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Questions About Immigration:

I've blogged nearly nothing about immigration, because it seems to me that to have an informed opinion on the subject, one needs to do a good deal of research (research that I don't have the time and inclination to do now, though I hope to one day). My moral and free-market instincts are generally in favor of pretty substantial immigration, but there are enough serious contrary arguments that I'd heard that I don't feel at all comfortable trusting my instincts here.

So instead of expressing my views, I thought I'd briefly just ask the following questions, and ask you to answer them only if you meet both of these conditions:

(A) You are political liberals or moderates who support a considerable level of welfare spending (for medical care, general relief, housing subsidies, food stamps, public higher education, and a variety of similar programs) — I don't insist that you support the most aggressive forms and levels of welfare spending, but just that you support a considerable amount of such spending.

(B) You support relatively open immigration.

I should note that these are sincere questions, ones that I thought are hard questions for pro-open-immigration forces, but not ones that I've concluded are unanswerable. Here they are:

(1) If we had relatively open immigration, how many of the world's 6 billion people do you think would want to move here? (As I understand, the current rate with our non-open immigration policy is about one million per year.) Would you let in all of them, or would you cap them at some level, or select them otherwise? If you would cap them, what would you do about the illegal immigrants who'll keep on coming?

(2) Which government benefits do you think ought to be provided to these immigrants? I take it that most of us would say that basic police protection ought to be provided. I assume that public K-12 education would be provided for the immigrants' children, too, yes (even if only because you don't want them to be running around on the street, or forming a permanent uneducated underclass)? What about medical care (both emergency and nonemergency), food stamps, university education, and the like? Would you support limiting such programs only to people who are citizens (or who have lived here, say, 7-10 years)? Or do you think that it would be wrong or counterproductive to leave our legal guests without education, medical care, food aid, and the like?

(3) Would you support putting these immigrants on the standard path to citizenship, which would presumably mean that if they don't misbehave, they'd be able to get citizenship within 7-10 years? I'd expect you would, since it's probably not good to have a large cadre of legal residents who nonetheless aren't eligible to be citizens. But if your guess as to question 1 is that many millions would come each year, are you at all worried that this might upset the current political balance on various policy issues that you favor (perhaps, for instance, socially liberal policy issues, such as gay rights and the like) but that many likely immigrants — from Latin America, China, the Middle East, Africa, and the like — might not favor?

(You can of course argue that we should work hard to assimilate the immigrants and acculturate them to our views; but please explain how you'd deal with the possibility that they not be persuaded by our views, at least in the first generation. You can also argue that we should entrench these policy issues as a matter of constitutional law; but then please explain how you'd keep these constitutional judgments from being upset if the political balance shifts enough, given that a large enough majority can always overcome constitutional judgments in a variety of ways.)

UPDATE: Just to make explicit something that I thought was clearly implicit, but that some of the answers didn't touch on -- if your answer to number 2 is pretty generous, wouldn't that further increase your answer to number 1, and bring in many people who would cost a great deal to take care of? Most immigrants, I'm sure, are quite hard-working, but the more benefits you offer, the more likely you are to get people who come at least partly or even largely for the benefits.

This doesn't make them horrible, just smart: If they have health problems, and several small kids, they might well want to move partly for the health care (if we do provide them free health care) and the education, especially if the government will feed them via food stamps and house them via some sort of housing stipends for the needy. The subsidies may make them dirt poor by our standards, but still much better off than they were in their home country, especially if you include the medical and educational benefits.

Do you think this will be very rare? Pretty common, but fine nonetheless?

Dan Hamilton:
You are asking the WRONG question!!!

The question is about ILLEGAL immigration.

LEGAL immigrantion is not a problem. We deside how many we will accept. I have heard almost nobody have any problem with this.

It is a MAJOR problem. The Libs refuse to see any difference between Legal and Illegal immigration.

You want Open immigration fine BUT EVERYBODY signs in at the borders.
12.21.2006 5:15pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
If the only problem with illegal immigration was a rule-of-law problem -- it's against the law (whether or not the law was in retrospect a bad idea), and the law violators shouldn't be rewarded for violating the law -- then I'm not sure we'd have such a big brouhaha. We'd just set up a system of "open immigration but everybody signs in at the borders"; then, if we really wanted to, we could deport and somehow try to fine the current illegal immigrants, but then of course they'd come right back in (since we're in a system of open immigration) so long as they sign in at the borders.

The result might be better in some way as a matter of principle; but, boy, it wouldn't have much of an effect on current illegal immigrants, and it would dramatically increase the total amount of immigration. Is that really what the opponents of illegal immigration want -- or should want? Conversely, should even liberals who don't much mind illegal immigration want such a system?

Of course, if you don't really say "fine" to "open immigration," but instead want to "decide how many we will accept," and end up accepting many fewer people than come in, that's a different story. But then there would be lots of illegal immigration, unless you spend a lot of money trying to fight it.

In any case, I'd like to now what liberals and moderates who actually do support relatively open immigration think.
12.21.2006 5:19pm
sbron:
The following statement is self-contradictory

"(As I understand, the current rate with our non-open immigration policy is about one million per year.)"

1 million is more than then number of legal immigrants
to all other nations combined. How can 1 million
legal slots a year be considered "non-open"???
12.21.2006 5:27pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
"Non-open" in the sense that you can't just get in because you want to get in. We may be more open than many countries that foreigners would find appealing, and more appealing than those countries that are relatively open. But that doesn't say that we're open. If we really were open (excepting perhaps a few highly undesirable categories, such as people with criminal records), there wouldn't be many illegal immigrants.
12.21.2006 5:35pm
A Waco Farmer (mail) (www):
I meet your criteria. As for question number one: we need not concern ourselves with all the people of the world who would like to come here. Our immediate problem is Latinos coming North across our porous southern border.

Here is an excerpt from a series of posts I did earlier this year:

What must we do to save ourselves?

1. Recognize that the number of immigrants (twelve million "illegals," mostly from south of our border) reflects a real economic need dictated by market forces.

2. Recognize that "illegal" is an arbitrary distinction. It is circular reasoning to argue that we are against "illegal" immigration because we are for "law and order." As we are a nation blessed with the ability to adjust laws as the need arises, we can solve the crisis of "illegal" immigration with the stroke of a pen. Out-dated immigration law should not force us into foolish policy. Rather, common sense should drive policy and lawmaking.

3. Recognize that there is no "American stock." Americans are not born high-achievers and engaged citizens. We are not bound by any one religion, skin color, ethnicity or tribal genealogy. American nationality revolves around one key principle: fidelity to America and Americanism. Volunteers, in fact, make the best Americans. Americans born into the franchise often fail to understand the value of the birthright.

Generally, those hearty souls, who swim rivers, crawl under barbed wire, brave deserts or traverse oceans, in order to be Americans, are much more zealous patriots than those of us raised within the fold.

Moreover, this generation of immigrants is not sub-par. They are not so different from the Pope-loving, beer-swilling, unwashed "shanty Irish," "Bohunks" and "Dagoes" of earlier times. Much like those despised immigrant groups of the past, today's immigrants are different from us culturally--but they are more like our pioneering forefathers who weathered elements and overcame danger to make life better for their families than we are. Pioneers are good for America. Quite frankly, we need them more than they need us (and they need us a lot).

4. Recognize that we need a consistent infusion of hard-working, God-fearing and family oriented people to maintain our frontier ethos. We should change our laws to find a way to welcome these twenty-first century would-be Americans.

5. Recognize that ACCULTURATION is the key to security. The market drives immigration. Integration and assimilation will happen naturally over time. Most importantly, and this will not happen without our specific attention and action, we need to acculturate these immigrants; that is, we must inculcate these groups with traditional American values.

In ordinary circumstances, this would not be a daunting task. Our immigrants are generally inclined to see the good in our system and our history. However, we are currently atop an educational complex run amok. Instead of imbuing students (immigrant and native-born alike) with a history that values "one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all," our system is busy poisoning these optimistic immigrants with an alternative narrative of exploitation, pessimism and victimization.

6. Recognize that promulgating a narrative that takes apart the single unifying principle of a nation is suicide.

The whole post here.

See this one also: Si Se Puede or E Pluribus Unum?
12.21.2006 5:44pm
Colin (mail):
Dan Hamilton’s vim and vigor set firmly aside, where it belongs, here are my answers to your questions. I’ll note only that immigration is not a hugely important issue to me (although my grandfather was a [presumably] legal Mexican immigrant), so I have not spent a great deal of time analyzing these issues. What you’re getting is more on the level of a default assumption than a critical analysis.

If we had relatively open immigration, how many of the world's 6 billion people do you think would want to move here?

I have no way of knowing, and would be skeptical of anyone who claimed that they did. A very large number, and but one that would change over time as immigration proceeded.

Would you let in all of them, or would you cap them at some level, or select them otherwise? If you would cap them, what would you do about the illegal immigrants who'll keep on coming?

I would cap them, more or less in line with current policy - looser restrictions on immigrants with demonstrable necessary skills and asylees, but spaces available for potential immigrants with no special qualifying factors. I would assume that illegal immigration is (A) inevitable, in any country that is relatively desirable and (B) not necessarily a negative factor. I would also assume that the size of the cap should be calculated with an eye to the inevitable margin of illegal aliens–no administration would set the legal immigration cap at the exact level of our ability to absorb immigrants.

Which government benefits do you think ought to be provided to these immigrants?

I’d start with standard emergency educational benefits. The humanitarian reasons are obvious, and people accept them or not as they choose, so I won’t belabor the point. There are other reasons, too, of course - the difficulty of discriminating between legal and illegal residents when it comes to emergency care, the importance of education in increasing the social participation and economic well-being (not to mention productivity) of immigrants and their children.

As for nonemergency medical care, I don’t feel qualified to offer an opinion. With that in mind, I might restrict medical benefits to illegal immigrants who can prove that they pay above a certain amount in taxes. That’s an off-the-cuff thought, though. I would also exempt a certain types of nonemergency care, especially prophylactic procedures such as nutritional counseling (especially for pregnant women) and vaccinations. Aside, again, from the humanitarian value, such nonemergency medical care benefits us all, not just the direct recipients.

I would not restrict food stamps at all, for humanitarian reasons. I might prohibit public university attendance and/or public tuition assistance to immigrants who can prove some particular period of education or gainful employment here in the States, but again, I haven’t thought this issue through. I would not make that requirement particularly onerous, because again, it is the sort of benefit that benefits us all. I would predicate it on the marginal exclusion of legal residents, rather than the expenditure of public dollars on illegal residents.

Would you support putting these immigrants on the standard path to citizenship, which would presumably mean that if they don't misbehave, they'd be able to get citizenship within 7-10 years?

Absolutely, although I wouldn’t care to pick a number of years. I’d expect that to be pegged to an expert analysis of the existing immigration rate and/or public policy considerations. I’d also support, insofar as it were possible, modifying that timeline for immigrants who could show particular necessary skills or unusual circumstances—as with the legal immigration requirements, but with a lower bar. I would require more than simple residency, though - I’d expect that they paid all applicable taxes (to the extent possible without documentation).

But if your guess as to question 1 is that many millions would come each year, are you at all worried that this might upset the current political balance on various policy issues that you favor (perhaps, for instance, socially liberal policy issues, such as gay rights and the like) but that many likely immigrants -- from Latin America, China, the Middle East, Africa, and the like -- might not favor?

Yes. I’m also worried that large pools of immigrants might discourage each other from assimilating with regards to language and culture. Immigration can be scary, but I don’t believe we would benefit by narrowing the legal channels or castigating illegal immigrants. I believe that the benefits outweigh the potential harms.

I hope these answers are interesting and useful to you and your other readers. Please, again, bear in mind that they’re very much off-the-cuff.
12.21.2006 5:50pm
Justin (mail):
Though with some quibbles, I generally meet your criteria.

(1) If we had relatively open immigration, how many of the world's 6 billion people do you think would want to move here? (As I understand, the current rate with our non-open immigration policy is about one million per year.)

Want to in abstract? A good bit, though Europe would still be far closer, and probably even more attractive, to many.

Would you let in all of them, or would you cap them at some level, or select them otherwise?

Practical considerations would have to be determined, given infrastructure, etc. Even with strong welfare spending, the mass infusion of lower income people can seriously disrupt societies. But you let what you can in. Of course, the real problem, as is obvious, is GLOBAL inequality - but that problem is far tougher to deal with, particularly in the world of nation states.

If you would cap them, what would you do about the illegal immigrants who'll keep on coming?

Do your best to keep them out, and other than that, try and balance interests to do the least amount of harm to those that are here but also protect society (security-wise) and create disincentives towards trying. It's obviously not an easy solution.

(2) Which government benefits do you think ought to be provided to these immigrants? I take it that most of us would say that basic police protection ought to be provided. I assume that public K-12 education would be provided for the immigrants' children, too, yes (even if only because you don't want them to be running around on the street, or forming a permanent uneducated underclass)? What about medical care (both emergency and nonemergency), food stamps, university education, and the like? Would you support limiting such programs only to people who are citizens (or who have lived here, say, 7-10 years)? Or do you think that it would be wrong or counterproductive to leave our legal guests without education, medical care, food aid, and the like?

Yes to all, at least to permanent residents who are attempting to obtain citizenship.

(3) Would you support putting these immigrants on the standard path to citizenship, which would presumably mean that if they don't misbehave, they'd be able to get citizenship within 7-10 years? I'd expect you would, since it's probably not good to have a large cadre of legal residents who nonetheless aren't eligible to be citizens. But if your guess as to question 1 is that many millions would come each year, are you at all worried that this might upset the current political balance on various policy issues that you favor (perhaps, for instance, socially liberal policy issues, such as gay rights and the like) but that many likely immigrants -- from Latin America, China, the Middle East, Africa, and the like -- might not favor?

I am okay with that, although I tend to believe certain issues (not abortion, but gay rights including marriage, in particular) are Constitutional ones, and therefore are not determined by democratic vote.

From what I can tell, Europe has dealt with all of the same problems, and their success, like ours, is a mixed bag. You try and do what they do right, but avoid their mistakes - including failure to assimilate and failure to take in so much as to have serious problems with infrastructure - without having America's culturally reflexive xenophobia, or the whole illegal immigrant issue which has created a whole subclass of legally displaced, permanently improverished people in this country.
12.21.2006 6:01pm
Byomtov (mail):
I think I meet your requirements. My answers:

1a. I don't know. Lots, perhaps measured in the tens of millions? According to the Census Bureau the foreign born population increased by about 12 million between 1850 and 1930, so that's some sort of clue.

1b. I would cap it, at what I would consider a generous but manageable number. What that is I don't know.

1c. I would certainly try to prevent illegal immigration, but suspect that our power to do so is pretty limited. Employer sanctions would help. I do think that illegal immigrants could be legalized after a period of time provided they demonstrate responsible behavior, etc. Probably the cap could be adjusted to take this into account.

2. I think that these sorts of benefits ought to be available to all legal permanent residents. I think it would be both wrong and counterproductive to do otherwise.

3a. Yes.
3b. No. It seems inconsistent to worry about this if you otherwise favor generous immigration policies, since part of the reason for doing so is a belief that immigrants improve our society.
12.21.2006 6:10pm
Jay Myers:
Under the current system all immigrants must have a sponsor who will guarantee that the immigrant will not end up on public support. Despite this, immigrants still apply for government support and we allow them to receive it. If the system worked and we enforced that promise as a contract binding upon the sponsor then there wouldn't be as much of a concern about immigrants being a drain on the social safety net. Ideally, first generation immigrants would never end up on the dole but even in an imperfect world nearly all of them should have their needs met by themselves and/or their sponsor. I'm not in your target group but even so, I think that is a reasonable point that they could bring up.
12.21.2006 6:25pm
Ken Arromdee:
Recognize that the number of immigrants (twelve million "illegals," mostly from south of our border) reflects a real economic need dictated by market forces.

I don't buy this argument. A lot of immigrants come here for economic reasons, which are related to government policies, both of our government and theirs, not market forces
12.21.2006 6:35pm
TJ:
Depending on your definitions of "relatively open" and "considerable," I might meet your criteria.

1. This really depends on what "relatively open" means. If it were "fully open," expect something in the vicinity of a couple of billion would want to live here, and at least hundreds of millions of those have the means to get here: nearly all of Mexico, most of South America, and a good part of Africa. Nobody serious advocates this. A cap on legal immigration is all but inevitable.

Because we must cap legal immigration, illegal immigration is a natural byproduct. But we have prohibitions on all manner of things when legitimate supply is less than demand, think gambling. And yes, it will take a large sum to enforce border controls. Border control and legal immigrantion pretty much go hand in hand for anything less than full open immigration: if we have a target number of immigrants, say 10 million a year, we can either (1) have relatively low amount of border control and allow the market to do the selection for us, meaning most immigrants will come from Mexico where the cost of travel is lowest, or (2) have relatively high amount of border control and select immigrants based on whatever criteria we deem appropriate; and we must then spend enforcement money to distort the market mechanism by keeping the "excess" illegal immigrants to a minimum.

2. I would divide your benefits into two classifications, even though I recongize there is some considerable overlap: "investment" benefits and "redistributionist" benefits. We subsidize K-12 and even university education mostly because we think they produce public goods, in that an undereducated population decreases the productivity of the entire economy. We provide welfare benefits mostly to prevent inequality (admittedly, it has has the potential public benefit of reducing crime, though I'm skeptical). I would be inclined to provide full benefits on the investment side of the spectrum and lower benefits on the redistributionist side of the spectrum.

3. This can be solved a number of ways. If we were to accept the legitimacy of discriminating in choosing immigrants, we could simply choose those who would assimilate well (my personal preference). Or we could grant citizenship only to the children of immigrants (and avoid the permanent underclass problem).
12.21.2006 6:49pm
Michael Froomkin (mail) (www):
I qualify!

1. How many people. At least enough young and working-age people to have enough workers paying into Social Security to keep the scheme going another generation or two. At most, the most we can afford. Immigrants historically have tended to be a net plus, adding to our wealth more than they cause in welfare drag. Let in the skilled, and the hard-working poor, and it's a profit, even if we guess wrong sometimes.

2 &3. Assuming we're doing some sort of skill/means/family ties testing as a condition of legal admission, I'd start with full medical (externalities to illness), and educational, and graduate to full everything pretty quickly. We all benefit from healthy and trained neighbors. I'd also give health benefits to illegals, and health and food and education benefits at least to the children of illegals (who are here through no fault of their own). Illegal immigrants are jumping a queue, so I don't think I'd give them any guarantees to citizenship, but even so our erratic and unpredictable amnesty policy strikes me as a good balance. I would not close the door forever, and especially would not like policies that 'repatriate' children to countries they have never known.
12.21.2006 7:17pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
I support a reasonable (I don’t know if that means considerable) level of social spending, but only for American citizens. All migrants admitted should have to sign an agreement that if they become a public charge they will be deported. We make their sponsors financially responsible for them, but evidently the government fails to enforce these agreements, which in itself promotes lack of respect for US law. If you want to live in a country that lives by the rule of law, then don’t allow people immigrate here who don’t share this American value.

Lets look at the incarceration rates for 2003 from the DOJ, comparing Hispanics to non-Hispanic whites.

Murder: Hispanic: 72 per 100k white: 24 per 100k
Robbery: Hispanic: 71 per 100k white: 20 per 100k
Assault: Hispanic: 70 per 100k white: 20 per 100k
Drugs: Hispanic: 126 per 100k white: 33 per 100k
Car theft: Hispanic: 12 per 100k white: 4 per 100k

As you can see the Hispanic incarceration rates for the enumerated offenses are about triple the rate for non-Hispanic whites. This is one of the many problems with immigration from south of the border. Note we don’t even count the tremendous amount of identity theft and tax fraud committed by migrants who work without legal resident status. There are other costs like driving with liability insurance. I myself had my car totaled was injured by a foreigner driving without insurance. The police did nothing, and they let him just drive away. It turned out to be impossible to collect damages. Even taking his drivers license away does no good, he simply drives without one.

And BTW America is not just an idea, it’s a place and a nation. Nations have borders and that’s what makes them sovereign.
12.21.2006 7:17pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
I certainly qualify. But before I give my answers a few words on where I am coming from.

It is definitionally true that the government (like anyone) should do what is morally right. The welfare of US citizens is not morally more desirable than the welfare of any other group of humans. Thus it is perfectly acceptable, even obligatory, for the government to sacrifice the welfare of US citizens to improve the lot of other people. Note this doesn't mean I support total wealth redistribution as this would eliminate the long term good that the wealthy western democracies do for the world (stability, scientific progress etc..)

2) Yes, we should allow immigrants in on plans that guarantee them little to no social services. Basic preventative health and little else. This will ensure that the costs to Americans will be sufficiently low (likely negative) that the program will be allowed to persist and accomplish good for a long time. It also significantly addresses #1

1) My answer is a bit of both. Without subsidies the economic markets will partially help to stop uncontrolled immigration. On top of this we should make the process of applying for legal immigration sufficiently difficult and arduous (still less than the difficulty of immigrating illegally) that it discourages some amount of immigration (lots of papers, physicals etc..)

If it does really turn out that even given this and the lack of available subsidies the level of immigration turns out to be too large then I would support more effective controls on immigration. My problem with the current 'enforce immigration laws' movement is that it is based more on prejudice and fear than any real danger of being 'overrun' by immigrants. My hope is still that there would be virtually no illegal immigrants if we significantly increased the number of non-relative based immigration slots but if it does become a problem we could just bump up enforcement.

3) I think one of the biggest problems for assimilation is the current family based immigration policy. A large amount (majority?) of our immigration gets their slot because they are related to someone in the states. This significantly increases the ability of these communities to reach critical mass which allows people to avoid assimilation. While relative based immigration still needs to happen if a far larger proportion of out immigration was from random countries based on need/skill I think the assimilation problem would be smaller.

As it is I think the assimilation problem is overrated but I don't have a problem denying the new immigrants *any* chance at US citizenship if it seems necessary so long as their children born here still become US citizens. Thus delaying the voting impact until assimilation has had time to work on them.

However, I think a better solution might be to create two classes of immigrant. The unlimited guest worker class would let the individual stay in the US for as long as the wanted (no benefits) to work and allow them to return home for however long they wanted as frequently as they wanted but not allow any chance at citizenship. The permanent resident class would allow a chance at citizenship after some number of years but would only allow limited (vacation type) trips to the individuals home country. Hopefully this would encourage a voluntary separation between those who want to assimilate into US culture and those who just want the better wages.

The only problem might be the children of the guest worker class and to address this I would support a law/amendment requiring children of guest workers to be schooled in the US if they want citizenship.

--

Really all of this is details and the core point is that we could take a whole lot more immigrants (especially if we didn't give them social services) before they started becoming a serious threat to our country or are way of life hence we have a moral responsibility to do so.
12.21.2006 8:39pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
“The welfare of US citizens is not morally more desirable than the welfare of any other group of humans. Thus it is perfectly acceptable, even obligatory, for the government to sacrifice the welfare of US citizens to improve the lot of other people.”

This seems to indicate that you bear no loyalty to your own country. The US government is obligated to promote the welfare of US citizens over other nationalities. That’s the whole idea of a cohesive nation state. Suppose the US went to war with Mexico, and you were drafted. Would you refuse to fight because that would be putting the welfare or interests of US citizens over another group of humans? Perhaps I don’t understand what you mean.
12.21.2006 9:15pm
SG:
logicnazi:

You wrote, "It is definitionally true that the government (like anyone) should do what is morally right. The welfare of US citizens is not morally more desirable than the welfare of any other group of humans. Thus it is perfectly acceptable, even obligatory, for the government to sacrifice the welfare of US citizens to improve the lot of other people.".

I find this statement facscinating (no snark). I understand it on a certain abstract level (all men are created equal, after all), but I struggle to believe that anyone (saints excepted) actually puts this into practice.

Do you really live your life this way, i.e., do you treat random strangers equivalently to the members of your family? Even if you do, do you feel it is reasonable to expect that same degree of enlightenment from others?

I'm inclined to think that a certain degree of tribalism is an innate part of the human condition. It certainly seems like a trait that would be evolutionarily advantageous. Now, perhaps the modern world is no longer as fiercely competitive, nor are resources so scarce, as to justify a "me and mine first" attitude, but biological imperatives are difficult to deny. And in a democratic republic, where the government is expected to (generally) reflect the will of the people, how reasonable (or logical) is it to expect your
attitude to be put into practice?
12.21.2006 9:24pm
Bruno (mail):
What I have to say is off the point. I'm sorry for that, but I thought you might want to hear my opinion. I have lived in Mexico for many years and have a pretty good sense of the political culture here. The debate here is full of the most unimaginable (for Americans, that is) hype. In spite of this I did read something intelligent recently, which said that--given the weak economy here--young people entering the job market (a million per year) have pretty much no hope for the future. Their only way out is either going to the US, or joining the so-called opposition. We had a huge scare here when López Obrador almost won last summer and if things don't get better soon, next time it could be much worse. This means that it does no good to cast blame: it's the US's problem in either case, since the "opposition" here is getting increasingly violent. And the "opposition" promotes a kind of degraded third-world Marxism (hugochávismo?). It's anti US as a matter of ideology.

Another point is humanitarian. I really hate to use the word, considering the abuses it has suffered, but I mean the crisis that would ensue if the border were to be capped and illegal immigrants sent home. Just travel around here off the main highways for an hour: you'll see dusty and run-down village after dusty and run-down village, which seem depopulated, in the midst of arid semi desert. Old people dragging carts down the road; women and children; people just sitting around. Their only means of subsistence is the money sent back by the illegal immigrants. There's an incipient humanitarian crisis here with explosive political consequences. When that happens, no one will remember these learned debates on acculturation, welfare spending, rights and duties of citizens, and nationhood. People (probably our grandchildren) will be asking how we could be so blind.
12.21.2006 10:09pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Bruno:

If you look at the GDP per capita for North American countries, Mexico ranks 9 out of 23 with $10,090. That puts Mexico just below the top two South American countries, Argentina and Chile. It puts Mexico ahead of Bulgaria in Europe. Mexico is not a particularly poor country relative to most of the world. It’s not suffering through a famine or civil war. Nor is it under the thumb of a despot. Why should Mexicans go to the head of the line when many other people are at least as deserving? Moreover crime and corruption in Mexico are rampant. Why should the US import another country’s crime-prone underclass? If immigration, both legal and illegal were curtailed, Mexico would be forced to confront the problems of its own making. In the long run, that’s best for everyone.
12.21.2006 10:36pm
Mark Field (mail):

If we had relatively open immigration, how many of the world's 6 billion people do you think would want to move here?


Many, obviously, but I can't quantify it.


Would you let in all of them, or would you cap them at some level, or select them otherwise?


I'm happy to accept as many as we can assimilate, both culturally and economically. If we actually did that, I'm not sure additional immigrants would be as much of a problem. After all, those who come now are largely drawn by the promise of jobs. If we allow in as many as we can absorb, by definition the incentive for others to come would be substantially reduced.

Assuming that we still needed a cap (it probably would), I would want to establish selection criteria. I doubt I could come up with a complete list for this post, but among my criteria would be variety of ethnic background; age; education; health; immediate family (spouses, minor children); economic condition.


If you would cap them, what would you do about the illegal immigrants who'll keep on coming?


I partly answered this above.

My first priority would be to eliminate any practices on our part which contribute to undocumented immigration. By way of example only, I've heard it argued that US agricultural subsidies help drive immigration from Mexico and Central America. If this is true, I'd end those subsidies.

My next priority would be to penalize businesses which hired the "extras". They'd have little excuse to do so, since I've already posited that we will take as many as we can absorb.


Which government benefits do you think ought to be provided to these immigrants?


I like the distinction suggested above between investments (education, some medical care) and welfare. I'd still probably offer some minimal level in order to avoid the counterproductive aspects of destitution.

Would you support putting these immigrants on the standard path to citizenship, which would presumably mean that if they don't misbehave, they'd be able to get citizenship within 7-10 years?
12.21.2006 11:40pm
Mark Field (mail):
Sorry, I hit post by mistake. Continuing...


Would you support putting these immigrants on the standard path to citizenship, which would presumably mean that if they don't misbehave, they'd be able to get citizenship within 7-10 years?


Yes.


are you at all worried that this might upset the current political balance on various policy issues that you favor


Within broad limits, yes, hence my restriction above on cultural as well as economic assimilation. I'm less concerned about specific policies than I am about the fundamentals of a liberal democratic society (free speech, equal protection, no religious entanglements, open government, etc.).
12.21.2006 11:46pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> I would certainly try to prevent illegal immigration, but suspect that our power to do so is pretty limited. Employer sanctions would help.

I'm surprised that folks on a law blog haven't suggested the (to me) obvious, namely giving unemployed "qualified" people who have a legal right to work in the US standing to sue employers who employ folks who don't have said legal right to work. "qualified" would be determined by the lesser of the advertized job qualifications and the actual qualifications of the folks illegally employed. Employers who lost these lawsuits wouldn't be obligated to employ the folks who sued them, but their liability would be some reasonable multiple of the yearly salary paid to the folks who they shouldn't have employed.
12.22.2006 12:38am
shecky (mail):
I guess that I qualify since I more or less support current level of welfare spending (which is considerable). And I support open immigration.

(1) I think the US should allow as many people as the market demands. The current problem with illegal immigration is a problem created by unrealistic centrally planned immigration policy that has no real connection with what the private sector needs.

Illegal immigration needs to be seen for what it is: a market for labor dictated by our old friends, supply and demand. The US economy is demanding, and the world is supplying.

(2) I don't see why anyone working in the US making all the usual contributions should be denied any of the benefits provided by government, citizen or not. BTW, I don't consider this stance particularly generous.

(3)I also don't see why any immigrant should not be allowed a path to citizenship. Frankly, I don't see too many advantages of citizenship, as the benefits are not terribly impressive and the responsibilities can be a pain in the neck. I suspect most Americans would never notice or complain if their citizenship were magically revoked tomorrow.
12.22.2006 1:46am
A. Zarkov (mail):
“I also don't see why any immigrant should not be allowed a path to citizenship.”

A legal immigrant yes, but not an illegal. The illegal cannot work without committing a felony, namely tax evasion or identity theft. Why should there be a path to citizenship for people who commit felonies? They should get a path to deportation.

“I suspect most Americans would never notice or complain if their citizenship were magically revoked tomorrow.”

Is the US simply a place that people come to get a job or collect benefits? A trading zone? A piece of international real estate akin to Antarctica? When the day comes that most Americans don’t care if they are citizens, then the US really ceases to exist. I think this is the secret desire of the open borders crowd.
12.22.2006 2:14am
Grumpy Old Man (mail) (www):
I'm coming around to the view, although I haven't adopted it yet, that the right number of immigrants to allow right now is:

(a) None. Zip. Zilch. Gurnist. Nada.

Or . . .

(b) A small number of highly skilled immigrants from places like India, so we can appropriate their human capital while they benefit from outsourcing our jobs. Nobody else.
12.22.2006 9:11am
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
On alternate days of the week I qualify:

1 Your question is imprecise. "Move here" for what? To work a while and get some money and go home, as a high proportion of immigrants have done over the years? Or to become citizens? I think in an age of globalization, we'd see a higher proportion of the first than the second. One of the downsides of the current crackdown on illegal immigration is that it keeps people here. Regardless of the proportions, there's probably fewer than most Americans think. IMO most immigrants tend to be young (15-35) which is fine. I will, however, concede the point that under any regime we need some restrictions on immigration. (One of the major problems of immigration policy is handling the change from the current system to the future. If we're currently getting 1 million a year and opening doors would mean 2 million, that's still a big change.)
2 I'd be relatively generous in providing benefits. For those people who are looking to make money and go back, the benefits aren't that important. For the people looking to stay, they should be treated under the Golden Rule (although I'm an atheist). Yes, this would increase the number of immigrants, but I suspect we exaggerate the risk. I don't know enough about Canadian policy--they offer universal health care so their immigration policy must be a lot tougher to discourage immigration, right?
3 Of course I'm willing to give immigrants citizenship and the vote. Sure, they may vote for conservative social policies with which I disagree, but so does George Bush, and I wouldn't take his citizenship away. Immigrant grandchildren are going to be voting in the year 2050 for the same sort of policies that others are. You should do the right thing regardless of whether it helps your preferred policies.

How would I handle illegal immigrants? In the absence of firm information I think policy should be open to change. Generally I think I'd try the approach of letting people in, tracking them, and having their record in the U.S. determine whether they stayed or were sent home, using whatever criteria we could agree on: If you're in the top X percent in terms of hard work, no crime, relationships to current citizens, etc. etc., you can stay for another year. If not, go back. (Think of the ratings of sellers given on E-Bay or Amazon.) That way, if we didn't like the results we could tighten the criteria (take only the top 10 percent) without having to rework the entire policy.

I realize this is all impossible politically. Immigration is like Iraq--no feasible good answers.
12.22.2006 9:57am
neutral:

Illegal immigration needs to be seen for what it is: a market for labor dictated by our old friends, supply and demand. The US economy is demanding, and the world is supplying.

Of course, this is not true. Illegal immigration is a product of market forses under current external conditions. Market forses are constrained by externalities. Here, you postulate an externality of completely open borders and arrive at a policy of, surprise, open borders. However, if you postulate, say, a completely closed borders and zero immigration, markets will still work. Some labor will be substituted by automation (which I think will be a great thing for USA, driving our coutry to further technological advances), some will be priced higher (whether this is good or not is subject to another debate).

In any case, markets do not dictate open borders. Open or close borders are externalities.
12.22.2006 10:22am
Bruno (mail):
Mr. Zarkov: As I implied in my posting, I agree with you. Mexico has a lot of problems, which illegal immigration helps to soften, and thus to avoid confronting. I never said that anyone "deserves" to immigrate to the US more than anyone else. I was simply stating that the situation here is potentially explosive and that the eventual explosion would involve the US, no matter what. So, as a matter of practical politics, the bomb must be desarmed. The ethics of who "deserves" to immigrate really doesn't interest me.

You say, "If immigration, both legal and illegal were curtailed, Mexico would be forced to confront the problems of its own making. In the long run, that’s best for everyone." Two points: Mexicans, like other people, will not confront problems of their own making. They will cast about for someone to blame. They have ready-make ideologies and leaders who will help them do that. Do I need to remind you whom they will blame? They will be wrong to do so, of course, but we're not talking about a rational political debate; we're talking about raw street politics among the ignorant and those who exploit ignorance for power. Second point: Keynes's famous bon mot, "In the long run, we're all dead", is relevant. This is probably best for everyone, like you say, but who wants to be dead?
12.22.2006 10:34am
shecky (mail):
A legal immigrant yes, but not an illegal. The illegal cannot work without committing a felony, namely tax evasion or identity theft. Why should there be a path to citizenship for people who commit felonies? They should get a path to deportation.


That's not strictly true. Even illegal immigrants can get Individual Taxpayer Id Numbers, which allow them to work without "tax evasion". In addition, it's a bit difficult to assess the harm of someone paying all the usual deductions under a false identity. It harms the user of the false identity most, a harm willingly accepted, I might add.

Ultimately, this can be fixed by simply deciding that illegal immigrants be legal. Most insane is the idea of punishing working people for... working.



Is the US simply a place that people come to get a job or collect benefits? A trading zone? A piece of international real estate akin to Antarctica? When the day comes that most Americans don’t care if they are citizens, then the US really ceases to exist. I think this is the secret desire of the open borders crowd.


The US is any place you want it to be. Isn't that what freedom is all about?

However, if you postulate, say, a completely closed borders and zero immigration, markets will still work.


Of course they still work. Regardless of legality. The war on drugs hasn't stopped drug use. Similarly, the war on immigration hasn't stopped immigration. The problem is the government is making solutions the market can't use. So demands are still met by ignoring the law. Illegal immigration is a problem fabricated by bad, and ultimately meaningless, law.
12.22.2006 11:51am
A-ro (mail):
I meet your criteria for respondents extremely well. I appreciate your asking these questions, and I hope you are stimulated at least half as much by reading my answers as I was by thinking of and writing them.

Here are my answers:


(1) If we had relatively open immigration, how many of the world's 6 billion people do you think would want to move here? (As I understand, the current rate with our non-open immigration policy is about one million per year.) Would you let in all of them, or would you cap them at some level, or select them otherwise? If you would cap them, what would you do about the illegal immigrants who'll keep on coming?


While I am sympathetic to the idea of open immigration (on humanitarian and libertarian principles), I think that, as a practical matter, we do need limits. I'm no expert, but I get the feeling that 1-1.5 million is near the upper limit of how many people we can smoothly assimilate each year. I suspect I could be convinced of anything from 1-3 million.

I propose having two immigration systems:
(i) A first-come, first-serve system that is lottery-based with some fraction set aside for close family. This would serve the 1-1.5 million people. By applying year after year, many of the current illegals could convert themselves to legal residents. Others considering crossing the border illegally might wait a couple of years to see how they do in the lottery. The incentive to pursue legal status would come, at least in part, from the ability to have U.S. labor and criminal laws protect you better.

(ii) The ability to purchase a place in line for a tidy sum (say, $20,000?). This could be paid by potential employers, and would do away with H5N1 visas (just kidding, I know that's "bird flu") and the like for "skilled" workers. I believe that people entering the country in this way are likely to speak English well and are not likely to impose a net loss on government finances.

Now, for the illegal immigrants who keep coming: add employer sanctions to our current mix of efforts to combat illegal immigration. The combination of more plentiful legal immigrants; the ability to pay to bring in people to help with particularly urgent needs; and penalties for going outside the system would, I think, significantly reduce the flow of illegals. Some illegals would convert themselves to legals, others would be discouraged from coming by reduced employment prospects. As for those (a smaller amount) who still come? You've got me.


(2) Which government benefits do you think ought to be provided to these immigrants? I take it that most of us would say that basic police protection ought to be provided. I assume that public K-12 education would be provided for the immigrants' children, too, yes (even if only because you don't want them to be running around on the street, or forming a permanent uneducated underclass)? What about medical care (both emergency and nonemergency), food stamps, university education, and the like? Would you support limiting such programs only to people who are citizens (or who have lived here, say, 7-10 years)? Or do you think that it would be wrong or counterproductive to leave our legal guests without education, medical care, food aid, and the like?


I think it would be counterproductive to limit access to most of these programs. After all, many of the people we're talking about (especially the children) are future citizens or long-time workforce members. The positive externalities that justify some of our spending on education and health still apply to this population. Even those who end up leaving the U.S. healthy and educated will not be a total loss to the U.S. taxpayer (just a "mostly" loss) as they improve the economy and governance of our trading partners, and bring greater understanding of our ideas and culture to their home countries. (I mean on average; I am aware that, for example, some of the 9/11 hijackers were educated in the West.)

As for welfare programs like food stamps: I would need to see this become a major problem before I worry about it too much. Moving to a new country with an unfamiliar culture is such a pain in the ass that I doubt many people would do it just for the food stamps and the like. Many of those that would are probably coming from countries that receive food aid and the like from the U.S. already. That said, I recognize that my arguments on welfare programs are a little flimsy (even more than all my other arguments), so I'd be willing to discuss innovative ways to curb "free riders."


(3) Would you support putting these immigrants on the standard path to citizenship, which would presumably mean that if they don't misbehave, they'd be able to get citizenship within 7-10 years? I'd expect you would, since it's probably not good to have a large cadre of legal residents who nonetheless aren't eligible to be citizens. But if your guess as to question 1 is that many millions would come each year, are you at all worried that this might upset the current political balance on various policy issues that you favor (perhaps, for instance, socially liberal policy issues, such as gay rights and the like) but that many likely immigrants — from Latin America, China, the Middle East, Africa, and the like — might not favor?


Yes, there should be a path to citizenship for responsible immigrants.

Yes, I am a little worried about social issues (especially gay rights). But not that worried. I find that the biggest help to progress on such issues is for the generations to pass, i.e. for those who disagree with me to die of old age. My unscientific belief on this is that within two generations the descendants of the immigrants will poll similarly to the rest of the country. I just believe that living in a society where a person you work with, went to school with, buy stuff from, or sell stuff to is gay, is such a powerfully mundane experience that there is only one direction to go as the generations pass.

The rest of us current citizens could probably benefit from having classmates or coworkers from cultures that value family, respect their elders, etc. Plus, our music, literature, and cuisine will get better!

In short, immigrants will come around because our culture is great, and their contributions will, on the whole, make us even greater.
12.22.2006 11:53am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
(1) If we had relatively open immigration, how many of the world's 6 billion people do you think would want to move here?

One metric I might use would be how many immigrants can we assimilate, and how easily. One idea here is that the more diverse the immigrant pool, possibly the less resistance there will be to assimilation. I think that part of our fear about immigration right now is that the huge influx of Hispanics might ultimately redefine what the U.S.A. is all about. Yes, it has changed over the years from British to Northern European, to European, etc. background.

Another thing to take into account is what the immigrant can bring to this country. I am all for unlimited immigration of the best and brightest from around the world, but don't want to see unlimited immigration of effectively illiterate peasants. Partly, this is because of the cost/benefit ratio difference between the two groups - the best educated, etc. are likely to add more to our country's wealth than they will cost, whereas the least educated are less likely.

I think obvious from my choices here is the assumption that it is our country. We have it. Many of our ancestors built it. And we should have the right to determine which of the 6 billion people in the world should be able to join us. In other words, I look at it from our point of view, and not theirs.

(2) Which government benefits do you think ought to be provided to these immigrants?

I am in favor of K-12 education, and maybe beyond. One thing is that it presumably aids in assimilation. Secondly, it most likely would increase the value of the immigrants and their kids to our economy. Emergency medicine for humanitarian reasons. Ditto maybe for WIC benefits.

Prof. Froomkin above suggested food stamps and the like. I disagree there, as that could potentially significantly change the economic incentives to illegally immigrate and stay. I am not sure where I sit for legal immigrants (who aren't citizens yet). But for the illegals, food stamps and the like raise the effective wages of workers, and the increment is paid for by those paying taxes. And this would seem to increase the incentive to immigrate illegally. I would oppose most free or govt. subsidized medical care for illegals on a similar basis. I know it sounds harsh, but what seems to be missed by those advocating universal medical care is that changing it from an earned privilege to a right invariably has massive economic and social costs.

(3) Would you support putting these immigrants on the standard path to citizenship, which would presumably mean that if they don't misbehave, they'd be able to get citizenship within 7-10 years?

I might make it a bit harder, to penalize illegals for coming here illegally. If you give them an equivalent path to citizenship, then that would result in giving people an incentive to enter this country illegally, instead of waiting their turn. Why should the person who follows the rules and patiently waits his turn get penalized?

So, if the average for citizenship for legal immigrants were 7-10 years, then I would probably be happier with a 10-15 year process for illegal immigrants.
12.22.2006 11:57am
A-ro (mail):
In my 11:53 AM post above, I described a component of my proposed immigration plan as both "first come first serve" and a "lottery." That clearly dosn't make any sense. I mean lottery-based, NOT first-come, first serve.
12.22.2006 12:22pm
Byomtov (mail):
Having answered above, I don't quite see the problem implied by your update.

It is true that granting benefits would increase the number of people who want to immigrate. But I and most others who have responded have stipulated that there would be limits of one sort or another. So the number of actual immigrants would not be affected.

The problem may stem from the phrase "relatively open immigration," which I take to mean a more generous policy than what is in place, and which you perhaps intended to mean something much closer to open borders.
12.22.2006 12:28pm
chris s (mail):
This is off thread, but to reply to Andy Freeman's question above - "I'm surprised that folks on a law blog haven't suggested the (to me) obvious, namely giving unemployed "qualified" people who have a legal right to work in the US standing to sue employers who employ folks who don't have said legal right to work."

cases like this have started cropping up, using RICO as the vehicle to sue employers on behalf of legal employees and applicants. One of them - Williams v. Mohawk - got up to the S Ct last yr but was remanded on technical grounds. The 11th Cir recently issued another opinion holding once again that the claim was cognizable, so what you're calling for may be on the cusp of happening. if it does, I agree it could end up greatly curbing the current demand for illegal immigrant labor.
12.22.2006 1:32pm
Dan7000:
I qualify.

Which government benefits do you think ought to be provided to these immigrants?

This is the KEY question I wanted to respond to, so I put it first.

The question seems to imply/assume that immigrants cost money Instead, I would assume that increased population is a huge income generator for the government. A net positive. More workers not only increases the tax base, it also has the potential to solve our trade imbalance by helping us produce more. I would allow immigrants to apply for whatever benefits citizens are offered. But I wouldn't assume they would use any more benefits than the average citizen.

Prof. Volokh: what government benefits do you currently use? How much in taxes to you currently pay? Do you think your contribution is a net positive? if so, why do you think that that would not be true for immigrants?

Now on to the other questions:

If we had relatively open immigration, how many of the world's 6 billion people do you think would want to move here?

Less than a lot of people think. It seems to me that people pretty much move to the US if they want to already. I've personally known illegal immigrants from the Ireland, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, and people overstaying (or contemplating overstaying) temporary visas from Australia, Turkmenistan, France, and the UK. If US immigration law was more "open", I'm not sure it would have made a significant practical difference in their decision to stay.

Contrary to what a lot in the US think, not everyone in the world is dying to move here. Even people who want the economic opportunities here often don't want to leave their family, hometown, and culture behind. Others don't have the plane fare or can't get an exit visa.

So, maybe the number would double or triple. It wouldn't be "billions."

Would you let in all of them, or would you cap them at some level, or select them otherwise? If you would cap them, what would you do about the illegal immigrants who'll keep on coming?

We need some control. I like the idea of "completely open" borders from an academic economic point of view. But practically, we need to ensure that (in case I'm wrong on the first question) there's not a totally destabilizing flood of people.

Would you support putting these immigrants on the standard path to citizenship, which would presumably mean that if they don't misbehave, they'd be able to get citizenship within 7-10 years?

Yes.

But if your guess as to question 1 is that many millions would come each year, are you at all worried that this might upset the current political balance on various policy issues that you favor (perhaps, for instance, socially liberal policy issues, such as gay rights and the like) but that many likely immigrants -- from Latin America, China, the Middle East, Africa, and the like -- might not favor?

Excellent point. In general, I think that the US has strayed way too far from what I believe was Jefferson's original idea for public education: ensuring a citizenry well-informed about the key benefits and principals of liberal democracy.
Perhaps immigrants should have to complete a serious, intensive multi-year course in civil rights and constitutional democracy before becoming citizens. Once the course is designed, we can start requiring it of school children too, and we'll all be better off.
Note: if a committed participant in such a course still believes afterwards that something is wrong with our system, then maybe he deserves to be heard.
12.22.2006 1:36pm
A Guest:
I don't fit the criteria, so I won't answer the questions :-)

I like the proposal suggested above of letting folks buy entry themselves or via employers (there are other countries that have "economic self-sufficiency" criteria for permanent residence, but this seems even better.) Having a $20K or $40K price would tend to bias the selection toward the most economically productive immigrants.

For example, Wal-Mart would not pay $30K for an extra floor-cleaner who'd work for $2/hr less than a citizen, but I can imagine many high-tech companies being willing to cough that up for the marginal Indian software engineer who's currently stuck in Bangalore (and not paying any US income taxes!) because of H1(b) visa limitations.

This would be in addition to a lottery such as we have today ; reasonable legal immigration is a core component of the country's DNA -- that's how we all got here directly or indirectly, right?

And, finally, much more enforcement of the caps and restrictions that we do have is needed. Hit the employers and the illegal immigrants, just like any other criminals. If businesses want / need more employees then make them lobby to increase the caps; don't sneak around as if they're embarrassed.
12.22.2006 8:59pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):

The question seems to imply/assume that immigrants cost money Instead, I would assume that increased population is a huge income generator for the government. A net positive. More workers not only increases the tax base, it also has the potential to solve our trade imbalance by helping us produce more.


Of course, that rests on the assumption that every person swimming over in an open borders free for all will produce more tax revenue than he/she consumes in social services.

Oops.
12.23.2006 12:13am
quaker:
logicnazi: "...it is perfectly acceptable, even obligatory, for the [US] government to sacrifice the welfare of US citizens to improve the lot of other people."

Wow.

Not wanting to hijack this thread, may I just offer two quick points:

1) Although the US government has from the beginning paid "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind," its intended beneficiary has always been "ourselves and our Posterity" (in context of natural rights, of course). logicnazi proposes the USG do something contrary to its design.

2) I would work hard to get any public official who espoused logicnazi's position voted out of office (at best) or thrown in jail (at worst). Or hanged (to get really medieval about things).
12.23.2006 1:02am
PokerGuy:
Liberals need to be constantly reminded of a few fundamental facts:

1. The government does not create wealth, it just collects and redistributes it. Social services have to be funded, and the funders are those who pay the bulk of taxes. These are NOT the people earning minimal, or no, incomes, i.e. the bulk of illegal immigrants.

2. The pure economic ROI argument for "unrestricted" immigration doesn't hold. Illegal immigrants consume far more on average in resources than they contribute because, let us not forget, many are children and other dependents who do no productive work. And much of the wages illegal workers earn is shipped back to become expenditures in their countries of origin rather than used to purchase goods and services here.

3. Allowing, even rewarding illegal immigration is a slap in the face to the many who attempt to come here legally, become citizens and contribute to our culture without trying to make the US an extension of Latin America. If you want to see contributions to the tax base and alleviate future demands on social security, bring in more engineers, doctors etc. and not excessive unskilled labor. We actually have plenty of that already.
12.23.2006 7:13am
Jay Myers:
shecky:

(3)I also don't see why any immigrant should not be allowed a path to citizenship. Frankly, I don't see too many advantages of citizenship, as the benefits are not terribly impressive and the responsibilities can be a pain in the neck. I suspect most Americans would never notice or complain if their citizenship were magically revoked tomorrow.

So there wouldn't be much of a stir if Bush announced that starting tomorrow only registered Republicans who were also white, male, and over 21 could vote? I'm sorry, but that is one of the silliest statements I have ever seen. Although, to be fair, you did have considerable competition from the statement that the US government is obligated to sacrifice the welfare of US citizens to improve the lot of other people.
12.23.2006 4:15pm
George B:
The current specific problem is a large influx of poor native people from Mexico and Central America tipping specific neighborhoods toward unassimilated Spanish speaking pockets of crime and poverty. Here in the Dallas area, homeowners in Farmers Branch, Texas bear a relatively high cost in reduced property values plus taxes to support schools and Parkland Hospital while home builders like Dallas-based Centex benefit from an increased supply of construction workers. Maybe we need a legal seasonal worker program to bring in just the workers Centex, etc. need, not the whole family, and for just the time of the year that they need them.
12.23.2006 4:19pm
Jay Myers:
logicnazi:

It is definitionally true that the government (like anyone) should do what is morally right. The welfare of US citizens is not morally more desirable than the welfare of any other group of humans. Thus it is perfectly acceptable, even obligatory, for the government to sacrifice the welfare of US citizens to improve the lot of other people.

I think not. A moral obligation is what it would be morally wrong not to do. There three levels of morality. There are those things which would be nice if we did them but can reasonably fail to do. Those are supererogatory actions, which go beyond our moral duties. Next are those things which we have decisive moral reasons for doing, and it is at the least less than ideally reasonable for us to fail to act accordingly. Finally, there are those things that are required to meet minimal standards of moral decency. This last group of actions is the only one that can be considered obligatory. For pragmatic reasons, the set of obligatory actions is only a very small subset of the set of morally desirable actions. There are simply too many morally desirable actions for us to reasonably expect everyone to successfully do them all. However, there are a handful of the most important things that we do require everyone to do. "You must do this and it is immoral not to.” This ‘must’ is what distinguishes moral obligation from the weaker sense of moral desirability.

So what qualifies as a moral obligation of the nation? How about remaining true to the idea that its powers are to be used for the general welfare of the people of that nation? It would surely be intellectually dishonest to claim that the Founders were referring to the welfare of those in other nations. Not only is what you suggest not itself morally obligatory, it is contradictory to something that is a moral obligation.

Furthermore, I would argue that it would be an injustice rather than a moral good. I don't believe that there are social entities capable of self-sacrifice. There are only individuals, each with their own good. If an individual decides for themselves to engage in self-sacrifice for another's good then that is fine but when a social entity such as a nation-state claims to be doing so, all that is happening is that some set of individuals inside that group are using (or abusing) a different set of individuals.
12.23.2006 5:25pm
Humility:
I'm a pro-immigration liberal (of the welfare-state variety), and I think there's a balance needed on both ends. I think that its reasonable to limit the provision of many or most entitlements to citizens, and to limit LPR status to people likely to be able to support themselves without public assistance (leaving aside, e.g., refugees). You've identified some services that should be available to all, citizen, LPR, and undocumented alike -- education, police protection, I'd add health care for minor children, or subsidized school lunches -- but I don't think non-citizens should be eligible for cash benefits or food stamps or the like, except for the very short term. People have a moral right to live where they choose, and to emigrate to seek a better life, but I don't consider entitlements to be on the same level. Providing them to citizens is a social necessity; providing them to anyone who can show up would be economically disastrous and politically detrimental to keeping our shores open to folks who can succeed here economically.
12.25.2006 4:34pm