TCS Daily

Immigrants, Our Country Needs Them

By Nick Schulz - September 17, 2007 12:00 AM

Editor's note: Few issues in American political life have generated so intense a debate as immigration. The US Congress this year failed - twice - to pass an immigration reform bill. With no consensus on a political path forward, the issue remains very much alive.

The British author and economist Philippe Legrain has published a timely new book: "Immigrants: Your Country needs Them." In it he makes a powerful case for what is at the moment an unpopular cause. He recently sat for an interview with TCS editor Nick Schulz.

Schulz: Lots of folks in the US say something to the effect of "I have no problem with legal immigrants, it's illegal immigrants that are the problem." What do you make of that argument?

Legrain: I think the argument is back to front. Illegal immigrants are not the problem, they are the symptom of the real problem: immigration restrictions that are economically stupid, politically unsustainable and morally wrong. Far from protecting society, immigration controls undermine law and order, just as Prohibition did more damage to America than drinking ever has.

That immigrants are in the US illegally is a sign not of moral turpitude but of misguided government intervention in the labor market: since employers cannot obtain visas for foreigners to come work legally, immigrants have no choice but to come illegally instead. These generally hard-working and enterprising people's only crime is wanting to work hard to earn a better life for themselves and their children - the epitome of the American Dream. Without them, America would grind to a halt. Who would do construction work, clean dishes, hospitals and hotel rooms, and look after Americans' young kids and elderly parents?

In any case, even if you think the federal government should be banning immigration from poorer countries, it cannot enforce the law without turning the land of the free into a police state. That is something which no true American patriot would want. If only for pragmatic reasons, then, opponents of immigration should accept the case for looser controls and regularizing the status of the 12 million or so illegal immigrants.

Schulz: Advocates of firmer restrictions on immigration in the United States say that past historical experience with large waves of migration is not a useful guide. When Europeans came to the US, for example, they had an ocean separating them from their homeland. This helped foster assimilation. But with Mexican immigration, things are different since the homeland is only a river away. What do you make of this distinction?

Legrain: It is certainly conceivable that geographical proximity could be significant, but in practice I don't think it's decisive. The fact that Mexico is next door does not necessarily make it easier for Mexican immigrants to stay in touch with their country of origin: those who are in the US illegally, for instance, cannot readily travel back and forth to Mexico. And thanks to ethnic TV and radio, the internet, cheap telephone calls and low-cost travel, it is just as easy for Vietnamese or Russian immigrants to keep up links to their country of origin if they want to. Conversely, the Amish have been in the US for centuries with little contact with their Swiss-German origins and yet have remained isolated from mainstream society. So I think it's more a question of whether people want to fit in, and whether others are willing to accept them.

I devote a whole chapter of the book to considering Samuel Huntington's argument that Latino immigrants are splitting America in two and find little evidence to substantiate his thesis. To quote just a few facts, census figures show that only 4.2 million of those born in the US - a mere 1.8% - speak Spanish at home and English less than very well, while only 1.2 million of the 232 million people born in the US - one in 200 - speaks Spanish at home and has poor or no English.

Huntington inveighs against Latinos trying to maintain their cultural heritage, but what's wrong with that? Being American does not require giving up your roots - and if there is no problem with Irish Americans celebrating St Patrick's Day, indeed with American presidents of non-Irish origin officially celebrating it too, what is wrong with Mexican Americans celebrating Mexico's national holiday on the 5th of May?

Huntington also warns of "the creation of a large, distinct, Spanish-speaking community with economic and political resources sufficient to sustain its Hispanic identity apart from the national identity of other Americans and also able to influence US politics, government, and society." But even in areas where Latinos predominate, America's defining institutions remain intact. The US Constitution remains in place. Democracy and other aspects of the American political system remain intact. Capitalism is thriving. People are still free, the media uncensored, private property protected, the courts uncorrupted. Nothing like Mexico, in fact.

Huntington also claims that "Many Mexican immigrants and their offspring simply do not appear to identify primarily with the United States." But while only one in three foreign-born Latinos describe themselves as American, this rises to 85 percent among their US-born children - and 97 percent among the US-born kids of US-born Latino parents.

Of course, Latino immigrants will change America, as well as being changed by it. But this is neither exceptional, nor need it fracture America's forever changing national identity.

Schulz: Lots of Americans wish we would pursue a skills-based immigration policy, to attract more talent and keep low-skilled immigrants out. This seems sensible on the surface. But you think it's more complicated. Explain.

Legrain: I certainly agree that the US immigration system is absurdly restrictive in granting visas to highly skilled foreigners, and that US companies suffer, or shift operations overseas, as a result. If you think that Google, Yahoo!, eBay were all co-founded by immigrants, and that nearly half of America's venture-capital-funded start-ups were founded by immigrants, keeping out foreign brainpower is a remarkably stupid policy.

But I disagree with the notion that the US only needs highly skilled immigrants, still less that they can be selected through a points system, as proposed in the immigration reform bill earlier this year. Bureaucrats cannot possibly second-guess the requirements of millions of US businesses, let alone how the fast-changing economy's employment needs will evolve over time. In effect, the points system amounts to government officials picking winners - a notion that is rightly criticized in industrial policy and elsewhere. And it allows nothing for serendipity: that people end up contributing to society in unexpected ways. Who would have guessed, when they arrived in the US as children, that Jerry Yang would one day co-found Yahoo! and Sergey Brin Google?

In any case, the US does not just need highly skilled workers, it still relies on low-skilled ones too. In fact, they account for over a quarter of US jobs. Every hotel requires not just managers and marketing people, but also receptionists, chambermaids and waiters. Every hospital requires not just doctors and nurses, but also many more cleaners, cooks, laundry workers and security staff. Many low-skilled jobs cannot readily be mechanized or imported: the elderly cannot be cared for by a robot or from abroad. And as people get richer, they increasingly pay others to do arduous tasks, such as home improvements, that they once did themselves, freeing up time for more productive work or more enjoyable leisure. Thus as advanced economies create high-skilled jobs, they inevitably create low-skilled ones too.

Critics argue that low-skilled immigration is harmful because the newcomers are poorer and less-educated than Americans. But that is precisely why they are willing to do low-paid, low-skilled jobs that Americans shun. In 1960, over half of American workers older than 25 were high-skill dropouts; now, only one in ten are. Understandably, high-school graduates aspire to better things, while even those with no qualifications don't want to do certain dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs. The only way to reconcile aspirations to opportunity for all with the reality of drudgery for some is through immigration.

Schulz: You argue that there are economic benefits to diversity. What are they?

Legrain: The economic benefits to diversity are two-fold. First, a greater variety of products and experiences for consumers, such as ethnic restaurants, fusion food, R&B music, or new holistic therapies that blend Eastern and Western influences. Second, and perhaps most importantly, diversity stimulates innovation.

As John Stuart Mill rightly said: "It is hardly possible to overrate the value, for the improvement of human beings, of things which bring them into contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar... it is indispensable to be perpetually comparing [one's] own notions and customs with the experience and example of persons in different circumstances... there is no nation which does not need to borrow from others."

It is astonishing how often the exceptional individuals who come up with brilliant new ideas happen to be immigrants. Twenty-one of Britain's Nobel-prize winners arrived in the country as refugees; nearly half of America's venture-capital-backed start-ups have immigrant founders. Perhaps this is because immigrants tend to see things differently rather than following the conventional wisdom, perhaps because as outsiders they are more determined to succeed.

Yet most innovation nowadays comes not from individuals, but from groups of talented people sparking off each other - and foreigners with different ideas, perspectives and experiences add something extra to the mix. If there are ten people sitting around a table trying to come up with a solution to a problem and they all think alike, then they are no better than one. But if they all think differently, then by bouncing ideas off each other they can solve problems better and faster. An ever-increasing share of our prosperity comes from companies that solve problems - be they developing new drugs, video games or pollution-reducing technologies, or providing management advice - and research shows that a diverse group of talented individuals can perform better than a like-minded group of geniuses.

The value of diversity comes into its own in societies at the forefront of rapid change. When countries are technologically backward, they can make huge leaps forward simply by copying what more advanced economies are doing. They may benefit from being culturally uniform, since this makes it easier for everyone to move forward in unison. Likewise, in periods when economic change is slow, more homogeneous companies and countries may find it easier to organize themselves efficiently than more diverse and fissiparous ones. But in advanced economies in periods of rapid economic change such as now, the value of diversity and the creativity it spurs comes into its own. That's why, as China catches up, America needs to open up further to foreigners in order to stay ahead.

Diversity also acts as a magnet for talent. People are drawn to places such as New York, Silicon Valley or London because they are exciting, cosmopolitan places. It's not just the huge range of ethnic restaurants and cultural experiences on offer, it's the opportunity to lead a richer life by meeting people from different backgrounds: friends, colleagues and even a life partner. Work by Richard Florida and others shows that knowledge workers prefer to work in culturally diverse places, and that is a big reason those places prosper.

Schulz: Let's stipulate there are economic benefits to diversity. Immigration critics worry about too much diversity putting pressures on the social order. Why shouldn't we heed their concerns?

Legrain: Well it depends what you mean by the social order. As an outsider, one of the things I find most attractive about the US is the fluidity of the social order, in the sense that you can arrive in the US penniless and end up a millionaire, and that more Americans tend to embrace change as a virtue than in most societies. At the same time, because, contrary to what Samuel Huntington claims, American national identity is based on civic values rather than ethnicity, the US is able to admit people from around the world and make them feel like they belong without losing a sense of what it stands for. More broadly, every society throughout history has had to strike a balance between individual freedom and social order, and I would say that individual freedom should be paramount, except where there are very strong reasons for restricting it. To be less abstract, if American society is broad enough to encompass Marxists and libertarians, Catholic nuns and transsexuals, eco-fundamentalists and Texan oilmen, surely it can find a place for immigrants too?

Schulz: Can we know what the right level of immigration is? How do we know?

Legrain: I don't think that "we", whoever that "we" might be, can determine the "right" level of immigration, any more than we can know the right level of international tourism, the right number of foreign business trips that should be taken or the right number of children people should have. What we can say is that because immigration controls restrict people's ability to move freely and companies' and workers' ability to reach mutually advantageous employment contracts, the current level and composition of migration is "wrong", in the sense that arbitrary controls stop some people from moving, cause others to migrate illegally, result in many people staying in the US longer than they would otherwise choose to do, and prevent the labor market operating efficiently and fairly.

Schulz: Many libertarians argue that you can't have free migration and a welfare state? Was Milton Friedman wrong and if so why/how?

Legrain: Milton Friedman was right on many things, but I think he was wrong to claim that you can't have free migration and a welfare state.

Admittedly, if people from poor countries are better off on welfare in rich countries than working in their country of origin, this could conceivably motivate them to migrate, and if enough poor people did this, a welfare state could become economically and politically unsustainable. But even in such cases, immigrants would still be even better off working than on welfare. So immigrants would have to be both enterprising enough to migrate in the first place but then suddenly sapped of enterprise once they arrive in a rich country. This is highly improbable - and there is no evidence, as even migration critic George Borjas concedes, that the US actually does act as a "welfare magnet" for people in poor countries.

Besides, even legal migrants' access to social benefits is increasingly restricted in most rich countries. In the US, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, commonly known as the welfare reform act, cut off immigrants' access to federal public benefits.

If rich countries allowed free migration from poor countries, they could at the same time further restrict the availability of welfare so that only citizens or long-term residents could claim them. For instance, the British government has allowed workers from Poland and the other ex-communist countries that joined the European Union in 2004 to come and work freely in the UK, but barred them from claiming social benefits for two years. Likewise, although New Zealanders are free to move to Australia, since 2001 they no longer have access to social benefits until they become permanent residents.

Free immigration is compatible with a welfare state, not only because few migrants are likely to move to claim social benefits when they could be earning much more working, but because they can be - and are - denied benefits that are available to citizens and long-term residents.

Schulz: Another argument against immigration is that it is the most ambitious and driven members of poor societies migrate and thus leave their home countries unable to develop -- thus exacerbating the problems that drive larger migrations of people. Isn't there merit to this argument?

Legrain: Imagine you were born in a part of rural America where farming was no longer productive, or in a rust-belt town where the local factories had closed. How would you react if the local mayor said: "no, you can't leave and try to find a job elsewhere. You have to stay put in the interests of your town."? You'd think it was a shocking and unfair restriction on your freedom.

Now imagine you were born in a country where you are unable to make the most of your talents, where your freedom may be restricted and where you may fear for your life: dirt-poor Haiti, communist China, lawless Somalia or Mugabe's Zimbabwe, for instance. Would you really accept that you had an obligation to stay? I don't think so: nations do not have an automatic right to their citizens' labor; indeed, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that the right to leave one's country is a fundamental human right. So I would say that irrespective of the impact on their home countries, people should be free to seek work and a new life elsewhere, just as the residents of Mississippi are free to move to Minneapolis, irrespective of the impact on the economy of their home state.

But in any case, while it is true that the most ambitious and driven people tend to migrate, it is not necessarily, or even generally, true that this leaves their home countries unable to develop. Often, in fact, emigration acts as a spur to development: the departure of one in six Swedes for North America between 1870 and 1910, for instance, relieved pressure on the land, and drove up the productivity and wages of those who remained. It helped catapult Sweden from grinding rural poverty to prosperity within less than fifty years.

Nowadays, migrants from poor countries working in rich ones send home much more - $200 billion a year officially, perhaps twice that informally - than the $100 billion that Western governments give in aid. These remittances are not wasted on weapons or siphoned off into Swiss bank accounts; they go straight into the pockets of local people. They pay for food, clean water and medicines. They enable children to stay in school, fund small businesses, and benefit the local economy more broadly. What's more, when migrants return home, they bring new skills, new ideas and capital to start new businesses, boosting economic growth. Africa's first internet cafés were started by migrants returning from Europe

Even in the case of highly skilled immigrants, a "brain drain" need not be a bad thing. When Taiwanese engineers left to the US in droves in the 1980s, many worried that the nation would suffer. But now, many have returned home with new skills and contacts and set up businesses that trade with the US, while Taiwanese immigrants who have remained in the US also foster trade and technology transfer between the two countries, thus creating a virtuous circle of growth and enterprise in both countries.

Instead of lamenting the departure of their most talented citizens, developing countries should aim to make the most of their diaspora network. Even the breakaway republic of Somaliland, which is not officially recognized by most countries, has tapped the funds, expertise and contacts of its émigré network to set up the University of Hargeisa, the nation's first, enabling local students to obtain a college education without having to go abroad.

Schulz: If the US should emulate any other nation's immigration policy, which one would that be and why?

Legrain: I think the US would do well to emulate its own immigration policy of a century ago: its virtually open borders attracted the huddled masses whose efforts propelled the country from being a provincial backwater after the Civil War to the leading world power that it became after the First World War. More recently, the US's largely open border with Mexico until the 1960s attracted mainly temporary migrants, in contrast to the ineffective and counterproductive current efforts to keep out Latino migrants with ever more elaborate border defenses.

America should also take a leaf out of Europe's book: Britain's experience of opening its borders to the much poorer countries that joined the EU in 2004 has been overwhelmingly positive, so much so that most of the other rich EU countries have lifted their own restrictions on people from eastern Europe coming to work. All 75 million people there could conceivably have moved, but in fact only a small fraction have, and most of those have already left again. Many are, in effect, international commuters, splitting their time between Britain and Poland. Of course, some will end up settling, but most won't. Most migrants do not want to leave home forever: they want to go work abroad for a while to earn enough to buy a house or set up a business back home.

Studies show that most Mexican migrants have similar aspirations. If they could come and go freely, most would move only temporarily. But perversely, US border controls end up making many stay for good, because crossing the border is so risky and costly that once you have got across you tend to stay.

Schulz: What is your favorite immigrant story?

Legrain: There are so many that it's hard to pick one. Researching Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them involved traveling around the world and meeting lots of exceptional people. To mention just a few: Lasso Kourouma, who fled the civil war in Côte d'Ivoire and almost drowned trying to reach Spain on an overladen boat that sank, lived in the streets for two years because he wasn't allowed to work legally, but now has a job, a home, a wife and daughter and a new life; Inmer Rivera, whom I met in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, who had made a perilous journey from Honduras in the hope of going to work in the US; Leonid Dinevich, a former general in the Soviet army who now uses his knowledge of radar technology to track and protect birds in Israel; or Elias Inbram, who trekked through the desert from Ethiopia to Sudan as a child to reach the Promised Land and has now made it through college to join the Israeli foreign ministry. They all have inspirational life stories - and I bet that many of the anonymous people we pass in the street without paying much attention to have equally inspiring stories to tell.



My Plan
Open the doors to anyone with a valid passport, no criminal background and no disease. (This would attract many with English skills from India, Europe and Philippines.)

They can come from anywhere and work for anyone who will hire them, or they can open their own business.

No FEDERAL welfare and they must be on a path to citizenship after five years or go home.

Wouldn't this force other countries to provide incentives to keep their best and brightest? Which is what we all want, stable, economically prosperous countries, right?

Excellent story
May the people listen!

"Illegal immigrants are not the problem, they are the symptom of the real problem: immigration restrictions that are economically stupid, politically unsustainable and morally wrong. Far from protecting society, immigration controls undermine law and order, just as Prohibition did more damage to America than drinking ever has."

Enough people realized how stupid Prohibition was and changed the law, an amendment, no less.

The recent attempt to grant amnesty to those who have violated current immigration laws was NOT the way to change the law.

Why is it so hard for Congress to increase the numbers of LEGAL immigrants? Why won't they change the process to allow a more rapid immingrtion process?

We are still living with the effects of the lawlessness created by Prohibition.

Those who support increased immigration MUST support changing the law FIRST and not encourage lawlessness which is occurring around the nation.

If the USA is to respect the rule of law, it must enforce all laws to their full extent. Only in that way will it be made clear that it is a good law or that it is a bad law and must be changed.

Sickening stuff
Legrain's stuff regarding diversity is sickening. Is this guy really an economist, or is he a freakenomist?

Simply put, every new or "diverse" idea leading to a business plan leading to venture capital outlays leading to success in the marketplace must do so on the power of its own logic regardless of the "diverse" nature of the skull in which it originated. That such skulls often happen to have never graced a cowboy hat has nothing to do with this truth.

Ever taste a fusion of Mexican and Thai food? I have, and it's delicious. But this cross-kitchen fusion originated in my kitchen even though I'm an American WASP, and it works because garlic, lime, coriander and chilis combine to make killer salsas which, when mixed with rice vinegar, peanuts and sweet soy sauce, provide a killer cross-kitchen effect to everything from stir-fries to seafood cevices on tostadas. The logic is in the food, not my "diverse" background.

Hence, while it is true that my well-traveled background and innate curiosity conduces to creativity in the kitchen, these attributes have nothing to do with my culture, my diversity, the color of my skin, my ethnic background, my sex, and most importantly, my religion.

Attempting to combine the multi-culti "diversity" cult with classical liberalism makes my skin crawl, as do Legrain's pronouncements. Freedom, spontaneous order and creativity are facets of human nature and not anything more specific than that; otherwise, these human attributes become the property of politics and the consequent abysmal deceits permeating the same. I hope those whose ideals fall squarely within Adam Smith's footsteps understand this.

Respectfully disagree - Illegal immigration the problem
I respectfully disagree. Illegal immigration is the real problem. My point of view is to get control of our illegal immigration problem, THEN we can have a national debate on how many more LEGAL immigrants to allow.

Some points and observations:
1) Prohibition made ALL alcohol illegal so don't understand this analogy. I would be willing to bet the author a large sum of money that most of the people who have an issue with our illegal immigration problem do not want to make ALL immigration ILLEGAL.
Continuing with the Prohibition/alcohol analogy, the production and consumption of alcohol is legal now, but with quite a few restrictions. Have to be over 21;can't drink and drive; can't be drunk in public; etc. So, I am for legal immigration, just with restrictions and don't want any of the illegal immigration.
Also, the prohibitionists got a CONSTITUTIONAL amendment passed. That is pretty serious stuff and doesn't happen very often. Therefore the author should be arguing for a constitutional amendment that would state that the US has open borders and everybody is welcome. I guess this is his position as nowhere in the article does he write about any limitations.

2) "Immigrants have no choice but to come illegally.."" What the hell?? Does the author think we are just stooopiddd? Of course, the rest of the world has a choice. These hardworking people can stay in their own countries and work hard to make their own countries better. I would argue that these hardworking people making their own countries better would be a far better thing for the US.

3) "Without them, America would grind to a halt". What the hell? Who did construction work, cleaned dishes, hospitals and hotel rooms, etc 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 50 years ago? Did all of our buildings and houses just magically appear? Were our hospitals filthy with trash piling up 30 years ago?
Also, I believe in economics and supply and demand, maybe the author does not. The wages of these types of jobs would go up until people were willing to fill them or more automation would occur. We have a problem with our minority AMERICAN unemployment rate. Higher wages for certain types of jobs mentioned in the article might help alleviate this problem. If prices went up a bit, then I think we as a country would somehow survive.

4) "Banning immigration form poorer countries" ATTENTION: STRAW MAN ALERT Whenever a writer puts out a straw man argument, they really don't have much in their favor, do they? Who is arguing for banning immigration from poorer countries? I have just heard about making our legal immigration policies about letting more in from other parts of the world as compared to Latin America. What could be fairer than that? Wouldn't that be better for diversity?

5) "It is certainly conceivable that geographical proximity could be significant, but in practice I don't think it's decisive" WHAT??? What countries does the author think the highest plurality of ILLEGAL immigrants come from? I guess it is something that it is at least something he thinks is possible by admitting that it is "conceivable".
Has the author ever heard of "La Raza" ? Didn't the author see that in the first illegal immigration protests there were more Mexican flags than American flags? There is a significant portion of the illegal immigration population who advocate taking some of the Southwest US and giving it to Mexico. I certainly don't remember from my history books that Italian, German, Swedish, and Irish immigrants of the early 20th century asking for part of the Midwest or Northeast to be a part of Germany, Italy, Sweden or Ireland.
Author talks about Cinco de Mayo, another STRAW MAN. Nobody cares about Cinco de Mayo and most people treat it the same as Columbus day and St. Patrick's day.
Also after the big immigration wave of the late 19th and early 20th century, wasn't there a rather severe restriction on immigration after the 1930's for about 40-50 years? That gave the US the time to "digest" these new immigrants and allow them (and their children) to become Americans.
Finally, when a soccer game is played on US soil and MORE people cheer for Mexico than the US, when the National Anthem is booed, we have an assimilation problem.

6) "the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that the right to leave one's country is a fundamental human right". OK fine if you want to base your policies around UN speak. However, there is no fundamental human right that everybody who wants to can come and live in the US.

7) The analogy of using the right of free movement WITHIN the US to free movement between countries is just absurd. We are all in ONE country. Those are our rules and laws. People coming here ILLEGALLY are breaking our laws.
Also the comparison with the European Union is silly. The (relative) free movement of citizens of countries that belong to the EU is part of the RULES and LAWS of the EU. You become a voluntary member of the EU and you follow the EU rules. The EU is NOT allowing the free movement of people who come from OUTSIDE the EU. Moroccans(sic), Turks, Russians, etc. can NOT gain easy access to live and work legally in the EU.

Like most people, I just want to get a good handle on our illegal immigration problem. We won't be able eliminate it completely anymore than we can eliminate robbery and murder. I also want to re-visit our LEGAL immigration policies and possibly allow more folks legally as well as making the whole visa process less byzantine. I want more folks from other parts of the world to have a better chance of getting in than they do now, which would increase our diversity (per the author). I want those that follow the rules of trying to get here legally NOT to get screwed by 'line-jumpers" that came here illegally. I respect those that are following the rules and want those people with those values to have a better shot at immigrating here.

I want Mexico and the rest of Latin America and the world to prosper. Why can't Mexico prosper more than it has?

One man's opinion.

RE: Respectfully disagree - Illegal immigration the problem
wjohnson - Thank you!!

Marjon had some good points, but wjohnson cleaned house!
i do want to add something on the jobs issue. Guys like the author of this piece don't know sh!t from shinola. He acts as if the entire country is being, and has always been, built on the backs of immigrants; legal or illegal. Bull-pucky!! half of the land mass of the United States has hardly seen an illegal and damn few legal, immigrants in a long time. These areas have spent the last half century, or more, with beer drinking white and black guys and gals doing construction, washing dishes, etc. And even the southern coasts and southwest have only had this issue for about 35 years, the worst of it in the past 15-20.

Most guys I know working construction start out at $10-$15/hr and work their way up from there. These are some of the best starting wage jobs in the country (without a college degree or some exceptional talent). If Illegals are getting these jobs, there are only two reasons why. 1. (mostlikely) they are willing to work for less, a lot less, and are therefore depressing wages or 2. there isn't enough workers to go around and therefore these illegals are making out pretty well.

There are a handful of jobs that "most Americans will not do", (as the pro-illegal immigration crowd likes to claim) and most of the worst of those are, in fact, being done by Americans. Hel1 of a contradiction isn't it? Picking fruits and vegetables might be the lone exception.

I want more LEGAL immigration, but we need to shut down the illegals first. Lets quit arguing over this and get the job done!!

historical note
without advocating a territorial concession:

> certainly don't remember from my history books that Italian, German, Swedish, and Irish immigrants of the early 20th century asking for part of the Midwest or Northeast to be a part of Germany, Italy, Sweden or Ireland.

That may have something to do with the fact that none of the Midwest or Northeast was ever a part of Italy, Germany, Sweden, or Ireland. However, Texas, New Mexio, Arizona, and California were part of Mexico prior to the U.S. invading Mexico and annexing them. It's ancient history, sure, but it is part of history.

And before the Spanish invaded they 'belonged' to Indian tribes.
So if your parents sell the house you were raised in, do you have the right to take that house when you are an adult?

Those Mexicans that were in AZ,CA,NM,CO and TX became US citizens upon entry into the USA. They were not forced back into Mexico.

What is wrong with "My Plan"?
Eveyone agrees with it?

My point was completely clear and your comment adds nothing
I only noted the difference between the situaiton for Italian, Irish, etc. noted by wjohnson. I also don't understand what the quotation marks are dong around "belonged." Finally, for a big property rights advocate like yourself, the messy and prolonged aftermath of the war, in which Spanish land rights were progressively encroached upon, should be on your screen.

Could use a rewrite, I think
It wouldn't be right for me to let a proposal of yours to pass without some comment.

Open the doors to everyone with a valid passport? The problem there is that we would be swamped with several hundred million entrants. Nearly everyone, for instance, from the Arab world, from Russia and from Africa would show up, passports in hand, hoping to live here forever.

That would pose problems for us. The current "system" works in just one sense. With existing border controls, the number of Mexicans gaining entrance to the US is about equal to the number of available jobs looking for low wage workers. So to that degree, we already have a win-win.

Also there's the matter of potential terrorists. Our intake of foreign nationals needs to be in line with our ability to process them in background checks. It wouldn't do, I'm thinking, to get nine or ten months behind in processing people with Jordanian or Saudi passports.

I do support some restrictions in immigration. If you have a faucet handle on the water line you can open it or close it as needed. But if you just knock the handle off, you can flood the place pretty quickly.

Very well put, Robert, and
very correct...and, I am coming over for dinner!

Legrain's problem
is that he's a Brit, and he thus has an emotional desire to really stick it to any flaw in US policy (yeah, I'm stereotyping, but as Johnson, Bennett, and others have shown, he opened himself up to the stereotyping and it the shoe sure seems to fit the foot in this instance).

Right on, Pauled,
take it to that silly Brit!

And yes, what is this imaginary issue that most Americans are supposed to have with LEGAL immigration? That's a new one to me.

Perhaps the author got that confused with the fact that when Latino immigrants come here to this nation, we don't look kindly on them imposing their hypermacho cultural norms onto the "white girls" who already live here and thus ending up abusing them, raping them, and so on and so forth. Perhaps we also don't like watching a decent neighborhood turned into a pseudoghetto by this noble immigrants who are so willing to work for somebody else but don't care much for keeping up their homes (I guess that's just too much work).

These basic decency stipulations are what largely get Americans labeled facilely as "racist" by the illegal Latino immigrants; which is a cosmic joke since they are basically Caucasians (yes, they are often mixed with South American Native and/or black, but all the same Spanish and Portugese people are white and at their core that's what these immigrants are) and in any event "race" doesn't have a damned thing to do with it.

Send em all home and we can start over.

boo hoo hoo, the bleeding heart makes his entry
The Spanish and British empires contested each other for territory. The British tended to win. So what?

Your argument is, like always, totally irrelevant and contributes absolute zero to the topic at hand.

Go suck on your baby bottle and leave the adult talk to the adults, Muleface.

Big red nose, big buttons; Bozo's back!
California, Texas, N.M. and Arizona used to be part of Mexico.

>Your argument is, like always, totally irrelevant and contributes absolute zero to the topic at hand.

You have no argumen at all. You're just making noise and pissing on your own giant clown shoes.

"hoping to live here forever."
Why would they want to do that? The US is such a horrible place according to so many.

"I do support some restrictions in immigration"

Have you changed your mind about sending illegals home?

And I did state my plan requires checks for criminalality and disease. Which is more than we have now.

I would argue the reason LEGAL immigration numbers are not dramatically increased is because the the government beauracracy is so slow processing the current load. Adding any more would just push the wait times further out.

What's wrong with having people who WANT to live in the USA forever? Now the illegals send their money to their home country. IF they moved their families, their money would stay in the USA and be subject to all your lovely taxes.

Opening the doors would add to high skills workforce as well. More medical professionals, more scientists and engineers just itching to work and make the pie bigger.

Or don't you believe all that extra labor would make the pie bigger?

not "hoping to live here forever"
For a very long time, with a porous border and work permits, Mexicans did not come to the US to live. They came to work for seven or nine months a year, and take the money back to their native places in Mexico, where they built houses, bought land and so forth. That changed with a less permeable border, making the back-and-forth much more difficult, forcing relocation. The old system wasn't bad either for the U.S. or for Mexico.

Slave labor
Why would anyone want to import labor that doesn't speak the language?

If you want to import cheap labor, look at India or Philippines. Most understand English.

Well paid labor, happy to come and go back.
How much English do you need to pick strawberries or wash dishes? Particularly if you're planning to go back to Mexico after you've earned enough for a car or a new addition on your house in jalisco state. Transportation from Jalisco is also a little less costly than from Mumbai or Manila.

Thanks, and you're welcome anytime ...
but I would recommend the fondue (Moite Moite) washed down with the best white wine this world produces - Chasselas from the Lavaux region. I can whip up some mean cross-cuisine, but the local delicacies one shouldn't pass up.

Open the border and let them all in.
And let the Indians and Filipinos compete with the Mexicans. Airfare can be pretty cheap from MNL to LAX.

I would hire people I could talk to. I think many others would, too.

Why discriminate against the rest of the world? Are you racist, preferring Mexicans over any other ethnic group?

re: the history
Now america, before mexico, before Spain, before some indians tribes, before that some other Indian tribes all the way back to whatever the very first tribe was that came there, maybe 12k or years ago. It will never be know, thus we couldn't even give it back to the original owners if you wanted to. But when the americans took it over, all other countries also believe in taking land by force of arms; so if anybody complains, they're just sore losers.

The Dietmar Plan
Here's a radical new idea I propose since anyways the States doesn't have the political will to control immigration. Of course my plan is more on the libertarian side. First you could change the name of the phenomenon from immigration to say, 'moving'. This would be in the same vein as some guy can't make a living in Detroit anymore, so he moves to Dallas to get a job. So why not say somebody is just moving from the philippines to the States? If you say that the whole world will move, I don't think so, in the same manner that not everybody will move to Dallas or Florida now either. Why would they come if all jobs get filled, and not many new created quickly, and they can't get welfare, and if they camp on your front garden there is a 'make my day' law and you can defend your property? They also wouln't drain the hospitals because they could get some insurance the way everybody should. If they're smart enough to move, probably they'll be smart enough to get insurance. If they don't they could beg liberals to help them out, since liberals are easy marks and suckers for scam artists. If it turns out that some won't even learn english, then I'd say, who cares? If they can't then they can't expect to get good service at some places. So no problem, just call it 'moving'.

What are you talking about???
I just accurately spoke about how for many years Mexicans used to work in the US and then return to their homes in Mexico, a system that worked well. You went off on the Spanish thing, why would anyone hire anyone who didn't speak English. I explained, accurately, why people would, and suddenly I'm racist. Adjust your meds.

And this comes straight from someone who fought for Hitler!
Great point, Stürmer. Who cares about the history? Click your heels and take a bow.

And this comes straight from someone who fought for Hitler!
Great point, Stürmer. Click your heels and take a bow.

I'd move to Baguio or Cebu
if I had an income that would sustain me there.

Immigrants, Our Country Needs Them
Immigrants, yes. Criminals NO
Dream about that. And they do not speak Spainish, they speak Mexican, and it is very different in many ways.

What's your point?

>And they do not speak Spainish, they speak Mexican, and it is very different in many ways.

Different from Anduliusian Spanish and Extremduran Spanish and Argentine Spanish and Cuban Spanish and Peruvian Spanish and Castilian Spanish. So what? What's your problem?

Good Plan, and an acceptable solution to the illegal immigration problem
The only thing I would change is the requirement to be on a path to citizenship. If someone wants to work here for 10-15-20 years before returning to thier country of origin what's wrong with that?

We can issue work visas to as many people as want to work here, so long as they don't pose a health risk or criminal record. Federal benefits should be reserved for Permanant residents and citizens only. With labor able to enter and leave this country freely and with dignity, I suspect that our borders could quickly be brought back under control as well.


Get your time-line straight
Prior to WWII the border was wide open both ways. It was, in fact, Canada were we had the most border restrictions; both ways. But even that border was pretty wide open.

Saying it worked well ignores the changes that time and technology have created, especially in the U.S. It also ignores the fact that these people, who once made up a disproportionately small part of our criminal element, now make up a disproportionately large one.

And the U.S. is not alone in border enforcement, we are just last. Try crossing the Canadian border now, either way (but especially into Canada), without going through a border crossing station. I hope you enjoy your jail time!!

In Mexico it is pretty much the same, going into Mexico. It can be very ugly if you get caught just crossing without going through a border crossing checkpoint. But we Americans are "Racist" if we don't allow open traffic the other way.

After WWII restrictions tightened, but the U.S. never wanted a fortified border. Also, as you noted, most immigrant worker came for half a year then went home. But, sometime in the 60s they quit going home. Reagan enacted a law granting citizenship to all those presently in the country in the 80s that was expected to end the tension, especially in Texas and California, that the Illegals were creating.

It worked for a very short time.

Then they began coming over in massive bunches after that. Perhaps they were just seeking work, perhaps they were expecting another round of amnesty. Whatever the reason, they keep pouring in. Now the situation is getting bad. These people are swamping or social services and medical services, especially in parts of Texas and California, and they are now a major part of our prison populations (and not for INS violations). Again, this is especially true in the Southwest.

There are a lot of things we need to do to change the situation we now have, but it all begins with securing the border first.

Legrain needs a real interviewer
I don't know who Schultz is, but a real interviewer would have pointed out the several questionable statements in the first answer alone.

For instance, greatly reducing illegal immigration won't require a "police state". We could certainly do it that way, but a much better way would be to completely discredit those who, like Legrain, support massive illegal activity. I'd be willing to help with that task, but I don't think Legrain would consent to an interview with me and I don't think a site like TCSDaily would print the resulting evisceration of what little argument he has.

Illegal immigrants closed an emergency room in Tucson
Tucson Medical Center had to close its level 1 trauma center because of illegal aliens.

The would get into accidents in overfilled vehicles on the freeway, helicoptered to the trauma center and skip out on the bills. Of course the Border Patrol would not pay nor would they take responsibility until they were released.

What a radical idea, your suggesting that our government get out of the bussiness of attempting to manage where people move and for whome they can work?

Get _your_ timeline straight
I said the live in Mexico work months in US, return to Mexico worked well, past tense. It did. The situation has changed. That's another topic.

Then let's machine gun them when they come into the hospital
The horror stories really don't provide guidance for what to do.

Not really
What you said was:
"For a very long time, with a porous border and work permits, Mexicans did not come to the US to live. They came to work for seven or nine months a year, and take the money back to their native places in Mexico, where they built houses, bought land and so forth. That changed with a less permeable border, making the back-and-forth much more difficult, forcing relocation. The old system wasn't bad either for the U.S. or for Mexico."

You insinuate that the problem was caused more recently by a "less permeable border", and not the other way around. The fact is, the border was made less permeable for many reasons, not the least of which was to stem the flow of illegals setting up residence here. In the end, it was bad for the U.S. and it just continues to get worse. One of the big problems is that many of these people do NOT want to be U.S. citizens.

The world has changed, and the U.S. has changed drastically, since 1900; even since 1960. Our laws have struggled to keep pace and have failed dramatically in several areas (of which this is one big one).

Look, immigration has always been a big positive for the U.S. and, as far as I can tell, it will always remain a net positive. But, unfortunately, we can't continue to allow open, unregistered, ILLEGAL immigration if we want immigrants to continue to refresh our society.

The illegal rate, over the past 20 years, has began to stagnate this country economically and culturally; creating division, undue expense and a whole host of other problems. It is time to end it.

get real
Of course they do. DON'T LET THEM IN!!!! The point of this story is that it wasn't a single isolated inicdent that caused the problem, it was several incidents. By simply reducing the number of incidents you could have saved this trauma center and will save others.

I didn't insinuate anything
I described, accurately, the situation that used to exist. I didn't make any suggestions for prescriptions or insinuations, I just talked about the way it used to be.

>The fact is, the border was made less permeable for many reasons, not the least of which was to stem the flow of illegals setting up residence here. In the end, it was bad for the U.S. and it just continues to get worse. One of the big problems is that many of these people do NOT want to be U.S. citizens.

And that's always been the case with immigrants from all kinds of places, and for a long time hasn't particularly been a problem. As long as it was't dangerous (for political or other reasons to go back home, it was a very common immigrant pattern to come to the US to make money, then take the money back home and invest it there and/or live on it. I mean, what's wrong with this? People come, work , pay taxes, and then never collect SS, etc.

But now - to a first approximation most immigrants want to become citizens, if for no other reason than to be deported. Yes, they're presence is straining some services - schools, particularly - but I really don't think blaming the immigrants themselves, personally is productive.

So just stand at the door and say, have your children die somewhere else?
What if they have a contagious disease?

The Philippines would be a wonderful place if it wasn't for Philippino politics! Still, I would love to move there. Stay away from Mindanao and that general area!

So it's fine for you to want to move to the Phillipines...
but Mexicans who want to move to the US are a threat.

I stopped at "hard-working and enterprising people's only crime is..."
Some yes; the rest are here for the bennies, the freebies!
And way too many are here to escape their history of, or transfer their life of, felony crime.
Open borders when thousands of trained IslamoJihadist martyrs are ready to stream in is nuts.

What is this Cultural Stagnation you refer too and what does it have to do with immigration?
In many areas of the Southeast the border was not that relevant for a long time; families lived on both sides of the line for generations and crossed without government interference.

"The illegal rate, over the past 20 years, has began to stagnate this country economically and culturally; creating division, undue expense and a whole host of other problems. It is time to end it."

Cultural stagnation?

What exactly do you mean by this?

Economic Stagnation?

I've yet to see solid evidence that directly ties illegal immigration to economic stagnation; you'd think cheap labor would bring about just the opposite.


I don't sense any real division between myself and other hard working people trying to make a better life for themselves, regardless of their immigration status. The only division I sense is between those who seek a better life and those who feel threatened.

Why not let the market manage the flow of labor instead of government?

Why aren't all those "Rule of Law" folks worried about other crimes like speeding... heck I speed every day, and I'm willing to bet most of those "Rule of Law" types do as well. Rule of law my asterisk.

What if they had all beed allowed to enter legally?
Labor passes in and out of the United States in defiance of our immigration policies because our imigration policies are stupid and unenforcable. Fix the policies to allow for the free flow of labor and illegal immigration will no longer be an issue.

Don't be goofy
Don't let them in the country to begin with.

That's not really that easy to accomplish
And not just from Mexico, either.

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