Immigration

Make Legal Immigration Easier

Immigration bureaucracy makes life harder not just for the immigrants but for the rest of us.

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Conservatives rightly point out that America is a nation of laws. No one should be exempt. That's why many oppose amnesty and other paths to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are here now. "If they want to be in America," the argument goes, "they ought to return to their own countries and apply for a visa legally. America should not reward law breaking."

That sounds sensible—but what happens when the immigrant does that, goes to the U.S. embassy and says, I'd like to work in America legally? He gets paperwork to fill out and is told to go home to wait. And wait. A Forbes investigation found that a computer programmer from India must wait, on average, 35 years. A high school graduate from Mexico must wait an average 130 years!

We tell eager workers, "Do it legally; just wait 130 years"? This makes no sense. We should make legal immigration easier, relax the rules, issue work permits. Conservatives usually understand that complex regulations make life hard for people. Immigration bureaucracy makes life harder not just for the immigrants but for the rest of us.

America needs immigrants. Immigrants co-founded most of Silicon Valley's start-ups. The Patent Office says immigrants invent things at twice the rate of native-born Americans.

Immigrants are special people, people with the ambition and guts to leave their home to pursue an American dream. We ought to let more of them in. And not just PhD's. Half of America's agricultural workers are here illegally, according to the Department of Agriculture. But without them, the government says food would cost much more. Milk would cost 61 percent more.

Some people say, well, maybe immigrants in the past were a boon to America, but now there are just too many. They make up 12 percent of the population! True. But in 1915, it was 15 percent.

Others complain that immigrants once worked hard and tried to assimilate, but today's immigrants are different: less educated, more likely to collect welfare, less likely to adopt the American work ethic. Maybe. But I doubt it. Every new immigrant group has been derided as backward, unclean, or criminal. Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Mass.) called Slovaks "illiterate and ignorant in the extreme." He called Italians "the lowest type as to character and intelligence." Irish immigrants had such a bad reputation that in job advertisements businesses posted job notices: "No Irish need apply."

Fears about newcomers weren't totally unfounded. It took them time to assimilate and accumulate wealth. But they did. The Irish, Italians, and other once-vilified groups are now leaders in America.

People say that immigrants steal "our" jobs. And yes, they do take some. But they create new jobs, too, lots. When people move to another country and encounter a different culture, they see things in new ways. Some pick the best from each culture and create useful things.

Imagine your life without Google searches, cheap Ikea furniture, YouTube, bicycles, blenders, ATM's. All came from immigrants. New Americans also gave us blow dryers, basketball, football, the first shopping mall, comfortable jeans, even the American hot dog (that came from Germany's frankfurter).

Immigration enriches our language. Jewish immigrants gave us the word "glitch." "Gee whiz" came from the Irish. The song "God Bless America" was written by an immigrant—the prolific Irving Berlin, born in Russia.

The TV network on which my weekly show is broadcast exists only because an immigrant from Australia saw the need for Fox News. And I'm only here because my parents left Germany in 1930, a year when immigration rules were still pretty lax (if you weren't Chinese, since there were racist quotas).

Today, we'd solve many problems if work permits were available and legal immigration easier. If people can come here legally, fewer sneak in. It will be easier to secure the border because police can focus on actual criminals and terrorists. As Lao-tzu said, "the greater the number of laws and enactments, the more thieves and robbers there will be."

America should say yes to immigration.

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  1. I’m with you, Stossel. But let me ask you this question? Who’s going to make it easier? Our government? Heh, yeah that’s pretty damn funny, they have no capacity to make anything easier, everything they touch only gets more fucked up. So, let’s face it, there is no way to make immigration easier under our current form of government. Any attempt by them to ‘reform’ immigration will wind up a big clusterfuck of a porkfest and more cronyism.

    As someone who has had to deal with immigration, I say please leave it the fuck alone, it’s bad enough as it is.

  2. The TV network on which my weekly show is broadcast exists only because an immigrant from Australia saw the need for Fox News.

    Well, yes, Stossel, but Aussies are the good immigrants because they speak English and are good Protestants. No, the problem lies with all those Latinoamericanos who come here, take er jebz, are papists and open taco stands. And that’s bad, I guess.

    1. Notice how the extremely complex NAFTA debate quickly degenerated into “Tacos will be cheaper” vs. “Mexicans carry knives.”

      1. Squirrelz!

        Your post reminded me of the old P.J. O’Rourke quote, above.

    2. Realistically, they take jobs that Americans will not do, and if they do do, are so fucking lazy and inept that the employer can’t stay in business.

      1. You forgot to add “and aren’t worth enough to pay decent salaries for”

    3. Republicans are doubly concerned about them dirty mezicans taking er jobz. Stossel mentions the smart, well-educated immigrants… well Republicans know that those jobs are designated for white-skinned, english-speaking Muricans! And if them damn furinners come and take all of our crappy manual labor and agricultural jobs, what will republicans tell them damn dirty welfare-whores that they should do instead of sucking the teat?

      Immigrants are like kryptonite to republicans.

    4. OldMexican,

      Por Favor! Get over your La Raza paranoia about Gringos. And don’t forget that the original Aussies were convicts who were dumped at Botany Bay back in the 18th Century. And don’t be pissed off about the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (1848). Had it not been for the Mexico-U.S. War there would be no border as we know it for your amigos to cross.

      And please remember that a lot of Latino Americanos are now Protestants. Also, Gringos like Tacos.

      But my big question is: How come Mexico and all those countries south of it are so fucked up? Finally, why do Hispanic people believe that they can come to the U.S. illegally just because they are Hispanics?

      Again, why are all those countries like Mexico and points south so very fucked up? Maybe it is because Spain fucked them up while they were still part of the Spanish Empire. So how is all that the fault of us Gringos?

  3. People say that immigrants steal “our” jobs. And yes, they do take some. But they create new jobs, too, lots.

    It’s important to note, Stossel, that jobs do not belong to anybody except the employers, because it is THEIR money, THEIR facilities and THEIR requirements.

    1. Jobs don’t “belong” to anybody. They’re just a mutual agreement between two parties.

      1. Yes, of course, but if someone is going to argue in terms of ownership, then saying that a job belongs to an American or a certain group, you can counter with the argument that the job would really belong to the employer because he or she is the one with the money.

  4. My great-great grandfather was called a “dumb Swede” by people who didn’t like immigrants.

    1. Do you have a point, you dumb Swede?

      1. Welcome to H&R!

      2. Brandon,

        Fuck off!

    2. Do you have a point, you dumb Swede?

      That many people like to cling to ill-conceived stereotypes of people from other countries. And that immigrants from Sweden and other countries (perceived as dumb and detrimental for the U.S.) did not destroy the U.S.

      I didn’t see the need for insults, Brandon.

  5. But without them, the government says food would cost much more. Milk would cost 61 percent more.

    Kind of ironic that the same government that purports to hold immigration in check also says that without undocumented immigrants, food prices would skyrocket. Not that it is not true – the fact that food prices have not risen even more dramatically than it has is because of cheaper labor. It is just funny seeing the government act in such a schizophrenic way.

    1. They’re crooks. They want more immigrants for 2 reasons, businesses want them because they are generally better employees than lazy Americans who would rather take welfare than work at low wage jobs. It’s hard to argue with that logic. And 2nd, they think they are all so dumb that they will unquestionably keep them voted into office.

      But it’s not difficult to figure out why the government acts schizo, because they have no moral compass and no plan, they only exist to make themselves rich through cronyism.

    2. “Not that it is not true”

      But it isn’t, for any definition of “skyrocket” that doesn’t include single digit price increases

  6. TWO things:
    ‘1) Immigration is a clusterfuck partly because there is a fight between the feds v/s the states and the locals. The feds want lots of un-documented “illegal humans” to prop up Social Security and other socialism? The illegal humans PAY into those systems (with fake or stolen SSNs) and cannot collect. They prop up socialism by several billion per year, cost-free for us “legal humans” and our Fed Masters. V/S the sates and locals think THEY get screwed for un-reimbursed charges for schooling and emergency room visits (the latter seems true to me). Feds v/s locals here = SOME significant root cause of the clusterfuck?
    ‘2) Root cause #2 of the clusterfuck is, the more complicated and lengthy the (immigration and other) rules and laws are, the more jobs for our favorites? GOVERNMENT ALMIGHTY “servants” of ours! Which are in turn, the favorites of? Yup, you got it, the DEMOBLICANS!

    1. The illegal humans PAY into those systems (with fake or stolen SSNs) and cannot collect

      They can collect after they receive legal status.

      1. Which as they article explains to us, is 130 years after they apply, if they are illegal humans from Mexico at least…

        1. They also cannot collect if they are Permanent Residents and then removed for whatever reason.

        2. Good luck collecting the SS taxes you paid into a stolen SS account number. Good luck getting through normal immigration channels after admitting to the government you’re guilty of some sort of immigration-related crime and identity theft.

          1. And seriously, complaining about 130 years for a Mexican high school graduate? Do we have a shortage of those? A use for more?

            1. I don’t have any use for all the old geezers hanging out in all the old folk’s homes either… No shortage there either… Unless they are MY relatives! So can we kill them all? Let them starve to death? Let gangs range freely in their old-geezers’ homes? Because that is what is going on in Central America… What about the simple HUMANITY of CARING about other people, at least just BARELY enough to let them come here and cut my grass for cheaply, if they and I both want them to?

              1. They’re our problem. Mexican high school grads are not our problem until we let them become such.

  7. The economic argument against labor protectionism we do not make often enough

    A protectionist is someone who fears that competition will lower the market value of his property. If he is a businessman, he fears competition will lower the market price of his goods; if he is a laborer, he fears competition will lower the market price of his labor. Economists usually frame this as a producer-consumer conflict and argue that lower consumer costs benefit everyone.

    But it is also true that falling costs lead to higher demand and an expanding market, and expanding markets, in turn, lead to more specialization and more narrowly specialized niche employment with higher wages.

    So will cheap competitors commoditize your job and undermine your wages? Yes, likely they will. But commoditized skills like commoditized goods are the bedrock of a pantheon of new more-specialized skills, many of which will only be accessible through the pathway of the commoditized skill.

    Concretely, white construction workers who fear losing their jobs to guest workers would find that a revitalized construction industry would have need for experienced construction workers with native English skills and deeper local roots. Local roots confer a comparative advantage that has market value even without government sponsorship or police intervention. Cheaper construction would mean more home buyers, more civil engineering projects, more commercial property development, and everyone would benefit.

    1. All theoretical, not based on practical experience.

      1. I have ample anecdotal experience in my own IT profession. In the 1980s, I had colleagues who believed that the UNIX operating system would “commoditize” their VAX & IBM programming skills, and some actually made the argument to me that the government should intervene to protect their jobs. In hindsight, their job protectionist mentality was breathtakingly foolish and ignorant. UNIX *did* commoditize operating system jobs, because information about it could be obtained at a BDalton bookstore (the VAX manuals where I worked were locked in a glass case and only certain privileged trolls had access). But guess what? The falling cost of programming led to an explosion in the use of programming skills, so certain skills were commoditized by other specialties arose and wages in these newer narrow niches were high. Something similar is currently underway with IT outsourcing. If my colleagues and I had lobbied to have my IT wages protected at the expense of software consumers, we would not only have been thieves, we would have been short-sighted thieves, because the long term benefit in both employment and wages was to **not** resist the commoditization of certain IT skills.

  8. 35 years? 130 years?

    I know two people who’ve immigrated. One worked in IT, one worked in a laundry.

    It took neither of them 35-130 years. Not even half that.

  9. Stossel and other open borders/more immigration advocates look at this issue from a theoretical perspective. Intellectuals and libertarians don’t deal with the negative effects of mass immigration on a daily basis – dumbed down schools, public squalor, crowded hospitals, strained public resources.

    And in the case if immigrants from Mexico, we are facing an immigrant group that dominates all others in most of the 50 states. This is affecting electoral politics in a major way – as Hispanic immigrants who favor big government are having an overwhelming impact in states like California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.

    Today’s immigration system is very different from previous periods if high immigration because the country is over-populated already. There’s too many people in California taxing already depleted water supplies.

    In addition, these people aren’t “new” in that we don’t have the experience if living with them. On the contrary, we have been living with these people for decades. We know how well they’re assimilating. We see what they’ve done to our culture, our schools, our language.

    We have come to a point where we have had enough if liberal immigration policies. The U.S. Already has the most generous immigration policy in the world. Time to take a break and assess what the country actually needs.

    1. Olenska,

      Well said. Our border with Mexico needs to be sealed/militarized. That’s the only solution to the problem. However, you can be sure that this will never happen, because the open border mob will never let it happen. It’s a billion dollar industry of drugs, sex traffic, cheap labor, and illegal weapons. And it is also an open border for terrorists of all kinds. Failure to resolve this problem will result in the U.S. eventually becoming a third world type of country. Maybe then, this flood of people coming here illegally now won’t even want to come here anymore. Seal and militarize the border is the only solution.

      1. The nearest thing we have to tub-thumbing Latin American populist politicians here in the US are you visa*restrictionsists!! You sound **exactly** like Hugo Chavez and his ilk, complaining constantly about evil foreigners stealing jobs, making romantic appeals to “national economic sovereignty” and to people’s deep economic fears. The essence of Latin American populism is short-sighted economically illiterate and ignorant nationalism and protectionism and in the US no one excels at that type of ignorance and destructive misunderstanding of job markets better than you visa restrictionists. You think you know where high wages come from. You DO NOT. You think you understand what best promotes employment. You DO NOT. With friends like you, the American workers really does not need enemies.

    2. I have ample anecdotal experience in my own IT profession. In the 1980s, I had colleagues who believed that the UNIX operating system would “commoditize” their VAX & IBM programming skills, and some actually made the argument to me that the government should intervene to protect their jobs. In hindsight, their job protectionist mentality was breathtakingly foolish and ignorant. UNIX *did* commoditize operating system jobs, because information about it could be obtained at a BDalton bookstore (the VAX manuals where I worked were locked in a glass case and only certain privileged trolls had access). But guess what? The falling cost of programming led to an explosion in the use of programming skills, so certain skills were commoditized by other specialties arose and wages in these newer narrow niches were high. Something similar is currently underway with IT outsourcing. If my colleagues and I had lobbied to have my IT wages protected at the expense of software consumers, we would not only have been thieves, we would have been short-sighted thieves, because the long term benefit in both employment and wages was to **not** resist the commoditization of certain IT skills.

  10. We have a major problem on our border with Mexico, and the author of this article refuses to address it. Anyone wanting to read a serious book about what is going on in “Amexica” needs to read “Whatever It Takes” by J.D. Hayworth. All the author of this rather poorly written piece of propaganda says, is that past immigration has been beneficial to the U.S. However, he conveniently forgets that ports of entry such as Angel Island and Ellis Island received legal immigrants. What we have now is a tidal wave of Spanish speaking (mostly poor) illegals who believe it is their right to cross the border. Add to this no real desire to learn English. And don’t forget that a lot of these illegals from Mexico and parts further south are bringing drugs across the border, plus the illegal arms and sex traffic that flows across the U.S. Mexico Border. I suspect that nothing is being done because lots and lots of people are being paid big wads of money to simply let things keeping flowing.

    1. We only have a problem, because you visa restrionists are trying to restrain trade and criminalize foreign labor to protect the jobs of 10,000 white construction workers from competition by foreigners at the expense of 70 million American home owners and other consumers of foreign labor. If we granted work visas, the pressures at the border would subside, black markets would disappear, and law enforcement could focus on real issues instead of restraining trade to please your buddies in the construction business.

  11. I forgot to mention that the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico and points south could very well result (at some near future date) disease epidemics. Remember that those people coming the U.S. back in the Ellis Island Days had to have health examinations. Legal immigrants also have to have health documents, even today.

    Yes, I realize the article is about making the process of becoming a legal immigrant easier. However, a close look tells me that this approach is saying that illegal is OK because our immigration process is too tough.

    1. The health, anti-terrorism, and legality arguments are just a smoke screen that you labor protectionists throw out because you are too embarrassed to openly admit your real agenda: job protectionism that benefits a small minority at the expense of a much larger group of your fellow citizens.

  12. Being relatively new to Reason, I didn’t realize there was a significant anti-immigration crowd here. Stossel’s point is that becoming a legal immigrant is an incredibly difficult lottery so it makes sense people would come here illegally to enrich themselves. Some comments chastising illegal immigrant communities fail to account for the ills that are a result generating an illegal class of people. Many of these ills of immigration would be ameliorated if there was more open immigration. We would also likely get a higher quality of immigrant, surely some people stay home for fear of living in the shadows. Given the amount of data the NSA has been sorting and collecting the last 10 years I bet they could handle background checks on a couple million people a year. I only care about 3 things, are you a gang member/terrorist, are you sick with a communicable disease and do you want to work. If the answers are no, no, yes we should let in pretty much everyone (maybe not all at once so as not to flood the labor market). Also with easy legal immigration we could pretty safely assume anyone crossing borders illegally is a terrorist or involved in other criminal activity, making catching those people significantly easier.

    1. If the border between the The United States and Mexico were properly sealed and protected, the U.S. would not have a lot of the problems generated by an open border. (The Border Patrol does not have enough people to do the job).

      The border should have been militarized a long time ago with our Armed Forces deployed there to counter illegal drugs and illegal weapons etc. etc. To talk about any sort of “immigration reform” until the border is sealed and militarized is pure bullshit!

      This is an international border by the way. As it is, we have a right to protect it from illegal immigrants, and all the other threats such as international terrorism that come with it.

      This is no longer a matter of some poor campesinos heading north to harvest crops. There is some serious criminal shit going on down on our border with Mexico.

      Seal the fucking border or shut the fuck up.

      1. Again, we can’t address the crime issues as long as you have our police enforcing your job protection scheme. Please quit seizing control of our immigration system to further your restraint of trade agenda and then it will be a simple matter to close the border.

    2. Well said, Mand13. But there is little use arguing with one of these redneck job protectionists. They are deeply insecure about their employment prospects and fear competition from foreigners. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is very hard to make a man understand something when his job depends on him not understanding it.”

  13. Stossel has made a lousy argument especially in light of the fact that he is in the public eye and has access to all the facts regarding immigration issues. If he has been responsible enough to ensure that he is well informed of immigration issues then he must know that low skill immigrants both legal and illegal only contribute about one third to the tax base that they take out per year.

    Stossel and all Americans should know that the U.S. immigration system was created to benefit the United States and its citizens, not immigrants. It is wrong for the U.S. government to put an added burden on American citizens especially when millions are unemployed and underemployed, which is as we all know the fault of the government too.

    It is impossible for Stossel or anyone who supports open borders or leans in that direction to make an intelligent argument in favor of putting immigrants ahead of citizens. It goes against all reasoning as to why countries exist in the first place. Which is to secure its territory, borders, and its citizens from harm.

    Simply put the United States belongs to American citizens; it is our home. It is the government’s most important job to protect us and once all is in place and secure we can then reach out to help others as long as it doesn’t harm the country or its citizens. The idea is to look out for the best interests of Americans, our country and to make decisions that ensure its stability in the future.

  14. Mand13, there are already more than a million legal immigrants that enter the U.S. each year, many of whom take jobs away from American citizens. There are millions of American citizens who are unemployed and underemployed – how does putting more pressure on fellow citizens help the country?

    What is it that you believe is the benefit for the U.S. to allow more immigrants to enter and reside here? Do you support amnesty for the millions of illegal aliens who are already here? If so, why?

    Are you aware of why special interest groups want more immigrants coming to the U.S.? LULAC, La Raza, etc., the business lobby, and politicians? How do their agendas benefit you and other Americans?

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