Immigration: keep the illegals out!

My earlier post spawned a flurry of comments that all offered similar criticisms. To paraphrase the most common: “Legal immigration is fine; it’s illegal immigration that we need to stop. Illegal immigrants, by definition, break the law by coming here and continue to break the law while they live here. Everyone knows that crime increases the more illegals there are.” As often happens, what everyone knows isn’t necessarily true. In one of my own comments I pointed to three different academic articles that reveal no association between immigration and crime rates; here, here, and here. Since then, I dug a little more and found more research; here, here, here, and here. Oh, and here, here, here, and (if you’re not into academic papers) here. There; you can’t claim invincible ignorance now. A quote from here summarizes how clouded the debate can be:

America has a big problem with illegal immigration, but a big part of it stems from the word “illegal.” It pollutes the debate. It blocks solutions. Used dispassionately and technically, there is nothing wrong with it. Used as an irreducible modifier for a large and largely decent group of people, it is badly damaging. And as a code word for racial and ethnic hatred, it is detestable.

Nogales border fence By bunky's pickle

Nogales border fence By bunky’s pickle

I couldn’t help but mentally draw the connection between the “immigrants are criminals” idea and Prohibition. If our borders were more open, i.e., if it were less costly for people to move here, it would attract more “normal” types of immigrants. As it is, though, when our border is militarized, when getting into the U.S. is very costly and dangerous, then the types of people who will be attracted to entering will pretty much be the opposite of the people we want: people with no good options at home who are willing to engage in dangerous, risky behavior to come here. When we outlawed alcohol, violent criminals got us our alcohol; now that alcohol is legal, the providers of alcohol certainly are a more respectable group. Is it possible that our “get tough” political motivation on immigration policy, that illegals are criminals, is self-fulfilling in the sense that those are the ones who most try to come here given how difficult it is to come here legally? On the relationship between immigration and the drug war, see good commentary here.

“Illegals could be terrorists.” True, as could any native. But the statistical probability that a given immigrant, even an illegal one, will commit a terrorist act is extremely small. Do we deny everyone the American dream (or at least deny them from fleeing their own domestic nightmare) because of this extremely small probability? Do we shun our poor neighbors over so tiny a risk?

“They take our jerbs!” Commenter Paul says “The unskilled labor influx is actually a detraction for the local economy. An unskilled laborer who is illiterate or only semi-educated due to their former homeland is more likely to be hired even for entry-level positions like working at McDonald’s or pushing carts at Publix. The problem with this is that you have educated kids graduating from high school that can’t get a job because they’ve been filled with low skilled immigrants who have very little chance of upward mobility.”

I found this an odd argument for a couple of reasons. First, it would seem to be a good thing that we have educated our high schoolers sufficiently that they don’t have to work at McDonald’s or push carts at Publix. The preferable alternative, then, is to have our educated high schoolers performing jobs for which they are overqualified? Isn’t that the lament frequently offered about college education? Second, the economist in me, after hearing that high schoolers are having trouble finding work, again feels obligated to point out that lowering the minimum wage would do much to increase employment in this group.

As is obvious, I only present principles here; I am not adept (or long-suffering) enough to plow through actual legislation that is being considered, like Carson is. Certainly legislation can be written well or poorly; a more strict immigration policy that is written well and actually prevents criminals from coming in but allows normal, hardworking people to do so would be preferable to a poorly written policy that pushed open borders but did nothing to address the welfare handouts that immigrants supposedly seek (though in the video I posted previously, the point was made that illegals often don’t qualify for such things). Further, U.S. legislation can do next to nothing to change what largely drives most immigration: poor institutional quality in developing countries. When countries do not respect the rule of law, private property rights, the benefits of free trade, the importance of constitutionally limited government, etc., then of course people will want to leave. Do we turn them away at our border because their government rulers are kleptocrats? Is that the immigrant’s fault?

As is also obvious, I nor anyone else blogging for CV claim to speak officially for the Church. We are Catholics in good standing approaching timely issues through the mind of the Church but often providing various viewpoints on issues of prudence. Catholics in good conscience can arguably be on both sides of the immigration debate; my intention here and earlier is simply to highlight a viewpoint that is well-established amongst economists, seems to be favored amongst the U.S. Bishops, but is often ridiculed amongst conservatives.


Categories:Culture Immigration Law Legislation Politics

  • Carlos

    By the way, my understanding is that Bishops and priests are very much for illegal immigrants not being deported or immigration laws not being enforced because these laws tend to break up families.

    However, isn’t the “owness” on those who came here illegally? No different than the parent who decides to steal from a bank and then because of his/her actions he or she will spend 10 or 15 years in jail. The broken family is the fault of the individual who chose to carry out the action. Not the fault of those you created the law. His/her family is now a broken family because of the individual who used his/her Free Will.

    All of our actions have consequences, but sadly I see many people who do not want to live with the consequences of their actions.

    I read a lot of false compassion in this article.

    And I speak as an immigrant who came into the USA legally.

    Yes, my problem is with illegal immigration not legal immigration.

    The author may want to get out his cocoon and see how many of these illegal immigrants simply do not assimilate into American culture. I went to high school and then college with countless of these. They hate the USA with a deep, deep passion. They want to use and abuse the USA. They want the benefits of living in the USA with none of the responsibilities.

    You may want to look into the marches a few years ago, under Bush, for immigration reform. All of the first marches in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, were full of Mexican flags. Countless of people signing Mexican songs, Mexican national anthem. Since it was a PR disaster, the next march was full of American flags. But the sentiment did not change. Let’s use the USA, let’s get all of the benefits and not have any responsibilities.

    Don’t believe me? Go to a USA vs. Mexico soccer game in Chicago, Los Angeles or any other city with a large Mexican population. Guess who the majority of Latinos are cheering for? Mexico.

    Furthermore, and sadly, the vast majority of individuals and groups, not all, but the majority, pushing for illegals to become legals, are from the far left, socialist and communist groups. The Church is aligning itself with the devil, sort to speak. And when you play with the devil, you always get burnt.

    The author does not understand Latin American culture. Born and raised in Latin America, I do. You are asking, that a bunch of pro-socialist, pro-communist individuals be made legal, despite the fact that they broke the law. The day this happens, in about 10 to 15 years, you will not recognize the USA.

    Yes, let us treat illegals with compassion, love, with all the human dignity that is due to any human, but let us not be naive about this subject. Do not let false compassion cloud reason, logic, and reality. .

  • Carlos

    With your mentality, why make drugs illegal. Using your logic of alcohol being illegal can also extend to cocaine, heroine. Shoot, in fact, why do we have laws, right? People are going to break them anyway so might as well not have laws? Very flawed logic, very!

    We must treat illegals, yes, let us use the correct word, illegals, as human beings and show them compassion, love, care, God’s love, but it does not mean that we must reward illegal immigrants for their poor behavior, for breaking the law.

    The author is quite naive too. Countless of illegals, even the nice ones, are very much involved in identity theft. Don’t believe me? Go to Chicago’s Pilsen area or Little Village. Many of these then use these illegal identities to obtain jobs, obtain welfare, food stamps all being taken away from American citizens and legal residents.

    Let’s treat illegals with compassion and love. But let us not give false compassion by rewarding poor behavior.

  • MZ

    Hurrah! Thank you!

  • Ann

    Oops, should read “process for legal immigration….”

  • Ann

    ” a viewpoint that is well-established amongst economists, seems to be favored amongst the U.S. Bishops, but is often ridiculed amongst conservatives.”
    I don’t have time to wade through the academic studies and I think it is a waste of time anyways. Seems like we can find an “academic” study that will support pretty much any viewpoint these days. My personal experience and observation is that the economists and US Bishops need to come out of their ivory towers and see what it is like in the real world. Perhaps this dichotomy exists because “conservatives” are boots on the ground and can see what is going on in their communities as a result of huge influxes of illegal immigrants. These illegal immigrants are breaking the law and continue to do so while they are here. They break the law everyday to stay here with fake id, phony driver’s licenses, and on and on. They break local zoning laws on housing and do have health and sanitation issues. My small hometown in MA has had to more than double the staff of the public health dept. to deal with these illegals. Car accidents happen everyday with illegals with no drivers license and no insurance so the law abiding citizen gets stuck with the whole bill. A car full of illegals was involved in a horrific accident a few years ago in NC. The occupants lives in NYC but were in NC to obtain car insurance. It was cheaper and it was easy to lie about residence. Insurance fraud. No crime here.

    A huge issue that will never go away is that it is unjust to change the law because people won’t obey the law. The law requiring a process for illegal immigration is not unjust. Tweak it if you must but to think that citizens who obey the law, even those they disagree with, are going to roll over for what amounts to amnesty is expecting too much.

    • Mary

      Two words: Rosa Parks.

  • Mary

    Thank you, again, for being a reasonable voice in an unreasonable climate.



Receive our updates via email.