May 13, 2005

Below the Border-Above the Law

I have to ask, why would any Mexican national ever want to become a U.S. citizen? They have more rights as illegal aliens than we do as citizens!

Driving without insurance or a license in America? No problem, just show your Mexican driver's license (ink need not be dry) or your Matricula Consular card. It worked for one Raul Garcia-Gomez, and kept him out of jail and unmolested by federal immigration agents while he lived and worked freely in Denver, Colorado.

Why is Garcia-Gomez of particular note? Because he murdered a police detective last Sunday and has since fled the state and, almost certainly, left the country bound for safe-haven in Mexico. Having done so, and since Mexican nationals have more rights than US citizens, he will likely get away with murder. Not because he has the wealth and celebrity of OJ Simpson. Not because he has connections through his employment at a restaurant co-owned by Denver's mayor. But because the Mexican government will not extradite capital criminal suspects to the US for fear they may be put to death if found guilty. Even worse, Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo informed Denver radio listeners this week that Mexico even refuses if the possible sentence is life in prision. It seems that is "cruel and unusual punishment" in their eyes as well.

That settles it. A national neighbor that is so intransigent on cooperative criminal justice will just have its citizens declared personna non-grata in our country, right? Wrong. Major cities across America, including Denver, actually ENCOURAGE the immigration of those citizens, despite Federal laws that forbid it. Worse than that, the President of the United States knows that hundreds of thousands of people illegally cross the border from Mexico into the US every year, despite federal border agents whose principal duty is to prevent it. He also knows that this illegal entry could be virtually eliminated with a stroke of his pen, yet he calls private American citizens who volunteer their own time and resources to stem the tide "vigilantes." This is disgraceful.

Mister President, I am your most ardent supporter, but if you don't reverse your position on this aspect of securing the homeland then you are ignoring the most basic aspect of individual liberty - the right to be secure in your person and your property and to seek justice against those who violate that right.

As I drove north along Interstate 25 this morning, on my way to work in Loveland, I saw a procession of police cars headed south that was over a mile long. With sirens silent and overheads blinking, officers from Weld and Larimer counties, cities of Fredrick, Dacono, Fort Collins and Cheyenne, and certainly dozens more I didn't identify made the solemn journey to Denver for the funeral of a slain officer. As I was witnessing this tearful sight I heard Peter Boyles report on KHOW that a Fox News reporter had learned that Garcia-Gomez's mother had purchased a bus ticket from L.A. to Mexico on Monday. Garcia-Gomez's car was found in L.A. this week. Justice for dective Young's family? No cuente en Úl.

UPDATE: JK asks "what draconian order do you want pen-stroked that would comport with your idea of a free state?" My answer, in a nutshell, is "direct your officials in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create and institute plans to ensure that foreign nationals who attempt to cross our borders without permission will be (a) detected, (b) apprehended and (c) either removed from this country or detained for appropriate punishment under the law." This language comes from a petition to the President. Go here to add your voice to the call.

Politics Posted by JohnGalt at May 13, 2005 3:25 PM

No, I believe I am this President's most ardent supporter, but it would be unseemly to argue that here.

I strongly support President Bush's concept for a guest worker program so that we keep the economic advantages of Mexican labor and still protect ourselves from immigrant criminals.

Stroke of the pen? You mean a Federal Order authorizing imminent executions for anybody caught on the street without his/her green card or citizenship? We have the right to defend the border, yes, but what draconian order do you want pen-stroked that would comport with your idea of a free state?

Anytime a man dies protecting us it is a terrible tragedy. I share your sorrow. And I share your concern that the lack of extradition will allow this miscreant to escape justice.

But I cannot likely join you or Bill O'Reilly or Rep. Tancredo on schemes that would criminalize the free movement of labor and capital.

Posted by: jk at May 13, 2005 4:47 PM

You're right - I should have said "AMONG your most ardent supporters."

I'm not actually advocating zero immigration, merely lamenting that our reaction to the problems of illegal immigration is to encourage more of it. To do so even now, after September 11, 2001, is carelessly myopic.

If you want free movement of labor then change the law to open the borders. Until then, allowing this explicit law to be broken with impunity merely demonstrates that disobedience of the law is of no consequence in the United States of America.

As for what Bush could do "with the stroke of a pen" refer to the UPDATE above.

Posted by: johngalt at May 13, 2005 10:01 PM

Okay, politics being politics, can two ardent W supporters meet halfway?

Give me a guest worker program so that there is a *legal* and documented mechanism for approved people to cross the border and improve both economies. Then, as part of the package, we'll implement your protection and devote reasonable resources to implement and enforce it.

Posted by: jk at May 16, 2005 1:29 PM

On its face I would support your proposal JK. BUT...

There is a preexisting condition in this country that renders this option unacceptable. The condition is referred to, either proudly or derisively, as the "Social Safety Net." Come back after the federal and state governments have abandoned wealth redistribution in all its insidious forms. Then we'll talk about the FREE flow of labor and capital.

Posted by: johngalt at May 16, 2005 2:52 PM

You know I will join you in removing the safety net (It's quite a bit more "net" than "safety") but you cannot make it a prerequisite to immigration reform.

Hot winded rhetoric aside, working immigrants and their families add much more to the economy than they take away in government services. Like those here, they pay in and take out, but in aggregate contribute more.

Posted by: jk at May 16, 2005 5:39 PM

Actually, the only thing I want removing the "safety net" as a prerequisite to is the free flow of labor across the border. The only immigration reform I find necessary is the part where, at every level of government, our existing laws are enforced instead of tortuously maneuvered around.

Do you have a statistical source for your assertion that illegal immigrants are a net gain for America's economy, or is it an anecdotal analysis? It so happens that former Denver mayor Wellington Webb agrees with you. [Denver Post, 3/8/98, Bruce Finley reporting, posted at http://www.khow.com/hosts/peterboyles.html] "But he and his staff believe immigration overall results in a net gain to U.S. taxpayers. And beyond the bottom line, Webb said, Americans ought to do the right thing."

This is despite the reporter's observation in the opening paragraph that the policy is "estimated to cost Denver taxpayers up to $1 million a year." Former governor Lamm wrote at the time, "The evidence is now clear that immigration hurts our own poor."

For more insight into the economic (and other) impacts of illegal immigration check out this list of texts: http://www.cairco.org/info/reading.html

Of particular interest are titles like, 'Heaven's Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy' summarized thusly: "The U.S. took in more than a million immigrants per year in the late 1990s, more than at any other time in history. For humanitarian and many other reasons, this may be good news. But as George Borjas shows in Heaven's Door, it's decidedly mixed news for the American economy--and positively bad news for the country's poorest citizens."

Other than these points, we're in complete agreement! ;)

Posted by: johngalt at May 17, 2005 2:20 AM

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page has presented many convincing exegeses over the years showing net economic gains from even illegal immigration. Like the articles you cite, it is easy to skew the results by manipulating what you count.

Yes, medical care and other safety net services are provided at taxpayer expense. But sales taxes are paid, and income taxes may be paid (corporate taxes even if the work is paid under the table).

I assert one side of the controversy freely because I believe in comparative advantage. Immigrant labor has allowed domestic workers to make more money, generate more wealth and pay more taxes.

You want the laws enforced, as do I. Missing from your discussion ("Stroke of the pen") is how you will provide enforcement. How much funding and -- more importantly -- what vestiges of a police state are you willing to endure to provide enforcement?

And, if your enforcement is wildly successful, and you do not provide a legal means of bring these workers in, are you ready for the lower standard of living this country would have without these workers?

No, we don't agree. But the guest worker program seems to address both of our concerns.

Posted by: jk at May 17, 2005 12:31 PM

JK! I think there's some serious 'whistlin' past the graveyard' goin' on here. "Income taxes may be paid?" Since 1990, poverty-level wage earners with one or more dependents have not only paid NO income taxes, they've received negative tax payments from the government instead. (Yes, this includes FICA.) See: http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/TaxFacts/TFDB/TFTemplate.cfm?Docid=268

Again, your comparative advantage thesis only works on a level playing field. When Mexico's "superior" labor toils in the USA under the USA's social economic umbrella then all of the advantage gained by other Americans is given up in the form of perks to the new laborers, and then some.

If the cost of a combo meal doubles because labor costs more, or the distance to the nearest drive through doubles because labor is more scarce, it matters little. Economic values will balance in an equitable manner. There can NEVER be equity, however, when artificial redistribution schemes are at play.

(Note that equity refers to the relationship between a man's productive effort and his wealth, not between the wealth of productive vs. non-productive men.)

Posted by: johngalt at May 17, 2005 2:59 PM

Oh yes, and the "police state" measures I can tolerate include abolition of border crossing except at designated ports of entry and equal liability under the law for illegal immigrants vs. citizens. That wouldn't be so bad, would it?

Posted by: johngalt at May 17, 2005 3:02 PM

Illegal workers who score a traditional job pay taxes but do not claim refunds or Earned Income Credits. That was the smallest of the benefits. Second was the sales tax.

The big benefit is that an American worker can afford to hire an immigrant to cut the grass or clean the house and spend that time working harder or pursue education to generate more wealth.

An extra mile to the nearest fast food is not big, but finding adequate help for the franchise you own certainly is. Plus the larger market to sell product into. Can you really deny that a larger, legal market is an economic gain? And, if the cost of the combo meal doubles, you've lost a key weapon in the "Burger wars" that we both agreed were instrumental in defeating Communism. (I'm tempted to "go animal house" and ask if you are now advocating Communism...)

To prevent people from crossing at non-designated checkpoints, then, you will put up a "Please Do Not Cross Here" sign. No, that's not a police state -- I was afraid you were going to militarize the southern border. Are you sure the signs will work? Will they harm the local animal habitat?

Posted by: jk at May 17, 2005 5:07 PM | What do you think? [10]