Comments: Change of subject

I have to say it. "Anti-immigration" has never been the mantra.
It's "Anti-illegal-immigration".

Increase the numbers of legal immigrants. YAY. I have no problem with that. The goof's in congress never did make that part of the package but that's the real crux of it.

Let more people in, but let them in the front door. If we need 12million, then we need 12 million forms to fill out.

If you want the 12 million illegaly here to stay here, then tell me what to do with the 1 million who have been waiting patiently and legally to get here?

Posted by Terri at December 2, 2008 4:13 PM

And it's against the law to dance on Sunday in Lamar, CO. Actually cool for some, because the band gets to stop at midnight on Saturday and get an earlier start to their next gig.

But I would not counsel SE Colorado Republicans to campaign on strict enforcement. It won't pull in the youth vote.

Posted by jk at December 2, 2008 5:11 PM

And yes, I want lots more legal immigration too. Curiously, that will be more difficult to get past the populists.

Posted by jk at December 2, 2008 5:14 PM

Here , here!

Yet while I agree with the sentiment that the anti-immigrant (illegal or otherwise) tack is stupid, I am wary of listing it as the reason these guys lost. There were many issues this election, and immigration was never more than a fringe one. Indeed, the statement, "For the second straight election, incumbent Republicans fared poorly" is just as true as the one WSJ uses in the article.

~T. Greer, never a fan of populism.

Posted by T. Greer at December 2, 2008 5:37 PM

We can get it past the populists if we will make an effort to engage the terms of the debate. Let's start with a simple axiom that we as economic illuminati can all agree on: able-bodied, productive immigrants, being part of the labor force, are an asset. Strictly speaking, they are capital - every bit as much as timber, corn and gold. A increase in the labor force is an increase in the wealth-building capacity of a nation. On the other hand, let us describe illegal immigrants as a liability or a cost - those who consume more than they produce.

From a free-market standpoint, we can see it as competition - nations competing against each other for the best citizens, and individuals competing against each other for the more desirable nations. Nationally, America is positioned well - as evidenced by the fact that very few Americans leave the country in favor of permanent residency in Nigeria, Austria, or Uruguay. America is a desirable nation for migration, and that should translate into leverage.

How? Because we are a desirable nation, we should be in a bargaining position for the very best immigrants. Say we decide we have room this year for 800,000 new immigrants. Of that, we decide we have a shortage of construction framers, and we want 30,000 of them. So we should be picking the 30,000 who want to come here with the best skills as framers.

In short, admission to America should be based on what the immigrant brings to us in terms of his wealth-producing skills, his talents, his character (such as the lack of a criminal record, freedom from drugs and diseases, English-speaking skills, and his willingness to become a part of America by assimilation), and other desirable traits. The immigrants should be competing against each other for the right to be selected to come here.

We need secure borders. We need enforcement, not merely against illegal aliens, but also on the employers who harbor them. We need to end chain migration. And we need to end the ridiculous practice of granting citizenship to every child born within our borders without the benefit of at least one parent here legally.

As for the election, I disagree with the notion that the cause of these various candidates losing is their immigration stances. If we learned anything from the last election, it's that conservatives vote based on issues, and liberals vote based on image and feelings. A conservative must run on the issues to hold the conservative base - but to make inroads to the other side, he has to do it in a way that appeals to the feelings of the others.

Look at Reagan - he didn't have to run to the left in order to bring in the support of Democrat voters, nor did he have to "reach across the aisle" by compromising his core values. He was unapologetically conservative, but he was so pleasant, so upbeat, so gosh-darned optimistic about America, that many Democrat voters were open and receptive to his conservative stances.

The Tancredo wing will win elections again when they not only remain true to conservative positions, but also learn how to "sell the message" to the feelings voters.

Posted by Keith at December 2, 2008 6:03 PM

I don't follow the bifurcation between able-bodied, productive, valuable and illegal, liability, cost. The guy who swam the Rio Grande in the middle of the night might be very productive and the student with papers might be a total loser. You can (and you're in good company around here) distinguish between legal and illegal because we're so devoted to the rule of law, but I don't see how you can claim that the legals are more of an economic benefit.

As I told Terri, I would love to increase legal immigration. The stinginess with which we grant the H1-Bs to the skilled, super-productive workers you wish to attract is a disgrace.

Where I am happy to annoy my blog brothers is both in championing the economic value of some of our unskilled brothers from Baja Arizona, and in pointing out that the enforcement-only stance is a political loser. It may whoop up some of the boys on talk radio, but it is anti-freedom and bad economics.

I will not call any of my blog brothers xenophobes. I did (indirectly) once as was rightfully forced to retract. But, as the GOP seeks to woo the fastest growing political block in the country, it is at the very least easy for opponents to accuse GOP intentions. (On both sides, we can agree to laugh that the Democrats made a Spanish language commercial to tie Senator McCain to Rush Limbaugh on immigration. That is somethin' else.)

Lastly, I'd like to clarify that this is not about "moving left" or "abandoning Conservatism." You invoked Reagan, who was no Tancredoite. My position is not left wing, it is classical liberal and anti-populist. I stand proudly with
The WSJ Ed Page, Larry Kudlow, William Kristol, President Bush and our 2008 nominee, it's not as if I've run off and joined the Democrats.

Posted by jk at December 2, 2008 7:39 PM

"Let's start with a simple axiom that we as economic illuminati can all agree on: able-bodied, productive immigrants, being part of the labor force, are an asset. Strictly speaking, they are capital - every bit as much as timber, corn and gold."

Oh my.

I am always baffled by my leftist friend's criticism of myself and other free-marketers. "You have no compassion," they will say. "Under your values, men and women become nothing more than tools by which to build the great GDP you worship. Under free market dogma, everybody is just a man in a cubicle ruled by crony corporatism."

I laugh, and usually respond with something like this- "You have us free-marketers all wrong! The driving force behind this movement is one word: freedom. Far from viewing our fellow citizens with numbers, we are the only ones who believe that citizens deserve to make their own choices. In contrast, you seek to shackle every individual to the safety and wellbeing of the state. YOU are the one who deals with nothing but numbers."

I have always thought that the strange view my friends have of the right-wing a result of deliberate distortion by those on the left.

I just realized that no such distortion is needed.

To tell you the truth, this discussion of immigrants as "capital" sickens me. It might be true, if only in the abstract, but it misses a central point. Immigrants are people first and foremost. They are freemen with lives, hopes, dreams, and aspirations of their own. If you have to dehumanize these men and women to make your case- well, it says something pretty sad about your case in and of itself, doesn't?

Furthermore, reducing every human being in this nation to nothing more than a collection of wealth-producing skills has dangerous implications. If we choose who enters this country by delegating those who seek citizenship into the groups "Asset" and "Liability" why not do the same to all citizens? I for one think that if we kicked every couch potato, drug dealer, and Daily Kos blogger across the border, we would raise our national productivity quite a bit.

Such a thing is hardly moral and ridiculously statist.

In closing, I would like to present a rather remarkable piece of American history, updated for the times:

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your English-speaking, your economically productive, those with wealth producing capacity and other desirable skills, The very best immigrants of your teeming shore. Send these, the able-bodied, extra-talented to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

~T. Greer, asking: What would Regan do?

Posted by T. Greer at December 2, 2008 9:10 PM

Just because something is "the law" does not mean it's right. The law used to sanction the owning of another human being. Many laws have mandated severe punishments, even death, for speaking against the king.

Terri, you have absolutely no clue as to what you're talking about. If you had any idea what my mother, and then my wife, had to go through to come here "legally," you'd know it's hardly "a form" to fill out. If you really think that people are going to wait to go through the bureaucracy, then you're completely disconnected from reality.

If you're ever in the Philippines sometime, stop by the American embassy on Roxas Boulevard in Manila. Until then, imagine thousands of people patiently waiting in line, the culmination of months and sometimes years of one application after another, and then that most will get denied for one reason or another. There was one girl we heard got denied -- not just a "come back later," but a full "you have to start over" denial -- simply because she didn't get a police clearance certificate from a local government in Japan, in whose jurisdiction she'd lived for a while.

Do not, and I swear to God in heaven you had better not, test me on this.

Anyway, as I've written before, legal versus illegal immigration is a red herring. The real issue is the welfare state: eliminate the welfare state, and we won't lure the wrong kind of immigrants, nor will we be giving money to the wrong kind already here. It doesn't take "pragmatism" or "populism" to do this, only courage to do what's morally right.

Posted by Perry Eidelbus at December 2, 2008 9:59 PM

jk: and I owe you an apology, as I have written in a way that leaves the wrong impression. Let me start over. What I'm saying is that at present, we in America are doing immigration all wrong.

I write from the point of view of my grandfather, who, when he came to this country, had to prove to officials that he (a) was going to be employable, and therefore not an economic burden on society, and (b) competent enough in English to make his way. He and my grandmother learned English in six months, and he held down a job - working his way up in one company - for 45 years.

You wrote "I don't see how you can claim that the legals are more of an economic benefit," and I didn't mean to convey that. What I meant to convey is that we need to find the immigrants who are going to be the most likely to be an economic benefit, and make them the ones who are legal. We need to welcome them. Find the ones that are going to be an asset and make them OUR asset. Not the ones who are going to be members of MS-13, or live on welfare, food stamps and subsidized medical treatment.

In short, I want those who are going to be contributing, productive members of society to be the ones we let in, legally. I never meant to say otherwise. You have no idea how much I agree with you about the H1-Bs - in fact, I'm going to pose you this question: why aren't they ALL H1-Bs? Why aren't the vast majority of non-tourist visas based on employment skills, instead of the token handful - and I don't mean for just a handful of high-tech occupations (that's specifically why I used framers as my example), but for a broad range of needed employments?

Why is there an immigration lottery at all, where obtaining entry is based on little more than dumb luck? We're supposed to be a highly desirable nation to immigrants - why then are we not using a system that allows us to be selective?

I'm going to use a lousy metaphor, and I'm going to ask forgiveness in advance for this one; but isn't it just a little like marriage? In an ideal arrangement, the most desirable and marriage-worthy men and women are in a position to be the most selective in picking the most desirable and marriage-worthy mates.

Or in job-seeking: I have accrued 27 years of experience and a pretty good reputation, so when I go interviewing, it's not merely that I'm competing against my fellow applicants for a position. Because I'm known for being pretty good at what I do, those companies are also competing for me, and the one that offers me the most of what is important to me (money, location, perks, etc.) is the one with which I'll sign on.

If free-market principles apply bidirectionally to employment and marriage (yes, admittedly, a totally unromantic analysis), why shouldn't they also apply to immigration?

And if I have in any way left you feeling I considered anyone on this blog is xenophobic, I'll renounce that one right now. And I'd certainly not accuse you of being left-wing. Conservatism, rightly thought, is not naturally anti-immigration. I favor serious reform of our immigration process, but I reject the wholesale amnesty idea that keeps coming out of Washington.

I also never called Reagan a Tancredoite. Quite conversely, I think Tancredo needs to be more like Reagan - optimistic, hopeful, positive - and so do a lot of others who are finding that giving the left the opening of branding them as harsh, meanspirited, or worse is going to lead to permanent political umemployment.

I hope this makes what I wrote a little more palatable, and I invite you to re-read it in that vein. If anything else remains that causes you to raise an eyebrow, I hope you'll call me on it -

Posted by Keith at December 2, 2008 10:06 PM

Goodness, I'm offending everyone tonight. Apologies all around...

T. Greer - I did not mean to imply that immigrants, or for that matter people in a workforce generally, are MERELY capital. But in one regard, or better yet, one aspect or facet of people in a workforce is their productive value. I keep my day job, not because I have endearing human values (questionable) or because I'm cute (hardly), but because someone in a position to make this decision considers me an asset to the company.

Now I'm sure I'm going to catch Hell for linking marriage and free-market analysis. Please have pity on me - I'm only trying to illustrate a point! If it's any comfort, my wife (who, Perry, came to America from the Philippines by exactly the process you describe, and proudly earned her American citizenship long before I met her) understands what I'm trying to describe.

T. Greer, I don't mean to dehumanize people, but on the other hand I won't apologize for the fact that we can't open the doors to everyone who wants in, and it's not statist that someone in a government role is going to have to apply some level of criteria to decide who we let in and who we don't. Among those criteria are going to be employability, character, and others. I'm not going to accuse you of devaluing national sovereignty, and I'm not going to accuse you of meaning that everyone who has a life, hope, dream or aspiration should be given the right to come live in America.

If there are going to be criteria, and your differ from mine, please, share them - I'm open to friendly, reasoned, and hopefully nonantagonistic discussion.

I'll stop for the moment, so anyone else who wants to take a swing at my for my clumsy words can do so. I throw myself at your collective (but not collectivist) mercy...

Posted by Keith at December 2, 2008 10:43 PM

Haha. Keith, you do not need to apologize- I am not the one with the immigrant wife and mother. ^_~

My primary objection to your statements comes about here: " I keep my day job, not because I have endearing human values (questionable) or because I'm cute (hardly), but because someone in a position to make this decision considers me an asset to the company."

And that is all well and good- for a company. But the United States Government is not a company, nor should it ever pretend to be one. A business can (rightly) fire you if you become a finanicial liability. Should the government likewise "fire" people for becoming liabilities in the national economy?

The same logic applies to those who become citizens as well as to those who are born Americans. You are hired because the business you work for believes you are a larger asset than other potential applicants. Is this how we should choose our citizens- by targeting those will bring the largest financial benefit to the our economy?

Of course, that is how we choose our citizens right now, but that fact only makes my point more relevant. A poor Mexican mother can wait years for her citizenship to go through the bureaucracy, while those PHDs immigrating to America are breezed right through. (And this is ignoring the extra cost and time barriers that make it even harder for those on the lower end of the social scale to immigrate legally.) I find this to be morally unacceptable. It is not the government's place to say "Well, Immigrant A is a better asset to our economy than Immigrant B, so we should let Immigrant A come in and hold Immigrant B off for a few years."

This is not to say that there should be no criterion for new immigrants- it is perfectly acceptable for the government to ensure that those emigrating are not a physical danger to fellow Americans and that these Americans-in-waiting actually wish to become Americans. However, I start getting jittery when an individual's productivity becomes the determinate of his citizenship.

~T. Greer, expecting the Three Sources cavalry to rush in and end this majority of three any moment now.

Posted by T. Greer at December 3, 2008 12:03 AM

Let's all count to ten. It's nothing really important, like the season premier of '24' or anything...

Keith, I am not offended and am owed no apologies. For what it's worth, my immigrant wife (marrying Perry or JK seems to be a job Americans won't do) is an immigration hawk, far closer to Michelle Malkin than me.

TG: I'll be the first to agree that as individuals we are each priceless denizens of the universe who are gifted with birthright liberty, free will and an incalculable intrinsic worth.

But in aggregate, we are each a "per-capita" hunk of the Gross Domestic Product, an average height and weight with median income, a statistically defined chance at being unemployed and an actuarial chance of being hit by lightning. It's dangerous to forget the individual worth, but it is equally dangerous to set aside the whole hunk of Economics, Risk Management, and the branch of reason they provide. This requires aggregation and a cold hearted look at that uninsured eight-year-old as a statistic.

Human capital be the best capital. If you doubt it, compare USA GDP to Saudi Arabia. I welcome Keith's suggestion that people are economically valuable. Most restrictionists I argue with see them as mouths to feed, children to educate, hunks of meat clogging up the local emergency room. Keith at least recognizes that they create value for their employers, consume goods and pay taxes. If I could get my brother-in-law to admit that...

The next step is to accept -- or tell me why you refute -- Ricardo's "Comparative Advantage." This illustrates the counter-intuitive reasons that unskilled workers add to our wealth as do the H1-Bs.

Perry, you and JohnGalt both say that the problem is welfare and you're right. But you're designing a plane that doesn't account for gravity. "When we get rid of gravity, it'll fly real good!" We have welfare, we have a poor nation on our southern border, we have 12 million something here, we have an economy that needs them (when it's expanding, which it usually does).

I hear you Terri and I have heard it from most people I know. But in the absence of expanded opportunity for legal immigration, illegal immigration is a good economic and moral substitute. These people do not become more valuable or productive just because they have "papers."

If I could loop around to the original premise, no nobody lost because they were "anti-immigrant" but nobody won because they were "tough." It inflames passions (holy cow lookit this!) but it has no record of driving people to the polls.

Posted by jk at December 3, 2008 11:15 AM

Before weighing in himself, The Refugee would like to invite The Heretic to pipe up. By way of introduction, The Heretic is an Indian national here on an H1-B visa. He came here originally on a student visa and graduated from the University of Michigan. The Refugee got to know him in 2000 when both worked at the same software company. He is smart, educated, productive, pays taxes, never been in trouble and now has two children who are US citizens. Those children are being raised as Americans; The Heretic knows American history and the political system better than most born here. Nevertheless, he has waited (somewhat) patiently for nearly decade - emphasize, decade - for permanent residency. This has cost tens of thousand of dollars in attorney's fees. Can our immigration system be any more screwed up? The Refugee often (half) teases him that he should should fly to Mexico and cross the border illegally - he probably get citizenship sooner. The Refugee is proud to have him as a friend and thinks that immigrants like him are what make America great.

This discussion, and the general immigration debate, ignore two important points. First, the notion that low-skilled immigrants do "jobs that American's won't do" is a total canard. Look, if jobs were available to pick lettuce for $100 an hour, The Refugee would be first in line. So, the truth is, these immigrants will do "jobs that American's won' at that price."

Sentimentally, The Refugee agrees with Perry that the market should be allowed to set the wage price between a willing worker and a willing employer, regardless of immigration status and without welfare incentives. However, he has no delusion that this will happen anytime soon. Thus, The Refugee proposes that private temporary work firms (e.g., Manpower) be permitted to match foreign workers with employers on an unlimited basis. The workers would then be documented and subject to all of the withholding payment, worker's comp and other laws. Whether you like those laws or not, they should be applied evenly for a level playing field. Phil Gramm, whom The Refugee admires, once said, "If America is going to be saved, it's going to be saved at a profit." The paraphrase him, "If the immigration problem is going to be solved, it's going to be solved by private industry at a profit."

This leads to the second issue. The Refugee does not see the the legal/illegal distinction as being appropriate or helpful. Rather, we have "job seeking" and "citizen seeking" immigrants (recognizing that someone can be both). The Refugee believes that many Mexican immigrants in particular are mostly interested in a job, not citizenship. Thus, let immigrants in the door using the private industry mechanism outlined above, and allow them to pursue the citizenship option if desired while working.

Posted by Boulder Refugee at December 3, 2008 11:48 AM

If we are paying El Refugee $100/hour for picking lettuce:

-- we are paying too much for lettuce;
-- we are being denied the more productive tasks that the Refugee could otherwise do;
-- we will have fewer people able to afford eating out, so fewer restaurants will be built, decorated, staffed, and outfitted with computer backup hardware.

Posted by jk at December 3, 2008 1:00 PM


Methinks we might be talking past each other. I do not dispute the idea that labor is a resource or that people are economically valuable. I recognize that this is true, and that viewing humans in the aggregate is necessary to solve many of America's problems.

I also think these facts are irrelevant to the debate at hand. Even if we assume the restrictionists are right, that immigrants are drags on the national economy, my position would be the same. Simply put, I reject qualifying immigrants on the basis of their effect on our economy.

I am reminded of the Patrick Henry quote Perry has over at Eidelblog: "You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured"

Rejecting (or accepting) immigrants on nothing more than economic grounds is rejecting liberty in favor of economic clout. I think such a system is irreconcilable with a truly free America.

~T. Greer, thinking The Refugee is onto something with his job seeking/citizenship seeking dividing line.

Posted by T. Greer at December 3, 2008 1:52 PM

This has been a lot of fun. We have hashed over the same arguments a few times and I felt a little bad for going back to the well another time. Yet this time, we got a fresh new set of arguments -- with no loss of amplitude.

I have so many reasons to favor immigration, tg, that I have been accused of being hard to pin down. You make a strong case that there is a liberty/moral argument. Lettuce growers should not have to pay The Refugee $100/hour to pick produce when there is a hard worker from Sonora who would love $15. That is an intrusion on both their liberties.

The counter argument is that we do have privileges of sovereignty and have a moral right to keep those out who would do us economic (or material) harm. For this reason I am ready to also demonstrate that the $15 lettuce picker makes us wealthier.

And, lastly, I posit that it is an electoral loser as well. I consider Rep. Tancredo a scourge on our party and the more-heat-than-light kerfuffles that the enforcement crowd has stirred up have helped banish the GOP to the minority.

Bad morality, bad economics, bad politics.

Posted by jk at December 3, 2008 3:30 PM

JK makes his financial decision without realizing that The Refugee can be 10X more productive than a Sonoran, so JK would be crazy not to hire him!

Immigration is currently a loser issue for Republicans. However, with all due humility, The Refugee thinks that a proposal that combines a modicum of free market principles, controlled immigration and reasonable enforcement, such as his above, would turn it from a loser to a winner. Now, he'll count on all Three Sourcers to tell him why not.

Posted by Boulder Refugee at December 3, 2008 6:47 PM

Thanks BR for the eloquently intro. For the record, we strive to raise our children as Indian-Americans. It is important to us that they draw upon the goodness of their heritage, as much as they cultivate the American values.

Getting back to the point of this discussion, the Heretic has no objections (and as a matter of fact would welcome) setting some standards on who is allowed in and who is not. Many of these categories exist today. The problem really is with the bureaucracy and quota limits per year and by country. Further, the quota's for family based immigration is much higher than that of labor based -- thus leading to long waits and ultimately of two outcomes, talent moving on to other greener pastures or illegal immigration.

The Heretic does not believe legislation and building walls (in this case fences) alone will curtail the illegal immigration problem. People will move to where the jobs are. That is just the reality. In this regard BR's proposition of job seeking vs. citizenship seeking immigrants is a good way to consider and solve the problem.

However, The Heretic doesn't necessarily buy into private sector labor arbitrage. There is lot of room for abuse and consequently, something this group hates - regulation. Someday, in an appropriate context, we can debate real life examples.

, the Heretic has long admired efficiency of the immigration system in Singapore. One of my relatives, decided to go to school there. The selection process into the school, as I understand, was at least as rigorous as those of many of the marquee Universities in the United States. However his having to prove his worthiness ended there. By the time he had graduated, the govt. had automatically given him his work permit and he had an invite to apply for his permanent residency. After he found a job and had paid into the tax system for about a year, he was invited to apply for his citizenship. Entire process completed online and in approx. 18 months. Total cost Sing. $500 (approx. USD 71). The system has figured a way to recognize and keep talent. Arguably, they haven't done too bad for themselves.

Posted by The Heretic at December 3, 2008 6:50 PM

Hey I've been on this ride before and I think I got dizzy and threw up. Go to itunes, spend a buck and listen to Willie Nelson's "Living in the Promiseland."

Posted by sugarchuck at December 3, 2008 6:55 PM

BR is invited to spend some time with a Ricardo text or play The Desert Island Game. It is not your productivity vis-a-vis our southern friend, it is about the most productive use of your time, which is pretty danged unlikely to be lettuce picking.

Yeah, SC, we have been around these parts but we have some new players and new ideas. I have enjoyed the ride quite a bit this time.

I fear for BR's solution because President Bush and Senator McCain came up with a very workable version -- and Rush Limbaugh, Rep, Tancredo, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter and their evel minions killed it!

Posted by jk at December 3, 2008 7:42 PM

(marrying Perry or JK seems to be a job Americans won't do)

Technically it isn't the mere act of marrying, but a lifetime commitment of marriage. And in my case, I couldn't find an American girl who was right for me. One would be gold-digging, another too flirty to be trusted in future fidelity, and for another, I was the wrong religion. In the end, I found someone who had both a comparative and an absolute advantage in being a good wife to me.

But you're designing a plane that doesn't account for gravity. "When we get rid of gravity, it'll fly real good!"

Actually, no. Gravity is a natural property of matter that exists with or without human action. The welfare state is a human construct that we had to create before it existed.

So your analogy would be correct if it were something like, "When we get rid of the bureaucrats and the lead weights they make us use for flaps, it'll finally fly."

Posted by Perry Eidelbus at December 3, 2008 11:32 PM

I hoped I knew Perry well enough to get awaty with that joke! My lovely wife spent almost all her life here and was sworn in in the 3rd grade. She is comfortable in both cultures and I have certainly enjoyed being a "big, white Filipno."

Posted by jk at December 4, 2008 11:46 AM
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