Sunday, June 24, 2007

An Exchange On Illegal Immigration That Got Too Long

By Manifesto Joe

Peter, if you're going to cite academic studies, please don't cherry-pick. Show the whole picture. I was already familiar with the Borjas-Katz research. (See below)


You missed the vast number of Texans of both parties who are deeply concerned about

1. The immense fiscal burden illegals impose on the United States. A recent study (Rector of the Heritage Foundation) found that unskilled immigrants cost taxpayers $89.1 billion per year (back in 2004, more now).

2. The amazing wage losses from immigration. Take a look at the work of Professor Borjas (by far, the leading expert in this field). The same models that show a possible $30 billion economic gain from immigration, also show $350 billion in lost wages from American workers.

3. The terrible damage unskilled immigration does to our schools. California used to have a quite good public school system. Now it is a wreck (49th in the nation, thank god for Mississippi). Texas is headed rather quickly the same way.

4. Runaway population growth, driven almost entirely by immigration is bringing gridlock to more and more of our country. Cheap lawns are nice, two hour commutes aren't. Of course, those lawns are pricey if you add in the tax burden.

5. In some parts of the United States, immigration has made housing unaffordable for all but the very rich. For example, on both coasts. This is less of a problem in Texas... So far.

6. The unskilled immigrants coming into the United States have high crime rates. Take a look at the work of the (very pro-immigration) Migration Policy Institute. They found that the crime rate rises 8 fold from the first to second generation and is many times higher than the white rate.

To be blunt, xenophobia isn't the issue. Seeing the world clearly after you take off the rose-colored glasses is.
Peter Schaeffer | 06.23.07 - 3:11 pm | #


I agree with Joe that it's funny to see the Texas GOP have a train wreck.

But, I hold some of the same concerns about illegal immigration as Pete.

Interestingly, The Nation got flooded with letters and e-mails when it wrote about immigration, including illegals, early this year. Many progressives share these same concerns.
SocraticGadfly | Homepage | 06.23.07 - 8:58 pm | #


Hi, guys:

I've written on the subject before, and I am a bit familiar with the studies of Professors Borjas and Katz. I think Peter is citing something very selective here. This is from a piece from my home blog:

"What is the effect on wages? According to Harvard economists George J. Borjas and Lawrence F. Katz, from 1980 to 2000, immigration reduced the average annual earnings of U.S.-born men by nearly 4 percent. The poorest 10 percent of the work force suffered worse, they wrote, with a 7.4 percent reduction. Among high school dropouts, it was 8.2 percent.

What is the effect on jobs? It's been long argued that illegal immigrants take jobs that Americans won't. That seemed largely true in the 1980s, but less so now. In Texas, where I live, it's easy to see how this has changed. Just walk up to any construction site and find out how many of the skilled tradesmen there are equally skilled in English.

But Borjas and Katz point out that such effects are mitigated -- for example, certain types of businesses (hand car washes and landscapers) would not even exist without the cheap labor of illegal immigrants.

Borjas wrote in an April 18 op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal: "A larger pool of competing workers lowers relative wages. This does not imply that immigration is a net loss for the economy. After all, the wage losses suffered by workers show up as higher profits to employers and, eventually, as lower prices to consumers. Immigration policy is just another redistribution program. In the short run, it transfers wealth from one group (workers) to another group (employers). Whether or not such transfers are desirable is one of the central questions in the immigration debate."

It is amusing to see some conservatives who take a hard line on immigration latching onto the Borjas-Katz study. I never noticed that these union-busting, Wal-Mart-shopping types were ever concerned about low wages in the past. Their stand is more likely rooted in right-wing xenophobia, not concern for U.S. workers.

This brings us to the Republican Party's great divide on this issue: the bigots versus the exploiters. Among the more "moderate" elitist Republicans, they don't want to lose their gardeners or their cleaning women -- they work so cheap.

It also brings us to the reason all these millions of Mexican nationals come here illegally, often at great risk: The Mexican economy, mismanaged for decades by a corrupt, oligarchic government, can't provide jobs for its large peasant class. And this may be somewhat by design."

Peter, if you're going to cite academic studies, please don't cherry-pick. Show the whole picture.

Please note that I mentioned, this time as well, concerns for the effects on jobs and wages, at least in passing. My focus this time was mainly elsewhere, on the GOP's intramural fight over this.

But, far from wearing any rose-colored glasses, my familiarity with the issue is very personal. In the '70s and '80s I was friendly with the son of a Texas Babbitt type, and his son told me candidly that his dad hired illegal workers all the time. "Hell, everybody does it," he said, or something to that effect. And this man, the dad, was a rock-ribbed Republican if there ever was one. He had many ties, direct and indirect, to Phil Gramm, the Reagan administration and the Bush family. If people like him had shown the will, they could have all but stopped illegal immigration 30 years ago. But as is the case with so many Republicans, hypocrisy and short-term greed got in the way.

I've read an estimate that if every illegal worker at restaurants in metropolitan Dallas-Fort Worth were deported, fully one-third of the establishments would have to close.

And, how would they go about rounding them up? As I wrote in my earlier post, this is a government that couldn't handle a Category 3 hurricane in New Orleans. How are they going to deport 12 million illegal immigrants?

No rose tint here, Peter. Realistically, these folks are here, and mostly to stay. For better or for worse, we've got to come up with a pragmatic way to manage the situation. But having Republicans immobilize the government in a battle between bigots and opportunists won't cut it.

If you care to read my entire earlier post:

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