Illegal Immigration: What’s the fuss?
Illegal Immigration: What’s the fuss?
In 2004, when then San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom disobeyed federal law and issued same-sex marriage licenses, the media obviously had several questions for the current Lt. Governor of California. Journalists continually asked Mr. Newsom why Democratic lawmakers, who resided in pro same-sex marriage districts, were openly critical of his actions. The usually loquacious politician simply replied, “I don’t know.”
The left’s tortoise like pace in their support for same-sex marriage is one example of progressives failing to speaking up for a minority group under attack in a timely manner. Illegal immigration is another example.
Despite having a district that has largely has no qualms with undocumented inhabitants, Buffalo, NY Mayor Bobby Brown disputed the notion his town was a sanctuary city and claimed Buffalo was a “resettlement community.” Ed Lee, the current mayor of the 415, rejected a councilman’s proposal to expand legal funds for illegal aliens. Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray’s laudatory remarks on this topic were well documented, but even the mayor’s new proposal covers a fraction of the services non-credential foreign workers need.
A 2014 Pew Research Center polled found that 30% of registered Democrats had certain reservations about illegal immigrants. Even the left-leaning Daily Beast published an article arguing, “The Liberal Case Against Illegal Immigration.”
In recent history, rhetoric from liberal leaders have only amped up concerns surrounding the 11.4 million undocumented inhabitants. In his 1995 State of the Union speech, President Clinton claimed, “We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. All Americans, not only in the states most heavily affected, but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants.”
In 2006, then Senator Obama quipped, “If this huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefits to the economy… it also threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans and put strains on an already overburdened safety net.” (As President Obama left office, his administration had deported more illegal immigrants than any other Presidents — giving him the nickname “Deporter-In-Chief”).
President Jimmy Carter, once declared, “…millions of undocumented aliens have illegally immigrated to the United States. They have breached our nation’s immigration laws, displaced many American citizens from jobs, and placed an increased financial burden on many states and local governments.”
Progressives usually justify this rhetoric for two reasons; to signal their flexibility on this issue and to share the public’s concern over illegal immigrants nefarious effect on the economy, public services, and the rule of law. Yet, this is a mistake. This display of empathy has never resulted in policy changes protecting undocumented workers. Further, public fears about illegal immigrants are not borne out by research.
Undocumented workers impact on the economy:
In the film, “The Big Short” Ryan Gosling’s character surmised, “I have a feeling, in a few years’ people are going to be doing what they always do when the economy tanks. They will be blaming immigrants and poor people.”
This time, it’s poor people blaming immigrants. Across rural America, there is a growing consensus that illegal aliens drive down wages and occupy jobs that Americans covet. Unsurprisingly, these are factually hallow arguments.
For a second, put aside the debate over whether undocumented workers are financial detractors or contributors and consider the possibility of sanctuary city foes getting their wish in banishing every illegal immigrant in this country.
Will such action financially benefit America?
While numbers vary on the cost of a mass deportation program, there is no question such a policy would shake the foundation of our economy. Current estimates show that undocumented workers make up roughly 5% of America’s workforce with 20% of those workers having white-collar jobs. Replacing that large of a workforce would be a HR nightmare. Most Human Resources departments are already underfunded, understaffed, and disorganized.
Forcing employers to rehire at this scale would force companies to halt projects and restructure long-term goals. With so much uncertainty, institutional investors would pull back their investments — ultimately leading to a contraction in the financial markets. Further, trying to make up the spending power of 11.4 million people would be a major blow to the retail, banking, agriculture, and housing sector which make up roughly 65% of our economy’s output.
And even if you believed the notion that illegal immigrants depress wages, one should be cognizant about the economic consequences of larger paychecks. Wage increases are ultimately passed onto consumers. Imagine a world where Whole Foods prices and metropolitan housing prices are the norm. Who suffers the most when necessary goods and adequate shelter are a larger financial burden?
Further, despite assumptions from many Republican lawmakers that American citizens will capitalize on new employment opportunities, recent history proves otherwise. Since 2014, Georgia, Arizona, and Alabama passed legislation to crackdown on the hiring of non-credentialed foreigners. While efforts to slow down the inflow of illegal immigration (note: immigration overall has already been declining) have worked, these state’s economies have suffered. Despite offering higher wages, employers in all three states are struggling to fill openings. In turn, labor shortages have resulted in an estimated $2 billion in agricultural losses and significant setbacks for the hotel industry.
The impact on public services:
Yes, there have been certain obvious abuses by immigrants of welfare programs, such as Supplemental Security Income. But because immigrants usually come to the United States during the start of their working years (between 18 and 35), they make sizeable net contributions to the two largest safety net programs: Social Security and Medicare. When the payroll tax contributions of immigrants are considered, the Urban Institute found that the foreign born contribute $20 billion a year to public sector services.
The “Rule of Law” argument:
Economist Dani Rodrik once asked, “Am I the only one guilty of using the term [rule of law] without having a good fix on what it really means?” No Dani, you aren’t. Illegal immigration opponents often cite the “rule of law” as a reason to reform our immigration system. The truth is the term “rule of law” is like when your yoga teacher pushes you to reach “the ultimate state of nirvana”; it’s something that sounds existentially necessary, but isn’t.
There is certainly a link between a productive society and a nation with a strong rule of law. Yet, don’t let the debate over illegal immigration make you believe America lacks a solid legal framework. There is scant evidence that our immigration system is in disarray. But more importantly, Americans have rightfully ignored ridiculous laws. From jaywalking, to fishing without a license, to using recreational marijuana American’s have long ignored regulations they find unreasonable.
Besides, progress has historically relied upon those who circumvent unnecessary and counter-productive laws. If it wasn’t for 1960 Berkeley free speech advocates, college students wouldn’t be allowed to protest. You may have mixed emotions about this given the recent political fiasco at the University of California, but you cannot deny the intellectual need for genuine political discourse on a college campus.
So, why are some local leaders taking a half-hearted approaching to helping those in need? Why do almost a third of self-proclaimed intelligent progressives have unjustified reservations about undocumented workers. Why is there this an attempt by every Democratic president, in the past four decades, to legitimize unsubstantiated economic apprehensions? Why do some self-identified liberals fail to fight back when one of the most well-behaved and most productive segments of our society are continually being used as puppets in political theater?
I don’t know.