Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Immigration Debate: Where Reason Goes to Die

The immigration debate fascinates me with the frequency it provokes comments that are completely at odds with reality.

About a month ago on Anderson Cooper 360 he brought out a couple people to give the two sides of the story. Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, who argued in favor of relaxing immigration laws, made the following statement:

VALDES-RODRIGUEZ: And this is taking -- it's really not a valid debate because this was an issue two years ago -- it was three years ago. You need to -- you all need to ask yourself why this is an issue now because it's deflecting attention from the White House onto brown people.

-- as if she's trying so hard to be a liberal that she completely fails to realize that this is the one issue on which she and the White House agree.

Brad DeLong, a Berkeley economist, has a weblog where he posts various interesting bits and makes me think that I should have gone into Economics instead of Philosophy way back when. He recently posted about the Open Letter on Immigration, drafted by a bipartisan collection of economists.

In the comments on that post I see things like the following:

"Immigration in recent decades of low-skilled workers may have lowered the wages of domestic low-skilled workers, but the effect is likely to be small, with estimates of wage reductions for high-school dropouts ranging from eight percent to as little as zero percent."

I'm sure that "studies have shown" this, but I do not believe the studies. In any case, immigration is only part of a continued, multi-pronged attack on American labor, and not just unskilled labor. Hence the country-club conservative support for immigration, along with the other parts of the attack. -- link

Here it's the country club conservatives supporting immigration loosening -- oh, them and Brad DeLong, the guy who calls for Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld to be impeached in every third post.

I'm particularly fond of the "I do not believe the studies" comment. It's emblematic of an era where, despite volumes of careful data collection and scientific study, we'd prefer to form our opinions without looking at any facts whatsoever.

For the philosophers out there, this is the modern version of the contingent a priori.

This whole discussion misses the point. The main problem with too many immigrants is not a matter of economics--it's the blight of overpopulation. This country is too crowded already. We don't need a whole bunch more people here. Our natural environment does not need a whole bunch more people here. I shake my head when I hear economists say that Americans benefit from immigration. Not American plants and animals, not American wilderness areas. -- link

There is a point here, but it just seems orthogonal to the debate. We should keep immigration down to protect the environment? Have these people seen the environment in developing industrial nations? Also, maybe the poster lives in Manhattan, but looking around from where I'm at I see almost nothing but open land in a 200 to 800 mile radius (save for Austin). I figure we could fit a few more people in somewhere.

Help me out here, radek; if I'm supposed to be in favour of bussing in union-busting blacklegs when they're from the next country over, why would I not have to support it when they're only from the next town over? Yes, yes, we understand that *you* think undermining workers is a good thing, but explain again why *I* should, in terms that don't make a religious appeal to the panglossian Adam Smith Fairy.

When did destroying the power of the poor to strike for a higher income ever get the poor a higher income? -- link

I'm continually puzzled why so many people think they're the champions of the union-protected working class when the unions have lined up on the other side of the fight:

  • United Farm Workers
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
  • Hotel and Restaurant Employees (HERE)
  • and the Laborers' International Union of North America

All the above support relaxing the immigration laws, see here and here.

Does anyone know or have links to what unions are on the other side?


Rick said...
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Rick said...

This issue seems to just get worse and worse. 300+ mile fence, English official language, and National Guard at our borders.

Why now? Is this really an actual issue? This is a manufacture issue to split voters and cause devisiveness.

In this situation no reason and lunacy are just what's called for. That way the split is deeper than it needs to be.

Steve Peterson said...

I don't think Bush or Rove drummed up this issue for the fall elections -- it's torpedoing their entire party. I think Bush thought it'd be no big deal and help get some Latino voters to vote Republican for a change.

Th English as official language is such a red herring. If I were trying to negotiate liberalizing of immgration polciy that'd be the first bone I'd throw the opponents since doing so gives up nothing. Here's a quote from a study:

"Spanish is the primary language among 72% of first-generation Latinos, but this figure falls to 7% among second-generation Latinos and zero among Latinos who are third generation and higher."

The National Guard thing leads to an interesting point, I think. One lesson future presidents will take away from this administration is that an all-volunteer army and draft restricted to those who are already willing to serve in some capacity, can help sustain support for a war that has grown unpopular.

Had they switched to a full draft to maintain troop levels, instead of extending the service time of existing soldiers, Bush would have seen his current approval ratings 2004.

The trick then is to draft the people who already favor the military. They don't march on Washington and get Presidents thrown out after their first term. And we'll definitely see this strategy repeated by future presidents.