Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 17, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

IMMIGRATION....Nathan Newman recommends a report on immigration from the Drum Major Institute that makes a couple of points that ought to be obvious but often don't seem to be:

  • America wants immigrants and has plenty of jobs for them.

  • Illegal immigrants are easily intimidated by employers and therefore accept low pay and abysmal working conditions. This drives down wages and working conditions for everyone, not just immigrants.

Unfortunately, the Drum Major report loses me here:

We submit that immigration reform can successfully address both of these realities if it maintains the flow of legal immigrants, enables undocumented immigrants to continue living and working in the United States and also ensures that all immigrants are able to exercise full rights in the workplace, empowering them to demand working conditions that dont undercut the U.S. citizens with whom they share a labor market.

I simply don't see how undocumented workers will ever be able to "exercise full rights in the workplace." After all, an employer can always carry out a threat to report a worker to the INS no matter what rules you have in place, and we can hardly forbid the INS from deporting an illegal immigrant just because he or she has filed a workplace claim of some kind. This is simply unworkable, which might explain why the report doesn't recommend any actual policy prescriptions.

DMI's basic points strike me as plainly correct, but I suspect there's only one real way to address them: (a) increase significantly the number of legal immigrants we accept and (b) tighten up enforcement of immigration laws. This would lower the cost of legal immigration and raise the cost of illegal immigration, and if we can find the right balance it would make illegal immigration rare while keeping legal immigration at levels sufficient to provide the workforce we rather obviously want. Workplace protections and higher wages follow almost automatically, and that in turn will allow us to find out once and for all whether or not native Americans are willing to do the work that immigrants currently do.

Politically, of course, this is a nonstarter. Employers wouldn't like it because they prefer illegal immigrants who can be treated poorly and can't do anything about it, while the Tom Tancredos of the world just don't want any immigrants at all. It's hard to see any rational compromise coming out of Washington DC anytime soon.

Kevin Drum 10:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (81)

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Comments

Here's one thing: How about giving green cards to illegals who rat out their employers?

That should reduce the abuse.

Posted by: Matthew Saroff on January 17, 2006 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

"That should reduce the abuse."

And it'll introduce a whole new set of abuses on how to get a green card quick.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 17, 2006 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

Alas, Kevin, I agree. The simplest reform would be a minimum wage high enough to make hiring illegals unprofitable. Wait for it.

Posted by: JMG on January 17, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

The best strategy is to let in the smartest, the brightest, and those with money that can contribute to our economy. These immigrants will not drive down wages as they will be skilled enough to want higher paying jobs. As for the lower wage jobs, how about we just kick able bodies folks off welfare and let them actually earn their meals?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 17, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

"Alas, Kevin, I agree. The simplest reform would be a minimum wage high enough to make hiring illegals unprofitable. Wait for it."

Don't you mean a minimum wage low enough? Why would an employer pay high wages when he can skirt the high minimum wage and hire illegals?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 17, 2006 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I want to make sure I understand you correctly. Are you saying that a policy that allows more immigration and enforces immigration laws is a good policy but we should just forget because rich people and bigots are against it?

Is that what you just said?

Posted by: James E. Powell on January 17, 2006 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

I actually read that report a few weeks ago. The key to understanding it is to simply ignore anything you know about labor market economics and keep at the forfront of your mind that higher wages and worker protections don't have any market consequences.

Posted by: TangoMan on January 17, 2006 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

Freedom:The problem is that the jobs that are available, are pretty much completly those on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Although I agree with what you're saying, to be honest, it's for different reasons.

And yeah. Better welfare enforcement is needed, but I think along with that we need to make sure that those jobs really result in better outcomes than allowing one to sit at home.

I personally suggest that universal health care would be very important, as to not punish those who leave welfare and to create positive example outcomes.

Posted by: Karmakin on January 17, 2006 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

Immigration succeeds as a real divisive issue for repugs. The business side wants to slip it under the rug/forget about it and the fruit-loop side wants to pick them all up, kill them, and dump their bodies south of the border. The extremely rich that control the repugs election funds want the immigrants to stay but somehow must convince the immigrant haters to vote for their man. Extensive propoganda usually does the trick. Especially for the uninquiring non-cynical brain of the conservative.

Posted by: MRB on January 17, 2006 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

The best strategy is to let in the smartest, the brightest, and those with money that can contribute to our economy.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 17, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Sense!

---------

DMI's basic points strike me as plainly correct, but I suspect there's only one real way to address them: (a) increase significantly the number of legal immigrants we accept and (b) tighten up enforcement of immigration laws. This would lower the cost of legal immigration and raise the cost of illegal immigration, and if we can find the right balance it would make illegal immigration rare while keeping legal immigration at levels sufficient to provide the workforce we rather obviously want. - Kevin

Sense! And from a liberal

-----------------

The simplest reform would be a minimum wage high enough to make hiring illegals unprofitable. Wait for it.

Posted by: JMG on January 17, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

How do you enforce one law and not the other?

Posted by: McAristotle on January 17, 2006 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

Why would an employer pay high wages when he can skirt the high minimum wage and hire illegals?

posted by Freedom Fighter

Because it is much easier to skirt immigration laws and hire illegals than it is to skirt federally mandated minimum wages and the tax code.

Posted by: bobbyp on January 17, 2006 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

How do you enforce one law and not the other?

posted by McAristotle

You obviously do not live in this country.

Posted by: bobbyp on January 17, 2006 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

How could an undocumented worker 'excercise full rights in the workplace' if he can't join a union and might get deported by any governmental figure he talks to?

Posted by: cld on January 17, 2006 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

My neighbor is in the construction business...he says, if you want a dry-waller you hire illegals at $200 a day...CASH. All the gringos are off doing some other line of work now.

Posted by: Rhythmwize on January 17, 2006 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Here in the great, enlightened state of Texas there is no such thing as general assistance and there is barely a TANF program. I occasionally hear some blowhard complaining about welfare bums but it is always little more than ignorant, reactionary posturing.

In Texas, as well as much of the sun belt, a non-pregnant, childless, able bodied adult can qualify for Food Stamps, if poor enough, and nothing else. No cash assistance to pay for gas or the rent. They are not eligible for any state or federal medical assistance. The minimum wage citizen and the sub-minimum wage undocumented resident are overwhelmingly without health insurance and are treated on the local taxpayer's nickel.

The significant majority of Food Stamp recipients are working poor families or the elderly. And undocumented aliens are not eligible.

There is absolutely no solution to our immigration problems as long as the undocumented worker, without workplace protections and benefits, remians the lowest cost employee. And the only way this can happen is serious enforcement at the employer.

Posted by: Nat on January 17, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

What if you were to both raise the minimum wage and increase the penalties on employers who hire undocumented workers? How would it affect the equation if you deported the undocumented worker but force the employer to pay them everything they are owed under the law for documented workers? It might make employing the undocumeted a good bit more expensive.

Posted by: Tom T on January 17, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody see a coorelation between an increase in the number of desperate workers from other lands and the amount of abuse WalMart, et al can heap on their native born workers? It's basic economics.

The right is not the only side that supports policies that are de facto class warfare. American service workers, a group whose labors cant be outsourced, suffer for the left's idealism. I guess they just need to learn to live 8 to a room. How can we ever force a living wage on a country on the fast track to the third world?

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on January 17, 2006 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

How would it affect the equation if you deported the undocumented worker but force the employer to pay them everything they are owed under the law for documented workers? It might make employing the undocumeted a good bit more expensive.

Posted by: Tom T on January 17, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

That works but without a national identity card, how does the employer (avoiding racial profiling) tell he's employing a documented worker?

Posted by: McA on January 17, 2006 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

I've got a question for you Kevin. Something about your post here makes me think of it.

What significant problems can you name that the Bush Administration has addressed in a serious way (meaning actually trying to solve the problem, not playing politics, not just throwing the American military around)?

In fact, name the serious problems that Republicans actually think that government could and should solve?

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on January 17, 2006 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

I would only amend this suggestion in one way.

No wetbacks.

Posted by: al on January 17, 2006 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

To amplify the point made by Rhythmwize above: a few years ago the Houston Chronicle ran an article on undocumented workers in housing construction. Few, if any, U.S. citizens swing a hammer on a construction site in the Houston area. The work is farmed out to a bewildering network of subs that insulate and protect the general contractor from immigration issues.

And a related point: a union master carpenter working high rise construction in downtown Austin makes less today in absolute dollars than they did in 1985 (around $17 an hour, $35K per year.)

And another point: I have an acquaintance who is union plumber and pipe fitter who is certified in high tech welding and clean room work. His last union gig in Austin was in 1998.

Our immigration problems are really part of the decline of the American labor movement.

Posted by: Nat on January 17, 2006 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

That's right Mr. Powell, that's what the man said.
The business lobby wants the bigots to make a lot of noise and have random (and opressive) enforsement of immigration laws to keep the illegals too frightened to stand up for their rights. The more noise and abuses that come from the anti-immigration crowd the easier it is to rip-off the illegal immigrants you hire.
That is the issue that Kevin is skirting. The business crowd doesn't want to merely sweep illegal immigration under the rug; they want to goad the bigots into demanding more opressive anti-immigration legislation and provide LESS funding for enforcement so as to more effectively terrorize the labor pool.

Oh, and Mr. Saroff did you think through the consequences of ratting out your employer and putting dozens or even hundreds of your fellow illegals out of work?

Freedom Fighter,
Even at it's worst welfare deadbeats were getting less money from the government than we waste on either unnecessary farm subsidies or worthless military technology contracts. And, those all pale before the rampant war-profiteering going on right now. Quit beating a dead horse.
BTW, a lot of those so-called 'deadbeats' are single mothers with small children. You gonna kick them out onto the street to live in cardboard boxes or force them to take on multiple part-time jobs while leaving these tots alone in cramped apartments all day?
You don't have to scratch the surface of this idiot too much to find the greedy ice-hearted bastard underneath, do you?

Posted by: joe on January 17, 2006 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

I simply don't see how undocumented workers will ever be able to "exercise full rights in the workplace."

Is it possible that he's talking about allowing undocumented workers to become legal (i.e., an amnesty?). He is talking about reform, after all.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida on January 17, 2006 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

The DMI report is illogical nonsense, and Nathan Newman is a MEChA apologist.

As for Drum's post, first let's deal with this: the Tom Tancredos of the world just don't want any immigrants at all

Since that's a false statement, we have to ask: is Kevin Drum lying, or just uninformed?

As Drum states, businesses prefer illegal aliens for various reasons. There are also billions of people who would like to come here. A large part of Latin America would like to come here, and the southern border gives them a good opportunity. Therefore, increasing the number of legal immigrants expecting it to have an effect on illegal immigration is a pipe dream.

The only way to affect illegal immigration is the shocking step of enforcing our immigration laws across the board.

The Dems have little to lose and a lot to gain from supporting our immigration laws rather than supporting them being broken as they now do.

Just for one example, recall the Tempe Bush/Kerry debate, where they were asked about immigration. Kerry - unbelievably - used part of his time to talk about a previous question. Then, he promoted the Dem's open border policies.

If, instead, he had indicted Bush for his failures to secure our borders he would probably be president now.

If Kerry had explained to the public exactly what Bush's guest worker scheme was intended to do, Kerry would have won the presidency by millions of votes.

-- Illegal immigration news
Immigration Reform

Posted by: TLB on January 17, 2006 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

It's not like the Bush administration is completely fallow of ideas.....after all. they have proposed building a 4500 mile wall along the Canadian border complete with armed patrols and surveillance from the air to cut down on the massive influx of illegal Canadian workers stealing jobs from Americans. Give the man credit for spending tax dollars wisely.

Posted by: murmeister on January 17, 2006 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

One question here. Look, I live in CA and moreover in a part of it where the "Mexican day laborer" thing is a frickin' commute pattern. My question is how the remainder of the country gets its lawns mown, laundry done, buildings constructed, &c. Not everyone has CA's supply of undocumented immigrants, or for that matter of people accustomed to paying other people to do stuff for them, preferably on the cheap. I strongly suspect that an awful lot of Americans mow their own lawns, do their own laundry, raise their own children without undocumented nannies, and the rest. They doubtless eat vegetables harvested by undocumented hands, but there's no real reason we can't afford citizens doing that work.

Can't we just make knowingly hiring an illegal immigrant something of a moderately serious crime? Citizenship is not so hard to check if you really want to know the answer.

Posted by: waterfowl on January 17, 2006 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

Politically, of course, this is a nonstarter. Employers wouldn't like it because they prefer illegal immigrants who can be treated poorly and can't do anything about it, while the Tom Tancredos of the world just don't want any immigrants at all. It's hard to see any rational compromise coming out of Washington DC anytime soon.

The votes could likely be found for the eminently sensible idea of combining increased legal immigration quotas with stronger enforcement. But my political calculus tells me it would require a block of votes (in both houses) consisting of a majority of Democrats combined with a sizable number of moderate Republicans. But the point is it would require a president Bush to make common cause, and actually do something constructive, with people from the other party -- a similar strategy to what Clinton had to do to get Nafta passed.

So yes, Kevin's right. There won't be meaningful reform (until sometime after January of 2009).

Posted by: P.B. Almeida on January 17, 2006 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

without a national identity card, how does the employer (avoiding racial profiling) tell he's employing a documented worker?

There's a web site that lets an employer find out instantly whether the name they're given matches the SSN they've been given.

It's a voluntary program, and only a very small percentage of employers use it.

There are also 400,000 employees using the same SSN, one with all zeroes.

If the Dems wonder why the "Culture of Corruption" meme isn't catching on, perhaps it's because they themselves are too corrupt to discuss all forms of corruption.

Posted by: TLB on January 17, 2006 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

I simply don't see how undocumented workers will ever be able to "exercise full rights in the workplace."

You don't see it because you conflate "undocumented immigrant" with "illegal immigrant".

Posted by: Boronx on January 17, 2006 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

We submit that immigration reform can successfully address both of these realities if it maintains the flow of legal immigrants

Yeah, right. Pelosi made the point over the weekend that enforcement and bureaucracy reform need to go hand in hand. The US, a nation of immigrants, has one of the most fucked-up immigration systems on the planet. If you're an educated English-speaker, you have a chance of coping with the contradictory rules, interminable waits, multiple forms, humiliating medicals and ridiculous cost... without paying a lawyer.

And, y'know, there's nothing to make you admire illegal immigrants more than dealing with the CIS (ex-INS). Because if any American had to deal with that kind of treatment, he/she would be pissed. But of course, since non-citizens can't vote, pols don't give a fuck.

The only way to affect illegal immigration is the shocking step of enforcing our immigration laws across the board.

LOL. Have you read them lately? Most immigrants have. Along with the State enforcement notices. They contradict themselves more than the Bible. It is nigh-on impossible to be fully legal throughout the immigration process in the US, even if you want to.

Posted by: ahem on January 17, 2006 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

There was an attempt of Immigration Reform in 1986. It granted amnesty to all existing illegal aliens within the country.and was supposed to make it a crime for an employer to hire anyone 'knowingly' in the United States illegally.
Needless to say, business' desire for cheap docile workers and the reluctance of the government to prosecute for that crime has made that reform effort nothing more than a sham.
There is no indication that Bush's proposals would have any different result.

Posted by: Mike on January 17, 2006 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

Therefore, increasing the number of legal immigrants expecting it to have an effect on illegal immigration is a pipe dream.

Nonsense. We allow about 10k (yes, that's a mere "10" followed by three zeros, about the size of the little New England village I grew up in) manual labor immigrants from this hemisphere to immigrate annually. Given the obvious huge demand for their skills exerted by that $12 trillion behemoth called the US economy, we're practially demanding a black market in labor. The fact is, if you're a Honduran peasant who has made the perfectly rational decision to sell your labor to a willing buyer in Atlanta, you've basically got no choice but to hire the services of a coyote, because you ain't gettin in otherwise.

Allowing reasonable levels of hemispheric immigration (say, something around 500k per year) would go a long way toward undermining the perverse incentive to immigrate legally.

Now, obviously there are more than a mere half million people south of the Rio Grande would like to come and work legally in the USA, so getting one's immigration visa would require waiting in line, perhaps for years. But waiting in line would be worth it, because the benefits of coming here legally (as opposed to illegally) are substantial.

Why is this? Well, think about it: most illegal immigrants in the United States lead difficult lives. They are subject to abuse by employers. Their housing options are severely constricted. It is difficult or impossible for them to get health insurance. They have an exceedingly difficult time visiting their homelands (because of the difficulty of getting back into the States). Instead of arriving in the US safely and cheaply, they typically face the "privilege" of paying $3k or $4k for a potentially deadly trek through the Arizona desert.

Perhaps most critically, their employment options are extremely narrow. Sure, nearly all illegal immigrants can find work in the black economy, but it's impossible to move up the latter of success in America without a green card. Take a look at the help wanted pages or Monster.com: nearly all employers these days are blunt about the requirement for working papers. The myth that the Wall Street Journal crowd (i.e., the Fortune 500) is hoovering up the labor of illegal aliens is just that, a myth. The vast majority of illegals in this country work in low-paid jobs for tiny firms who offer no benefits and minimal chances for advancement.

Now, given the choice of A) immigrating right now illegally to "enjoy" the life of an illegal; or, B) waiting in the queue until the one's number is called to enter the US with a valid immigration visa, which would you prefer?

Clearly the benefits of living in the United States legally (as opposed to being here in violation of immigration law) are substantial. Immigrants are rational actors just like all of us. Right now, they respond to the pernicious set of incentives our faulty policies have created by immigrating to the US in violation of our laws. Fortunately, we have it in our power to change this.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida on January 17, 2006 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

If the Dems wonder why the "Culture of Corruption" meme isn't catching on, perhaps it's because they themselves are too corrupt to discuss all forms of corruption.

Sez the sad racist blogwhore who still can't draw traffic to his piece of shit blog, even while he pays off illegal cleaners to wipe the Cheeto dust from his basement.

Posted by: ahem on January 17, 2006 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

You don't see it because you conflate "undocumented immigrant" with "illegal immigrant".

What's the difference? Except more sanitized politically-correct nomenclature.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 18, 2006 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

What's the difference?

Ah, another proud ignoramus.

Posted by: ahem on January 18, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin writes:

"America wants immigrants and has plenty of jobs for them"

Um, no. SOME Americans (employers) want immigrants because they can pay them lower wages.

OTHER Americans (bottom-end workers) would love to be paid better, and they would be if there were fewer immigrants.

I'm not anti-immigration, but quotes like the above are so one-sided they push me in that direction.

The line that immigrants take jobs that Americans won't do is crap. Americans won't take those jobs AT THOSE WAGES.

Will enough Americans work in a chicken processing plant at $7/hour? No. At $20/hour? You betcha.

Posted by: tomtom on January 18, 2006 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

What's surprising is that this report, amateurish as it is, is getting so much play. At the outset they decided that they would have their cake and eat it too and that they could not target any competing democratic constituency groups.

Check this out. Here is the Drum Major Institute quoting the National Research Council report on Immigration;

In a fundamental sense, the middle class relies on immigrants economic contributions because the policies that strengthen and expand the middle class are funded by the taxes immigrants pay. In 1997, the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences completed the most comprehensive analysis ever of the economic impact of immigrants on the United States. The report concluded that immigrants are net fiscal contributors to the U.S. economy. The average immigrant pays $1,800 more in taxes than she receives in government benefits. Over their lifetimes, this amounts to $80,000 more in tax contributions than the average immigrant and her immediate descendants receive in local, state and federal benefits.10 These taxes support the schools and public universities that educate middle-class children, the unemployment benefits that help struggling American workers to get back on their feet and the Medicaid payments that help the poor stay healthy as they strive to work their way into the middle class. But nowhere is the tax contribution of immigrants more striking than in terms of Social Security.

Now, go directly to the source and continue reading from the very next page that they drew the above quote from. Here is the National Research Council Report available for free from the National Academies Press. Above quote continued:

Calculations of this sort are interesting, but they do not enable us to assess the fiscal impact of an incremental immigrant. The fiscal impact typically rises with age from birth, peaking between ages 10 and 25 at positive values, and then declining gradually to a trough in the late sixties, at which point the impact is highly negative. This curve is higher, the higher the education of the immigrant. There are many immigrants who impose net fiscal burdens on the native-born, and many others who afford them net fiscal benefits. This diversity must be reviewed alongside estimates of average fiscal impact when formulating immigration policy.

[ . . ]

Nonetheless, immigrants with certain characteristics, such as the elderly and those with little education, may be quite costly. And residents of certain states with large shares of immigrants without doubt bear higher costs that in some cases may not be offset by the broadly shared gains at the federal level.

I'd say this report ranks up there with the Pharmacare study in outright dishonesty. Why didn't the Drum Major Institute quote from the follow-up study published in the following year - 1998? Why purposely chose to quote from an older study? Both studies were edited by the exact same reseachers, James P. Smith and Barry Edmonston, Editors; Panel on the Demographic and Economic Impacts of Immigration, National Research Council.

Shouldn't the Drum Major Institute report have included a few quotes from the follow-up study, perhaps like this one:

The presence of immigrants and their concurrent descendants generated $89 billion in costs to states and localities across the United States. This group paid an estimated $62 billion in taxes, for a net burden of $27 billion. Other taxpayers in the states and localities in which these immigrants resided shouldered this burden through increased taxes.

The average immigrant and concurrent descendant had a net fiscal impact at the state and local levels of about -$680, in contrast to a positive net impact of about $200 for the rest of the population. The difference is nearly $900 per person. This difference reflects per capita costs that are 26 percent higher for immigrants than for the rest of the population. Particularly expensive are general public education, bilingual education programs, and noninstitutional Medicaid and other medical welfare costs. But just as important, per capita tax payments for immigrants and their concurrent descendants are 22 percent below those of the rest of the population, reflecting the lower incomes of immigrants and their families.

Perhaps inconvenient facts like these should also have been considered, but seeing how they're from the 1998 follow-up study, I can see why in 2005 the Drum major Institute might not have had access to the full range of literature.

Further, both studies annuitize the income and expense streams out to 300 years so as to account for the costs and benefits of immigrant's descendents. They make two key unsupported assumptions. The first is that future generations will have identical rates of high school graduation as previous generations. I could make a case for or against this proposition, so I see it as a complete toss-up. It also takes 3-4 generations for the descendents of immigrants to match the mean national HS graduation rate. Subsumed under this statistic are the differential rates seen for immigrants arriving from different nations. We know that currently, descendents of Mexican immigrants, even at the 4th generation here in the US, have HS graduation rates below the national mean, and their college graduation rate is also below the national mean.

The second unsupported assumption is that the net positive economic value created by future descendents will be the same in the future as it has been in the past. Considering that you used to be able to get a good union-job in the big industrial firms with a HS education and generate an impressive net positive contribution and that this outcome is becoming harder to accomplish as the well-paying industrial jobs that require only a HS education are finding foreign locales to be more favorable operating climates, I'd say that the prospect of future HS graduates generating the same levels of economic activity are quite slim. If this analysis comes to pass, then the future income streams that the researchers calculated will not come to pass and their projections can be thrown in the round file.

The most obvious lie in this Drum Major Institute report is committed by omission. The reseachers they quote calculated a net positive contribution from immigration and did so by projecting income streams from immigrant's descendents and they calculated the average contribution of immigrants as being positive. They arrived at this figure by giving equal weight to 3 categories of immigrants - those with more than HS education, those with only a HS education, and those without a HS education. If we look at those without a HS education, both NRC reports note that they each present a cost of $89,000 per immigrant over their lifetimes. It is inappropriate to give equal weighting to these three categories when we know that the sum of all legal and illegal immigrants doesn't equally break down into the three education categories. The majority of our immigrants are arriving with less than a HS education. This fact undercuts the projections of future income streams because the HS graduation rate for descendents is depressed, based on historical data, by the low educational status of the original immigrant.

The Drum Major Institute decided to highlight the projected net positive contribution of all immigrants, but omitted any mention of the huge differentials we see on economic costs/benefits when controlled for education and they neglected to mention anything about the proportions of immigrants that fall into each educational category. Of course, if they had made note of these distinctions, then they would have risked offending an important part of their Democratic constituency.

The most surprising aspect of this report is that both NRC studies make note of the wage depression effect of increased labor supply on the nation's least educated workers. Considering the majority of immigrants have a HS degree or less, this increased supply of labor is making matters worse for our most needy citizens. The Drum Major Institute's response is that increased unionization of citizens and illegal immigrants will magically raise salaries for all. They must be living in a world that the rest of us simply don't inhabit, for I'd be surprised if any commenters on this blog will defend the proposition that employers will not react with either increased reliance on technology or off-shoring as many jobs as possible.


Posted by: TangoMan on January 18, 2006 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, another proud ignoramus.

Ah, another insulting answer completely devoid of useful information.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 18, 2006 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

For now I'm with Tancredo. I want to see the enforcement first. Until then, any proposed immigration increase deserves nothing but scorn.

The problem with Kevin's proposal is that with these dual programs the easy part (amnesties or higher inflows) get done but the hard part--the enforcement--never takes place. As a result, we wind up with more legal and illegal immigrants.

Let's get illegal immigration under control first. If there is such a crying need for yet more immigrants (we take in more on annual basis than any other country on earth), then it should become evident. And overly subsidized farms shutting down for lack of wage-slaves doesn't count, and neither do gardner and nanny shortages.

At any rate, we need to develop to develop our own job market, particularly underutilized segments of the population, such as black youth and working-class whites and Hispanics. As long as we keep bringing in competition from all over the world, these sectors of our populaion will be increasingly marginalized.

Posted by: Derek Copold on January 18, 2006 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

But of course, since non-citizens can't vote, pols don't give a fuck.

Illegal aliens count towards congressional representation and politicians like Gil Cedillo - a proud Democrat from Cali, in effect represent the interests of illegal aliens and of the Mexican government.

And, other Democrat are trying to give illegal aliens the vote. No, really.

As for enforcing immigration laws, the Bush administration does almost no workplace enforcement. Can any utterers of "Culture of Corruption" figure out why? Only someone who doesn't want our laws to be enforced would try to give the impression that we need to overhaul our immigration laws in order to do something as simple as raiding workplaces.

(I forgot to call Kevin Drum on his use of "INS". That agency no longer exists.)

manual labor immigrants from this hemisphere to immigrate annually. Given the obvious huge demand for their skills exerted by that $12 trillion behemoth called the US economy

I'm pretty sure your figure is incorrect, counting all visas available. Many decades ago, the US economy was based on cheap labor, growing cotton, and the like. Guess what? we're still growing cotton, and they're still looking for serf labor.

Perhaps it would be better all around if we just let some of these industries like cotton and strawberries go. We can import cotton and strawberries, and that's better than importing stoop labor, no?

Either that, or they adapt, modernize, and automate. Isn't that better for the US economy than throwing 19th century-style cheap serf labor at the problem?

As for the rest of your post, I'm afraid you haven't been following along. Living here illegally is difficult, but it's certainly not that difficult.

In fact, the Democrats do everything they can to give benefits to illegal aliens: discounted college educations, housing benefits, healthcare benefits, etc. etc. etc. All the other things you say are so difficult the Democrats (along with the MSM and even further-left racial power groups) are working mightily to give them.

Posted by: TLB on January 18, 2006 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

TangoMan:

Good post. That 3-4 generations number seems a bit pessimistic to me. Four generations is a long time, and a lot has changed in that time. Who's been taking down those statistics?

Posted by: tbrosz on January 18, 2006 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

I'd rather pay $4.95 for the KFC meal rather than $15.90, wouldn't you?

Myth. I don't have the sources handy right now (believe it or not), but all the numbers I've seen show that the cost of farm labor, either cheap illegal, or union legal, is almost lost in the noise of food costs. A few cents added to an item, at most.

Add to that the fact that illegal immigrant workers only figure into certain areas of food production requiring hand labor in the fields.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 18, 2006 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Somehow, there must be "undocumented" immigrants who are technically not "illegal"?

If there was, the Bush Adminstration would have let us know about a long time ago. It would have saved them a lot of trouble with their idiotic amnesties proposals.

Posted by: Derek Copold on January 18, 2006 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

I'd rather pay $4.95 for the KFC meal rather than $15.90, wouldn't you?

It'd only be $2.95 if we followed my plan: cut a deal with the Chinese government to import some of their "criminals". We'll treat them a little better, and maybe after a decade or so we'll give them a green card.

And, it'll keep our lettuce prices low!

You "liberals" would like that, wouldn't you?

(For fun, you can read an example of a Mexican consul pimping cheap lettuce just like a "liberal" pimped cheap KFC here.)

Posted by: TLB on January 18, 2006 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

I'd rather pay $4.95 for the KFC meal rather than $15.90, wouldn't you?

Ah, so now we know how much you value your citizenship.

Posted by: Derek Copold on January 18, 2006 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

Tbrosz,

The generational data is buried in both NRC reports. What I think are key drivers that don't change are transmission of educational values across generations. What both NRC reports, as well as countless others, show is that those with less than a HS education have children more likely not to go to college and more likely not to finish high school themselves. It takes a few generations for these descendents, who are an average of all immigrants from many nations, to get to the American mean (where they exclude the group being studied from the calculation of the mean.) The immigrants from some nations take even longer to get to the American mean.

Posted by: TangoMan on January 18, 2006 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

Request for Kevin Drum: would you read Mexicos Undiplomatic Diplomats?

Even if you disagree with some of her points, do you think a serious person should ignore the actions she describes?

And, do you think it's acceptable that the Democratic Party is in effect helping the Mexican government to achieve their rather obvious goals?

Should the Democratic Party oppose the agenda of the Mexican government?

What exactly is Bush doing to counter the crystal clear agenda of the Mexican government?

Should the Democratic Party speak out about that?

Posted by: TLB on January 18, 2006 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

TangoMan:

You're probably right, but I do know that the children of Asian immigrants in my neck of the woods are pretty much kicking everyone's ass in the education department, and I'm talking the kids of restaurant workers, not just the kids of doctors. It's culture that drives most of this.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 18, 2006 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

"...and I value my citizenship enough to understand why so many want to immigrate to the Land of the Free."

If we keep handing it out to everyone, that might not always be the case.

Posted by: Derek Copold on January 18, 2006 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

You don't see it because you conflate "undocumented immigrant" with "illegal immigrant".

What's the difference? Except more sanitized politically-correct nomenclature.

Under current policy undocumented immigrants are illegal immigrants (the reverse isn't necessarily true), but this discussion is about changing policy...

Posted by: Boronx on January 18, 2006 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

Liberty is not a zero-sum game.

And cheap bromides are no substitute for serious policy.

Posted by: Derek Copold on January 18, 2006 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin says: I simply don't see how undocumented workers will ever be able to "exercise full rights in the workplace."

That's an easy one: give undocumented immigrants the ability to sue employers for back wages, and triple punitive damages. Deport them, but still give them the right to claim the back wages and damages. This gives them the incentive to keep records to prove their tenure and underpayment of wages. It'll scare employers into not employing them in the first place, or at least pay them full wage.

Further, underpayment of wages would be proof of their knowing employment of illegals. So have the government recover back FICA taxes, and again charge 'em triple penalties.

Finally, make employers liable for OSHA violations, and again give the illegals themselves all the incentives to prove the case. In this case, again large punitive damages, and an assurance that they can sue even if they are subject to deportation.

A few of these measures will eliminate the attraction illegals hold for employers, and will dry up the market at the source.

I'm surprised you didn't see this yourself, Kevin!

Posted by: Amit Joshi on January 18, 2006 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

Cheney,
In response to tomtom you spitup, "I'd rather pay $4.95 for the KFC meal rather than $15.90" in response to his comment about wages, so evidently you don't give a damn about ripping off laborers as long as you get a share of the booty. Typical immoral greedy rethug thinking that plays into the hands of wealthy bastards. You get petty (and largely illusionary) $11 benefit while KFC's stock holders make a mint. Just like a rube. Win $50 at the craps table an hour after you walk into the casino and leave a couple of thousand in the hole at the end of the night, sheesh.

Posted by: joe on January 18, 2006 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

Amit,

The flip side of your suggestions are already taking place. Set the trial lawyers on the employers and give them RICO to use as a bludgeon:

William Zirkle has agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a lawsuit accusing him and two other executives at the Selah-based fruit company of conspiring to hire thousands of illegal immigrants in order to keep wages low. . . . .

Had Zirkle lost at trial, he and the other defendants, Gary Hudson and William Wangler, could have faced triple damages under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

The case obtained class-action status in 2004, which increased the number of legal workers potentially eligible for damages to 20,000,

Chicago lawyer Howard Foster filed the case in 2000 using RICO in a novel way. Although Van Sickle dismissed the case in 2001, Foster won at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002. . . .

Posted by: TangoMan on January 18, 2006 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

Just to inject some reality into this "debate": For one thing, the House-passed immigration bill mandates that DHS implement the electronic verification system that the Jordan Commission called for in 1994. Under the House language, employers who use the system would have a safe harbor from fines for hiring illegal workers. That means two things:

1) they would not be knowingly hiring illegal workers, because electronic verification (no card) would establish that the new hires are U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, or lawfully temporary workers, and

2) the only reason to be against this provision in the House bill (which is opposed by Grover Norquist clients like the general contractors) is to be able to continue hiring illegal workers.

For another, Tango is right about the NRC report. I played a tangential role in the study, and it is simply dishonest the way it has been used. This ain't complex -- illegal workers generally come young, and have families, so the principle cost they impose on society (like anybody else) is educating their kids. Nobody working for low wages pays enough in taxes to cover public school K-12. The NRC pointed out that every California taxpayer pays a grand more every year (and in New Jersey, about $285) because of ALL immigration: so stop with the bullshit it benefits everybody equally with no costs, already.

As for increasing legal immigration, I don't take a back seat to ANYBODY in quantifiable pro-immigration credentials: I played a small role in enacting the last permanent increase in annual immigration, the 1990 Act's 40% hike in green cards.

But fercrysakes, Kevin: LEARN something about the subject before you post more bullshit, willya?

The core failure of immigration policy is not "the bureaucracy", and it's not the bogus economics that says "there are some jobs Americans won't do." (I will happily pick strawberries for major league baseball's minimum wage: so far, they haven't met my price.)

The core failure of immigration policy is that Congress promises more than it delivers: of the roughly 10 million illegal residents in this country (give or take), about 2.5 million are the spouses and minor children of LEGAL immigrants, promised visas that Congress won't give 'em without outlawing or exiling 'em for a decade or more, and another 2-4 million are the siblings of U.S. citizens, also promised visas by Congress which it won't deliver for a MINIMUM of 15-20 years.

Break it down: something like 40% of our illegally resident population are ALREADY eligible for green cards which Congress has promised, but not delivered.

So just why is getting Congress to make MORE promises -- and on bogus economics yet, not on family values, ye Gods! -- somehow the "progressive" solution?

Ya wanna know why Congress isn't likely to make sense? Read the nonsense you post as if it's thoughtful or informed.

Get a clue, dude.


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Posted by: theAmericanist on January 18, 2006 at 2:50 AM | PERMALINK

"Drum Major Institute"?? WTF?

Posted by: pantomimeHorse on January 18, 2006 at 3:58 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, I for one would like to know Kevin's affiliation with the "Drum Major Institute" or is that the "Drum-Major Institute"?

Posted by: KathyF on January 18, 2006 at 4:11 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

The problem with the people who have invader our country without permission is terminology, they are foriegn invaders and we are at war. We don't need more immigrants, even if we do have jobs for foreign workers. We need a solution that permits more foriegn workers. But let's make it worthwhile for American citizens. Set up a program that issues a 60 day permit to anyone to work in this country, provided they follow certain procedures. Upon initial application they have to submit to dna sampling, iris and finger printing. They must report every 60 days for review, to have the permit renewed. Provided they have not been charged with or convicted of any crime, not wanted by any foreign government for any reason and have been gainfully employed. The program would have a few restrictions. Foriegn workers would forfeit any claim to Social Security, medicare, medicaid, welfare, or any other state, local or federal benefit intended for citizens, even though they have to pay the full taxes into the program. Consider it a premium for the right to work here. And any child born to a foriegn worker while in the country would not be considered a US citizen, unless the father is a citizen and assumes custody of the child.

The incentive is good wages, the incentive for the American citizes is contributions to their social programs without obligation. For foreign invaders who evade our programs, turn them over to the military. A year or two in gitmo (or maybe abu ghraib) could make the risk higher then the rewards

Posted by: Wise-Skeptic on January 18, 2006 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

"undocumented immigrants"

Is this a P.C. word for illegal immigrants?? Don't try to sugar coat these criminals. Deport them.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 18, 2006 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

What do the outsourcing of America's manufacturing capacity, Walmart's labor practices, welfare reform demands, and the current immigration situation all have in common? They all pressure the working-class American to work for lower wages. Is it any wonder that Republicans support this situation? The real question is, why are Democrats so incapable of devising an alternative? Without an alternative, this current condition and its eventual outcome IS the solution.

Posted by: Bill on January 18, 2006 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

And it'll introduce a whole new set of abuses on how to get a green card quick. Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 17, 2006 at 10:07 PM

Um, yeah, because they'll never bother to actually investigate.

Geez, too stupid to breath.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on January 18, 2006 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Phrases like "America wants _________" (in this case, immigrants) are shoddy and divert attention away from just who among us really wants _________. The employers do, obviously, but most of the rest of us (a majority, I dare say) are worried about the second problem. Can we start jumping on that fake, unitary personalized "America" in other cases too?

Posted by: Neil' on January 18, 2006 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Is a policy change really necessary?

They're here because they can get jobs here. So the obvious answer is why not crack down on the US employers of illegal immigrants?

Now, whether or not there is the political will to do that is another issue. But I think the solution to this problem is obvious.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on January 18, 2006 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

I'm talking the kids of restaurant workers, not just the kids of doctors. It's culture that drives most of this.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 18, 2006 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, the performances of adopted asians are OK as well. So its half the culture and half genes.

The genetic effect being that most Asians don't waste anytime fantasing about the NFL or NBA and build school fantasies around academic success.

Posted by: McA@y.com on January 18, 2006 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

'm surprised you didn't see this yourself, Kevin!

Posted by: Amit Joshi on January 18, 2006 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

What if the employment is all cash and the guy just games the system by telling his suspected illegals not to punch in their cards from hour 1 at work.

Posted by: McA on January 18, 2006 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Some immigrants work for low wages and in horrid conditions. However many illegals work in tolerable conditions and make decent money. Say more than Walmart workers or Starbucks Baristas.

It reduces the whole argument to stereotypes if we think all illegals work in sweatshops for below minimum wage.

There are other reasons why some employers prefer to hire illegals.

Posted by: jimmy on January 18, 2006 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

"What if" generally denotes that the guy asking the question doesn't know what he's talking about.

There are DOZENS of studies establishing that most illegal workers in the U.S. are employed in legit jobs at better than minimum wage, often in industries highly regulated for wages and working conditions, e.g., meatpacking. So the logic that says 'since we know they come for shitty jobs, let's make the jobs better so they stop coming' is so stoooopid that only labor economists could believe it.

There is a substantial underground economy, which includes yet is not limited to illegal residents, so it's a separate set of issues.

But fercrysakes, guys: this isn't simply a core question of GOVERNMENT (which progressives are FOR, remember?) it's a question of our values.

American immigration, to BE American, is not an essentially economic dynamic. It's civic. As Jordan said: "THEY become 'us', and who 'we' are, as in "We, the People", changes and expands to include them."

That requires making choices. That requires knowing WTF you're talking about. (Kevin?)

These are the #s: IF you accept the bullshit way people talk, in which "immigration" denotes both legal and illegal, then we have roughly 1 million immigrants a year. Of that total, about a third are illegal.

Of the remaining two-thirds, the LEGAL immigrants, all but the lottery winners are INVITED. (There are 55,000 lottery winners a year, a category the House just voted to abolish. When we set it up in 1990, the lottery was supposed to benefit the Irish first, then Africa, which had never sent large #s of voluntary immigrants here. Naturally, the program wound up benefiting Poles and Pakistanis.)

Of the 675,000 legal immigrants each year (give or take), about 500,000 were invited by American family members. As noted above, there are from 4.5 to 6.5 MILLION people waiting in these categories -- or else they have decided to obey their marriage vows instead of U.S. law, and are outlawed and exiled by the Congress.

WTF would it take to get Democrats to recognize a family values issue, I wonder?

The spouses and kids of legal permanent residents are a MORAL issue. The siblings of U.S. citizens are a JOBS network.

So, puh-leeze folks, talk about real choices with plain facts using common sense and ordinary values: Family. Citizenship. The rule of law based on right and wrong.

Or is that too much to ask?


.

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 18, 2006 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

If Kevin would just accept one basic human right, the right to trade labor for cash wherever you are.

Kevin simply wants to extend his regulatory hand to labor, screwing up their lives, taking a piece of their check, and telling them how to work.


If you gave every person one single right, the right to simply work for a day and make $200 or less, without government interfereance.

Posted by: Matt on January 18, 2006 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

What we need to do is go after the employers who hire illegals. Employers now hire illegals with impunity. They do it by hiring a go-between who actually hires the workers. This is how Walmart did it and this is how California's growers do it.

We should simply make it illegal to have illegal immigrants working on your behalf, even if they technically work for somebody else. Now employers will only use contracting firms that guarantee legal workers, and the contracting firms will have to do the research necessary to make sure their workers are legal.

Posted by: Mark Gilbert on January 18, 2006 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Here is a story from Max Speak that helps one understand why Washington isn't interested in real immigration reform:

"An econ professor I know likes to tell a story of his days as a Fed employee. At some kind of meeting new numbers were reported, to the effect that real wages had declined in a recent period. He recalls that a cheer went up among those present."

Posted by: Mark Gilbert on January 18, 2006 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK
I simply don't see how undocumented workers will ever be able to "exercise full rights in the workplace." After all, an employer can always carry out a threat to report a worker to the INS no matter what rules you have in place, and we can hardly forbid the INS from deporting an illegal immigrant just because he or she has filed a workplace claim of some kind.

Um, wow. Both halves of that sentence are wrong.

Let's start with the second. You can easily forbid the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (INS doesn't, after all, exist any more, and hasn't for some time) to deport any immigrant with a pending workplace claim, and even provide an amnesty provision conditioned on having a claim upheld. This would, of course, greatly reduce the incentive to hire illegal workers.

You can also prohibit retaliatory reporting, indeed, it is already prohibited in certain contexts. Calibrating enforcement rules and sanctions is the tricky part here, but it is clearly possible.

This is simply unworkable, which might explain why the report doesn't recommend any actual policy prescriptions.

It's not at all unworkable. It would probably take rather serious reform of other aspects of the immigration system to make anything remotely coherent, but its hardly (at least the aspects you've referred to in your post) a novel set of ideas, and other people -- including me, repeatedly, in the comment section of this blog -- have provided outlines of more specific policies that would implement it.

The key thing you have to do is decide what the goals of the immigration policy are, and what the relative priorities between them are.

If your goal is to fight workplace abuses and other problems directly resulting largely from illegality rather than the level of immigration, your policies will be very different than if your primary goal is to reduce the overall level of immigration, and also different than if your goal is mainly to punish "bad" immigrants.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 18, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK
It's hard to see any rational compromise coming out of Washington DC anytime soon.

Well, duh. No one expects that. Real solutions often mean people outside of the beltway coming up with ideas, hashing them out, advocating them, and then getting D.C. to respond to the demand developed in the public.

Passively sitting around waiting for entrenched power interest to solve problems is pretty dumb.

Pointing out that it is unlikely that entrenched power interests will solve a problem on their own is the beginning, not the end, of the discussion.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 18, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Oy.... there is already what's called a "snitch visa", naturally lettered "S". So it doesn't exactly help much to urge that Congress enact another one.

If anybody is actually serious about fixing this mess, email me.

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 18, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, another insulting answer completely devoid of useful information.

Read the laws and State Dept directives for yourself. Every immigrant has to become an expert in them, and I'm not doing the work for you unless there's an invoice involved.

Try it. You might learn something. For once.

Posted by: ahem on January 18, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Ahem, for those of us who DO know what we're talking about, you're not helping.

The term "undocumented immigrant" is generally used as a euphemism for "illegal alien" on the utterly nihilistic and anti-American citizenship concept that "no human being is illegal", which is of course utter nonsense. (Personally I wish we'd use the old fashioned word "foreigner": these folks aren't illegal because they're people, but because they're FOREIGNERS, which is precisely why they're not IMMIGRANTS.)

Immigration lawyers argue that "illegal alien" is misleading, because someone is only illegally present (so they insist) when some controlling legal authority has made that determination. A more self-serving argument by a lobby of regulatory lawyers would be hard to find -- it's like tax lawyers insisting that you only have to pay your taxes if you've paid a tax lawyer FIRST. (which they would, if they could get away with it.)

So it hardly helps clarity of language to use "undocumented immigrant" for folks who HAVE documents that are forged, expired, or fraudulently obtained. Whatever else these folks are, "undocumented", they ain't.

The precise technical term, which has FUCKING NOTHING TO DO WITH THE STATE DEPT is EWI, which means "entered without inspection".

Like all modern nations, the United States has lawfully designated "ports of entry", which are basically particular roads across the land borders, most sea ports, and international airports. With very few and narrow exceptions, it is against the law even for a U.S. citizen to enter (re-enter) the United States without presenting yourself for inspection at these ports of entry.

A resident of the United States who is not a U.S. citizen who has 'entered without inspection' is presumed, under the law, to be a foreigner illegally present in the United States because if that foreign resident HAD any legal right to live and work in the United States, they would have fulfilled their legal obligation to enter at a port of entry and be inspected. In many cases, re-entering the United States without inspection can invalidate your prior legal status.

So, Ahem: you've been called on your bluff. There is NO meaning for the term "undocumented immigrant" (with the exception of those who destroy their papers as part of an asylum claim) except "illegal alien".


.

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 18, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

The precise technical term, which has FUCKING NOTHING TO DO WITH THE STATE DEPT is EWI, which means "entered without inspection".

You completely miss my point, which is quite remarkable for the amount of huffing you just did.

If you're 'out of status', and do no other thing, then if caught, your sanction is deportation and/or banning from future entry. You can become out of status through no fault of your own during the legal immigration process.

So it's not just EWI. It's 'out of status' and all manner of other stuff.

Am I denying that most undocumented immigrants have hopped over the border? Of course not. But I'm also pointing out that if you were to shout out 'La Migra!' in Irish bars in New England, you'd hear back-doors slamming within seconds.

Posted by: ahem on January 18, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Have to agree with ahem, Americanist IANAL and all that, but overstaying a visa or the like means one is illegally in the country, while "FOREIGNERS" (and can't you hear the pronunciation now?) can be here legally, and often are.

I do not believe that Mohammad Atta (to take the most obvious example) was "EWI"; he came in on a student visa that subsequently expired, and was therefore at the time of expiry an "illegal immigrant," having violated conditions he swore to on entering the country.

OTOH, I'm no immigration lawyer, so please correct at will.

Posted by: waterfowl on January 18, 2006 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

(patiently) It helps to use words precisely.

"Undocumented immigrant" means "illegal alien". It does NOT denote that the guy has no documents -- Atta, IIRC, had an expired student visa and a pending application for permanent residency, I forget the category. He was quite literally in hell before the INS came through with his green card, if more proof of God's taste for irony was necessary.

"Out of status" is a bit murkier, essentially because the system is infested with lawyers who have managed to blur all distinctions. In a natural response, the immigration bureaucracy tries desperately to say "no" as effectively as possible, because under the law (if you've got the do re mi) "wait" always means "yes", sooner or later. (The watchword is that 'the case isn't over until the alien wins'.)

I only note this cuz it's bad for AMERICA, not to mention immigrants, to have laws without bright lines and clear categories.

Ahem tried to assert that there was some OTHER meaning of "undocumented immigrant". He's wrong. Compounding his stupidity, now he's decided that what he really meant was "out of status".

But "out of status" is only a meaningful expression if it denotes "about to get some other status", the way one is asleep in between the times one is awake. It's a great theory for a regulatory lawyer - 'ya see, your honor, my client is only a crook WHILE he's breaking the law, the rest of the time he's an honest man.'

Oy.

Roughly half of the illegally resident population are folks who entered legally, e.g., on student or tourist visas (or no visas at all, from various friendly nations), and who remain here permanently without being invited or permitted. These are also "undocumented workers", but they're not EWI's cuz they WERE inspected on entry.

But -- try to read this slowly, Ahem -- YOU PROVED MY POINT in the first place, cuz they ARE here illegally, so calling 'em "undocumented" (which is false, since they generally HAVE documents, just expired ones) is merely a euphemism for being illegal. Have the brains to recognize when you've been shown up for a fool, and the grace to admit it.

With folks who were more interested in clarity, there might be a useful distinction to make between, say, a "tourist" from Canada who enters legally, gets a job illegally and lives here as if this is his country, and, f'r instance, a woman I know who was here as a student, married a legal permanent resident, had a U.S. citizen child, and is now "out of status" while she waits FIVE FRIGGING YEARS for her green card, because (among many others, notably the Drum Major Institute) nobody in this thread gives a rat's ass about Matthew 19:6.

But again, Ahem proves my point: he figures there is no difference between the visa overstayer who works here illegally, and the woman who is obeying her marriage vows instead of U.S. law.

After all, they;re not both "illegal", they're just "undocumented", no scratch that, they're "out of status".

If you won't make distinctions, you can't make sense.


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Posted by: theAmericanist on January 18, 2006 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

The tenor of this debate makes me sick.
Blackmailing employees into accepting low wages, unpaid/underpaid overtime, and lousy to horrific working conditions is evil folks. The threat of deportation being used here does not morally justify it, no more than using the threat of revealing adultry or shoplifting does.
'Escort' services here in Japan pull the same crap with Philippinas and Thai girls who were told when they got on the plane they were going to be bar waitresses or maids.
Cracking down on immigration is punishing the victim. How bad it is back in the worker's home country is no justification for abusing them where they work. The only real crime being committed here is the rip-off and abuse of the employees whatever their origin.

Posted by: joe on January 19, 2006 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK
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