Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 20, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

PUTTING ON A SHOW....Via TalkLeft, it appears that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is pretty good at keeping a straight face while spouting transparent fibs:

"ICE has no tolerance for corporate officers who harbor illegal aliens for their work force. Today's nationwide enforcement actions show how we will use all our investigative tools to bring these individuals to justice, no matter how large or small their company," said ICE chief Julie Myers.

Sure, Julie. ICE's enforcement actions against companies that hire illegal aliens are legendary. And the timing of this little show was just coincidental. Sheesh.

Kevin Drum 12:08 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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Does Julie Myers have a US passport? Just asking...

Posted by: craigie on April 20, 2006 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

I appreciate both Kevin Drum and TalkLeft apparently supporting workplace enforcement and hopefully they'll finally decide to keep the administration's feet to the fire, even if it's five years too late. It should be pointed out that right after the WalMart raids, Nancy Pelosi - speaking in Mexico - said: "We think there might be a better way to go about this because the fact is that it is against the law for the employer to hire these people so there should be more focus on the employer and less in these terrorizing raids." Needless to say, such unrealistic statements serve to disencentivize workplace enforcement.

It's probably only a matter of time before Democratic leaders issue similar statements about this case, but you never know.

In somewhat related news, check out this May 1 Immigration March and Boycott flyer I found.

Posted by: TLB on April 20, 2006 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

After (please!) checking out the flyer I made, here's more on Julie Myers. Unconfirmed reports are that she's pregnant and will soon be going on leave.

Posted by: TLB on April 20, 2006 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

While in Mexico illegal immigrants can get two years in jail, when they're not shot outright.

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/MEXICO_MISTREATING_MIGRANTS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2006-04-18-18-08-31

Posted by: cld on April 20, 2006 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Online Casinos on April 20, 2006 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

How do we measure the ICE's performance? Estimated illegal immigrant population? Average number of illegal immigrants a company employs after making the decision to employ them? Number of fines? Prosecution? Follow up? Americans don't really need the data to know this agency is a joke, but we do need the data if we are serious about this side of the immigration equation.

Posted by: jf on April 20, 2006 at 4:10 AM | PERMALINK

I'm waiting for the video of Homeland Security descending on Bentonville, Arkansas, to round up the Walton boys.

Actually, I think the deal is if you pay enough protection money to the RNC theWhite House holds off the goons.

Posted by: pj_in_jesusland on April 20, 2006 at 4:12 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum: ICE's enforcement actions against companies that hire illegal aliens are legendary.

So you think that ICE's enforcement actions against companies that hire illegal aliens have been pathetic, and should be vastly improved? I agree.

And the timing of this little show was just coincidental.

Obviously not. However, unless there is reason to believe that this was a witch hunt instead of a legitimate investigation (and the article provides no reason to think that) then this is at least a small step in the right direction.

Now, will this work be multiplied manyfold and continued into the future? I'm pessimistic. If it was though it would demonstrate that our existing laws are basically adequate, and that what's really needed is enforcement. After a few years of that we could talk amnesty for the illegal aliens that remain.

Posted by: alex on April 20, 2006 at 7:33 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to emphasize that the managers were arrested because they "conspired to transport, harbor and encourage illegal workers to reside in the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain". This is, and should be, criminal. Merely hiring illegal aliens is a civil offense. While the fine for that civil offense should be increased, there's no need to make it criminal.

The article also says "immigration agents arrested ... hundreds of employees", but oddly says nothing of the charges they were arrested on. Illegally residing and/or working is the US is a civil offense. What's the deal?

Posted by: alex on April 20, 2006 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

Julie Myers: yet another Bush affirmative action hire. I'm sure she'll get paid if she's off on leave to provide General with a grandkid.

By the way: nice hood you got there, Wacko. Matches the sheet you're wearing.

Posted by: ahem on April 20, 2006 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

"What immigration really does is redistribute wealth away from workers toward employers." Harvard economist George J. Borjas

Posted by: CFShep on April 20, 2006 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Here's the full-tilt irony of this - that while Mexican citizens and other foreign nationals are demanding that we change our laws to accommodate them:

Mexico Harsh to Undocumented Migrants
http://www.salon.com/wire/ap/archive.html?wire=D8H2M7100.html

By MARK STEVENSON Associated Press Writer

April 18,2006 | TULTITLAN, Mexico -- Considered felons by the government, these migrants fear detention, rape and robbery. Police and soldiers hunt them down at railroads, bus stations and fleabag hotels. Sometimes they are deported; more often officers simply take their money.

While migrants in the United States have held huge demonstrations in recent weeks, the hundreds of thousands of undocumented Central Americans in Mexico suffer mostly in silence.

And though Mexico demands humane treatment for its citizens who migrate to the U.S., regardless of their legal status, Mexico provides few protections for migrants on its own soil. The issue simply isn't on the country's political agenda, perhaps because migrants make up only 0.5 percent of the population, or about 500,000 people -- compared with 12 percent in the United States.

The level of brutality Central American migrants face in Mexico was apparent Monday, when police conducting a raid for undocumented migrants near a rail yard outside Mexico City shot to death a local man, apparently because his dark skin and work clothes made officers think he was a migrant.

Virginia Sanchez, who lives near the railroad tracks that carry Central Americans north to the U.S. border, said such shootings in Tultitlan are common.

"At night, you hear the gunshots, and it's the judiciales (state police) chasing the migrants," she said. "It's not fair to kill these people. It's not fair in the United States and it's not fair here."

Undocumented Central American migrants complain much more about how they are treated by Mexican officials than about authorities on the U.S. side of the border, where migrants may resent being caught but often praise the professionalism of the agents scouring the desert for their trail.

"If you're carrying any money, they take it from you -- federal, state, local police, all of them," said Carlos Lopez, a 28-year-old farmhand from Guatemala crouching in a field near the tracks in Tultitlan, waiting to climb onto a northbound freight train.

Lopez said he had been shaken down repeatedly in 15 days of traveling through Mexico.

"The soldiers were there as soon as we crossed the river," he said. "They said, 'You can't cross ... unless you leave something for us.'"

Jose Ramos, 18, of El Salvador, said the extortion occurs at every stop in Mexico, until migrants are left penniless and begging for food.

"If you're on a bus, they pull you off and search your pockets and if you have any money, they keep it and say, 'Get out of here,'" Ramos said.

Maria Elena Gonzalez, who lives near the tracks, said female migrants often complain about abusive police.

"They force them to strip, supposedly to search them, but the purpose is to sexually abuse them," she said.

Others said they had seen migrants beaten to death by police, their bodies left near the railway tracks to make it look as if they had fallen from a train.

The Mexican government acknowledges that many federal, state and local officials are on the take from the people-smugglers who move hundreds of thousands of Central Americans north, and that migrants are particularly vulnerable to abuse by corrupt police.

The National Human Rights Commission, a government-funded agency, documented the abuses south of the U.S. border in a December report.

"One of the saddest national failings on immigration issues is the contradiction in demanding that the North respect migrants' rights, which we are not capable of guaranteeing in the South," commission president Jose Luis Soberanes said.

In the United States, mostly Mexican immigrants have staged rallies pressuring Congress to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants rather than making them felons and deputizing police to deport them. The Mexican government has spoken out in support of the immigrants' cause.

While Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal said Monday that "Mexico is a country with a clear, defined and generous policy toward migrants," the nation of 105 million has legalized only 15,000 immigrants in the past five years, and many undocumented migrants who are detained are deported.

Although Mexico objects to U.S. authorities detaining Mexican immigrants, police and soldiers usually cause the most trouble for migrants in Mexico, even though they aren't technically authorized to enforce immigration laws.

And while Mexicans denounce the criminalization of their citizens living without papers in the United States, Mexican law classifies undocumented immigration as a felony punishable by up to two years in prison, although deportation is more common.

The number of undocumented migrants detained in Mexico almost doubled from 138,061 in 2002 to 240,269 last year. Forty-two percent were Guatemalan, 33 percent Honduran and most of the rest Salvadoran.

Like the United States, Mexico is becoming reliant on immigrant labor. Last year, then-director of Mexico's immigration agency, Magdalena Carral, said an increasing number of Central Americans were staying in Mexico, rather than just passing through on their way to the U.S.

Posted by: CFShep on April 20, 2006 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone else notice the Georgia immigration bill? From Reuters:

"The Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act, signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue, denies many state services paid for by taxpayers to people who are in the United States illegally.

It also forces contractors doing business with the state to verify the legal status of new workers, and requires police to notify immigration officials if people charged with crimes are illegal immigrants.

"It's our responsibility to ensure that our famous Georgia hospitality is not abused, that our taxpayers are not taken advantage of and that our citizens are protected," Perdue said before signing the law.

Other provisions of the law prohibit employers from claiming a tax deduction for wages of $600 or more paid to undocumented workers, impose prison terms for human trafficking and limit the services commercial companies can provide to illegal immigrants."

I'm no fan of Gov. Perdue, but it sounds like, if actually enforced, this law could be a model for other states to follow.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 20, 2006 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Illegal imiigration is s civil matter.

Trafficing in forged federal documents and federal income tax evasion are criminal, and apparently the employer was knee deep in both.

I can't find a single incidence of an employer or an illegal prosecuted for federal income tax evasion, although probably 6 millions illegals are doing so.

Posted by: save_the_rustbelt on April 20, 2006 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

while spouting transparent fibs

Um, so, where's the fib? There's not one untrue statement there. She said nothing about how ICE used to operate (the "legendary" part of Kevin's lie).

Looks like the only fibber here is Kevin.

Posted by: Al on April 20, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

The only legitimate complaint against immigration (documented or otherwise) that I can see is that it potentially helps drive down wages.

Wouldn't it make more sense, then, that the appropriate response would be not to lock up bosses, but to force them to pay the minimum wage, as well as any backpay? It's the workers that are being defrauded, after all, justice would seem to indicate that it is them who should be recompensed (via backpay), not the government (via fining employers)

Posted by: moderleft on April 20, 2006 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

"The only legitimate complaint against immigration (documented or otherwise) that I can see is that it potentially helps drive down wages."

So, breaking US laws is not a legitimate complaint in your book?

"It's the workers that are being defrauded, after all, justice would seem to indicate that it is them who should be recompensed (via backpay), not the government (via fining employers)"

If you get screwed over in the course of performing illegal activity, it is not the government's usual course to reward you for it. Try calling the cops to report that your local drug dealer only gave you half the amount of weed that you thought you had purchased and see what their reaction is.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 20, 2006 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK
So, breaking US laws is not a legitimate complaint in your book?

Its not a legitimate complaint when you are trying to determine what the law should be. Otherwise you end up with arguments like X should be illegal because the people doing it are breaking the law because it is illegal.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2006 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK
Here's the full-tilt irony of this - that while Mexican citizens and other foreign nationals are demanding that we change our laws to accommodate them:

Mexico Harsh to Undocumented Migrants

Presumably, the Mexicans trying hardest to leave Mexico have a correlation with those dissatisfied with their own government. If they were happy, they wouldn't be in a hurry to leave. So, largely, this is equivocation.

Even if it weren't, the implicit argument you are making seems to be that we should adopt policies to make our government's policies more like Mexico's. But I don't see much reason that Mexico should be a policy role model for America.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2006 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: Presumably, the Mexicans trying hardest to leave Mexico have a correlation with those dissatisfied with their own government.

Why do you presume that? Is your presumption based on any sort of evidence? It's a lot less of a leap that the primary motivation for illegal immigrants coming here from Mexico is economics. This may explain why, for example, we have lots of illegal laborers but very few illegal lawyers (aside from the fact that American lawyers conveniently have other mechanisms to protect them from competition from illegal aliens).

While economics can be affected by government policy, illegal immigration from Mexico certainly isn't evidence that those leaving are dissatisfied with their own government's policy on illegal immigration, unless perhaps they think their wages have been driven down by an overly lax policy.

Posted by: alex on April 20, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"Its not a legitimate complaint when you are trying to determine what the law should be."

I'd agree. However, it is a legitimate complaint when dealing with the situation as it is today. Personally, I would be happy to see a whole host of laws taken off the books- but that doesn't mean I would be equally happy to have them stay on the books but be selectively enforced, which is the situation with illegal immigration today.

"Even if it weren't, the implicit argument you are making seems to be that we should adopt policies to make our government's policies more like Mexico's. But I don't see much reason that Mexico should be a policy role model for America."

No, but it is a good argument for taking Mexico's arguments with a grain of salt, since they evidently don't believe their own arguments.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 20, 2006 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK
I'd agree. However, it is a legitimate complaint when dealing with the situation as it is today.

Not insofar as that debate includes a debate about what the law should be, which the debate about immigration policy does.

Personally, I would be happy to see a whole host of laws taken off the books- but that doesn't mean I would be equally happy to have them stay on the books but be selectively enforced, which is the situation with illegal immigration today.

Almost all laws are selectively enforced. Very few of the people that cops observe speeding are ticketed. Most people arrested for crimes aren't prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and are often charged with lesser offenses than they reasonably could be, etc. Immigration laws are in no particular way special in this regard.

No, but it is a good argument for taking Mexico's arguments with a grain of salt, since they evidently don't believe their own arguments.

So? Since when are Mexico's arguments a major factor here? I think the evidence that their policies are a failure is a better argument against mimicing them then the hypocrisy argument is against us taking policies radically different than theirs, even if they are advocating those policies.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK
It's a lot less of a leap that the primary motivation for illegal immigrants coming here from Mexico is economics.

If the two beliefs were exclusive, that one is likely true in most cases would actually be an argument against the other being generally true.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Not insofar as that debate includes a debate about what the law should be, which the debate about immigration policy does.

Kevin's post is about enforcement of the law as it is today, not what it should be.

Posted by: Al on April 20, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

If you get screwed over in the course of performing illegal activity, it is not the government's usual course to reward you for it. Try calling the cops to report that your local drug dealer only gave you half the amount of weed that you thought you had purchased and see what their reaction is.

So now cooking, cleaning, landscaping, etc. is on the same moral level as illegal drugs?

Maybe you should be a bit more upfront with what, exactly, your beef with immigration is. Is it simply that they did not fill out the right paperwork? If so, then presumably you are in favor of dramatically increasing the immigration caps and simplifying work requirements.

Is your beef that immigration drives down wages? Then I presume you would be in favor of making sure that all workers receive at least the minimum wage.

Is your beef simply that these workers are from another country? Ah, that's it, isn't it.... There's a word for that. It begins with a Xeno and ends with Phobia.

Posted by: moderleft on April 20, 2006 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK
Kevin's post is about enforcement of the law as it is today, not what it should be.

And moderleft's comment -- the one which was quoted and responded to in the post I responded to -- is about what the fundamental problems are and what the policy response ought to be, not about enforcement of the law as it is.

Your point?

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

"So now cooking, cleaning, landscaping, etc. is on the same moral level as illegal drugs?"

Nope, not if you entered legally and have your work permit.

"Maybe you should be a bit more upfront with what, exactly, your beef with immigration is."

I have no "beef" with immigration. I have a beef with illegal immigration. Note the qualifier. Big difference, although for some reason many people seem to conveniently drop it.

Prospective immigrants to the US are required to show their police records, get health checks and required immunizations, go through an embassy interview, and demonstrate either that they have the funds to sustain themselves or that they have a sponsor within the US who can guarantee they will not become a public liability. Personally, I don't find this at all unreasonable- the citizens of a country should have the right to decide who they want to let in and under what circumstances. I do have a *beef* with illegal aliens essentially jumping queue without going through the same process. Kinda like I don't have a problem with friends visiting my house, but I have a problem with someone busting the window and coming on in, ya know?

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 20, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

I have no "beef" with immigration. I have a beef with illegal immigration.

So your entirely problem would be solved if everyone personally qualified to immigrate under current law were allowed to do so without delay imposed by long waiting lists, etc., removing much of the incentive for illegal immigration, and then enforcement targetted on the remaining undesirable immigrants, as opposed to the status quo policy that creates enormous delays for legal immigration that creates strong incentives for illegal immigration even of people allowed to immigrate legally?

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

"So your entirely problem would be solved if everyone personally qualified to immigrate under current law were allowed to do so without delay imposed by long waiting lists, etc., removing much of the incentive for illegal immigration, and then enforcement targetted on the remaining undesirable immigrants, as opposed to the status quo policy that creates enormous delays for legal immigration that creates strong incentives for illegal immigration even of people allowed to immigrate legally?"

That is a pretty long, convoluted sentence that really doesn't lend itself to a yes or no answer, so I will try to answer individual parts of your idea as best I can.

Yes, my problem would be solved if there was no illegal immigration. I have no problem with legal immigration whatsoever, and I think it is important in keeping the country vital and connected to the outside world.

Now, I interpret this "everyone personally qualified to immigrate under current law" as implying that any given person has a right to immigrate to the US- please clarify if I'm misinterpreting you. On that point, we would disagree. Just because you may meet the base qualifications for entry doesn't mean you can or should automatically be allowed to immigrate. If the limits set forth in law are reached, well, try again later. It's a privilege to be allowed to immigrate, not a right.

Likewise, when you refer to "delay imposed by long waiting lists, etc., removing much of the incentive for illegal immigration" and "strong incentives for illegal immigration even of people allowed to immigrate legally", I see the same implication that, if you meet base qualifications for entry, then you have the right to enter, and quickly, and if you aren't allowed in, well, you're justified in sneaking in illegally. If a prospective immigrant to the US is not willing to endure the wait and inevitable hassle of coming here legally, then they are more than welcome to immigrate to a country with same-day guaranteed visa processing- good luck finding one.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 20, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, as an addendum- that is not to say I don't think the immigration process shouldn't be streamlined as much as possible. Having just gone through the process of sponsoring an immigrant, I know that it is long and sometimes confusing. So, simplifying and speeding up the process is definitely something that should be done. However, there is a certain amount of hassle and delay that is not really avoidable at a reasonable cost, and the existence of delay in the system does not justify illegally evading it entirely.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 20, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK
Now, I interpret this "everyone personally qualified to immigrate under current law" as implying that any given person has a right to immigrate to the US- please clarify if I'm misinterpreting you.

You are, indeed, misinterpreting me by looking for "implications".

"Everyone personally qualified to immigrate under current law" means exactly what it says, with no implication whatsoever as to any "right to immigrate".

Just because you may meet the base qualifications for entry doesn't mean you can or should automatically be allowed to immigrate.

Why not?

If the limits set forth in law are reached, well, try again later. It's a privilege to be allowed to immigrate, not a right.

So, clearly, you have a "beef" with immigration besides illegality, otherwise, there would be no reason to support numerical limitations being in the law. What is that objection?

Likewise, when you refer to "delay imposed by long waiting lists, etc., removing much of the incentive for illegal immigration" and "strong incentives for illegal immigration even of people allowed to immigrate legally", I see the same implication that, if you meet base qualifications for entry, then you have the right to enter, and quickly, and if you aren't allowed in, well, you're justified in sneaking in illegally.

Again, you are inventing things. I said nothing about justification. The delays create an incentive to immigrate illegally, whether or not doing so is "justified". If you oppose illegality, you should oppose the delays, unless there is something else wrong that you think that delays serve to mitigate. But you have claimed that you have no beef with immigration except with its illegality, and offered only the filtering of personal qualities that is provided by the legal process as justification for that. So there is an inconsistency in your staetd position.

Either you should support eliminating the delays, or you should tell us what your additional problem with immigration, beyond the mere fact of illegality, is.

If a prospective immigrant to the US is not willing to endure the wait and inevitable hassle of coming here legally, then they are more than welcome to immigrate to a country with same-day guaranteed visa processing- good luck finding one.

I don't think decade-or-longer waiting lists are an "inevitable hassle". They are a deliberate consequence of policy choices. What I want you to tell me is why we should continue those policies, which produce strong incentives to illegal immigration.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

"So, clearly, you have a "beef" with immigration besides illegality, otherwise, there would be no reason to support numerical limitations being in the law. What is that objection?"

Actually, no, I don't. The US cannot, and is not obligated to, absorb every single person who wants to come here and meets the base qualifications to do so. It's nothing against any of the individuals in question, it's just practicality. Just like if you have x number of job openings and you get x+100 applicants- at some point you just have to make a decision on who gets in and who doesn't. It's no reflection on the people that don't make the cut.

"Again, you are inventing things. I said nothing about justification. The delays create an incentive to immigrate illegally, whether or not doing so is "justified". If you oppose illegality, you should oppose the delays, unless there is something else wrong that you think that delays serve to mitigate. But you have claimed that you have no beef with immigration except with its illegality, and offered only the filtering of personal qualities that is provided by the legal process as justification for that. So there is an inconsistency in your staetd position."

I am not "inventing", I was only attempting to follow what appeared to be the implications of your post, and asked for clarification. As I wrote in my addendum post, I am all in favor of streamlining the process where possible. However, I do not consider the presence of delays to be any justification for circumventing the process.

"I don't think decade-or-longer waiting lists are an "inevitable hassle". They are a deliberate consequence of policy choices."

How common are you implying the decade-long wait lists are for immigrants who do not have some other complicating factor in their records?

Now, here is a question for you: do you think that the US is under some obligation to accept any qualified immigrant who wants to come here, with no numerical limit?

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 20, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK
Actually, no, I don't. The US cannot, and is not obligated to, absorb every single person who wants to come here and meets the base qualifications to do so.

You just contradicted yourself. First, you deny having a beef besides the mere fact of illegality, and then you assert that the US is unable to absorb immigrants beyond a certain point. Which is it? Do you not have a beef beyond the fact of illegality, or do you think that the US is incapable of absorbing more than a fixed number of immigrants, and therefore have a beef with the quantity of immigration, regardless of status?

Just like if you have x number of job openings and you get x+100 applicants- at some point you just have to make a decision on who gets in and who doesn't.

Just like that, is it? Then where is the evidence (1) that there is a set number of immigrants that the US is capable of absorbing, and (2) that the current legal limits (both absolute and by country) reflect those fixed limits?

Just like if you have x number of job openings and you get x+100 applicants- at some point you just have to make a decision on who gets in and who doesn't.

From the most recent information I've seen immigrants in the "Family 4" category (which includes adult siblings of current US citizens) face a 15+ year wait, those in the "Family 3" category (married sons and daughters of US citizens) or "Family 2A" category (spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents) face something like a 5 year wait, those in the "Family 2B" category (unmarried adult sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents) face around a 10 year wait, and those in the "Family 1" category (unmarried adult sons and daughters of citizens) face a several year wait. These numbers are the waits based on the worldwide waiting lists -- because numbers are also limited by country, those from countries with lots of immigrants in a particular category are often longer (IIRC, in most categories Mexico and the Phillipines face longer waits, though I seem to recall seeing that in Family 4, India and China faced particularly long delays.)

Now, here is a question for you: do you think that the US is under some obligation to accept any qualified immigrant who wants to come here, with no numerical limit?

I don't think "obligation" has anything to do with it; I think that hard numerical limits (rather than, say, fees to bypass waiting lists) are a poor way of dealing with the legitimate concerns, mostly around economic costs, that exist with the level of immigration, as they create a strong incentive to circumvent the law and immigrate illegally, where such immigration has a far greater cost to the US than an equal quantity of legal immigration.

But, more relevantly to my previous challenges to you, I think its an outright lie to say you have no problem with immigration except illegality when you clearly have a problem with the total level of immigration and prefer maintaining the existing legal structure as a means of dealing with that problem, and that that kind of dishonesty makes it very difficult to have a discussion of what the policy ought to be.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

"You just contradicted yourself. First, you deny having a beef besides the mere fact of illegality, and then you assert that the US is unable to absorb immigrants beyond a certain point."

Sorry, I don't see a contradiction between saying 1) immigration per se is not bad but 2) the US can only absorb x number of people at a given time. That's just practicality- it takes time to assimilate new immigrants into society and the job market, expand infrastructure to meet new population needs, etc.

"Just like that, is it? Then where is the evidence (1) that there is a set number of immigrants that the US is capable of absorbing, and (2) that the current legal limits (both absolute and by country) reflect those fixed limits?"

I never argued that the current limits are eternal, immutable, and fixed in stone. That is something to be decided by the appropriate governmental body and changed as needed.

"I don't think "obligation" has anything to do with it; I think that hard numerical limits (rather than, say, fees to bypass waiting lists) are a poor way of dealing with the legitimate concerns, mostly around economic costs, that exist with the level of immigration, as they create a strong incentive to circumvent the law and immigrate illegally, where such immigration has a far greater cost to the US than an equal quantity of legal immigration."

Well, you are welcome to your opinion. Personally, I would oppose the idea of going to a fee-expedited system such as you propose, unless it was weighted to the per-capita income of the country of citizenship of the immigrant so as to impose (roughly) equal burdens regardless of origin.

"But, more relevantly to my previous challenges to you, I think its an outright lie to say you have no problem with immigration except illegality when you clearly have a problem with the total level of immigration and prefer maintaining the existing legal structure as a means of dealing with that problem, and that that kind of dishonesty makes it very difficult to have a discussion of what the policy ought to be."

Fine. I think it's very difficult to have a discussion with someone who blurs over the difference between illegal immigration and legal immigration and then impugns the motives of anyone who objects. Or is it simply impossible that someone can honestly disagree with your opinion?

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 20, 2006 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: I think that hard numerical limits (rather than, say, fees to bypass waiting lists) are a poor way of dealing with the legitimate concerns

So what level of fees do you think we'd have to charge to limit the immigration rate to a reasonable level? Would the poor people who currently come here as illegal immigrants be able to afford these fees? If not, then a fee system would do nothing to limit illegal immigration.

Furthermore, even if they technically could afford them, would they be so onerous that they'd be tempted to avoid them? Perhaps we could change the name from illegal immigration to tax evasion, but the effect would be the same.

Lastly, what reason is there to believe that, even if such a system is established, it would be enforced? Our current "enforcement" gives me no confidence. Enforcement action is so rare that one example of it makes the news and is called a political stunt by some.

Posted by: alex on April 20, 2006 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

What's interesting to me is....IFCO is a German company (albeit one with a good deal of US operations). I suspect that they are thus not GOP contributors; and hence prime candidates for this type of raid.

Posted by: Ed Tracey on April 20, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Ed Tracey: I suspect that they are thus not GOP contributors; and hence prime candidates for this type of raid.

You mean they failed to cough up their protection money? Very likely.

Posted by: alex on April 20, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK
So what level of fees do you think we'd have to charge to limit the immigration rate to a reasonable level?

I reject the notion of a "reasonable level", the issue is mitigating costs, not hitting some target level. If I believed that a "reasonable level" the appropriate paradigm, I would support hard caps.

As to the level of fees, I'd imagine either one time fees in the range of $1,000-$10,000 or annual fees during an temporary year-to-year permit period while waiting for permanent status on the order of several hundred to a few thousand dollars, though that's mostly a rough idea.

Would the poor people who currently come here as illegal immigrants be able to afford these fees? If not, then a fee system would do nothing to limit illegal immigration.

The logic here is flawed. If the less-poor people who come here as legal immigrants could afford to pay these fees (or have their sponsors pay them), those of the poor who come here as illegal immigrants who would be qualified to enter legally would face shorter waiting lists and, therefore, have less incentive to immigrate illegal.

Furthermore, even if they technically could afford them, would they be so onerous that they'd be tempted to avoid them?

They'd probably be smaller than the increase in potential income from legal status, not to mention all the other benefits.


Perhaps we could change the name from illegal immigration to tax evasion, but the effect would be the same.

No, not going through the required process would still be illegal immigration, though depending on the way the consequences were restructured, the social costs might be mitigated compared to the status quo.

Lastly, what reason is there to believe that, even if such a system is established, it would be enforced?

Such a system relies less on enforcement, creating greater incentives to work within the system. Even assuming no improvement in enforcement, I would expect an improvement in conditions.

That being said, the fact that it would provide less reason for immigrants who are not personally undesirable to evade the system would undermine one of the biggest political barriers to more strict enforcement.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2006 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, I don't see a contradiction between saying 1) immigration per se is not bad but 2) the US can only absorb x number of people at a given time. That's just practicality- it takes time to assimilate new immigrants into society and the job market, expand infrastructure to meet new population needs, etc.

There is a contradiction between saying that you are only concerned about illegality and no other aspect of immigration, and then turning around and saying that you are concerned about the level of immigration and have an interest in keeping below some point beyond which the US can absorb no more.

If you still can't see that, well, I can't help you any more than I have with that.

Well, you are welcome to your opinion. Personally, I would oppose the idea of going to a fee-expedited system such as you propose, unless it was weighted to the per-capita income of the country of citizenship of the immigrant so as to impose (roughly) equal burdens regardless of origin.

Its not entirely unreasonable to do something like that, particularly if you see it more as a market based control on the level of immigration than a cost compensation mechanism. The policy serves both purposes, and there are different ways of balancing them: any policy where costs imposed on immigrants go to the US treasury rather than either to smugglers, or being negative-sum costs due to hardship, is an improvement.

Fine. I think it's very difficult to have a discussion with someone who blurs over the difference between illegal immigration and legal immigration and then impugns the motives of anyone who objects.

I think that would be difficult, but I don't think anyone is actually doing that (I certainly haven't seen it), though I have seen plenty of people who have a problem with the level of immigration, yourself included, but seem to want to pretend that they only have a problem with illegality accusing people of blurring that line without any substantive basis for the accusation, particularly when what is actually going on is discussion of whether the current rules that establish legality or illegality are the right way to draw that line.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: I reject the notion of a "reasonable level", the issue is mitigating costs, not hitting some target level.

So you believe that any rate of population growth is acceptable, so long as the easily accounted for costs are paid for by the immigrants.

I don't agree. At our current rate of population growth, which is in excess of replacement rate mostly due to the combination of legal and illegal immigration, it's estimated that we'll have 500M people by around 2050 and perhaps 900 million by 2100.

Sure, the US could probably support that many people if it was absolutely essential (though with a reduced standard of living and quality of life). China is only slightly larger and has 1.3B (although they have serious ongoing problems with lack of food security, desertification, and other severe environmental problems).

I think that the currently projected population growth is undesirable, and would be made much worse by your proposal. Mexico and Central America are small potatoes. "Only" 40%+ of the Mexican population has said they'd like to emigrate to the US. Heck, that's only 40M people. But surely you believe that your proposal should be extended on a non-discrimatory basis to the entire world.

I'd imagine either one time fees in the range of $1,000-$10,000

I presume these are "jump the line" fees for those that can afford them. Probably lots of folks would go for it, but how do you calculate that these would cover even the easily accountable costs of immigrants with low paid skills?

or annual fees during an temporary year-to-year permit period while waiting for permanent status on the order of several hundred to a few thousand dollars

What would determine the length of this waiting period for permanent status? If there are no annual quotas then surely we could increase staff to make the waiting period negligible. Extra costs for staff could be paid for by these very fees. Of course if you only collect fees while someone is on the waiting list, but you make the wait negligible, then you won't collect much in fees.

As to the easily accountable costs. Suppose we implement UHC. Let's even assume that due to the efficiencies we could health care costs from 15%/GDP to 10%. Roughly with a $12T GDP and 300M people, that's $4k/person/year. How many low paid workers could afford that (for one person it's about 40% of minimum wage full-time pay), especially if they have kids?

In reality poor people in the US would be subsidized. If we let in more low paid skill people, then we'll be subsidizing them too, at least until they get paid a lot more, if ever (they'll have lots of competition).

Even Milton Friedman was honest enough to admit that you can't have a "welfare state" (his term) and open immigration.

Furthermore, there are costs that are not easily accounted for, such as already low wages being reduced by more competition. No one can seem to agree what that number is, and hence (amongst many other reasons) there is no way to compensate people for that.

If the less-poor people who come here as legal immigrants could afford to pay these fees (or have their sponsors pay them), those of the poor who come here as illegal immigrants who would be qualified to enter legally would face shorter waiting lists and, therefore, have less incentive to immigrate illegal.

Without quotas, why would we have any waiting lists, other than due to staff limitations? And the fees could be used to reduce those. Without substantial waiting lists though, why would anyone pay a "line jumping" fee?

Furthermore, what happened to the poor immigrants paying their medical, educational and other costs?

Such a system relies less on enforcement, creating greater incentives to work within the system.

If poor immigrants were truly required to pay their way, you'd still see plenty of tax/fee evasion.

Posted by: alex on April 20, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

"There is a contradiction between saying that you are only concerned about illegality and no other aspect of immigration, and then turning around and saying that you are concerned about the level of immigration and have an interest in keeping below some point beyond which the US can absorb no more. If you still can't see that, well, I can't help you any more than I have with that."

I'll pass on your "help", thanks. Please do, however, find where I said I was concerned about the level of legal immigration, as it exists now. I did say (in response to your statement regarding "if everyone personally qualified to immigrate under current law were allowed to do so") that "The US cannot, and is not obligated to, absorb every single person who wants to come here and meets the base qualifications to do so," which I believe, as a practical matter, to be true. Essentially I said that there is an upper bound to how many people we can practically take in; I did not, and have never, said that we need to curb legal immigration. And if you can't understand the distinction, then I'm afraid you're beyond help as well.

"I think that would be difficult, but I don't think anyone is actually doing that (I certainly haven't seen it)"

I'm not surprised. It sounds like you have a blind spot for things that confirm your beliefs. It has been pointed out by several commentors on this site and others since the illegal immigration issue came up recently. Good day.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 20, 2006 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK
So you believe that any rate of population growth is acceptable, so long as the easily accounted for costs are paid for by the immigrants.

Er, no.

One, I think "population growth" and "immigration" are two different issues, with different appropriate universes of analysis, and, two, I don't think the "easily accountable" costs are the issue. which is why I've never mentioned "easily accountable" costs.

I don't agree.

Why you think anyone cares whether or not you agree with a position you just invented is beyond me.

At our current rate of population growth, which is in excess of replacement rate mostly due to the combination of legal and illegal immigration, it's estimated that we'll have 500M people by around 2050 and perhaps 900 million by 2100.

Well, except that there is little reason to believe that the US rate of population growth would remain constant at the current level for the next four-and-a-half (and even more so 9.5) decades, as such estimates necessarily assume.

Sure, the US could probably support that many people if it was absolutely essential (though with a reduced standard of living and quality of life).

As the US economy is increasingly a service economy, and, at any rate, very little a raw materials-based economy, the ability of the US to support people at any given standard of living is largely dependent on the number of people the US has available to work to support that population.

China is only slightly larger and has 1.3B (although they have serious ongoing problems with lack of food security, desertification, and other severe environmental problems).

Actually, China has a smaller land area than the US (China: 9.59 million km2, US: 9.63 million km2).

China's environmental problems are largely due to particular industrial patterns and agricultural methods, which are different than those practiced in the US, not its population level (though its population and lack of existing economic development makes it harder to change those practices.)

Though, of course, having more people than the US would with continued growth at the present rate for 100 years in a smaller land area than the US doesn't help.

Still, not particularly relevant, here.

I think that the currently projected population growth is undesirable, and would be made much worse by your proposal.

I don't think it would, even setting aside debate about whether the level of population growth is bad, because I don't think my proposal would affect the overall level of immigration much. It would increase legal immigration, to be sure, but its hardly as if illegals aren't still here.

Mexico and Central America are small potatoes. "Only" 40%+ of the Mexican population has said they'd like to emigrate to the US. Heck, that's only 40M people. But surely you believe that your proposal should be extended on a non-discrimatory basis to the entire world.

Sure, but it'd mostly affect places with lots of qualified immigrants in existing immigration classes but long backlogs -- Mexico and the Phillipines would probably have the biggest impact.

I presume these are "jump the line" fees for those that can afford them.

Since that's what I said they were, that's a pretty sharp presumption.

Probably lots of folks would go for it, but how do you calculate that these would cover even the easily accountable costs of immigrants with low paid skills?

I've never asserted that they would cover the costs at those levels, nor have I ever said anything about them being targetted to "easily accountable" costs.

They would mitigate the costs, and be a more efficient means of imposing costs than those that involve US expenditure to impose harms on immigrants beyond the caps as a deterrent, because they would augment, rather than deplete, the treasury.


What would determine the length of this waiting period for permanent status?

The same things that do now.

If there are no annual quotas then surely we could increase staff to make the waiting period negligible.

The processing backlog isn't currently negligible in the unlimited categories, so, while theoretically true, that's certainly not practically true. Further, I'm not proposing eliminating quotas, I'm proposing an option for paying an additional fee to immigrate outside of the quotas. The existing quotas would still exist, and still produce waiting lists.

I'd favor realigning them so that they were universal quotas only and eliminating per-country quotas, though.

As to the easily accountable costs. Suppose we implement UHC. Let's even assume that due to the efficiencies we could health care costs from 15%/GDP to 10%. Roughly with a $12T GDP and 300M people, that's $4k/person/year. How many low paid workers could afford that (for one person it's about 40% of minimum wage full-time pay), especially if they have kids?

The annual cost is not uniformly; younger people typically have lower costs, older people tend to have more. Of course, its quite possible that a "universal insurance" model would only cover citizens and LPRs, and that annual-fee-paying immigrants in the supernumerary categories would not be LPRs and therefore would not be covered, but might be eligible for buy-in to the system, with fees based on actuarial consideration.

Further, I'd be more interest in arguments based on the assumption that the US will adopt UHC after, you know, the US actually adopts UHC, or at least takes substantial steps in that direction.

Of course, even now, illegals end up disproportionately burdening emergency rooms because they often have no other access to healthcare; making them legal and more effectively taxed (even ignoring the supplemental fee) and giving them public access to more regular healthcare might well reduce the net public cost for their healthcare even compared to what is paid without UHC for them.

In reality poor people in the US would be subsidized. If we let in more low paid skill people, then we'll be subsidizing them too, at least until they get paid a lot more, if ever (they'll have lots of competition).

In general outline, this is probably true. So?

Even Milton Friedman was honest enough to admit that you can't have a "welfare state" (his term) and open immigration.

I'm not proposing "open immigration". I'm proposing an alternative method besides focussing on punitive measures and hard caps of imposing costs on immigration to attempt to exert control on the overall level of immigration.

Furthermore, there are costs that are not easily accounted for, such as already low wages being reduced by more competition. No one can seem to agree what that number is, and hence (amongst many other reasons) there is no way to compensate people for that.

An inability to assign a precise cost does not make it so there is no way to mitigate a social cost.

Without quotas, why would we have any waiting lists, other than due to staff limitations?

I dunno. I might even care if I was proposing a system without quotas, rather than one in which there were routes around quotas for an extra fee.

Furthermore, what happened to the poor immigrants paying their medical, educational and other costs?

Since I never suggested that the "poor immigrants", specifically, would pay their medical, educational, and other costs, only that
the fees for supernumerary immigrants would serve to mitigate the social costs associated with immigration, I'm not sure what your point is with this question.

If poor immigrants were truly required to pay their way, you'd still see plenty of tax/fee evasion.

Since I haven't proposed a system of special targetted fees on "poor immigrants", I have no idea why you think this comment is germane at all to anything but your own fantasies.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2006 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK
Please do, however, find where I said I was concerned about the level of legal immigration, as it exists now.

Why should I find where you said something I never accused you of saying? I said the level of immigration, not the level of legal immigration. Again, if you were concerned only with illegality, making the illegal immigration (especially of those qualified for legal immigration) legal would solve the problem. But, clearly, you are concerned with the level of immigration as well as its legality, which is why you support the current system of limits.

That's fine, and its a point that can be argued for in a discussion. But as long as you try to obscure this to pretend that legality is your only concern, a productive discussion is impossible.

Essentially I said that there is an upper bound to how many people we can practically take in; I did not, and have never, said that we need to curb legal immigration.

Is there an upper bound (=limit) on the acceptable total level of immigration, or do we not need to curb (=limit) the total level of legal immigration?

And if you can't understand the distinction, then I'm afraid you're beyond help as well.

Oh, I understand the distinction. There is a limited acceptable total level of immigration, but no limit on the acceptable level of legal immigration.

I understand it, I just think its ridiculous.

has been pointed out by several commentors on this site and others since the illegal immigration issue came up recently.

Yes, I've seen the accusation levelled as I said previously. What I have not seen is it being justifiably levelled.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2006 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: I think "population growth" and "immigration" are two different issues, with different appropriate universes of analysis

I'd love to hear your arguments for how immigration at the current or higher levels doesn't seriously affect our population growth. Calling them "two different issues" or saying they have "different appropriate universes of analysis", or any other analytical, semantic or rhetorical games is not going to change the fact that one seriously impacts the other.

I don't think the "easily accountable" costs are the issue. which is why I've never mentioned "easily accountable" costs

If they're not an issue, then why do you talk about using fees to ameliorate the costs? Oh, you don't like the phrase "easily accountable". I added that to clarify that you, at best, discuss direct costs to taxpayers. You never mention driving down wages, environmental and other costs that are hard to account for and for which it is practically impossible to compensate the affected parties. Think externalities, big time.

Why you think anyone cares whether or not you agree with a position you just invented is beyond me.

You really discredit yourself by indulging in this sort of infantile (albeit with fancier words) rant. "I don't care what you think." "I'm gonna take my ball and go home."

there is little reason to believe that the US rate of population growth would remain constant at the current level for the next four-and-a-half (and even more so 9.5) decades, as such estimates necessarily assume.

You're right, it might increase. There isn't a terribly strong reason to believe that it will decrease either (certainly you haven't provided any). With no immigration, illegal or legal (and I don't suggest reducing the latter, although there are good arguments for it) the US birth rate is slightly above replacement level.

If the US population growth dropped to an unacceptably low level, then, as long as the US remains a desirable place to live, we can always increase our legal immigration quotas to compensate.

As the US economy is increasingly a service economy, and, at any rate, very little a raw materials-based economy

Well, it's more a service economy in terms of production, but runs a serious trade deficit in terms of the consumption of manufactured products and raw materials.

Additionally, not all natural resources are easily tradeable. Check out that Colorado River or various Southwestern aquifers lately?

Actually, China has a smaller land area than the US (China: 9.59 million km2, US: 9.63 million km2).

My, my, being pedantic here aren't we? I guess that vast difference debunks my argument. But you're wrong. The US has a smaller land (what you cited) area (9,161,923 km2 vs 9,326,410) but a larger total area (9,631,418 vs 9,596,960).

Ok, silly game, my point. Your turn.

I don't think it would, even setting aside debate about whether the level of population growth is bad, because I don't think my proposal would affect the overall level of immigration much.

You haven't offered any real arguments why it wouldn't. No quota on folks who pay a $1-10k fee would bring a lot of people here. Next, you can save up $1-10k working here and loan it to a relative so they can get in. Pretty smart investment.

It would increase legal immigration, to be sure, but its hardly as if illegals aren't still here.

The fact that many illegal aliens are already here isn't the point, it's about the future total (legal + illegal) immigration rate.

Since that's what I said they were, that's a pretty sharp presumption.

Thank you.

I'm not proposing eliminating quotas, I'm proposing an option for paying an additional fee to immigrate outside of the quotas.

That's a distinction without much of a difference. There would be a freebie quota, but no quota at an extra price. At any reasonable price (your upper limit of $10k one-time or a few $k/year while waiting) that wouldn't be much different from no quota.

The annual cost is not uniformly; younger people typically have lower costs, older people tend to have more.

Actually young people with families tend to have high costs.

Of course, its quite possible that a "universal insurance" model would only cover citizens and LPRs, and that annual-fee-paying immigrants in the supernumerary categories would not be LPRs and therefore would not be covered, but might be eligible for buy-in to the system, with fees based on actuarial consideration.

Ah, a two-tier model. Excellent for social cohesion and certainly in the tradition of American immigration. Oh, and the children of annual-fee-paying immigrants who are born here (hence US citizens of course)?

I'd be more interest in arguments based on the assumption that the US will adopt UHC after, you know, the US actually adopts UHC, or at least takes substantial steps in that direction.

Alternatively, we could adopt a proposal like yours that makes it less likely that we'll ever adopt it.

I might even care if I was proposing a system without quotas, rather than one in which there were routes around quotas for an extra fee.

A quota which doesn't apply if you can spare a few extra bucks isn't a quota, it's just a tax.

I never suggested that the "poor immigrants", specifically, would pay their medical, educational, and other costs

My bad. So, how do we get a realistic estimate for what this is going to cost taxpayers? How do you think telling voters that they should subsidize poor immigrants is going to go over?

If your actual concern was helping the largest number of people to the largest extent then there are certainly more cost effective ways than letting poor immigrants come to the US and subsidizing them.

Rather your concern seems to be that, for reasons which remain unclear, we should never tell anyone other than criminals that they can't move to this country. At most we should play Pontius Pilate and pretend that our market based solutions make the decisions. Our hands are clean - it's the invisible one that's dirty.

Ok, I've wasted far more time than I should have on this thread, but compulsions are hard to break.

Posted by: alex on April 20, 2006 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

Oh shit, next time I'll publish that in book form.

Posted by: alex on April 20, 2006 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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