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Posner, not surprisingly, offers a pragmatic view of amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Mitchell K.

From above: "The basic condition of eligibility [for amnesty in 1986] was continuous residence in the United States since 1982... [B]ut apparently fraud in applications was rampant, so that many of the amnestied had been here for a shorter time or were otherwise ineligible."

If we do revisit a 1986 style amnesty, how will policymakers root out fraud this time? An illegal immigrant can easily claim to have been living here continuously for five years (even if he has not) in order to qualify for a new amnesty program.

Some Canadians, for example, apply for citizenship (or something similar like permanent residence) in the United States by setting up phony addresses (phony in the sense that they don't really live there) at the residence of a friend or relative and establish a chain of "evidence" of their stay by having mail (like phone and credit card bills) delivered to that address which is then collected by their contact. During that time, they have already traveled back home to Canada by having someone drive them over the border where only the passport of the driver will likely be checked. My point is not that we have a crisis of illegal Canadian immigrants but that immigration fraud is frequently difficult to prosecute.

If the burden of proof falls not on the amnesty applicant but instead falls on the gatekeeper wishing to root out fraud then the gatekeeper will be at an enormous disadvantage. An illegal immigrant from Mexico or Guatemala can support his claim of continued (as opposed to intermittent or non-existent) residence at a particular address without great cost. Furthermore, an illegal can cite an address where many of his purported neighbors would be willing to lie and vouch for him because of familial or racial ties; such neighborhoods are not difficult to find in California. Successfully disproving claims for millions of fraudulent applicants seems almost as unrealistic as deporting millions of illegal immigrants.

Christopher Graves

The Arizona statute coupled with a strict enforcement of E-Verify would induce the vast majority of illegal immigrants to return to their native countries. We should also revisit measures such as California's Proposition 187 denying illegal aliens eligibility for governmental social programs.

We must remember that the economy as well as our political and legal system do not exist in a social vacuum. All of these aspects of our culture are rooted in a common people living out a common way of life. When the traditional American way of life is supplanted by another, then the United States as we have known it will cease to exist. Right now, we are headed toward something like what we see in most of the rest of the Western hemisphere.


1. many in jobs that American citizens don’t want.
I do not want to make a big deal out of this one phrase, but I really do not understand what it means. Does it mean that there is a totally inelastic labor supply curve of 0 for jobs like harvesting cabbages for commercial farmers among American citizens. That there is no wage that employers could pay for American citizens to do it? I find that hard to believe.

2. I guess that amnesty would address the problems of illegal immigration as far as people who are already illegal immigrants, but I am not so sure that increasing penalties for illegal immigration, at least without doing much to increase enforcement, would really do anything about the number of people who would still consider illegally immigrating to the US. Of course, that depends on how much of a problem one thinks illegal immigration and its grey markets actually are and on how much one supports immigration in general.


Immigration? Tough nut too crack. Everyone in this country is related to an Immigrant somewhere along the line. In my case, either as economic immigrants in the 17th and 18th centuries or as political immigrants in the 19th when the Glorius Revolution of 1849 collapsed in Germany and my forbears ended up on "The List" held by the Prussian Secret Police as "persons of interest".

The issues surrounding Immigration are based on questions of humanitarian issues and Sovereignty issues. Immigration is not an act taken lightly. In fact, it can be considered an act of desperation, either economic or political. This mollifying of desperation is the basis for the "humanitarian" aspects. Yet, once a Nation State is formed, "Sovereignty" issues become of equal or greater import.

As Immigration is a form of Policy and Law, trying to establish certain policy aims, it needs to fit the conditions and temper of the times. As for my approach to Policy adjustment to keep in step with the temper of the times, perhaps the following puts it best; "I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxius laws so effective as their stringent execution". ;)

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Down Coats

I like this article.


"...Spanish speakers have a comparative advantage in the illegal drug trade..." should read "...Spanish speakers have a competitive advantage in the illegal drug trade..." of course, as "comparative advantage" is a term of art in economics that does not apply here.

Favoring those who are the "spouse, minor son, or daughter" of an applicant is an insult to those of us who are single, who already bear more than our fair share of the society's tax burden. Furthermore, as in a bar, who the hell wants more marrieds, breeders and their brood polluting the place?

Christopher Graves

One thing that we need to clarify is our terminology in this debate. Europeans, for the most part from the British Isles, who originally settled in North America founded the various colonies that later became the states that formed the United States of America. They were not immigrants. Before the settlers founded the country, there was no United States of America. Prior to our founding, there was nothing to immigrate to. Also, the numerous tribes of indigenous peoples who were here as the settlers arrived are not exactly "native Americans" because there was no America, other than the geographical location, before the Europeans founded the various regional nations that we live in today.


Chris, Immigration, Emigration. Whot's the difference? One is an "Emigrant" when one "leaves" one geographic region or "State" for another. One's "status" changes to an "Immigrant" when one "arrives" at the new geographic location or "State". See any dictionary. ;)

Christopher Graves

NEH, an immigrant is one who leaves one country for another. What nation existed in what became America in the Seventeenth Century other than the various indigenous tribal nations? Again, there is a crucial difference between settlers and founders in comparison with immigrants to an established country.

While I am at it, there is also a difference between a nation and state (in the sense of a central governing power). For example, Great Britain is made up of three distinct nations--England, Wales, and Scotland. Switzerland is another example of a state comprised of different nations. The United States is a similar composite of distinctive nations. Consider the recent book on this subject, *American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America* by Colin Woodard. Here is a link to a summary of the book:


I might add that I do think that even though there are significant differences among the regions of America, there are underlying similarities that make us all Americans. At the same time, I want to preserve the regional distinctives by discouraging mass immigration from one region to another.


OmG... Once again, see any Dictionary and/or Thesaurus. As the "Duke" so aptly put it, "Why Howdy there, Pilgrim".


Judge Hand aptly noted that "it is one of the surest indexes of a mature and developed jurisprudence not to make a fortress out of the dictionary."

Andrei | Background Check

Since US economy is starting to arise again, the number of illegal immigrants will surely increase. It is like a domino effect which is directly proportionally to each other. The government should start doing something to prevent or even minimize its effect as it can hit directly the economy of the country.

uk immigration solicitors

I must say that illegal immigrants like any other sinners can be given a another chance. Besides, these immigrants just want to work but sad to say they made it in a wrong way. They only need guidance for them to know the right path.

BSK Cylindrical Roller Bearings

Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants???!!!Will this not produce large society problem?I'm a little concerned.

Christopher Graves

"immigrant: a person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence. Latin immigrant- (stem of immigrāns ), present participle of immigrāre to move into."


Notice that the immigrant moves into another country.


affl, Who's making a "fortress" out of a Dictionary or Thesaurus? They're just here to provide a little stability and consensus in Language and its use...

Chris, Very good. The operant term is, "Migration". Much like the birds that head South in the Fall and North in the Spring. Or any of the other species that migrates (for whatever reason), including Homo Sapiens from one "country", "nation", "state" or "geographic location" to another. ;)


"A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanging, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in colour and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used."


All those "worrying" about illegal immigration and willing to spend billions on "fencing" may want to reflect on the inherent problem of the richest of nations bordering one of the poorer ones. Our border with Mexico has the widest income disparity of any two nations in the world.

"Down there" a population of 112 million, half of them young folk having been born since 1980, share, very unequally, in a GDP of just $1.5 trillion while living next to 311 million who share, unequally, in a $15 trillion economy.

How about a real NAFTA that seeks to improve Mexico's economy? We do buy quite a bit from them:
Mexico’s exports to America amounted to
$215.9 billion or 10.3% of overall US imports.

1. Crude oil … $37.1 billion
2. Automotive accessories … $20.4 billion
3. Video equipment (DVD) … $18.6 billion
4. Passenger cars … $13.9 billion
5. Trucks and buses … $8.4 billion
6. Electric apparatus … $8.1 billion
7. Telecommunications … $7.3 billion
8. Other household goods … $7.2 billion
9. Engines and engine parts … $5.1 billion
10. Household appliances … $4.6 billion

(From China that gets so much press we buy only $315 billion)

........ but could do a lot more. For example IF we are to run our gashogs on ethanol we'd be wiser to simply mandate ethanol while lowering the triple subsidies to corn farmers and let Mexico compete with its cane sugar that is eight times better feed stock for eth than is corn.

"For them??" Well, in part, but for us and making N/America a cooperative continent of prosperity with FAR few problems for all, including the deadly drug industry that is always a side bar to economic desperation.


affl, Very Good. Welcome to the school of Anglo-American Analytic Philosophy. ;)

Jack, If I remember correctly, the quantity of Chinese imports to the U.S. is somewhere in the neighborhood of only five percent of total imports and Mexico is also a small percentage of the Total. Yet, even though small by comparison, they all add up to create a massive Trade Deficit (not good for any Nation, including ourselves). What's our current Trade Deficit running this month and our unemployment rate (too bad we're not accounting for those who aren't being accounted for)? One of the things we need to learn is that we have responsibilities to ourselves above and beyond our "humanitarian" responsibilities to the poor of the World.

Hard hearted? Yes. But we must first assure our own survival. Be it Social, Political or Economic...

Christopher Graves

You are confusing the Umwelt with the Mitwelt, NEH. The key to understanding the definition of immigration is not human movement simpliciter, but “movement into” as the Latin root clearly conveys. And that movement into is an established country as the English definition clearly states. A nation is not simply a geographical location. The only nations present in the New World until Europeans settled here were the various indigenous tribes. European pioneers were not immigrating to the Western Hemisphere to join the Iroquois, Wampanoag, et al.

Continuing with making distinctions in order to clarify commonly confused terms, historian David Hackett Fischer distinguishes between liberty and freedom. In his book, *Liberty and Freedom,* Fischer observes that "the Latinate 'liberty' implied separation and independence. The root meaning of 'freedom' (akin to "friend") connoted attachment: the rights of belonging in a community of freepeople."

People should have the liberty to emigrate out of their native country, but they do not have the right to enter other peoples' nations without their permission. People should have the freedom to form their own communities and nations, which includes the right to determine eligibility as to who may enter their sense of place that they have created and maintain with others with whom they share an affinity.

Some libertarians (those economist Murray Rothbard termed ‘modal libertarians) and left-liberals seem to be tone deaf on the issues surrounding the organic as well as fragile nature of social life. Fundamental social relationships are fraught with difficulty. They need to be protected and nurtured, not thrown open to experimentation and even deliberate sabotage. Jack, that is why your concern about economic inequality around the world should not be a consideration in our immigration policy.

Linguist Stephen Pinker speaks of three bases of human relationships (1) dominance (2) mutuality as in family and friendship (3) reciprocity as in business contractual relationships. Some libertarians clumsily make the mistake of reducing all relationships to Number 3. Left-liberals make the mistake of confusing 1 and 2 with the goal of undermining the exclusively special and personalistic quality of 2 in their desire to force people to expand mutuality to encompass everyone with no preferential treatment of anyone. This is the goal of communism that Aristotle quite rightly criticized as diluting human intimacy and commitment.


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Terry Bennett

For what do we stand, if not that which is just and fair?

The reason they have come here is to take, forcibly and illegally, something that we have built, on the backs of our forebears, because it is easier for them than building their own. We have made laws that dictate who and how many we will allow here, on the land we have improved and made so desirable to them. Do we want 12 million people who disrespect these laws, or would our society be better served to root them out and replace them with 12 million of the decent people currently waiting in line as we ask? There's a certain Darwinian appeal to the answer we have chosen, but it comes with costs I don't want to pay: these aggressive and selfish people who would not be trifled by our sovereignty are the same ones who do not think it is important to have car insurance or refrain from drinking when driving on the same roads you and I use, etc.

For those who think it's impossible to get rid of them, I say sign me up for the job. When they see what I do to the first one, the rest will be making for the border, 'fore sundown. I jest (or do I?), but suppose world events shifted and 12 million Mexicans decided they would be better off going home. We could not very well keep them here to prevent our own supposed collapse. We'd deal with it.

I for one do not think their exit would cause much of a problem at all. We have an excess of unskilled labor among the lawfully present population. (Unemployment among college graduates has stayed low through the turmoil of recent years.) I'm not up on this whole economics thing, but I do not see how this problem can possibly be made worse by lowering the supply. I expect unskilled wages would rise, making work more attractive to the large crop of able-bodied couch potatoes we currently support with our absurd 99-week dole and such. I advocate sufficiently high penalties to dissuade participation in the black market for labor, along with sufficient reduction of government inducements to idleness, which will move the useless people we already have into the undesirable jobs that are currently attracting the additional undesirable people, killing two economic and societal buzzards with one stone.


NEH: Aahh, trade deficits.. confusing in this "globalized world".

China is about 16% of US imports and Mexico about 10%

From this fairly interesting site:


Trade imbalance has changed a lot in recent years. Apparently with trade deficits lessening during recessions at $400 billion it's not that bad just now and especially if we compared it to GDP.

Coincidentally our trade deficit is not far from the amount of the bill for imported oil. I mention that as we waste so much oil..... consuming twice as much per $ of GDP as the EU. We've tremendous opps to conserve, and rapidly shift much of our transportation to our own domestically produced Nat Gas and run some of our cars on wind generated electricity etc.


You're right that all of our imports tally up to $2 trillion....... a small fraction of our huge economy and a relative large fraction of world trade. I agree that long running trade deficits are bad for a nation, but don't subscribe to the hysteria about China.

I think we eventually gain in what we sell to them, but we don't have to balance with them; there is a whole big world out there and we don't have to increase exports (and/or decrease imports) by much to balance. (In my view an oil/energy policy worthy of the name would be THE top priority, and the President seems to agree.)

China has a problem as one wag quipped, that with the "one child" low fertility rate "gets old before it gets rich".

But back to Mexico. By sharing the N. America continent we should be more of a WE rather than an "us and them" with all the problems of a long border, a desperately poor nation now adding to the drug problem etc. and of course the topic of the week, the illegal immigration problem.

We seem to ignore (or worse) Mexico while dusting off halfway around the world to try to stand up nations like Iraq and Afghanistan. The stated goal of NAFTA was that of lessening wage/price disparities between the US/Can and Mexico, but (perhaps due to China and others stealing their lunch?) I think the disparity has widened and with our corn pushing their small corn farmers off their land.


Chris: I answered your last one on the last topic but it got eaten by the software here.


Terry: You seem to have quite a head of steam going over the illegal immigrants here and their families.

First, I'd remind you that those coming here, come at working age, so in terms of public expense we've already been spared the $100,000 plus of educating our own employees. Next, I've rarely seen a circumstance where "illegals" were hired that they didn't produce far more than their wages for those benefiting by hiring them -- THE reason they are hired.

Next? In our economy we're 70% dependent on consumer spending. So you send away a wage earner, but you also deport a consumer; not much gain, eh?

There there really ARE human concerns: There are millions of families such as one I know of with a teen daughter who was born here and does not even speak Spanish. Rip them out roots and all?

And lastly?? The "99 week dole??" Umm yeah. I too have been wondering what happens when 10 million or more run entirely out of unemployment before there are jobs for them to go to. I assume you know the house goes promptly back to the bank along with any cars that have loans against them? Next? Lots more retailers flick it in.

Anyway, how's your town fixed for folks living in old cars? "Hoovervilles?" and wandering the streets looking for food and filling up any soup kitchens you might have?

I've never thought we had "useless people" but sleazey WS thieves who went to good enough schools to have know a LOT better surely come close to the description.

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