Wednesday, July 04, 2007

It's Three Days Drive From Bakersfield, And I Don't Know Why I Came - I Guess I Came To Keep From Paying Dues

Got an e-mail the other day, listing fourteen reasons to deport illegal immigrants. At first I was repulsed, of course, mostly at the amount of bile being ejected into the ether by this list of “reasons.” But then I calmed down a bit, took a deep breath, and decided to retort - there are two sides to every story, and this e-mail posits but one of those sides. The four paragraphs quoted below are taken from this report, quoted extensively in the e-mail.

I don’t want this to be seen as a personal attack against anyone (though I am afraid that it might be) - rather, it should be seen as yet another of my liberal rantings. It should also be noted that my wife teaches English as a Second Language to mostly Mexican students - which probably means that my perspective is skewed. See, if you just want to throw numbers around, I’ll grant you that this immigration thing looks pretty negative. But if you take a minute to stop and think about the fact that these are real people, with real problems - and that this was once thought of as the Land of Opportunity - then it becomes a whole lot muddier. Illegal immigration is a problem, yes, but simply stamping a cost value on it and trumpeting the fact that it is “illegal” does nothing to solve the problem. It only serves to instill fear - and that is the game that George Bush and Darth Cheney have been playing for too long. We, as Americans, should be much, much smarter than that.

We aren’t - but we should be. Here we go...

“If illegal aliens were given amnesty and began to pay taxes and use services like households headed by legal immigrants with the same education levels, the estimated annual net fiscal deficit would increase from $2,700 per household to nearly $7,700, for a total net cost of $29 billion.”

The primary concern with the fourteen items linked to in this manifesto of hate is cost - illegals cost the government (and, by extension, the taxpayers) more in services used than they contribute in taxes paid. The above quote also indicates that legalizing illegal immigrants would still result in a net loss to American taxpayers.

“With nearly two-thirds of illegal aliens lacking a high school degree, the primary reason they create a fiscal deficit is their low education levels and resulting low incomes and tax payments, not their legal status or heavy use of most social services.”

“On average, the costs that illegal households impose on federal coffers are less than half that of other households, but their tax payments are only one-fourth that of other households.”

“Costs increase dramatically because unskilled immigrants with legal status -- what most illegal aliens would become -- can access government programs, but still tend to make very modest tax payments.”

The three quotes above all mention tax payments - but they also present a static picture of what the situation looks like now. These quotes, and the report from which they spew forth, fail in any demonstrative way to take into account what would happen if illegal immigrants were given a chance to assimilate themselves into the fabric of American society and actually become Americans.

Indeed, when attempting to estimate the impact of amnesty for illegal aliens, the report assumes that those given amnesty would partake of services and pay in taxes similarly to legal immigrants with similar characteristics. To wit:

“To estimate the likely impact of legalization, we run two different simulations. In our first simulation, we assume that legalized illegal aliens would use services and pay taxes like all households headed by legal immigrants with the same characteristics. In this simulation, we control for the education level of the household head and whether the head is from Mexico. The first simulation shows that the net fiscal deficit grows from about $2,700 to more than $6,000 per household. In the second simulation, we again control for education and whether the household head is Mexican and also assume that illegals would become like post-1986 legal immigrants, excluding refugees. Because illegals are much more like recently arrived non-refugees than legal immigrants in general, the second simulation is the more plausible. The second simulation shows that the net fiscal deficit per household would climb to $7,700.”

Here’s the rub: See up there where it says “we control for the education level?” That assumes that the illegal immigrant would achieve no more of an education than the legal immigrant. Further, it does not account for changes in the delivery of education that would take place for now-legal immigrants. What this study fails to measure is how far up the now-legal immigrant can climb if given the chance. It also fails to take into account the ways in which Congress will be able to provide a helping hand to a now-legal immigrant population.

See, making legal the 12 million odd now-illegal immigrants is going to enfranchise (that means allow them to vote) a lot of people who are here right now and are not going to the polls. Are all of them going to vote? No. But a lot more of them will. This will increase Latino representation in Congress - Representatives and, to a lesser extent, Senators, will have to take into account the wants and needs of their new Latino constituents. Eventually, this will also result in more Latino Representatives, Senators, mayors, and governors.

It also - in large part because by its nature as an objective report based on facts - cannot account for goodwill, which cannot be measured by a study. You can measure it on a balance sheet, as any yo-yo who has taken an accounting class in college will tell you - oh wait, that’s me! - but even that is still an estimate.

There is no way to predict how such a large group of people is going to react to suddenly being welcomed with open arms to their new country. To take a cross-section of the situation as it stands now and present it to the American people is to do little more than instill fear into them. People fear the unknown, and this is a big unknown.

And there is yet another rub: Are these people really going to be welcomed into this country with open arms - whether they are here legally or not? No. They aren’t. Even if all the immigrants were legal, people - mostly frightened conservatives - are still going to cry foul. They’ll say we’re being overrun by the Mexicans.

But you know what? America has always had a lot of things that other countries don’t have and which the people of those countries want - namely freedom and prosperity. There has been wave after wave of immigrants to this country since, well...since a bunch of English tobacco farmers slaughtered the American Indians and took this country away from them. Irish, Italian, Jewish, German, Japanese, Russian, Greek - and now Mexican - immigrants have all come here because they wanted something better than what they had at home. And this country always welcomed them - until now.

The reason: It’s happening so fast, and the Mexicans don’t have an ocean to cross. The population in Mexico is, in a word, exploding. Click here to see data from the Census Bureau on the population of Mexico. Note the rate of growth, which is 1.2 percent. Now click here to see the same data, except for China. Note the rate of population growth there - 0.6 percent.

Now is the time for all you math majors out there to crunch that number and see if you get this - that Mexico’s population is growing at TWICE the rate of China’s. Gosh, I wonder why that is...oh, wait, that’s right. It’s because 89% of the Mexican population is Roman Catholic, and those wacky Catholics don’t believe in birth control. If you really want to point a finger of blame in this immigration mess, make it your middle finger and aim it at the fucking Pope.

I don’t know if there is any easy fix to the immigration problem - but I do know that the attitude of the average American is certainly not helping. What we have in America - the freedom and prosperity - is not ours by divine right. It is ours because we fought for it - fought the British to gain it, and the Germans (twice) to keep it. But winning those wars doesn’t mean that we can just sit back and float down freedom’s river, forever and ever, amen.

It means we have to keep fighting for it - except that what we have to fight now is our own inertia. The world is growing up in a big hurry, and we, as Americans, are none too quickly realizing this fact. A lot of other countries that don’t have all the things we have are waking up to the fact that they have the ability to get those things - thanks to the globalization that has been brought about by the Internet.

Japan has already figured it out, and they’re making better electronics and cars than we are. India and China are beginning to figure it out, too. The middle class in India numbers 300 million - which is the same as the entire population of the United States. The Mexicans are in the midst of realizing that there is a shitload of work in America that Americans don’t want to do - because corporations won’t pay them a living wage to do it, not when they can outsource that work to a country whose population is willing to work for less. We can’t keep the rest of the world from growing up and shifting from the Third World to the First World. We have to learn to get smarter and better.

I’ve mentioned the following book I don’t know how many times on this blog, but I’m going to do it again here: The World Is Flat, by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman. This book does a great job of talking about globalization and how it affects everyone in the world - especially Americans. Reading this book may not change your mind about anything, but it should make you think about things from quite a few new perspectives.

In the meantime, here are some links to check out - and don’t forget, there are two sides to every story. Illegal immigration is a problem, but so are racist American bigots who propagate fear of an unknown that they don’t even bother to try to understand.

From Immigration Outpost - A group of eleven post-graduate fellows from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Harvard’s Kennedy Business School

From Immigration Prof Blog - Edited by three professors at the University of California-Davis

From Elliott Asbury - Apparently just some guy, but he mentions an article in BusinessWeek that has some good information

The Immigration Portal - A massive source for information on immigration law

From the Washington Post - An article about a report from the state comptroller of Texas that claims illegal immigrants are a boon to that state’s economy

From the Indiana Economic Digest - An article about the effect on the local economy of immigrants in Elkhart County

From a Special Report on Immigration, called Beyond Borders, in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and the San Bernadino Sun - A link to the naturalization test administered by the Department of Justice

And some blogs:

Immigration Prof Blog
Immigration Outpost


Jason L. Maier said...

I will take my responsiblity for being the one that sent out this email that got such a lengthy blog from you Mr. Peddie.

The other thing I will take responsibility for is anyone who comes to this country LEGALLY.

Programs that allow "illegals" to open bank accounts or buy a house without a social security number are one of the many crazy things that these ILLEGAL people get away with.

I am a big advocate for everyone to have the same rights, and by that thought process I should be able to go and buy a car, a house, or even get credit cards without giving my ssn.

Now imagine everyone not being REALLY held accountable for their actions (and right now I'm just talking financially). How long do you think that would last?

If they want opportunity than I think we should welcome them with open arms AS LONG AS THEY DO IT LEGALLY!

We have enough problems with our country and the people who come LEGALLY, it's just adding more problems by allowing the ILLEGALS to keep coming in.

On a different note, I applaud your wife for teaching kids English, I really do. Maybe then I'll understand them the next time I go to McDonald's (this was meant to put a smile on your face).

John-O said...

Yeah, but they'll get your order wrong either way...

Michael Maier said...

You're also not thinking of the other costs. They're available as cheap labour (sic) because they're illegal. The employers often do not pay insurance or both or either side of the SSN taxes. They don't pay benefits, they lower costs.

So they can afford to pay them even higher salaries because the overall expenditures per employee are still so much lower.

If they're legal, the benefits for the employers are cut drastically.

You're also missing the fact that Jorge Busho is working to legalize them. He's not demonizing them. Did you hear him during the Senate hearings? He pretty much called anyone opposing amnesty a racist bigot. (I'll gladly take that label, thanks.)

He's hardly your enemy in this fight if you think amnesty is a good idea.

Plus the Mexicans are importing the same social costs as blacks: ridiculously high levels of illegitimacy. That is the greatest source of criminality and tax-drains for our current citizens. Adding more of the same seems like a really bad idea.

Adding 12 million Mexicans that are going to breed more tax drains is not going to help things.

Figure in the imminent collapse of "Social Security" and you're looking at one HELL of a mess.

Plus, we don't need another whiny-ass liberal (as in spending OTHER folks' money liberally) special interest group represented in DC. That helps nothing but the rise of racial hatred. And tensions are already bad enough between blacks & "hispanics". The shooting war between them is in full swing in LA, according to some police sources there. It's only going to get worse and spread as time goes on.

You're also not going to assimilate them. And their culture is lazy and hardly legally-minded. As in, contracts don't matter for shit to them. That's not me saying that, it's coming from ex-pats warning other future ex-pats about the downsides of mainstream Mexican culture.

We don't need them here. The majority of our citizens don't WANT them here. They have no "right" to be here.

Why do so many folks think importing more poor folks and depressing wages levels is such a great thing? I can't figure it out.

Michael Maier said...

We should also cut off completely all legal immigration, IMO.

So if that makes me an extremist, I'll take that label too.