Why the Right Shifted on Immigration

Clearly the party has undergone a transformation since the days of Ronald Reagan.

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Editor's Note: Steve Chapman is on vacation. The following column was originally published in December 2007.

As a rule, the Republicans campaigning for president sound more like they are running for sheriff of Yuma County. In this race, the acceptable lines on illegal immigration are hard, harder and hardest. It's rare to hear someone call for policies that include "love and compassion," as John McCain did in Sunday's Univision debate.

Compassion for illegal immigrants? Is he kidding?

In reality, McCain is truer to GOP tradition than Mike Huckabee, who says, "I will take our country back for those who belong here," or Rudy Giuliani, who says foreigners should have to carry cards with biometric identifiers, or Mitt Romney, who insists Huckabee and Giuliani are not nearly tough enough. For evidence that the party has undergone a major change, look no further than the party's greatest hero, Ronald Reagan.

Reagan didn't so much accept immigrants as smother them with kisses. When he announced his presidential candidacy in 1979, he called for closer ties with Mexico and Canada: "It is time we stopped thinking of our nearest neighbors as foreigners." As president, he said providence had deliberately placed the United States "between the two great oceans, to be found by a special kind of people from every corner of the world."

In 1977, Reagan expressed doubt about the "illegal alien fuss" and suggested that such foreigners were "doing work our own people won't do." In 1986, he signed the immigration reform bill that conservatives now revile as "amnesty."

Clearly the party has undergone a transformation since his day. The question is why. It's not just that we have an estimated 12 million foreigners here illegally—the 1984 GOP platform estimated there were 12 million then. Their economic impact hasn't changed: They still mostly take unpleasant, low-wage jobs. The gripe that they don't speak English and don't assimilate has been around a long time.

But a quarter century ago, the issue was seen through a different lens. What really changed the party faithful's attitude toward illegal immigrants was something seemingly unrelated: the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.

Back then, we were in an ideological as well as a military competition with communism. And for any argument offered by the other side, we always had a decisive rejoinder: Why is it that in communist countries, people risk their lives to leave, and in free nations, people risk their lives to come?

There were plenty of examples—Chinese fleeing to Taiwan in 1949, East Germans dodging bullets to get to West Berlin, Cubans and Vietnamese taking to the ocean in rickety boats in search of refuge. What they all affirmed was the superiority of our system. We stood as a beacon of liberty, and millions of oppressed people were drawn to our light.

In that context, Mexicans and other immigrants, legal or not, further confirmed the superiority of democracy, individual liberty and free markets. Even if we had some reservations about their arrival, we took it as a compliment that they were willing to go to such lengths to reach our soil.

But in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, and in due course, both the Soviet empire and the Soviet Union expired. Those events soon altered the general perception of foreign newcomers. Instead of an endorsement of our way of life, illegal immigrants (and even legal ones) were increasingly seen as a threat to it.

In the 1980s, Republicans rarely made a big deal out of the issue. But in 1992, one Republican did—Pat Buchanan, in his effort to unseat incumbent President George Bush. Two years later, the Republican governor of California, Pete Wilson, successfully pushed a ballot initiative to deny public benefits to illegal immigrants.

By 1996, the GOP's national platform declared, "Illegal immigration has reached crisis proportions … (and) burdens taxpayers, strains public services, takes jobs, and increases crime." In 2000, George W. Bush sounded more moderate. But today, it's clear the party's center of gravity on the issue has shifted, probably for good. Without the backdrop of the Cold War, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free no longer have the same romantic appeal.

A quarter century ago, we saw that many foreigners were willing to do almost anything to join a free and prosperous society where they could make a better life for their children, and Republicans took pride in saying: We want you on our side. Today, they have a different message: So what?

 Steve Chapman blogs daily at newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/steve_chapman.

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  1. Editor’s Note: Steve Chapman is on vacation. The following column was originally published in December 2007.

    Rerunning columns Americans won’t rerun.

  2. I don’t know about the history of Mexico much so please correct me, but this article seems to say that people fleeing from Mexico were like the people fleeing from East Germany or Vietnam during the cold war. Surely Mexico has been a democracy for a long time ? When did they have a dictatorship during the cold war ?

    1. The author is expressing how people thought of it then. “These people are pouring into the US, we must be great! Better than communism for sure!”

    2. Iirc Mexico, up until recently, had decades of one party rule by a quasi-socialist, corrupt (redundant?) party. So while not a full blown dictatorship in the traditional sense it could be seen as one by the “minimum wage laws=communism” crowd we see quite a bit…

    3. It’s not about Mexico, but about the U.S.: everyone was leaving East Germany, Cuba, and Vietnam, but everyone wanted to come to the U.S.

      1. Not everyone, most East Germans wanted to simply to go to West Germany. As for Cuba, I suspect they would want to go anywhere that is not Cuba.

        1. I think they specifically wanted to go to Miami, cubans run that city.

        2. Well, Cubans probably choose the US because we don’t deport them once they land on US soil, a policy that goes back to Cold War when Castro’s Cuba was the “Great Evil Communist Enemy” that we wanted to undermine in any way possible.

    4. In Reagan’s day Mexico had been ruled by a post-Revolutionary one party kleptocracy for decades (I think the longest one-party rule (Institutional Revolutionary Party) on the planet given the timing of the Mexican Revolution as the first Socialist/Communist one on the planet)… Maybe not as brutal as East Germany’s regime, but pretty unpleasant to live under in many ways (especially if you are from a darker-hued Mestizo/Indian region of the country.)

      Consider the Zapatista rebellion in 1994 — six years before the PRI fell from power for the first time (after 70 years of one-party rule).

    5. Mexico is a failed State. It has been failed, or at least failing, for as long as I have been aline, and has (so far as I know) never been decently governed as a nation in all of written history. Depending on which ruler you use, money sent home from the United States is the second or third largest single source of wealth in the Mexican economy. That CAN’T be good.

      We could conquer Mexico and replace its government with the corrupt administrations of Chicago or New York and improve the governance of both places….

  3. You know what the problem with certain immigrants in, in a nutshell? It isn’t color or country of origin. It’s “press 1 for Spanish, 2 for English.” If that kind of thing went and immigrating peoples celebrated mostly “American” holidays and aped “American” cultural mores, there would be less borderline racism. Not that it would ever go away entirely. Just my opinion, based on purely anecdotal evidence.

    1. Damn, beat me to it DD

    2. Yeah, and Americans who complain about this probably ask “Do you speak English?” a lot when they travel to another country, and fail to note the irony.

      1. Point taken, but it might be considered a bit different. Do credit card centers in Mexico ask you if you want to press 2 for English?

        1. Do credit card centers in Mexico ask you if you want to press 2 for English?

          They probably do, considering English is considered by many to be a lingua franca.

          But you already knew that, didn’t you, Mr. Tu Quoque?

          1. I was honestly asking, just curious.

            But this “lingua franca” talk of yours has me riled up. This is America, speak English, not French.

            1. Ok, for that you get Sad Trombone.

        2. Have you been to any foreign websites for hotels and such? They almost all have a button for the English language version of their website.

        3. MNG = name one company whose voice operated automation system asks for english as the second option. As in, a number anyone could call to confirm.

          One example. Until provided, I declare bullshit.

          1. I was talking about in Mexico you idiot.

            1. “Do credit card centers in Mexico ask you if you want to press 2 for English?”

              1. They do if it is profitable. That’s why US companies do it.

          2. AT&T does when in Mexico you are asked to press 2 for English (in case you forgot to set up your international roaming)

      2. Great Example where everyone speaks english even the mass transit and all traffic signs are in English: Singapore.

        I agree that when folks immigrate legally to this country they no longer want to be “American” and perhaps I romantacize this a bit but I believe there was a time when the immigrant came to this country, worked hard, learned the language, as did their children and did everything they could to be American.

        The fact that local/state and federal dollars are also being utilized to foster this non-american subculture is puzzling, ie traffic signs, mass transit, even tests for your drivers license.

    3. If that kind of thing went and immigrating peoples celebrated mostly “American” holidays and aped “American” cultural mores, there would be less borderline racism.

      I agree. The fucking Irish need to stop with this St. Patrick’s Day crap. And the Italians? They can go back to Italy if they want to have their Columbus Day parades. When are the Scandinavians going to assimilate, by the way. You go to Minnesota can you can smell the stench of lutefisk everywhere!

        1. F*cking Hessians.

          1. Yeah fuck them and the Brunswick-L?neburgians too!

            And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
            That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
            A home and a country, should leave us no more?
            Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
            No refuge could save the hireling and slave
            From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
            And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
            O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

            1. People who don’t think we have a problem with home-grown Hanseatic League’s right here on our own soil are just fooling themselves…

              1. I hear Lufthansa is the number one choice for the terrorists of the Teutonic Order.

        2. That story has been debunked.

          1. The belief that German almost became an official language of American has been debunked. If you follow my link, you’ll learn that what I quoted is entirely true.

        3. Hey, funny thing about this…most of those Germans actually learned English. and their descendants speak it today with little, if any, complaint. Maybe the Mexicans could learn something from them, rather than incessantly kvetching about how mean the gringos are to expect them to learn English.

          1. Weird, huh? White nordic genetic cousins of the English, with a history of continuous cultural and genetic interaction, were able to blend into American life seamlessly within one or two generations, or less, but a group of people separated by more than 15,000 years of evolution on a different continent somehow seems to have a lot of trouble assimilating, even when they’ve lived in the USA for 3 or 4 generations. Yes, it must be the language, that’s the only problem.

      1. I am well aware that our overarching culture was shaped by a variety of different customs, some of them from non-British or English speaking sources. I was not endorsing any form of nativism or national language when I made my above point.

        But I do hate that retarded St Patrick’s day holiday.

      2. If you’re truly a heroic mulatto, shouldn’t you be opposed to heavy immigration from Latin America, since African-American workers suffer the most from the downward wage pressure caused by Latin American immigrants?

        1. If you’re truly a heroic mulatto, shouldn’t you be opposed to heavy immigration from Latin America, since African-American workers suffer the most from the downward wage pressure caused by Latin American immigrants?

          No. I’m not a collectivist blood-and-soil type.

          1. Why do you broadcast your racial make-up in your handle?

            1. Irony.

        2. No, because mulattoes make up the black elite that gets the lion’s share of the benefits from affirmative action, and form an essential part of the leftist coalition. See “Barack Obama”, for further details.

      3. Right, cuz it’s not the spanish language billboards they hate, it’s Cinco De Mayo and Corona.

        And damn the irish and their gaelic language TV stations and political debates too.

    4. It doesn’t take English to mow your lawn or cook your food.

    5. Agreed – that and the paying ‘undocumented workers'(TM)roughly only 65 cents of the dollar they’d pay Americans for the same work….

    6. The problem is that, contrary to Liberal dogma, human populations differ in average intelligence, predisposition to work hard and predisposition to engage in violence. Importing people less capable of building a prosperous society than the natives is a recipe for disaster.

      Also, the Mestizo population of Mexico leans heavily towards socialism; import more of them into the US if you want more socialism and to move even further away from libertarian ideals.

      Even in Europe you have these differences: you have the lazy Greeks, Balkanics and Southerners (not to mention Muslims and Blacks) on the one hand and the hard-working Germans on the other hand. Eventually the poor will try to extort those more successful, which is why we ended up with the socialistic outcome of Germany bailing out Greece. Guess what; libertardians are going to do A LOT of bailing out for poor Mexicans in the future.

  4. “Reagan didn’t so much accept immigrants as smother them with kisses.”

    Well, that was before Home Depot and Lowes started putting up Spanish signs everywhere and credit card centers started asking you to “press one for English”…We’re talking about a group of people that get all riled up every year because retailers choose to greet them with “Happy Holidays” instead of their preferred “Merry Christmas.”

    1. Esta es una prueba para ver si MNG tendr? un arranque de ira de una parodia en espa?ol.

    2. Do you know of a credit card center that asks you to press anything special for English? I just checked five of my cards. Four had an option to press something for Spanish but defaulted to English. The fifth didn’t have any Spanish option at all. Also, I haven’t noticed a plethora of Spanish signs at my local Home Depot, and that’s in Tejas. There’s the option for Spanish on the self-checkout, but that’s about as far as it goes.

      I think we’re talking about a group of people who get riled up over things that don’t actually happen. My guess is some loud-mouthed, right-wing jackass on talk radio says these things happen and that’s enough (not that the left-wing jackasses are any better).

      Mexicans are lazy. And they’re taking our jobs.

      1. “Mexicans are lazy.”

        Other than the Siesta culture, I’ve never gotten this stereotype. As with most immigrants, I’ve personally found most mexicans I’ve worked with in the past to be very hard working.

        1. Isn’t the concept behind the siesta that it’s way too hot to work outside in the mid-afternoon in Mexico and Central America? You sleep through the heat and work later, when it’s cooler?

          1. Yes. Southern farmers have always done something like a siesta too.

        2. It breaks down in the second generation, once they can get welfare.

        3. It breaks down in the second generation, once they can get welfare.

  5. Republicans (those Republicans with decision-making power) are still pro-immigration. It keeps labor costs down.

    1. It’s a charade on both sides, Team Blue doesn’t really care about “multiculturalism” either. It’s all about corporatism.

      1. I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to accuse the Dems of shameless identity politics and then say their professed multiculturalism is just a front for corporatism…

        I have seen this dance for years though where the GOP pushes for immigration reform but doesn’t want to crack down on the businesses that hire while the Dems are willing to do that but won’t agree to crack down on the immigrants themselves. So reform never happened, and both sides could go home and say they supported it but the other side did not.

        1. Hence, a charade on both sides.

        2. Well, I’ve always acknowledged both sides of it. The Dems like illegal immigration because, in the long run, it swells their ranks. That is why they are the ones who pushed overwhelmingly for the liberalization of immigration laws, and scream the loudest when even these watered-down laws might actually be enforced.

        3. However, I won’t deny that many country-club Republicans favor illegal immigration in the short run because it benefits them economically. They share much of the blame for killing any meaningful attempts at enforcement of the current laws.

          1. Once again, SoCal – dead-on target….

      2. No, team blue really does care about multiculturalism. It’s the only way their coalition holds together. And it’s why minorities vote overwhelmingly for democrats.

  6. El Comcast esta’ Suckso.

  7. ” Instead of an endorsement of our way of life, illegal immigrants (and even legal ones) were increasingly seen as a threat to it”

    Well, this is it really, but not in the way Chapman intends it. Like has been said above, it’s when immigration started to change the “way of life” of more Americans (I’d bet immigration is more dispersed geographically through the nation than it once was) that many Americans began to dislike it.

    1. I’d like to know why it’s a bad thing that most Americans don’t like their quality of life/ way of life changed – particularly if it affects them negatively….

  8. Los tiempos eran mejores cuando las personas estaban cazando y retozando

    1. I wonder how you say “Fibertarian” in Spanish.

      1. You don’t. Which is one of several thousand reasons I don’t worry about America becoming a Spanish speaking nation. Latin languages tend to run to 100,000 words and common phrases. The latest edition of the OED has 650,000 entries. English isn’t going to be swamped by Spanish. English is going to swallow Spanish more or less whole, spit out what little it cannot use, belch, and move on.

        1. “Latin languages tend to run to 100,000 words and common phrases. The latest edition of the OED has 650,000 entries.”

          +1 for most ignorant comment on the thread. You don’t know how languages work, do you? English is dominant because of the cultures and economies that support it. If a Spanish country ever gets rich enough to pay some useless academic to stuff a dictionaries with 550,000 obsolete, archaic, and foreign words no one ever uses Spanish would catch right up.

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  10. What Mr. Chapman fails to mention, is the role of 9/11 in throwing gasoline on the xenophobia that has always smoldered in this country.

    1. “xenophobia that has always smoldered in this country.”

      Why single out THIS country? Xenophobia is built into Human DNA, for reasons that, with a little luck, we can overcome. But it is hardly limited to any one nation or culture, and we are far from the worst. If you think that we are, I suggest you go read about the Japanese treatment of burakumin or the decendents of Korean slave-laborers, and get back to me.

      1. “Why single out THIS country?”

        Because that’s the country the article is about.

      2. “why single out this country?”

        Because I live here, and this is the only country I can do anything about. If the Japanese or Russians or whoever else want to be xenophobic, that is their business.

        But my point was NOT to US-bash, but simply suggest that it was significantly less socially acceptable to be virulently xenophobic (i.e. anti-immigrant, whether legal or illegal) prior to 9/11.

        1. “Because I live here”

          And that is why I think first of the interests of native-born citizens of this country, and hold those of foreigners secondary. This is the only country I have, and can do anything about.

          1. Funny, I think hardworking immigrants trying to attain the American dream capture the spirit of America a lot better than restrictionist law-and-order pricks like you who try to crush it.

            1. Those hardworking immigrants that try to attain the American dream are almost invariably high-IQ people (mostly E.Asians and Brahmin Indians). In the past, they were high-IQ Whites from Europe.

              Yet you would like to bring in more low-IQ Mestizo peasants voting for welfare and socialism and make the US look more like Mexico. Open-borders libertardianism has got to be the most retarded, suicidal ideology in world history.

  11. Todas de las mujeres en el mundo tienen un pelo del diablo, pero no saben donde.

    1. I have been assured by several Mexicans that that is a hilarious joke, though it gets lost in translation.

  12. “Asians are the fastest growing race group in the United States, reflecting a surge in immigration from the entire region over a decade, the US Census Bureau said Tuesday.”

    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/asian…..56005.html

    1. I love the comments to that article about how Asians are A-OK because “they come here legally, not like those shifty Hispanics, etc.”

      If they only knew how many Chinese restaurants pay their workers (legal and illegal) under the table and basically thumb their nose at both immigration and tax law.

      1. Yeah, and I think I’ve read that overstaying a travel visa is a far more likely form of entry than jumping the physical border.

      2. The Chinks are OK because as a population they have high average IQ and even lower genetic predisposition towards crime and violence than Whites.

        Niggers and Mestizos are NOT OK because they usually have lesser cognitive abilities than Whites or East Asians (plus the odd Brahmin Indians, whose endogamy assured the selection of high-IQ genes). Some are smart though, which is why IQ tests should be used to weed out undesirable immigrants. High average intelligence is a prerequisite for building a prosperous society. Economic freedom comes second, which is why Somalia is not a place most libertardians would move to (in spite of the massive economic freedom there).

  13. You left out part of the Regan immigration deal, that in exchange for amnesty, there would be enforcement of the immigration laws. Since this was not done, nobody believes any new amnesty/enforcement deal would be any different. So why agree to amnesty if the other side won’t carry out its side of the deal?

    I would think that Reason would understand deals and contracts and what happens when one side does not carry out its part of the deal. It puts future deals in jeopardy. Does anyone believe that if a new amnesty/path to citizenship/worker program deal is made that the enforcement provisions would be carried out?

    1. Not me.

      I openly acknowledge that if I offer you such a deal, it will be to sucker you.

      Because I don’t really want to undertake greater enforcement.

      It would be like me offering to devote more resources to enforcing laws against heroin in exchange for legalizing marijuana. The day after the ink was dry on that deal, I’ll be out there trying to saw the legs out from under heroin enforcement spending.

      1. Well, you can’t blame people that oppose illegal immigration for opposing such deals then, right?

    2. What immigration laws do you feel are being not enforced or under-enforced?

      1. Well, everyone admits that there are literally millions of illegals here, many people strongly feel there are quite a few in their own communities. Since they are illegal by definition it’s hard for people to not conclude the law is being underenforced.

    3. Yep – Simpson Mazzolli was to be a one-time-deal, with Democrats agreeing to more border/immigration controls. The border enforcement stuff never (really…) materialized. The trickle from the 70’s to the 80’s after Simpson/Mazzolli (in ’86…) turned into a torrent in the early 90’s – eventually a flood in the late 90’s up till 9-11-01. That event opened everyone’s eyes to what was happening. Loss of soveriegnty is a real concern….

  14. In that context, Mexicans and other immigrants, legal or not, further confirmed the superiority of democracy, individual liberty and free markets

    “Legal or not.” Well, sure but legal immigrants sufficed for this “reason” we supposedly liked illegals when we needed to show the Commies up as we don’t need to now. This article is nonsense.

  15. The people who freak out about “press 2 for Spanish” are just plain stupid. I have a close friend who is very fluent in English, but his native language is Mandarin – whenever he has a choice, he’ll read in Mandarin, which is far faster for him. Yet he and I converse in English, because my knowledge of Mandarin is negligible.

    What is the problem with Spanish-speakers having access to Spanish, and Mandarin-speakers having access to Mandarin, and so forth? When we gringos go to Mexico, most of us are delighted to find that English is spoken and understood in Tijuana; why do we freak out about Spanish-speakers on this side of the border? Is it that we feel inferior about our poor language skills?

    1. In fairness many “market niches” would be upset to learn companies are working to do business with other niches. Consider a bookstore chain that attracted a lot of liberals having ads for conservatives during the wait time at their customer service calls, and vice versa.

      1. The conflict between liberals and conservatives is because of ideology. The conflict between English and Spanish speakers is because of bigotry.

    2. Wer AMERCINS! AMERCINS speek INGLERSH! Damit!

    3. people in mexico learn english because of the tourism trade. if you live in america you should learn english. the problem with other languages we spend millions printing things in other languages. CA dmv 22 languages street signs all in english. try pushing english in mexico tell their citizens they have to learn english. i should not be impositioned in this country because i dont speak english period. some of my relatives came here from italy they learned english. get with the program

      1. This is a spoof, right?

        1. What’s spoofish about it? Of course the reason Mexicans in tourist areas learn English is the tourism trade. Outside of those areas, if you don’t speak Spanish or have a translator then, well, tough shit.

          It could perhaps be worded more eloquently, but the basic point is valid.

    4. Among other things, the need for access to Spanish/Mandarin/et cetera language resources is a government expense as well as one taken on by the private sector. Socials, courts, hospitals, police, social welfare agencies, and other government agencies need to spend more money on translation and interpretation services. This increases the cost and size of government and is one more example of how current immigration patterns are antithetical to the goal of a society run on libertarian ideas.

  16. Are we talking LEGAL or ILLEGAL immigrants? Why do we keep mixing them up? ILLEGAL immigrants are ILLEGAL, as in against the law, and usually a drain on our resources. They shouldn’t be here any more than I should be illegally be in Switzerland. LEGAL immigrants are welcome. Come on in!
    Please don’t make me type in uppercase again.

    1. So if the government declared an amnesty, and said all illegal immigrants are now legal, the problem would be solved?

      1. Exacerbated – check polls of most Americans in re: Amnesty…. 😉

    2. Legal immigrants should only be welcome if the bar for legality is set high enough to weed out the undesirables and the low-IQs. We might see some attempts to lower that bar in the future so as to circumvent the justified anger of White Americans about illegal immigrants invading their country.

  17. another apologizer for law breaking. most people dont have a problem with immigration. illegal crossing our borders is not immigration. americans have a constitutional right to be protected from this. thousands of americans have died because of criminal illegals in our country. mexican cartel has strongholds in over 200 american cities. meatpacking plants paid more 20 years ago than they do today. this is not about racism this is about the rule of law and playing by the rules

    1. Just because something is a law doesn’t make it just.

    2. Someone didn’t learn proper English capitalization, punctuation and subject-verb agreement.

      They were obviously putting all their best teaching resources into ESL classes at your public school, instead of teaching the natives. You should ask for a refund.

    3. When you are thrown in jail with a not-so-friendly guy named Bubba next time you illegally go 1 mph over the speed limit, don’t expect my sympathy, you dirty illegal driver.

  18. All power to the Soviets

  19. Is the Romney campaign like an Etch A Sketch?

  20. I think Mr Chapman missed the main cause of the shift entirely. In the 1950’s and 1960’s there wasn’t much of a welfare state to speak of.

    In the 1970’s the costs of the great society programs of the Johnson administration were just starting to come to light.

    In the 1980’s people first started to get concerned about the size of the Federal debt and looking for ways to trim it as well as looking for scapegoats to blame for it.

    It was also politically dangerous to attack welfare programs or their beneficiaries in the 70’s and 80’s because such attacks could be used against you.

  21. OK wow, that mnakes a lot of sense dude, Seriously.

    http://www.real-world-anon.tk

  22. So along comes the illegal immigrants, they made a perfect round about target for attacking welfare, they were not sympathetic cases to the average voter (they were after all breaking the law) and they had no power of their own so it was a safe way for “conservative” politicans to attack welfare and from there it grew into a more general attack on the immigrants themselves for a completely seperate reason.

    It was also about the 1970’s that the economic advantage that America came out of World War 2 with started to evaporate as the economies of the rest of the world finished rebuilding and caught up with us. All of a sudden the economic booms of the 50’s and 60’s were over and the prospect of real declines in wages as well as economic stagnation started to enter the public consciousness.

  23. Where were all the good jobs going? Factory towns were dying and the illusion of lifetime employment created in the 50’s was gone. Whose fault was it?

    Well obviously it was those damn foreigners taking “our jobs” first with the Japaneese pulling them overseas, but later when the reality became apparent that this wasn’t the case attention shifted to immigrants and especially illegal ones.

    Sure there were no real facts to back up these views, they just combined to make a viable vote getting narrative that illegals are responsible for all of the economic problems in your life.

    1. Not quite sure how outsourcing hasn’t contributed to unemployment. A lot of the cheapness of foreign labor comes from the fact that their governments take a lackadaisical view of workers’ rights and environmental regulation. That and, in the case of China specifically, currency manipulation designed to artificially cheapen their goods in US markets. This process has quickened in recent years as network externalities have caused a lot of industries related to outsourced functions to follow them overseas.

      1. Hypothesize a magic black box in the middle of the Pacific. US companies can send ships out to this black box with detailed designs and packaging instructions and, for a few thousand dollars per container, load their ships with goods to bring back to US ports.

        Is this good for the US or bad for the US?

        Why is it any different if you change “magic black box” to any formulation of outsourced anything that is of lower cost than the same US production?

        I can hypothesize why it is bad for China — e.g., slave labor, environmental destruction, and, most likely, currency manipulation and subsidy that favors Chinese producers at Chinese consumers’ expense. But there is nothing about outsourcing that disadvantages the US economy any more than any other production improvement disadvantages the US economy.

        1. It’s bad for the US because regulations put in place to protect US workers from abusive employers and citizens from pollution backfire when their jobs are outsourced, leaving them unemployed. Note the decline of the manufacturing sector, and the high unemployment among unskilled workers. Human brains are not interchangeable. Not everyone can be retrained as a biomolecular engineer. Realistically, a large segment of the population will simply drop out of the labor force and become a burden on their families, private charity, or local, state, and federal government. So we still pay for their upkeep, but now they’re idle and embittered.

          1. Beat me by seconds, SoCal….

          2. The magic black box in the middle of the Pacific does not suffer the evils of differential labor regulations, abusive employers, or pollution movement.

            Why is the black box bad for the US?

            1. The black box is not bad. The problem is that it is a magical construct.

              1. So is the computer, the internet, the telephone switch, and a host of other technological advancements that cost millions of jobs.

                This is neither new nor profound. Recall Bastiat’s magical job-killing machine.

                1. http://www.halfsigma.com/2011/06/unemployment.html

                  “We need to back off from the idea that free trade is always beneficial. If outsourcing work to China results in an American being unemployed, and the American then gets all sorts of welfare benefits, the gain in profits for the outsourcing company can very well be less than the cost to the taxpayers of paying the welfare benefits for the unemployable American.”

                  1. You appear to understand the equivalence between the black box and China yet still see the destruction of US jobs as a problem, not simply the downside of creative destruction that raises the standard of living in general.

                    Point taken.

                    1. Believe it or not, economics does not begin with Adam Smith and end with Bastiat. There were economists both before and after, and some of their ideas, including their ideas on trade, differ from those of classical economists.

                    2. Indeed. And the trade economists before and after that you seem to be hewing to are mercantilists.

                  2. Nice, glad to see these ideas get more popular. Libertarians must abandon their dogmatism, because economic realities emerge from the biological ones we are just beginning to understand, not from the axioms of Austrian economists (even though understanding the Austrian perspective is certainly useful)

                2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/st…..n-the-usa/

                  This article also explains how earlier stages of outsourcing, through the mechanism of network externalities, cause later, cascading stages of outsourcing, even if the overall economic effect is negative for the country doing the outsourcing. Individuals do not live in a vacuum, and neither do companies.

                  1. Other articles also explain how earlier stages of automation, through the mechanism of network externalities, cause later, cascading stages of automation, even if the overall economic effect is negative for the country doing the automation. Individuals do not live in a vacuum, and neither do companies.

                    1. Thank you for the false equivalency. Just the level of sterling intellectual discourse that I’ve come to expect from the “Reason” threads.

                    2. Automation costs 10 times the number of jobs that outsourcing does. Manufacturing output of the US continues to rise year over year while manufacturing employment in the US continues to fall.

                      Why all the blame on outsourcing?

                    3. If you read what I’ve actually posted, rather than screaming “BAAAH! PROTECTIONISM! FALSE EQUIVALENCY WITH LUDDITES! BAAAAH!” you’d see that I’ve answered your objections. And for your information, most of my theoretical objections are drawn from New Trade Theory, not Mercantilism.

            2. Because many people have a deep investment in the red white and blue box. It’s also cleaner and uses less human blood as lubricant.

            3. The real problem with offshoring is often the benefits are oversold becuase the incentives for the executives who make the decisions are different from the companies they work for.

              Yes, per hour labor costs are lower offshore (but even that differential is disappearing in many market sectors) and focusing on those produces great rewards and often large bonuses for the executives but there are other costs, some very hard to quantify but no less real that tend to get completely ignored and in many cases, especially in knowledge work, these additional costs makes offshoring at least as if not more expensive as doing the work here in the states.

              This is where the problem with offshoring comes in, frequently it is costing far more than it is saving for the companies but the incentives are structured to ensure that management only see’s it as a benefit because that is what is best for them.

          3. The idea that offshoring can cause unemployment is entirely attributable to lack of understanding of how markets work.

            Yes in the short term ANYTHING can cause unemployment, however there is never a shortage of productive work available to be done meaning there are always jobs available for workers displaced by offshoring.

            Sure short term transitionary unemployment can be the cause while workers are redeployed to new sectors of the economy but the end effect of more efficient production of goods more than makes up for that at the national level.

        2. How about more Unemployed or ‘under’-employed Americans? Just a thought….

          1. So this is kind of a forum of people who kind of believe in free markets. Your position stated here is somewhat unusual.

            If you really believe that productivity improvements cause unemployment, you should simply go straight to Luddism: Technology eliminates an order of magnitude more jobs than outsourcing does.

            1. There is a strange phenomenon where people who disagree about some issues express their disagreement towards those with whom they disagree.

            2. It’s more complicated than that. Yes, automation will probably, in the long run, eliminate a lot of the jobs taken by illegals. But illegal immigration (and outsourcing) has sped up the negative result (unemployment of American workers) while actually delaying the automation process (as cheap labor makes labor-saving advances less economical). It’s similar to why the antebellum south ended up falling behind the north in mechanization. Slaveowners had plenty of cheap labor in the form of slave populations, often more than they knew what to do with, and so didn’t invest in labor-saving advancements.

            3. Lets assume that both technology and outsourcing are neutral in the long run towards employment. Technological change tends to push people from really shitty jobs (say, manual farm labor) into crappy jobs in the service sector. Outsourcing tends to push people from pretty good jobs (skilled trades, manufacturing) to crappy jobs in the service sector.

              The benefits from maximizing comparative advantage don’t compensate the workers who get shitty jobs as a result. If it were a Pareto improvement, it would have already happened.

        3. As for currency manipulation and its effect on the US economy, you should read Ian Fletcher’s book “Free Trade Doesn’t Work”. He goes into detail about how China’s policy of encouraging investment of US dollars held by Chinese banks in American assets to prevent the appreciation of the Renminbi helped fuel the housing bubble.

  24. I live in New Mexico. There are plenty of communities here that pre-date the transition from Mexico to the US following the war. Spanish is language of common use there. I am sure that that is true of much of the South West. Spanish was the native language of most of the populations out here.

    To my knowledge, no one forces private companies to provide Spanish language access: they do so for profit.

    In Chile all public school children must study English. Since the 1990s Chile’s public policy has been to become a bilingual English/Spanish country.

    1. Meanwhile, outside of New Mexico, most people speak English.

      “In Chile all public school children must study English”
      That’s because English is far more common in international trade than Spanish. It’s useful in transactions with almost any country, even if English is not the primary spoken language in that country, because it’s still used for trade purposes.

      This comes from the fact that the leading trading nation for much of the 19th century was Great Britain, and its successor, the US, is also an English-speaking country. Network externalities have reinforced this so that most people engaged in international trade speak at least passable English.

      By contrast, Spanish is only particularly useful in dealing with Spanish-speaking countries, which aren’t, on the whole, dynamos of economic growth. There is no corresponding reason, then, for Americans to learn Spanish.

  25. I think it’s ironic how some people favor free markets and competition, until it comes to labor competition. In that case, we want to regulate competition away, in the form of immigration law.

    1. Because the movement of people over borders has absolutely no externalities associated with it. Cultural balkanization, strain on the infrastructure, ethnic political lobbies, and environmental degradation don’t exist.
      Oh, but if we live in an ideal libertarian society, which has never actually existed anywhere, anytime, those things won’t matter. Therefore, let’s import the social pathologies of every nation on earth!

      1. The people leaving other countries due largely to a bad political environment for business are unlikely to try to import that experience into their new country.

        If the Republicans weren’t so idiotic when it comes to the unwelcoming anti-immigrant rhetoric, they’d likely win a majority of the entrepreneurial, family-values oriented Hispanic vote. Instead, they’ve pushed them right into the coddling arms of the Democrats.

        1. If the libertardians were not so idiotic as to ignore genetic differences between human populations, the fact that genes determine individual personality traits, which in turn seem to determine political preferences (look up Jonathan Haidt’s work) – perhaps they would understand that there is no chance in hell for a population like Mexico’s to suddenly become libertarian. Libertarianism is the domain of Whites with a strong work ethic (Germanic protestants, mostly).

          There is, however, one ideology perfectly suited to the preferences of low-IQ 3rd worlders living in slums as a consequence of their own genetic makeup: socialism and wealth redistribution from the ‘privileged’ White libertarians.

  26. The problem I see with illegal, as opposed to legal, immigrants, is primarily that they are unskilled workers. The US has a huge surplus of unskilled labor already, as indicated by the high unemployment and poverty-level wages in that segment of the workforce. Meaning we don’t need more. Also, most second-generation children of illegals also end up as unskilled workers, and qualify for welfare because they’re technically citizens. But far be it from extremist libertarians to be concerned by the long-term implications of the policies they’re pushing.

    1. The problem I see with illegal, as opposed to legal, immigrants is primarily that they are illegal.

      If they were legal and could enter and leave at will, they would be much more likely to work in the US seasonally and not feel required to bring their family with them to the US if they didn’t want to.

      1. And give up all the “free”* bennies? I don’t think so.

        1. What I described was only the way that things were for 150 years before the clampdown on the border. Of course the bennies override all that history. How could I possibly think otherwise.

          1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/…..id=topnews

            Funny, the bennies seem to be a big enough draw for Chinese women, and they aren’t even looking for welfare.

            1. The people in your story are not looking for bennies. They are looking for legal US residence for their children.

              If migration were generally legal instead of illegal, the draw of citizenship would be much lower since non-citizens would have have their right of residence recognized as well.

              1. My point is that there are people who go out of their way to weasel their way into automatic citizenship, who probably aren’t interested in “seasonal labor”. Lots of things have changed since the 50s. There are, in fact, more welfare benefits. Other conditions that have encouraged more permanent migration, such as more accomodation for aliens, have also occurred. Your assertion that more immigrants would work on a seasonal basis rather than permanently immigrating is just an unfounded assertion. And while it may be true of some, it is not necessarily true of others. There were seasonal workers among the 19th century European immigrants, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have a large number of permanent immigrants as well.

        2. So reform the benefits. You’ll get no opposition from us. How are programs set up by citizen-elected politicians giving access to illegal immigrants the fault of the immigrants? Moreover, how is that an argument for closing the border?

          Moreover, at least here in Texas those programs are paid for with sales and property taxes, which illegal immigrants pay.

          I’m sure you’re not complaining about the millions of dollars a year illegals contribute in payroll taxes that they’ll likely never see a return from, though.

      2. You second sentence is much closer to a theoretical, untested guess. Unless the ‘anchor-baby’ provision in the 14th Amend. is narrowed and defined more clearly for everyone – even in Spanish if necessary….

        1. I would completely support making immigrants — legal or illegal — as well as their citizen children ineligible for targeted welfare for 18 or 20 years after immigration.

          It is trivial to eliminate welfare as a potential draw of immigrants.

          1. Well, according to our illustrious Supreme Court, which gave us the “Anchor Baby” interpretation in the first place, that would be discriminatory and illegal under the same 14th amendment that they drew the anchor baby interpretation from. And thus not trivial. Nice try, though.

            1. When was this tested?

              I know that primary education and emergency health care cannot be denied to anyone. But I am unaware of any Supreme Court test of, say, WIC or EIC or any of the plethora of welfare programs that a couple hundred million US citizens are ineligible for. What is one more requirement for eligibility on the head of the household?

              1. Eligibility requirements based on what essentially amounts to a citizen’s parents’ national origin would almost certainly be struck down by the Supreme Court. Same as how a welfare law giving services to, for example, everyone but Irish-descended Americans would be unconstitutional. It’s not really rocket science to figure out why your proposal is unworkable in the current legal environment.

                1. The eligibility is not based on a citizen’s parents’ national origin. It’s based on a citizen’s parents’ eligibility for welfare — a very different thing and, incidentally, exactly the same eligibility requirement faced by every citizen child born of citizens.

                  1. If someone is officially a citizen, and is denied a right or privilege of other citizens because their parents are of foreign origin, it clearly runs afoul of the “Privileges and Immunities” clause of the 14th amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court. I’m really not sure what is so very difficult to understand about this.

                    1. First of all, the government making the rule is the Federal government, not a State government — what the 14th actually covers.

                      But more importantly, targeted welfare is not a privilege or immunity. If it is, where the hell is mine? Targeted welfare is a collection of programs created with specific conditions and eligibilities to solve perceived problems. It is up to Congress to declare that citizenship is an automatic eligibility criterion or not.

                    2. Look, I didn’t make the Supreme Court’s formulation of the 14th amendment. And secondly, the question here is whether the law can discriminate against someone who is, under the current law, a citizen of the US, based on his parents’ national origin. You can discriminate based on some factors (such as socioeconomic conditions) under the current interpretation, but not others (such as race or national origin).

                    3. Show me the case.

                      It’s not discrimination based on race or national origin. It’s based on parental eligibility — just like all citizen children.

          2. And as I’ve said before, welfare benefits are only one reason to be wary of mass immigration. We still don’t need more unskilled labor.

            1. Another big ‘reason'(no pun intended…and this, admittedly is a long-term concern…) would be compromising the integrity & pool of candidates that would run for elective office(meaning they would have no real concrete grasp of our historical concept & view of government of the people, by the people…)- these candidates- who in the long run would be nominated by newly minted citizens who have no intention of integrating into our society,culture, let alone our Western system (Constitutional Representative Republic….) of Government (like I’ve said, just look at how California has changed – Reagan MIGHT be elected to dog-catcher out there, but I would not give good odds…). This would, IMO, further the growing ‘Balkanization’ of the United States. Just my view – maybe I’m wrong about it…..

              1. Indeed, one of the issues with immigration is the differing political views new immigrants often bring with them.

                Every so often I hear a pundit describe the wide gap in views on government spending between ‘whites’ and ‘non-whites’. The implication being that demographics changes will mean more voters with a taste for government goodies.

                But demographics may also affect socialist states that see an influx of immigrants that are hostile to the government (think Middle Eastern immigrantion to Europe).

                1. Wait, are you claiming that Middle Eastern immigrants in Europe shun the freebies of the socialist state?

            2. Who is this “we”? Like Obama, you think you can determine what the market wants or needs better than the market can.

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