the jobless young males, ethnic gangs form, which engage in various illicit trades.

    3. These gangs are intractable for the police, as the police does not speak the necessary languages and does not have trust of the immigrant community, which is reluctant to turn their own sons to jail (the classical “us vs. them” divide).

    4. The ensuing violence destroys the local economy.

    For practical experience, visit almost any French-Arab neighborhood, the same in Sweden, Britain, Netherlands, Italy, Germany. Some of them are, alas, hardcore no-go zones where even police does not dare enter.

  56. One more comment regarding MikeP.

    The economy before World War I had a lot of opportunities for unqualified young males. An illiterate person from Sicily could arrive to New York one day and work on a construction site the next day. It was pretty easy to make a living without schools, without knowledge of language, and without temptation to join organized crime.

    This effect was seen not only in the USA, but also in the Austrian-Hungarian empire, which was very multiethnic and multicultural, but yet quite peaceful.

    The economy today is much less friendly to uneducated people without language skills. I do not think that an average Somali person can get reasonable work in NYC in a day or two.

  57. I see it almost 1/6 of a work-year or 60 days a year what goes on in France. The French deal with immigrant populations differently then the USA for better or worse. Their social programs are different. Let’s let France run France for better or worse. You decide whether a visit is worthy given the pricetag and thence you become that precious Libertarian you profess to be. Bottom line.

  58. I can think of one mechanism, which can be observed at work in Western European cities, in “problematic” neighbourhoods where immigrants from the Near East and Africa often reside.

    Yeah. I figured it might be something like that, going through step 1, which requires unfree labor markets and intentional welfare, through step 2, which requires laws against consensual trade, and into the depths of gang violence pushing out traditional authority.

    So have France, Sweden, Britain, Netherlands, Italy, or Germany actually sunk below Bangladesh yet — or are they just at that level now — because I don’t think Bangladesh actually has as bad a gang problem as you describe.

  59. “””SOUTHWEST BORDER APPREHENSIONS (Source DHS/CPB)
    1987–1,190,488——1995–1,394,554——2003—-905,065
    1988–1,008,145——1996–1,649,986——2004–1,139,282
    1989—-954,243——1997–1,422,829——2005–1,189,108
    1990–1,169,939——1998–1,566,984——2006–1,071,972
    1991–1,197,875——1999–1,537,000——2007—-858,638
    1992–1,258,482——2000–1,643,679——2008—-660,288 (ends 9/30)
    1993–1,327,259——2001–1,235,718
    1994–1,094,717——2002—-929,809
    ———9,201,148————-11,380,559—————5,824,353

    FACT: In the last 22 years, over 26 million illegals, have been apprehended, crossing our Southwest Border.””””

    That’s a tricky one. How many in that count are duplicates? The same person apprehended more than once. So the actual number of people caught is less than reported. I do find it interesting that the most apprenhensions in that list occured in the Clinton years.

    “””At the end of the article, he’s right that businesses are not healthy that rely on cheap labor – but it’s not healthy for the labor as well in the long run, as it creates a very real underclass and makes it even harder for the poor to move up in life.”””

    To be known as the walmart class.

  60. Mike, almost the same mechanism works in Algeria or Morocco, which have practically no real-world small business restrictions (by which I mean that a small bribe will keep the police and the local revenue service out of your door), and which have absolutely no welfare systems.

    Local resentments between the city Arabs, the Bedouin, the Berbers and the Kabyles work pretty much the same way as between French and “Beurs” in Europe. Unemployment among young people is even higher.

    The only difference is that in Algeria the unemployed youth quite often joins the jihadist insurgency which goes on since 1992.

    One part of the problem is that the educational systems in third-world countries are often extremely dysfunctional, and they give you no real knowledge to use on labor market. For example, in Pakistan, more than 50% of the children attend “madrassahs”, which are “schools” that only memorize Quran in Arabic and nothing else. Basically, a graduate will be illiterate in his own language (Pashtun, Dari, Urdu etc.), not to mention English.

    It is also worth noting that third-world countries that have good schools progress quite fast to first-world level (Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan or Mauritius have already managed that. Thailand, Malaysia, China, India are on their way).

    I do not see any easy way how several billion illiterate people from the third world could make a decent living in the current knowledge economy. Some of them, yes. Most of them, no.

  61. One more answer to MikeP.

    So have France, Sweden, Britain, Netherlands, Italy, or Germany actually sunk below Bangladesh yet — or are they just at that level now — because I don’t think Bangladesh actually has as bad a gang problem as you describe.

    This is a very regionalized issue. The countries as a whole – not. But the ‘problematic neighborhoods’ really remind one of the places in Maghreb as far as people, crime and lack of policing are concerned. (The city infrastructure like sidewalks and traffic signs are a leftover from better future).

  62. Sorry, it should be “from better past”. Me stupid.

  63. I do not see any easy way how several billion illiterate people from the third world could make a decent living in the current knowledge economy. Some of them, yes. Most of them, no.

    Then so long as the US doesn’t hand out welfare to immigrants, you have little to fear from hordes of illiterate people coming to the US.

    Immigrants will migrate from poor countries to rich only if they find opportunities that are better than what they had at home. Given the limited number of unskilled jobs and the limited ability of the modern economy to generate more unskilled jobs, there is a naturally imposed market limit on how many unskilled people will migrate.

  64. This is a very regionalized issue. The countries as a whole – not.

    I take it then that you don’t actually defend Mitchell Young’s ridiculous “If we open our borders, I standard of living will shrink to that of Bangladesh. There is simply no doubt.”

  65. Immigrants will migrate from poor countries to rich only if they find opportunities that are better than what they had at home.

    Two arguments against.

    First, it is significantly better to be a homeless beggar or gangster or even prisoner (with the small exception of the death row) in the USA, then to be an average person in Somalia, Chad, Central African Republic, Chad, etc. Your life expectancy is much higher, you get food and drink and shelter more easily.

    Second, people from third world countries often have weird concepts of the West. I remember Haider al-Khooei, a young Shiite cleric studying in London, telling about his visit in Najaf, Iraq: “People would ask me whether it is true that in London you get money just by sticking a card into a wall. I had to explain them that you had to work for that money first.” For an African who has no education, West is simply a paradise seen on a TV, and that is that.

    Currently, the Swiss government sponsored a series of TV commercials in Cameroon and Nigeria, whose theme was “Switzerland is not a paradise, living on the street here is very hard. Think twice before you come.”

  66. I take it then that you don’t actually defend Mitchell Young’s ridiculous “If we open our borders, I standard of living will shrink to that of Bangladesh. There is simply no doubt.”

    My take: the middle class lives pretty comfortable lives everywhere around the world. But in the West, where the middle class is the norm, it is much more pleasant living than in South Africa, where the middle class lives in walled and gated communities surrounded by barbed wire and watched by 24-hour armed security, to prevent themselves from being submerged in sea of lawlessness outside.

    The fragmentation of European cities is very telling. So far, the middle class is more numerous, but the ‘bad neigbourhoods’ look pretty creepy. Surely almost no one wants to live at the ‘fault line’ between them.

  67. BTW, one more comment, this time really concerning Bangladesh.

    One of the reasons why Calcutta in India is almost an unlivable city, is about 10 million refugees from the Bangladesh civil wars of the 1970s, who literally live and die in the street. Once again – illiterate, mostly jobless.

    Yes, the wealthier Calcuttans can avoid contact with them to some degree, but the level of contagious diseases in the region has jumped considerably up since the British India times, and even a wealthy brahmin will succumb to cholera.

  68. Immigrants will migrate from poor countries to rich only if they find opportunities that are better than what they had at home. Given the limited number of unskilled jobs and the limited ability of the modern economy to generate more unskilled jobs, there is a naturally imposed market limit on how many unskilled people will migrate.

    A bogus argument. Are jobs the only incentive? I think not. Even if you’re eating out of a trash can, the pickings are still going to be more abundant in a rich country than a poor one even if you don’t factor in welfare. If you’re unemployed do you really think you’ll be better off in Juarez than in Los Angeles? I don’t think so.

  69. Marxists on the March

    If the gov’t cannot secure our border, then it is to them we should direct our outrage for their negligence. Failure to uphold the law is the first problem. Having said that, if our legislators were capable of eliminating the multitudinous socialist entitlements and cultural phenomena in the form of hand-outs, free health care, (including the same for legals, that is to say everyone!), of teaching Spanish languages in schools, driving tests in Spanish (are street signs in spanish?), and finally getting rid of minimum wage so I could employ them to clean my house at a rate that I could afford, and thereby provide a job, then I say, Heck, yeah, let them all in.

  70. A bogus argument.

    Consider that over the decades of de jure free migration across the southern border and the decades of de facto free migration across the southern border we haven’t seen what you describe happen. Migrants come to work. If the border is easy to cross, many even elect to work seasonally and return to their home countries when work is not plentiful.

    But against such a fear as yours coming true, a fair compromise would be to make a residence visa require having a residence and having a means of support. If seas of impoverished immigrants begin living in the streets or digging through trash cans, sweep them up, check their residence and income, and suspend their respective visas as warranted.

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  74. Eh, since another post linked me here today, I’ll post despite it’s age; I think this article is very misleading. I don’t necessarily disagree with it overall, but I feel like it’s being short-sighted, looking only at the immediate effects of the law, and that it also ignores the fact that illegal immigration is an ongoing problem (that is, there is no status quo, as the situation keeps changing). Simply challenging the law but refusing to offer any sort of counter-proposal is a position that almost always fails.

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