Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Immigrant (Stream of Consciousness…)
Immigration has and likely always will be a significant part of the political discussion in the US. However, the rhetoric seems to have really ramped up lately. I explored in my last post how you can track a ramp up in nativist, far right political parties when economies and political parties fail, but I wanted to take a further step to explore the talking points.
The catalyst for this post was this article from Time magazine that came out today:
When U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled on Wednesday that key provisions of Arizona’s new anti-immigration law were unconstitutional, she could have also declared them unnecessary. That is, if the main impetus behind the controversial legislation was, as Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said when she signed it in April, “border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration.” The fact is, despite the murderous mayhem raging across the border in Mexico, the U.S. side, from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, is one of the nation’s safest corridors.
Which points to perhaps the most important factor: the U.S. has real cops — not criminals posing as cops, as is so often the case in Mexico — policing the border’s cities and states. Americans and Mexicans may call their border region “seamless” when it comes to commerce and culture, but that brotherly ideal doesn’t apply to law enforcement. That’s especially true since state and local police are backed along the border by the thousands of federal agents deployed there. Thus the tough Arizona law — which seeks to allow local and state police to check a person’s immigration status, a provision that Judge Bolton agreed opened the door to racial profiling by officers, and requires immigrants to carry their documents at all times — was sparked by largely unfounded fears…
Unfounded fears? That can’t be right; not based on what the politicians are saying! But Daniel Griswold from the libertarian Cato Institute has made the argument that increased immigration actually results in LOWER crime levels. There, he explores how in almost every time in our history where immigration numbers have increased, there has been a corresponding decrease in crime rates.
Ok, so if immigration doesn’t generate crime, then it must be a draw on social services.
Well, not according to Standard & Poor’s:
Standard & Poor’s has yet to see a direct effect on states’ and localities’ credit quality as a result of undocumented immigration costs. The impact is difficult to evaluate because no clear correlation exists between the two. Many localities that attract high numbers of undocumented immigrants, such as California, Texas, Florida, and New York, also enjoy relatively low unemployment rates, healthy income growth, and increasing property values, all of which contribute to stable financial performance.
A more complete analysis must also consider these workers’ contributions beyond payroll and income taxes. Undocumented immigrants are consumers who contribute to both the economy’s overall growth with their purchases and to state and local sales taxes. Many undocumented immigrants also pay real estate taxes, either directly as homeowners or indirectly as renters. Those taxes are a prime source of funding for state and local governments.
In the ongoing debate on immigration, there is broad agreement among academic economists that it has a small but positive impact on the wages of native-born workers overall: although new immigrant workers add to the labor supply, they also consume goods and services, which creates more jobs.
The real debate among researchers is whether a large influx of a specific type of worker (say, workers with a particular level of education or training) has the potential to have a negative impact on the wages of existing workers of that same type.
A key result from this work is that the estimated effect of immigration from 1994 to 2007 was to raise the wages of U.S.-born workers, relative to foreign-born workers, by 0.4% (or $3.68 per week), and to lower the wages of foreign-born workers, relative to U.S.-born workers, by 4.6% (or $33.11 per week). In other words, any negative effects of new immigration over this period were felt largely by the workers who are the most substitutable for new immigrants—that is, earlier immigrants.
So, immigration isn’t a draw on the US jobs market, either. Actually, the corollary is almost true; it would seem that we should be looking to ENCOURAGE immigration.
But the talking points persist…
While researching this article, I found it amazing that anytime you search for almost anything having to do with immigration, the top results typically include reports from Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) or Center for Immigration Studies (CIR). Some of you may recognize those names, as they were instrumental in helping to write the new contentious Arizona immigration law (SB 1070) and are regularly cited as sources in mainstream articles on immigration. What you may or may not know is how these groups are tied to the white nationalist movement. Here is the Southern Poverty Law Center’s write up on the groups. These are the people framing the issues and driving the conversation on immigration. At some point, we have to ask ourselves why we are letting racist, white nationalist groups define this issue.
America is a nation of immigrants. Our history, our present and our future are all defined by the people that have migrated here looking for the American Dream. Whether it be Irish, Italians, Jews from Eastern Europe, Japanese, or the current influx of Mexicans looking for a better life; they have all had to struggle with bias and intolerance, but all have helped to enrich the American experience.
I understand the need for immigration control and why we can not just have an open border. That said, the current wave of anti-immigration, nationalist rhetoric goes too far and is contrary to the foundation that our country was formed on. We are now at the point where we are demonizing pregnant mothers coming here with hope for their children and openly talking about changing the constitution. How profoundly un-American…