Immigration: why we should like it

The “we” in the title can refer to two groups: Americans and Catholics. Americans, particularly those of a more conservative bent, tend to view immigration with a hefty dose of skepticism. The thinking is that immigrants take our jobs, depress wages, increase unemployment, bloat the welfare rolls, and widen the gap between rich and poor. However, it’s hard to see how this skepticism can square with economics and statistics. As evidence…

#1 Top three myths about immigration

#2 The impact of immigration on jobs and income

#3 Why unskilled immigrants are good for the economy

To the “stealing our jobs” argument, it should also be noted that most immigrants to the U.S. are either very highly skilled or very low skilled (I believe I heard Ben Powell from video #1 make this argument but I can’t find it online). The U.S. native population, like most countries, has a bell-shaped skill distribution with relatively few people having either very low or very high skills and the vast majority of people in the middle of the bell curve. Therefore, when low- and highly-skilled immigrants come in, they only add to the already-small number of people at the tails. In other words, they don’t compete with the vast majority of people for jobs; they complement them.

I suppose the argument could be made that they still compete with the U.S. workers in the tails, and thus immigration should be prevented for the sake of those people. I’d respond that

  1. That is a fairly small number of harmed Americans to justify keeping out immigrants who on net provide a large benefit to the U.S. as a whole. Hopefully the U.S. government isn’t in the business of changing its laws to suit only a tiny minority of its populace. (Oh, wait…)
  2. Even if unskilled immigrants compete for jobs with low-skilled Americans, it seems the obvious remedy consistent with subsidiarity is to provide education and skills training to those low-skilled Americans, rather than to construct an elaborate bureaucratic system complete with long lines, countless documents, armed border agents, and super-duper high walls.
  3. Even if highly skilled immigrants compete for jobs with highly-skilled Americans, I find it hard to see the downside of having more smart people here. But admittedly I’m not at that end of the skill distribution anyway, so I’m sure a comboxer will set me straight…
Highly-skilled immigrant to Rome

Highly-skilled Roman immigrant

Catholics should like immigration purely on humanitarian grounds. Actually, I may be preaching to the choir because the USCCB says “Nearly eighty percent of Catholic voters support earned citizenship.” Unfortunately, as with most polls of Catholics this one does not distinguish between those who self-identify as Catholic and those who, say, are weekly Mass goers. We know, for example, how most Catholics voted in the most recent presidential election. But I would hope the results would not differ much if the pollsters made such a distinction. Cardinal Dolan lent his support to legislative efforts to reform the immigration system.

Those who argue for the morality of keeping immigrants out usually go back to the welfare argument that was addressed in video #3 above; “Even if it’s a small number, some poor immigrants come here just to take advantage of our generous welfare benefits.” Wouldn’t it seem that the obvious remedy is to fix the broken, dependency-creating welfare system, rather than keep it in place but forcefully keep out most or all immigrants because we think that some of them will become welfare queens?

Others argue that immigration is immoral because most of it is done illegally, creating disrespect for U.S. law. I can think of lots of other laws that would seem to create this disrespect much more so than immigration laws, from the truly awful (Roe v. Wade, free contraception in public schools, legal protection of pornography, etc.) to the ridiculous (the TSA, no Big Gulps in Gotham, low-flow toilets, etc.). It would seem there are bigger elephants in the room.

Let’s hope that xenophobia does not carry the day in this debate. Lest we forget, the Good Samaritan was a foreigner, Jesus Himself was questioned because of His place of origin, and I’m going to go out on a limb and presume that most of you readers have an immigrant or two in your own ancestry. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free!”

34 thoughts on “Immigration: why we should like it

  1. James Kevin Richardson says:

    There seem to be two unstated falsehoods in the premise that need to be brought to light: 1) that people absolutely must leave Mexico to survive (and we are talking about Mexico and her sister latin american corruptocracies) and that 2) should they decide to come here, we have the moral obligation to attempt to address the deficiencies of their home nation’s corruption and disfunction on our own dime. In essence, that we open our nation to them without reservation and without regard to the consequences to our nation, and relieving the home nation of its social justice obligations to its own people.
    Neither of these premises are true in essence. Mexico is perennially poor because it is fraught with corruption culturally, politically and morally (the Church). Mexico exports enough nationalized petroleum every day to meet the existential needs of her people. Much as did Mohammed Farah Aidide, she chooses not to do so. In Mexico, you practically can’t renew your auto license plates without paying a bribe. As you go up the hierarchy of needs, the picture only gets worse.

    Another unspoken objective by the left and even our bishops is to create, through the path to citizenship, an unbreakable pro-abortion, pro-social spending voting block in our nation. Talk about encouraging your own demise. Sorry, Tim, I don’t buy the prissy little lies- this is about making the US a socialist country within the next four federal election cycles and you are a useful idiot fighting for Alinsky’s cause.

  2. sara says:

    I am an immigrant…and that means that I entered the country legally and its shameful how a voice from the Church is twisttingthis problem. As the homeless and those in shelters if they would like a job? Some cant because of criminal records that they wish they could erase anddd its the arrason why they wont be hired. But companies are hiring the illegals in their place. Where is the justice in that? My family and I waited 8 years..followed the law and that is why I love this country.

    Any idea how many poor people li e in 3rd world countries that can only dream about coming to the US and take a low skilled job?

  3. Stacie says:

    ‘Actually, I may be preaching to the choir because the USCCB says “Nearly eighty percent of Catholic voters support earned citizenship.”’
    The key here is ‘earned’ citizenship. As Gerard stated, ask those of us along border states how illegal immigration is working. SECURE the borders, then we’ll talk, not the other way around. Yes, we as catholics, should care for the poor – but no where does it say we should let someone else do it for us [which is what government programs do]. I am all for legal immigration, as this country is [or was] a great nation and all should have the ability to make a better life for themselves and their family. My family came legally as immigrants, they had no welfare, no food stamps, no ‘social safety net’. They managed [generation by generation] to provide a better life for their family. Adding a minimum of 9 million democrat voters to the rolls will not help this country get back to what it once was.
    Just ask Texas, California and Arizona alone what they spend on illegal immigrants. Never mind the security risk of unsecured borders.
    The majority if immigrants in Texas are low/unskilled workers, so the ‘bell theory’ is not correct. Yes we could provide training, but who is going to do that – another government program? Why aren’t they already training the 20 – 30% of unemployed black citizens in our inner-cities? We tried amnesty in the 80′s – it didn’t work. Time for a new solution.

  4. Dan says:

    On a purely moral level, it seems entirely appropriate to allow immigrants to freely come into this country. However, one must also consider the political impact this will have. The abortion battle, which we are already losing, will be lost completely. Nearly every state will legalize gay marriage. The Democratic Party machine will quickly incorporate these new immigrants into its electorate. From there, the Republican Party will be completely over-matched. It will be forced to thoroughly overhaul itself or be irrelevant in national and many state elections.

    Open borders will absolutely destroy American democracy as it exists today. There will be no political party to stand up for the Catholic Church’s freedom to forego distributing birth control to employees. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Republican Party is immoral and idiotic on a variety of issues; however, it must continue to exist in the present to balance the anti-Catholic interests of the the Democratic Party.

  5. Paul says:

    Being a Florida Resident, I can say this for certain. 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.

    It is in McDonald’s best interests to keep that low skilled immigrant in that position. After all, that is a measure of stability, and that immigrant isn’t going to have the marketable job skills to leave later on.

    So what? What does this mean? This means that that graduate who has skills can’t find an entry level position in order to gain job experience. Increasingly in our economy, even jobs as restaurant servers, cashiers, etc. are demanding prior experience for filling jobs. So how is a high school graduate supposed to find work above and beyond the low skilled immigrant?

    The high school graduate represents a problem for the entry level positions because they are not going to be content with making minimum wage for no benefits. They do have skills and an education that will help them find employment (once they have experience under their belt) and that increases the likelihood of them leaving for a more lucrative job.

    So when faced with the choice between the stable low-skilled immigrant who can be exploited for labor or the home-grown American who has a better chance for upward social mobility, it is in the economic best interests of the employer to hire the low-skilled immigrant.

    So yes, they do ‘steal our jobs’. Just not the jobs we’re probably thinking of.

  6. Adrienne says:

    We should support LEGAL immigration. We should push on countries who mistreat their citizens so badly that they flee in terror for their lives and health. We cannot abide people who steal from our own poor. Eventually the welfare runs out. We must be kind and firm and sensible. This is much more political than anything else- people trying to buy and hold votes not help the poor and downtrodden.

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