Skip to comments.(Vanity) Immigration Policies, or, Half-A-Glass
Posted on 06/04/2006 10:38:03 AM PDT by grey_whiskers
Many pundits have fretted over the recent tide of unskilled, low-wage immigrants to the United States (particularly from Mexico). They claim that these immigrants depress wages, increase crime, and are undermining the medical system. Furthermore, it is claimed that President Bush's proposed "guest-worker" program is merely an amnesty, and will encourage a further inrush of illegal Mexican workers. Others point to prior waves of immigration, and say that these workers are necessary for continued economic growth, much as waves European labor were required for the great economic boom of the nation's entrance into the 20th century.
Which of these is true? "Half full" or "half empty" may depend upon the point of view of the observer, but it also depends on the actions of the observer as well--were you adding water to the glass when you stopped to regard it, or were you pouring it down the drain? With that in mind, let us compare the Mexican immigration to prior waves of immigration, comparing the economic and social context of each, as well as proposed future actions by the society at large.
The first point of comparison is the composition of the United States' economy at the beginning of the last century, compared to now. Around 1900, industrialization had not yet hit its peak, and most of the labor force was engaged in agriculture. Today, the US economy has moved through industrialization, to knowledge work; it is not the citizens, but the illegal immigrants are used to work on farms.
The second point is that a hundred years ago, as now, there is a demand for "cheap labor" to work within the factories; this factor, coupled with the great difference in power between the workers and owners, led to atrocities from child labor to the Ludlow massacre in Colorado. The difference is that today, US citizens have many more rights and opportunities; the illegal immigrants, however, do not. This creates a strong incentive for businesses to lower the wages and benefits for jobs to the point that they are not worthwhile for American citizens to fill them; and then to hire illegals to perform the jobs. This is in effect the owner's answer to labor unions--instead of artificially restricting the supply of labor, there is an artificial increase in the supply of labor. This is often justified by using the rubric "jobs no Americans would do" (leaving unspoken the remainder of the phrase "for these wages, and under these conditions"). I have lived in the Midwest, the East Coast, and the Southwst, and did not see the same number of Hispanics performing service work anywhere else in the country as I did along the border states. Is it the Calvinist work ethic of the Midwest, or a different labor market of the East Coast, that accounts for the difference?
One more difference between the immigration of the last century and the current wave of immigration lies in the economic side effects of the immigration. A century or so ago, working in a factory represented "the new wave" of technical innovation: creating identical items by mass production amortized the production costs over many units, lowering the price of the product below the price for similar, hand-crafted items (albeit with some loss of quality). It therefore raised everyone's living standards. Nowadays, however, the ready supply of cheap labor both displaces higher-priced US workers--putting a drag on the economy--and reduces incentives to innovate--reducing the demand for technical innovation, which would create higher-skill, higher-wage jobs to create, sell, and maintain the newly-developed technical items.
The cause of many of these dilemmas is the social context of the prior great waves of immigration, as compared to today. The earlier waves of immigrants came here in order TO BE AMERICANS (remember the U.S. as a "melting pot?") While they were exploited, they worked together to assimilate into society and over the next generation or so, climbed the ladder to prosperity. Today, it is admitted by both business and government that the illegal aliens are valued just for their labor, and not expected to assimilate into society (remember "multiculturalism" and "bilingual education?") Republicans say "Work hard and you might make it to the top" (although most don't); Democrats say "You poor oppressed worker! Join a Union, lead a working class life, (but nothing more), and remember to vote Democrat." This is not the American Dream!
The fate of the half-full or half-empty glass depends (in the real world, not the election cycle) on what is done in the real world, and not on what is said. If widespread cheating is encouraged; guest workers and aliens are exploited, first by business, then by left-wing politicians; and politicians (right, left, and center) continue to turn a blind eye to the larger strains placed upon society by the influx of immigrants, then the glass may not be just half empty: it might run dry completely. If, on the other hand the regularization of guest workers is accompanied by vigorous border enforcement; if the INS, Department of Homeland Security, IRS and other agencies work together to put out of business those who continue to exploit illegals; and if the problems of crime and demands for free medical care are addressed (no one has proposed any solutions to these yet!), then the glass will have been half full, and on its way to "running over".
Only problem is, there is no economic boom going on in America. Twenty million illegal aliens are in fact creating an economic disaster.
for the great economic boom of the nation's entrance into the 20th century.
I was talking about 100 years ago in this sentence ;-)
20th, not 21st...
But my sentiments lean in your direction this time around.
I'm with you on this issue, but what you wrote isn't true. We are having an economic boom: unemployment is down, wages are up, and economic growth is high. While illegal aliens are an economic drain, they're really only a disaster for certain segments of society. They are, for example, the principle reason why people without a high school diploma are doing very poorly, even in the face of an economic boom.
And yes, unskilled immigration is a big fiscal drain on some states like California, but it is a bit of a stretch to say it's a disaster for the country as a whole.
I'm on your side on this issue, but I just want to urge you not to use the above arguments. You make our side look a lot better when you use valid arguments, and there are plenty of them.
Not according to what I've researched, read and heard on conservative talk radio. According to the National Research Council, (Center for Immigration Studies), the national cost of illegal immigration is "significant", in terms of expenditures for education, criminal justice, emergency medical care and uninsured drivers. Now add to that the high costs of federal immigration control, where they arrest many illegals and then are forced to release them in a circular game of "catch and release".
Here is a 2002 Center for Immigration Studies statistic you may be interesting in knowing.
"The costs for the federal prison and court system are also significant because, although persons in illegal households account for about 3.6 percent of the nation's total population, illegals now account for almost one-fifth of those in federal prison and others processed by the federal courts. Thus, they impose costs on that system that are disproportionally high relative to their share of the total population."
Now, if in 2002 illegals represented 1/5th of federal inmates, that number has surely increased since then. And this study does not include the costs to Americans for the actual crimes that were committed, it only takes into consideration the costs of prosecuting and incarcerating the criminals.
Here is the annual cost to individual STATES dealing with illegal alien criminals, according to a 2002 Department of Justices State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. The federal government distributed $550 million to the states to help defray their expenses, but this was estimated to cover only about one fifth of their outlays. So the annual total for individual States to incarcerate illegal aliens was over $2.5 billion. Again, that was back in 2002.
In 1996, Dr. Donald Huddle, a Rice University economics professor, published a systematic analysis of the cost to American taxpayers for illegal immigration; he estimated that illegals cost American taxpayers about $30 billion dollars yearly, (this was after considering what the illegals contributed in taxes, etc). That was 1996, that estimate now jumps to about $70 billion dollars, when you take into account that illegal immigration has more than doubled since then.
Now, take into account what these illegals cost us in terms of importing drugs into America, and hence increasing the annual costs for the War on Drugs, and you can probably add a couple billion more dollars to the equation; (here I am including the costs for the murders, robberies and other crimes associated with these drugs that are smuggled over our borders by illegals, but that are perpetrated by American citizens who purchased those drugs).
Finally, let's not forget that today we know these illegals are bringing diseases that were once nearly eradicated back into our country. The medical costs will skyrocket even more. The price we ALL PAY to support illegal immagration far outweighs any savings or benefits we might get at the grocery store.
If you say that, you open yourself up to the open borders bushbot counter-argument that most people are actually doing well economically, which is true. What they miss is that we're doing okay DESPITE our horrendous immigration policy, not because of it.
All I'm saying is don't make claims that are easily refuted. Your last post was good, BTW, that's exactly the kind of argument we should be making.
I'll accept "economic drain" for now, and say that it's a disaster for America in various other ways, with the 'economic disaster' looming in the near future if the illegal immigration bill isn't completely shredded and re-written by the House in a way that stops the insane influx of illegals and deports many of the present ones. No country, not even America, can sustain this kind of free-flowing immigration forever.