October 19, 2015

This is not immigration reform

Thus speaks Senator Jeff Sessions (Awake, AL) and Dave Brat (Giant Killer, VA), in a powerful letter published in Roll Call, titled:
Memo to GOP: Curb Immigration or Quit

America is about to break every known immigration record. And yet you are unlikely to hear a word about it. This is not immigration reform. This is the dissolution of the nation state, of the principle that a government exists to serve its own people.

This is the tide that started with Kennedy's bill in 1965, and wildly supported by today's progressives (esp. FB and Google billionaires), who never much cared for the idea of a nation state (at least, ours).

According to the Congressional Research Service, from 1945 to 1970 — as the foreign-born population fell — the bottom 90 percent of wage earners saw an 82.5 percent increase in their wages. During this time, millions of prior immigrants were able to climb out of the tenements and into the middle class. ... Congressional Research Service reports that during the 43 years between 1970 and 2013 — when the foreign-born population grew 325 percent — incomes for the bottom 90 percent of earners fell nearly 8 percent.

I have been seeing these stories, but only in the conservative press.

What is missing from this conversation is a sense of moderation, of limits and of compassion for struggling [citizen] families. It is not caring, but callous, to bring in so many workers that there are not enough jobs for them or those already living here. It is not mainstream, but extreme, to continue surging immigration beyond all historical precedent. And it is not rational, but radical, to refuse to recognize limits.

The fundamental choice is to have a generous welfare state OR open borders. The status quo of "compassion" is that there are no limits, cue Sen. Sanders (FUBAR, VT). I'm less leery of the large numbers of non-english speakers and other non-assimilation statistics, and more worried, that the rush for compassion or cheap labor tramples those who built this country:

After nearly half a century of massive immigration it is time to turn our attention to our own residents.

What say you, fellow freedom lovers?

2016 Immigration Posted by nanobrewer at October 19, 2015 11:54 PM

I'll go first.

The welfare state/open borders tradeoff is an important choice, but not the fundamental one. Sessions and Brat highlight the larger issue of jobs, but misattribute wage decline to foreign-born population growth, i.e. immigration... legal and otherwise. But more people can also lead to more productivity, in a properly governed economy.

The fundamental choice that I see is whether we will teach our own children, and require of everyone including immigrants through our government policy, the capitalist principles of self-ownership, self-reliance, self-improvement and voluntary charity. Or will we continue on the road to Bernie Sanders' Danish Dream (TM) that is being promoted on our college campii and, in watered down form, in our public schools and government service interactions with the public?

Posted by: johngalt at October 20, 2015 11:36 AM

Agreed that Sessions is relying too much on the (best word for now) "populist" approach, and genuine freedom-based, hard work, build-it-yourself is underplayed.

He also plays the wrong card, IMO, on language, and that

require of everyone including immigrants through our government policy, the capitalist principles of self-ownership, self-reliance, self-improvement and voluntary charity
this implied with what the data is showing, and Sessions highlights, as "lack of integration."

Still, he's raising a flag that no one else dares to... IMO. This tide needs to slow, and we need to control our borders and spending first.

Limiting spending is one of the (unsung) achievements of the 113th and 114th congress.

Posted by: nanobrewer at October 20, 2015 12:29 PM

I angered someone badly on de Facebooke this morning, let me try to be nice here. Nope, can't: Senator Sessions would not know freedom if it bit him in his pointy ass. Now I feel better.

Sen. Sessions is wrong on the economics, but I am willing to concede that he might be right on politics. The grassroots wants the GOP to be the Reed Smoot - Willis Hawley party and there are many Democrats in the Mickey Kaus vein who might come aboard.

I will leave the party if this happens. I watched Donald Trump yesterday on FOX News Sunday. While I still think he will flame out, I must confess I thought him an August-slow-news-month phenom; I been wrong before.

I think he has ruined this election -- there is some hope of recovery, but opportunity seems to be slipping away. If Trump -- or Sessions -- get their way, the party will truly be the worst of both worlds: repressing economic and personal freedom.

My hopeful note is that the libertarian wing might caucus with the Chamber-of-Commerce wing to keep the immigration populists in the minority (I think Mr. Trump's poll numbers are a perfect proxy).

So to address Mister Sessions with the respect he truly does deserve: "No, sir, there is a wide swath of the party that does not believe that limiting immigration is in our best interests. If that is your litmus test for GOP membership, you will have a Republican Party without Larry Kudlow, the Club for Growth, Steve Forbes, The Wall St. Journal Editorial Board. ANd a party that airbrushes Jack Kemp (QB - NY) and Ronald Reagan to make room for Herbert Hoover. That is not a Party in which I wish to remain."

Posted by: jk at October 20, 2015 1:38 PM

Whoa, can we all just get along?

Let me try to focus the discussion with an excerpt from the Sessions/Brat piece. What do you agree or disagree with in this:

Immigration reform should mean improvements to immigration policy to benefit Americans. But in Washington, immigration reform has devolved into a euphemism for legislation that opens America’s borders...

Sessions doesn't seek to end legal immigration, only limit it to "as many new arrivals as we can reasonably expect to absorb into our schools, labor markets and communities."

It does a disservice to both the country and the immigrant when we bring in larger numbers than we can reasonably expect to assimilate. If we allow our immigration system to replicate in America the same failed conditions which people have left, we are hurting the country and any who would seek to enter it in the future.

Should Americans not "put on their own oxygen masks first?" Is the current economic situation not an emergency, that requires a pause in the importation of new workers until GDP growth improves?

This is the communitarian in me speaking. I am generally more ideologically consistent than this but I do share the view that the statists are well on their way to causing an implosion of the strained remnant of America's free market system. Even Ayn Rand made allowances for emergency measures.

Posted by: johngalt at October 20, 2015 2:37 PM

Well, yes, that Rand woman did struggle with consistency....

We can get along as long as Sessions in 1/100th of the Senate and can peddle this to my beloved cousins in Alabama (most of whom I bet are Democrats, but I digress). When I hear it from the leading Presidential candidate, I must clearly define how far my principles will flex. I supported Sen. McCain and Gov. Romney fairly enthusiastically, so they are not completely rigid.

I find both your excerpts pretty objectionable. It is a top-down scenario where Senator Sessions and his buddies will decide how many swarthy workers we should allow, because they know how many are "needed." Now, how, my brother, is that different from Sen Feinstein deciding how many 'lectriccars we need and what % of energy should come from renewable sources? Both Senators have the good of the American people at heart.

If I may abuse your metaphor, I feel the oxygen we need is a growing economy, and that growth is impeded by bad government policies but also by a shortage of workers and risk-takers. Increased immigration will ameliorate both.

Sen. Sessions has been a vocal advocate of reduced legal immigration and he swipes at both H1-Bs and agricultural workers in his letter. I don't think I'm unfair to call him a restrictionist. Nor do I think the comparison to Trump is incorrect. "Let's end Nafta and make Fords here in Michigan!" Tl;dr: "Let's be poorer and discard all the gains from trade and comparative advantage!"

Posted by: jk at October 20, 2015 3:19 PM

I would counter that while wave immigration brings America plenty of workers, risk-takers, and risked capital, are blocked by the government regulatory wall and not by national borders.

The popular belief is that the economy is bad because of immigration. I don't see the real cause being addressed as long as the popular "cause" is ignored.

We're not starting at "GO" my brother. There is such a tangled web of economic distortions that the good folks (all but 7% of Republicans and 20% of Democrats) are just yelling STOP! Why is that a non-starter, at least for now?

Posted by: johngalt at October 20, 2015 4:47 PM

Thanks JG, for summarizing what I think is key here: limiting immigration until we can get a handle on our entitlement spending, and certainly on illegal immigration.

Now, to JK

that growth is impeded by bad government policies but also by a shortage of workers and risk-takers. Increased immigration will ameliorate both

Sadly, with the bad government we currently have, we'll get very few risk-takers, and many more low-skilled workers and much more bad government (esp. since the low-skilled will be encouraged to vote for more, more, more government).

This isn't Hayek or Boudreaux... it's gritty, brass knuckle politics.

Oh, and the "mainstream" belief is the economy is just fine! I've no idea what the popular belief on the economy... low consumer confidence, I suppose.

Posted by: nanobrewer at October 20, 2015 6:41 PM

Of course. And let's put a moratorium on fracking and new energy production. And ban GMO crops. Popular beliefs include many concerns. Let's just stop until we can study it a few years.

By limiting legal immigration to family members, you're biasing the influx against the highly skilled and risk takers. I still like them, growing the size of the economy, but those who would like to bias it toward job creators are at cross purposes.

Posted by: Jk at October 20, 2015 10:29 PM

Of course. And let's put a moratorium on fracking and new energy production. And ban GMO crops. Popular beliefs include many concerns. Let's just stop until we can study it a few years.

By limiting legal immigration to family members, you're biasing the influx against the highly skilled and risk takers. I still like them, growing the size of the economy, but those who would like to bias it toward job creators are at cross purposes.

Posted by: Jk at October 20, 2015 10:29 PM

I haven't been able to take the time to compose my response to this and other blog posts here recently, but rest assured I've read them faithfully.

I don't know whether my take on the immigration issue will be accepted by everyone here; I'm going to put it out there, and invite anyone of a mind to do so to take a whack at me.

I'm neither an isolationist nor a nativist. I believe that immigration, intelligently done, is a good thing for this nation. My beloved bride is an immigrant, as were my grandparents on my mother's side. Note the emphasis on "intelligently done." That phrase does not include throwing the doors open and letting anyone in who wants in. We're the hosts, and it's our country; we get to pick who gets to come in. That being said, I'm not convinced that needs to be a small number. Both nanobrewer and JK bring up the subject of assimilation, including the ominous "... when we bring in larger numbers than we can reasonably expect to assimilate." Let me add to that the face that it's not primarily OUR task to assimilate the immigrants; it's the IMMIGRANTS who have a duty to assimilate, and ours to welcome and encourage them, and cheer them on as they do. My grandparents did not speak a work of English when they arrived - just a pair of uneducated farmers from the old country. But, like the German couple in Casablanca, they were bound and determine to become good Americans. They learned English in six months, enough to participate in their new town. They registered to vote - well, Democrat, but it was the Depression, they didn't know any better, and voting was what good Americans did. My grandfather got a job at Savage Arms, and worked there for forty years, and never took a dime from General Relief.

I do believe there is a need for "Immigration Reform," but I don't mean that the way the politicians and activists do. I think we need to return to a rational, intelligent system with a set of rules that make sense for Americans, the nation, and the people coming here. Allow me to suggest:

* We need secure borders, just like every nation does. It's not there to alienate people; it's there to keep the bad elements out.
* We need a common-sense set of standards for those we let in: a reasonable expectation that the incoming person can support him or herself, no infectious diseases, and no criminal record. That seems pretty acceptable to most rational people.
* We need to put a stake through the heart of welfare - and not just for immigrants, but for all. That needs to be turned over to private charity, where people who believe in this or that program write a check for it -- not one where government takes from earners whether they like it or not. The lure of free living for all, whether you're talking about EBT cards, taxpayer-funded medical, housing, or what-have-you, needs to be done away with.
* We need to simplify the immigration hierarchy. I'm mostly persuaded that the H-1B category should be eliminated; if employers want to recruit employees, they should compete for them, and if they're not competitive, I'm not convinced the government should put its thumb on the scale to do the Chamber of Commerce a favor. I'd like to see the whole thing reduced to just a couple of statuses: immigrant, tourist, student, medical visit, maybe a couple of others.

A note on immigrant status: I'm fully in favor of welcoming people here who want to become Americans. My vision of immigrant status is "Come on in, we're glad to have you. You have two years to learn enough English to be functional and independent, to demonstrate an understanding of good ol' American Civics, and to file an application to start the Citizenship process. If you don't, back you go. If you commit a crime, back you go. Good luck." I'd like to do away with this permanent resident alien business - the notion of coming here because it's better than where you're from and reaping the blessings of being here, but never seeing fit to actually become an American. Where I live, I'm in the middle of a predominantly Chinese region. I have people in my neighborhood who have been here thirty years, have no intention of learning enough English to say hello back to me when I say it to them, and completely disregard American laws because that's not how they live in the old country. Simple principle: if you're that enamored of the culture you came from, stay there.

Cecile has friends here age who have been here longer than she has (she came here in 1983) who are still afraid to leave the Filipino ghetto. The only friends they have are Filipinos; some of them are uncomfortable holding simple conversations with us (I don't speak Tagalog). My question: then why even come here?

* I think we need to settle the argument once and for all that the Fourteenth Amendment doesn't confer birthright citizenship, and as contemporary writers prove, was never intended to. The myth and practice of birthright citizenship needs to end.

* The same thing applies to chain migration. Family migration needs to be limited to the nuclear family: the applicants and their dependent minor children. Every adult coming here needs to apply on his or her own merits. Period. Your great-aunt, your grandfather, and your half-sister's grown cousin all need to fill out their own separate application and stand or fall on their own qualifications.

* Here's another thing that needs to die: the immigration lottery. Setting aside fifty thousand entries a year for people from "underrepresented" countries and regions needs to go away. Every applicant gets weighed based on his merits and his qualifications; we're biased neither for nor against any accident of geography.

* Sanctuary cities! The next time someone tries to tell me that submission to the rule of law isn't optional, he and I are going to have a talk about sanctuary cities.

* Catch-and-release enforcement: to hell with that. You get caught here illegally, and you remain in custody until your hearing, which will be brief and within 72 hours, and unless you can prove that you have a right to be here, you're gone, on the spot. I don't care whether ejection is by jet, train, bus, trebuchet, or on foot.

I've gone on long enough for now. Feel free to pelt me; I may have more on the subject...

Posted by: Keith Arnold at October 20, 2015 11:36 PM

Huh. An immigration debate on Three Sources. Must be Wednesday.

Sometimes I wonder if Brother Keith and I are the same person. You'll notice that you never see us in a room together. Not only do both our lovely brides share the the same immigration status -- but Riza's family is also far more assimilated into American culture than others in the community. In one of my favorite stories, even a second generation young man ate Ramen noodles every day on campus at CSU rather than eat American food.

And of course, we agree on much. Possible unanimity on wanting to attract and welcome the most advantageous additions. The family reunification/chain migration does not serve national interests. As long as available slots are scarce, competition for them should include more than DNA.

Like my gun discussion, there are some abstract and corporal concerns. On the abstract side, I want to grow the economy (blame President Clinton for the transitive use of "grow") and increase innovation. I believe -- and am backed by substantive evidence -- that increased immigration will do both.

What is so scarce that we cannot allow more? We have plenty of space. I hear many arguments that they take jobs. Russ Roberts's advice to his son settles that -- were we richer in 1950 when we had fewer people? Why didn't all those new people take all the jobs?

They crowd the schools! Emergency rooms! Well, then let's build more (with quality and affordable immigrant labor). They do pay taxes through rents, sales tax, and withholding on fake Social Security numbers. And in a less shadowy, clandestine economy would pay more.

I cannot buy the welfare benefits argument; that is completely separate. Unless we are going to control who can give birth, we face the same risk allowing a new American to enter through a border as a birth canal. Some will be crooks, yes. Some will take welfare, yes. Some will work hard and create wealth. Especially changing the family migration and expanding opportunities to more entrepreneurs will close the already slim statistical differences between immigrants and natives.

So. I want more immigrants. I want more H1-B folks to found new Googles, and I want more guys to build, staff, and patronize new restaurants. Where I am going to push back on my freedom-loving blog brethren is your acceptance that government will do a great job in picking the right people, quantity, skin color, educational level, height, and religion. A few minutes spent with FA Hayek, Milton Friedman, or William Easterly suggests they might well suck at it. When you suggest it should be done "intelligently," my Easterly alarm goes off.

If Brother Keith is serious about a let everyone in and vet them thoroughly for a couple years, I might be persuaded. In fairness to the restrictionists, that will be logistically and politically difficult to push folks out. My agreement is pretty self-serving.

In a recent Facebook fracas, my biological brother asserted racism in immigration opposition. To be fair, he can find racism in the creamy nougat layer of a Milky Way bar. I contend that there is some, but find it better to assume the best of people and argue rationally. That is easy with my experience here, dealing with legitimate opposition all the time.

That said, I am queasy with assimilation. It is not necessary that a new immigrant (or native) develop a taste for baseball and hot dogs. I frequent a lot of restaurants where the proprietors speak broken English. But they are contributing to society. The keen reader is starting to realize that my appreciation for immigration is heavily marinated in cuisine.

But seriously, they are not, like my wife's parents' friends, really assimilating to American culture. Yet they add much to the economy and to experience. Matt Ridley talks about "ideas having sex," and the mongelization of people and culture seems strengthening. I'll laugh at a Diversity Officer or Adjunct Professor of Diversity, but I'll never laugh at diversity.

Almost like the drug argument, Keith, I see so many of your enumerated items as artifacts of the broken sub-legal system. Open borders make sanctuary cities go away. Don't know if that makes you feel better, but I have long held that if we were chasing after every guy mowing lawns without a green card, there would be more resources and appetite to find, catch, and deport real lawbreakers.

"Give me your tired, your poor." If you'll abide by our laws or pay the penalties: welcome home.

Posted by: jk at October 21, 2015 12:55 PM

"Tis true that "increased immigration will do both" (grow the economy and increase innovation.) But at what cost? Since many more immigrants will be job seekers than entrepreneurs, see the voluminous paragraphs above.

But I, being the generous sort I am, have no problem with downward wage pressure. (That is really because I am an advocate for competition, not generosity.) But we have this democracy thing, see? Some of us predict downward liberty pressure that comes from new voters voting for new free stuff.

It seems that "assimilation" is the key point of disagreement in our little debate here. But, like "capitalism" the meaning of the term can be subjective. For my part I mean only one thing by assimilation - taken from my original comment: To adopt " the capitalist principles of self-ownership, self-reliance, self-improvement and voluntary charity."

Sessions and Brat unfairly compare economic conditions during high vs. low immigration eras. A better comparison is the effect of high immigration in the pre vs. post New Deal era.

Posted by: johngalt at October 21, 2015 2:30 PM

I profoundly disagree that a proper immigration stream would be biased away from entrepreneurs -- the folks who will pick up and leave their family and country and come to America will -- if apportioned without current distortions -- be far more entrepreneurial than the general population.

I also disagree with downward wage pressure. Wages rightsize in a larger economy and the underemployed will do far better. Some who are falsely protected will see declines, but one hopes that they see the opportunity of increasing skills and choose to contribute more. It is the exact same argument as trade -- we can buy only what is produced in Weld County, but I will miss Thai food.

I like your assimilation example very much. Yet it -- like every argument against immigration I've yet to encounter -- applies equally to the native born. Until you require that of newborns in California and Connecticut, I'm not certain you can require it from Guatemalans.

Posted by: jk at October 21, 2015 3:39 PM

Agreed. I realized that "require them to be capitalists" is more theoretical than practical as soon as I wrote it. But it is still the right answer, even if "we" aren't ready to follow it yet.

But your "proper" immigration stream "without current distortions" is equally theoretical, is it not?

Can we agree to "pause" immigration until we can eliminate current distortions? And what are those distortions anyway, besides the biggie that is (perceived to be) the welfare state magnet?

Posted by: johngalt at October 21, 2015 5:09 PM

No. I thought I had devastated that line of argumentation with my fiendishly clever "And let's put a moratorium on fracking and new energy production. And ban GMO crops."

Something is too small and is growing too slowly and does not really deserve to be controlled directly by government at all -- and you suggest a temporary ban? Let's put a pause on interdictions and give open borders a try -- just for a few years and see how it goes.

We'll compromise and do things my way.

Posted by: jk at October 21, 2015 5:47 PM

And I do not find a relaxed immigration any more theoretical than a government without income taxes. We had both for well over a hundred years, and see unrestricted migration between states and EU nations.

Posted by: jk at October 21, 2015 5:51 PM

relaxed immigration ...government without income taxes policies and actions from a very, very different time and place; when it took more than a plane ticket to get here and an anchor-baby to stay. It may come again, even without forming The Independent Rocky Mountain States, but it is not this day, or year.

Open Borders? I have to agree with brother JG that the current environment IS the Welfare State Magnet. Evidence?
1. see the EU putting up razor wire;
2. Those 10-15,000 children brought in (from where?? how did they even get to MX's northern border?!?). WT says

[Obama admin] acknowledged that human traffickers were marketing the journey by pointing out a loophole in U.S. immigration system that requires non-Mexican children to be released into the U.S. while they await final immigration decisions.
then their parents claim the DNA wagon... Wa Times reports there's already another wave on its way.

This is the facts right now; Sessions is working in the here and now, with a lawless president that encourages "takers" and victimhood at every turn, DOJ wielding an ethnic ax that's juicing a crime wave, a medical system being (seemingly by design) torn asunder, "proper" immigration about as realistic as "Common Sense" gun laws, a complicit media and a gutless congress.

Borders being a thing of the past is really a quaint idea and worthy of discussion, but certainly not a policy choice for this day... it hasn't worked much in Europe that I can see...

Yes, restrictions: so we can keep the criminals and terrorists out, so we can track those here and remove the ones who become criminals or like Denmark's infamous "Carina."

I don't mind those that stay and speak more Hmong (or whatever) than English: as long as they adopt JG's desired behaviors, their kids will assimilate. BUT if they do the Parisian-ghetto thing, which POTUS, Sanders and the victim-seeking media apparently crave.... which the current immigration wave is encouraging... then I fear our shining City on the Hill will become just another crowded, oppressed barrio.

Posted by: nanobrewer at October 22, 2015 2:15 AM

I was responding to the suggestion that unrestricted immigration was theoretical. I lob the same accusation at my anarcho-capitalist friends. But this nation became a continental power without immigration controls or income tax. Possibly difficult to reinstate, but in no way theoretical.

And my modern examples hold. We allow interstate migration, the EU does not control migration between EU countries, all my cousins seem to be employed in Singapore, I don't think it was difficult. So a huge part of the world can today migrate to a large part of the world with no-to-minimal paperwork.

Would ThreeSourcers be troubled if Albertans were allowed to set up shop in Montana or North Dakota? (I will again start offering statehood now that a Trudeau is again PM. Thankfully, not the cartoonist.)

Again, just like drugs, I encounter artifacts of bad law as argument that laws are required. "...a loophole in U.S. immigration system...' " their parents claim the DNA wagon" These are unintended consequences of bad government regulation. If it was the EPA, you'd be calling for them to stand down and heads to roll. But, as it's ICE/INS, I hear calls to double down. A system that does not require so much gaming will not be gamed so much.

Planes? Okay, we'll allow everybody who can endure a month in a rat-infested, tempest tossed ship. Sorry, but I file that with those who think the Second Amendment only applies to muskets. People are free or they ain't. And we either welcome the economic and humanitarian benefits of a growing economy . . . or we support Sen. Sessions.

Posted by: jk at October 22, 2015 11:11 AM

"Shining city on a hill" calls to mind both John Winthrop (an immigrant) and President Reagan (a strongly pro-immigrant/free trade Republican US President). I find it strange to hear it employed in the cause of Nativism.

Posted by: jk at October 22, 2015 11:17 AM

I asked if a "proper" immigration stream is theoretical. I didn't realize your definition of proper is "relaxed" or "unrestricted."

Your case for unrestricted immigration is convincing but, I contend, still theoretical. Returning to it is defeated by the combination of the welfare state and democracy. Until we can have a proper government, i.e. a republic, we can't have a proper immigration either.

So yes, bad government requires more bad government, temporarily. The alternative is a duly elected government that willfully discriminates against producers and entrepreneurs. We will see an entrepreneurial spirit among natives and immigrants alike that rivals the old Soviet Union. Don't sign me up.

Posted by: johngalt at October 23, 2015 12:22 PM | What do you think? [20]