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05/21/2006

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Good Boy

By such policies to bring greater global income equality, you mean free trade and capital movements, and no more ag subsidies, no? Would an "American Union" be a good idea, that is a common market for the entire hemisphere with free trade, free capital movement, and free migration? Methinks it would be good.

Sophia Ong

While I generally agree on the benefits of free trade, capital exchange, and migration, I remain highly skeptical of an all-out "American Union." To integrate resources to such an extent would require significant legal and political integration as well, and that just doesn't seem feasible at the moment.

The point, however, is well taken - what can America do to improve the fortunes of its immigrants' home countries? Quite a smorgasbord of ideas come to mind, ranging from encouraging family planning to reducing our own agricultural subsidies, but is there a larger schema under which to organize all these ideas? And most importantly, how can it be sold to the American public?

Lawdog

One interesting way to slow down illegal immigration that is not really discussed in this debate is to make legal immigration easier. More people would have incentives to wait in line if the line moved quickly and efficiently. The fact that most Americans aren't talking about this solution points to the fact that I think those concerned with this issue don't want to stop just illegal immigration, they want to slow the rate of all immigration into the United States.
Another point that I think is interesting is the idea that we need to secure our borders for reasons related to terrorism. I think most people would agree that given the fact we have limited resources to spend on terrorism, we could better spend our money to fight terrorism doing things other than focusing on border security (e.g., increased intelligence, more security of hard targets, increased man-power). Thus, it seems the arguments related to terrorism would appear to be a red-herring.

Grumpy Old Man

There are four reasons for taking illegal immigration seriously: sovereignty, national security, economic inequality within the US, and cultural homogeneity.

A sovereign state in the modern era should have substantial control of its borders. To abdicate this is to renounce an important attribute of sovereignty. To whom? Vincente Fox?

In the post 9/11 era, we need to have a better handle on who comes into the country. Unless we control the borders (Mexican, but not just Mexican), we won't. Some entrants will be very dangerous.

Illegal immigrants in low-wage jobs depress the wages of or discourage the job-seeking behavior of the least well-off among us. Once a high school diploma enabled one to get a factory or construction job that could support a family. No more. The impact of wage reduction falls most heavily on blacks and legal immigrant Mexicans etc. That's bad social policy.

The numbers and concentrations of poorly educated Spanish-speaking immigrants who can come and go to their native countries, combined with irredentist politics, at least in the Southwest, poses a danger of Canadian or Belgian style fragmentation of the country. We fought one civil war, the bloodiest in our history. There is no reason to risk another.

Nor is it true that the return of many or most illegal immigrants to their countries of origin is impossible. It may be politically unfeasable or unjust, but it's logistically possible. Build the wall, fine employers of illegals and impose forfeiture of their assets after repeat violations, prohibit transfers of funds to Mexico and Central America without ID, or tax such transfers heavily, release no illegals into the community pending deportation, and you could effect the return of millions within a few years. Whether these policies would be wise or just is another question.

No program for adjustment of status should be implemented until border security is substantially enhanced and related reforms such as construction of adquate detention faciliies, are completed. A secure border would weaken the arguments against a compassionate program for adjustment of status; an insecure border makes such a program a simple invitation to another flood of illegal immigrants.

Robert

I could not agree more with Judge Posner. Illegal immigration is an effect, not a cause. Should Mexican citizens achieve a degree of prosperity which is presently unavailable (not such a difficult proposition given that country's natutral resources, attractiveness as a tourist destination and proximity to America) then the problem will likely be ameliorated.

Walker

I agree with Posner that the only meaningful solution to illegal immigration is for poor countries to become better developed offering greater economic opportunity. Yet I am skeptical about policies designed to bring about greater global income equality. If this means greater free trade and policies to help countries build institutions for finance, rule of law and democracy, I agree. If this means selective industrial planning, I oppose.

Developing countries like Mexico benefit in the short term from illegal immigration to the U.S. They earn money from remittances and act as an economic release-valve. The long term effect prevents needed political-economic reform needed for better development and human capital drain.

There is a school of thought that suggests a long term solution to illegal immigration from Mexico is to shut down all immigration from Mexico. While this would cause economic disruption in Mexico and the U.S. in the short term, it would likely cause a political revolution in Mexico that brings about needed reform in the long run.

The goal of greater global income equality is tricky and may only be achieved by significant short term pain for mismanaged countries. Thus, such policies are difficult for both the U.S. and mismanaged countries like Mexico to accept.

save_the_rustbelt

Illegals generally commit the following offenses:

illegal entry
use of forged federal and state documents
use of phony or stolen Social Security numbers
federal and state income tax evasion

If I were caught committing one or more of these acts the feds would jump and down on my head. Illegals already apparently have a de facto amnesty for these offenses.

So, why should anyone have to obey the law, if the feds can ignore the law to benefit business owners?

Just curious.

hypocriticist

Lawdog has hit the nail on the head, and I can personally vouch to that effect by my own experience with BCIS: following the rules takes so much time, money and headache with the federal immigration bureacracy that any rational person would find the risk of obeying to be far, far more onerous (spending years of your life waiting)- than the minimal risk of deportation. That is at the heart of the problem.

Its also a problem that makes the legal discussion about "illegality" irrelevant. First, violation of immigration laws, though federal and technically criminal, are almost to a one examples of 'malum prohibitum' offenses. Posner has made this point before. They break the law, people say. Who cares? The laws they break are social constructs, not REAL crimes like murder, rape and kidnapping. Microeconomic risk theory tells us that they're behaving in an utterly rational way by breaking those laws. There is almost no enforcement once you get past border states. Finally, so many of the people who are waiting in line are actually lottery winners. I don't know how many, but its literally thousands. Are they better people? Their names literally got pulled out of a hat. They didn't even CHOOSE to follow the rules, they got picked.

I'm going toward the following conclusion: the "immigration problem" is actually a problem with the immigration bureaucracy, not with hardened criminals violating our laws. It is mere politics- bad politics at that- to characterize them as criminals.

Hans Gruber

POSNER: "I have been surprised at the virulence of the response to the President's proposals for dealing with the problem of illegal immigration."

I am sure you are. You don't have to deal with the many ills that massive illegal immigration produces--increased crime, linguistic balkanization, over-crowded and over-burdened schools, etc. You are a wealthy elite, and like wealthy elites are wont to do, you distance yourselves from the social ills produced by the policies you support. Elites pay a premium to live in a neighborhood free of crime and send their children to private schools. Elites often employ an illegal as a nanny or gardener, so they only see the benefits of illegal immigration--cheap labor--while they distance themselves from the costs--crime and poor quality schools.

Posner is skeptical about the negatives of amnesty; he sees it as a way to maximize benefit to the government. Does he seriously contend America is better with millions of uneducated, poor, and non-English speaking Third World immigrants? Is the great and erudite Posner really this clueless? The quality of first generation immigrants would be of less concern of their children quickly assimilated, committed less crime, and availed themselves of the opportunity America offers. Some immigrant groups, like the Chinese and Koreans, follow this path and quickly exceed natives in educational attainment and income (as well as having lower crime rates). Hispanic immigration, particularly from Mexico, does not follow this upward trajectory. Half of illegals from Mexico lack a high school education; around 1/3 of their children follow this same path and drop out. The Hispanic crime rate in America is 3-4 times the average. Thus by allowing massive illegal immigration from Mexico we are increasing our crime rate, lowering the average educational level and IQ, and being colonized by a people that believe they are resettling land that was "stolen" from their ancestors (this is not hyperbole, a poll conducted several years ago found that a majority of Mexicans feel that the southwest legitimately belongs to them; the same poll also found that a majority of Mexicans thought America was wealthy because it was good at exploiting other peoples).

I question the economic turmoil Posner thinks is inevitable if we were to crack down on illegal immigration. First, it would be a process of "attrition." They wouldn't disappear over night. Second, only about 1/20 workers are illegal and they are poorly paid and unskilled. I would guess that their combined income is less than 1/100th of the total value of the economy. It's unlikely that attriting the illegal population over several years would impact the economy all that much, though the native unskilled would see increases in wages as well as employment (a reversal of the trend over the last 5 years).

We don't NEED these immigrants. There is a reason that the illegal population is predominately unskilled and uneducated--and it's not because our economy "needs" these workers. They are unskilled and uneducated because only the most desperate individuals choose to enter this country illegally, the educated and skilled for the most part refuse to make the sacrifices that illegal status demands.

Becker hints that we should greatly increase skilled immigration. I agree. But that's not a solution for reducing illegal immigration; only a massive increase in legal immigration among the unskilled would do that; and that is certainly not in the national interest.

Why, Judge Posner, do you think an immigration policy that favors massive legal and illegal immigration from the Third World is a good idea when it demonstrably increases crime and inequality?

As an economist, how do you favor taking the unskilled over the skilled? We should be taking immigrants that are less likely to commit crime, not more. We should be taking immigrants that are least likely to utilize welfare or government assistance, not more likely. We should take immigrants that add the most to GDP, not the least. How can you justify your position in economic terms? Why should we favor (and encourage via amnesty) unskilled labor?

POSNER: "The Americans who for one reason or another are most concerned about illegal immigration are not much or maybe at all concerned about legal immigration, and so converting illegal to legal immigrants should be regarded by them as a highly beneficial step."

HUH? As somebody who thinks highly of you, Judge, this is possibly the most asinine thing you have ever written. Some of the most ardent anti-illegal folks out there are also disastisfied with our immigration law. The lack of meritocracy, birthright citizenship, and chain migration are all strongly criticized. Can Posner possibly think opponents of illegal immigration are this dumb--just legalize illegal immigrants and the problem is solved! What kind of bubble are they keeping you in?

Steve Sailer

Judge Posner should realize that the Senate bill is an intentional fraud on the American people. For example, although President Bush advocates a "temporary" workers program, using the word "temporary" six times in his latest speech, the current Senate bill would allow almost all the "temporary" workers to become permanent legal residents. When conservatives Senators tried to amend the bill to fix this, Sen. Hagel got the Bush Administration to announce, in effect, that the President had lied -- he wants the "temporary" workers to be permanent. For details, see:

http://blog.vdare.com/archives/2006/05/21/bush-administration-announces-bush-lied-about-temporary-workers-being-temporary/

hypocriticist

Hans Gruber writes:

"As an economist, how do you favor taking the unskilled over the skilled? We should be taking immigrants that are less likely to commit crime, not more. We should be taking immigrants that are least likely to utilize welfare or government assistance, not more likely."

Rather than address the inherent bigotry in this comment, I will address the economic question posed b/c the learned judge should not need to stoop to 101 level Economics for those who clearly lack the fundamentals. There are three main factors which drive economic growth: capital, labor and technology/innovation. Technology undoubtedly makes labor and capital more productive, and increases efficiency. But without labor, technology and capital cannot by themselves drive growth. (Ex: envision, if you will, a bunch of phds in labcoats being forced work the factory lines where their patented drugs are being mass-produced; an absurdity). This is why any economist worth his salt recognizes the need for a ready supply of unskilled workers- cheap labor- in the marketplace, because they fill an essential need. Yes, American big-business is moving away from labor-intensive manufacturing and agriculture. But don't forget the small businesses: they are responsible for most of the jobs, they are not technology-intensive, and there are hundreds of thousands of them who will always need cheap labor.

Hans also writes:

"There is a reason that the illegal population is predominately unskilled and uneducated--and it's not because our economy "needs" these workers. They are unskilled and uneducated because only the most desperate individuals choose to enter this country illegally, the educated and skilled for the most part refuse to make the sacrifices that illegal status demands."

Thats probably true of Mexicans, I'll admit. But not of every other immigrant group. My (admittedly anecdotal) experience with immigrants from Asia and Europe is that they are shockingly educated and accomplished in their home countries. They forsake upper-class lives and professions in order to make more money and give their children a better life. They ALSO behave rationally, given their circumstances in a risk vs. reward sense by coming illegally. They, being more educated, go through the proper channels and find them inefficient and useless. So they live with risk and uncertainty. Its purely rational behaviour.

Finally, its probably true that we don't "NEED" them, in a societal or cultural sense. But that's irrelevant because the invisible hand has brought them here, put them to work, and they have become part of the workforce, driving our economy. We can only hope to incorporate them in a humane and efficient manner.

Hans Gruber

Hypocriticist,

In other words, we need more stupid people to free up us smart Americans? 150 million citizens of the US have an IQ below 100. I guess we need more stupid people because there are too many Ph.D.'s working on assembly lines! Wow, I couldn't make up a more asinine argument.

Of course any work serves some "need." Economies are dynamic, they absorb new workers, at the cost of lower wages. This is what we call supply and demand.

I guess we need cheap gardeners or nannies, but we don't need cheap teachers, professors, engineers, nurse, or doctors. The nanny or landscaper is filling an "essential need" whereas the physician is providing a luxury good that Americans can easily do without. Wow.

Oh and I would appreciate you pointing out the "bigotry" of my comments (it's bigoted to favor the educated and skilled over the uneducated and unskilled?).

N.E.Hatfield

SIGH... "Once more into the breach dear friends ... Once more into the Breach!" Now I know how a Roman Legionary felt who was assigned to the border on a far flung frontier. "Remember, we create a desolation and call it Peace". As with any problem there are two extreme alternatives that are available, in this case, there is "No Problem" so why do anything; or this "breach" is so extreme that it requires the most extreme reaction. Setting up a zone of control that runs from the southern tip of Texas to the Pacific Coast in Calif. making it 3 to 5 miles deep and declaring that zone a Free Fire Zone and operating it as such. Now do the 6K National Guard Troops make sense? (although I doubt that's what the President really has in mind although I'm not too so sure about Rumsfeld ;))

As in any problem the most rational and true solution lies someplace in between the two extremes. Hopefully, we'll be able to get this issue straightened out, but it won't happen unless we can get the countries of Mexico and Latin America on board and get them to control their own populations with economic and political reforms that solve the underlying root causes of mass immigration in the first place.

American

Steve Sailer,

Please keep your racist tripe to your own website.

hypocriticist

Hans,

First, don't think for a minute that there is an infinite need for highly skilled professionals.
Look at newly-minted lawyers: highly skilled professionals who are RAPIDLY becoming a lower-priced commodity. Their wages face serious downward pressure (outside the top 200 firms that pay 125-145k, of course). I predict that nurses will soon face the same wage issues.

Second, don't think that the unskilled are dispensible. Smart people DO need "stupid people" (as you call them). Unskilled people work in the companies that "smart" people found, own and operate. The unskilled support small business, which make up most of our economy. This is the operation of supply and demand- the very principle that you mentioned. And apparently claim to understand.

Finally, and not without irony, your "intelligent" comments do not demonstrate a pro-intelligence bias. Certain urban and rural non-immigrant groups in this country stand a far greater chance of becoming criminals and public charges than do immigrant latinos. Those guys come here to work, and they work their asses off. Non-latin immigrants are even more productive: they own businesses, are educated and rapidly advance to middle and upper class income levels. You say that:

"150 million citizens of the US have an IQ below 100"

to which I respond, yes, you're right... and who do you think are being awarded the bulk of the phds in math and science in this country? Statistically, foreigners, not Americans. As I've explained before, money and brains put brawn to work, producing value. The reality- that you yourself have hinted at with the IQ comment- is that all three are increasingly coming to America from outside. These inflows will only increase going forward, whether America can enact sensible laws or not.

Hans Gruber

Hypocriticist,

First, let me address the several empirical falsehoods and fundamental misunderstandings in your most recent post.

The United States has been experiencing a GENUINE nursing shortage for years; and our demographics will worsen this shortage as the baby boom generation needs more and more medical care.

I'm not aware of any serious downward pressure on lawyers' wages (could you provide a link?), but I do know many "big law" firms have this year raised their starting salaries to $135k. I believe the median lawyer's salary is around $80k or so, including those in the public sector. Anybody who is a consumer of legal services would hardly argue that those services are "a low price commodity." But it would be a GOOD thing if they were. Not good for lawyers, but good for consumers. You should take notice, however, that I didn't mention lawyers--I mentioned nurses, doctors, engineers, teachers, and professors. But lawyers are easier to pick on, who wants more lawyers!

I have no idea what you mean by "there is [not] an infinite need for highly skilled professionals." So there is an "infinite need" for unskilled high school drop outs? What do high wages mean, why are they high? Why are, say, doctors wages higher than somebody flipping burgers? Primarily because the supply of doctors is greatly limited. There is MORE "need" for doctors than there is for minimum wage manual laborers. How long do you have to wait to see your doctor? How long does it take to get a cheeseburger? We could double the number of physicians in the US and that would be a GOOD THING. It would be a far better economic policy than importing millions of unproductive high school drop outs. More doctors means cheaper medical services. It means people go to the doctor more often. It means the poor and especially the lower middle class will have affordable, available medical care. For somebody who touts his understanding of economics, you sure are stuck on stupid.

I will confess I don't know the proportion of small business which utilize massive amounts of cheap labor. Family owned farms and construction companies are two examples, but these industries are increasingly not representative of "small businesses." There is no fundamental reason why we can't have a million or two computer programmers instead of manual laborers, if what we want to do is aid small business development. Indeed, it's much more important that the US remain competitive in information technology because that is exactly the sort of economic activity that can be outsourced, it's the perfect tradable good. Gardening, landscaping, or construction, on the other hand, is insulated from foreign competition--small businesses providing these services will not vanish in the absence of millions of desperate third world immigrants. The local software company, however, just might.

Your vision of how an economy works--a few smart people as owners and managers, delegating the tasks to the "brawns" is laughably outdated. Today is the era of information technology--smart people are owners AND employees (novel idea, I know). Our immigration policy should reflect this reality. Small companies are also companies that require a lot of brainpower from their employees--engineering, software, accounting firms, for example. Those are all small businesses, too. But, according to you, we "need" more high school drop outs to dig ditches, not skilled immigrants to ensure America remains competitive in information technology.

Grumpy Old Man

There's nothing racist about Steve Sailer's comment above.

Sailer writes about racial differences of various kinds, including intelligence. Although the subject is unpopular in some quarters, there's pretty good evidence for statistically significant racial disparities in various abilities, for which environmental improvements like micronutrition, training and education only partly compensate.

Sailer writes about that, which takes either courage or a thick skin, because the subject is so out of fashion among the chattering classes.

Why not try challenging what he says, instead of sliming him?

Collestro

Hans Gruber,

Lawyers call it ad homimun. When one is overpowered by an argument, on lashes out at the speaker. You are spitting out rewarmed propaganda, straight from Fox, and all you can do is insult those who point out the flaws in what you repeat.

Don't insult, remember the words of the great americian philosopher,


"A little love and affection
in everything you do
will make the world a better place
with or without you"

Hans Gruber

"You are spitting out rewarmed propaganda, straight from Fox, and all you can do is insult those who point out the flaws in what you repeat."

What part of my posts were an ad hominem attacks? In my last post there are around 35 sentences, only a SINGLE sentence contains anything close to an ad hominem attack, and that was in response to "Hypocriticists" snide remarks of his superior economic understanding (he did this three or more times, before I responded in kind). Ad hominems are not really logical fallacies unless they are unaccompanied by substance, for example your recent post. Now maybe you would like to focus on a few of the other 40 or so sentences in the last post? Don't want to dance? Oh, come on, you can post another witty one-liner about FoxNews!

Haris

Judge Posner: I posted this already in Mr. Becker's comments section, but I am curious what you think about it.

The problem with the alternatives being presented in the current immigration debate is that none of them align the incentives properly. Either they encourage more illegal immigration, or they encourage businesses not to cooperate with enforcemente efforts. Except my proposal below. But first, I want to remind everyone that "amnesty" in any degree would not undermine the rule of law in this country, as many have argued. If you are at all familiar with the justice system, plea bargains are offered, sentences reduced, and all kinds of deals cut. Yes, illegal immigrants have broken the law, but there is no reason a payment of a fine and back taxes shouldn't be enough of a punishment. Violent offenders can get away with no jail time and suspended sentence, there is no need to punish people who came to work any more severely. Of course, this does not apply to illegal immigrants who have broken other laws.

Anyway, my idea for immigration reform is as follows. Illegal workers who immigrated after a certain date, who can show gainful employment and have committed no crimes could become legal if they simply reported. Since it is beyond impractical to deport millions of people, and as I said earlier, a payment of a fine and back taxes should be sufficient a precondition for becoming a legal alien. The reporting period of these aliens should be a few months, at least until the end of this year, to allow for a smooth transition. [I don't really care if these people merely become legal permanent residents or American citizens. While most of them would prefer the latter, I am not convinced that it is unreasonable to deny them full citizenship. Their children who are born here, however, would be citizens.][I also don't care what cutoff date is selected. It could be today, or at any point in the last five years. A future date would obviously encourage more immigration.]

The centerpiece of my reform idea, however, is related to American employers. The law should provide that any illegal alien that has not reported by the deadline and that is employed by an American business for less than the minimum wage may report that to the authorities. That alien would than join those who reported on the track to citizenship/permanent legal residence, and would also be entitled to a lump sum payment from their employer. The payment should be a significant one, maybe something like $10,000 to $20,000, perhaps escalating with lenght of employment.

This last provision would encourage those illegals working below the minimum wage to report their employers, while it would discourage employers from hiring illegal immigrants and thus discourage illegal immigration in the first place. The provision must be dated in the future to allow businesses to adjust and find new workers before they have to either up the wages of their current illegal workers or find new ones. Workers getting paid more than the minimum wage would not be affected by this, and they would simply report under the first option. The only people who would not be incentivize to report their employer would be those who immigrated after the cutoff date, but that problem can be minimized by moving the cutoff date closer to the present.

I could describe this all in greater detail, but this post is entirely too long already. The business community would fight this idea to the death, but I see it as a practical solution.

Hans Gruber

"Yes, illegal immigrants have broken the law, but there is no reason a payment of a fine and back taxes shouldn't be enough of a punishment."

Tell that to those playing by the rules, waiting many years OUTSIDE the country. Should we allow them to pay $2,000 to gain entry? And what possible rationale is there for treating those who break the law BETTER than those who obey it?

Justin

Excellent post.

I've read that in Europe wealthier countries who were worried about an influx of immigrants invested in poorer countries and created jobs there. This apparently had the effect of preventing a flood of immigrants from the poorer countries to the wealthier countries.

It would be interesting to see if this would work for us.

clyde

Everyone keeps saying it's impossible to deport 12 million illegal immigrants. I say it isn't, and there is a way to make it happen. Fine employers $25,000 for every illegal they hire, and jobs would dry up. ESPECIALLY IF THE LAW WAS ENFORCED. Put the first 100 companies caught hiring illegals on television, with the accompanying illegal round-up and deportation as the occur, and illegals would get the message. People would leave, and provide their own transportation home. In the end, no jobs means no illegal immigrants. This is not brain surgery, it is only the will to act that's needed. All this pandering for people that can't vote is ridiculous, especially when people who CAN vote will remember who gave the country away.

clyde

One further comment: Another area that needs doing is updating and making the INS function like it should. There is no reason other than incompetence that someone has to wait a good part of a lifetime to become a citizen here, if they're qualified. A friend of mine's wife waited 16 years and JUST became a citizen. My friend has another five years to go. This is ridiculous, and shows the incompetence of the Federal goverment in spades.

Hans Gruber

"The people who are waiting patiently in that queue have not broken American laws to be there; merely to be an illegal immigrant displays a disregard for the law which would prevent someone from being admitted legally."

Yes, and don't forget that illegal status will deter the skilled and educated as well as the law-abiding. The reason so many illegals are unskilled is not because those are the jobs our economy desperately needs (the reality is quite the contrary), but because the unskilled are the ones who are willing to make the sacrifices that illegal status demands. Posner's nonsense that illegals are just as desirable as legals suggests that the marginal utility of dish washers is just about equal to computer programmers or physicians.

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