Immigration has again become a national wedge issue in this midterm election year. It doesn’t look like any new immigration laws will come out of Congress before this November, but that doesn’t mean that bamboozling voters over alternative immigration policies is not effective for garnering their votes. Recent posts (here) and related comment streams have discussed topics that relate to immigration, and interest in the topic and its related factors – e.g. governance, national security, economics – remains high. To continue the conversations, I offer a series of loosely related points that represent my take on the matter. In this view, the national debate on immigration has been badly and purposefully misguided, taking full advantage of our national dumbth. There is no indication that clarity will strike any time soon to provide a basis for the much sought after ‘immigration reform’.
1. The public understands and appreciates surprisingly little about emigration and immigration as terms that define the movement of people. Emigration denotes the departure from or exiting a jurisdiction (e.g. a country). Immigration denotes the intent to become a permanent legal resident of a welcoming jurisdiction. (This longstanding ignorance is evident in the names of trails and landmarks in America’s west. Trails and roads coming into California historically were used overwhelmingly by immigrants. And routes from St Louis and St Joseph were overwhelmingly established for and used by emigrants departing the eastern part of the country.)
2. Emigration may or not be a two-way bargain between a jurisdiction and the departing émigré – i.e. the émigré may escape a jurisdiction instead of applying for an exit visa. But immigration requires a mutual agreement between the immigrant and the conditionally welcoming jurisdiction. Depending on the jurisdiction, the contract is usually explicit, but may even be implicit (see below). The minimal part of every immigration ‘contract’ is that the immigrant comes to the welcoming country to make a life within its established culture while adopting its existing ways. Were the new arrivals from another culture intent on changing the nature of their new home, they would be called colonists rather than immigrants.
4. US immigration policy for the first 100 years after independence was essentially ‘the borders are open, y’all come.’ The nation had a vast continent to populate, farms and factories to fill with workers. As long as you were not obviously afflicted with a contagious dreaded disease, nobody bothered with you. But with that freedom to enter the country also came the freedom to starve and freeze. Government was not there to bail you out, you cast your lot entirely with the private sector to help you get on your feet – given you had desirable skills, an opportune employer, or established relatives, or a caring church-sponsored charity usually of the same faith as the immigrant.
5. Things changed around 1880 when racist immigration laws were passed to halt the ‘yellow flood’ from Asia. From then other laws restricting immigration of various ethnic groups were passed, all in the name of serving some stated national interest or other. To get in you had to be from a favored ethnic group, be healthy, have desired skills, and a waiting sponsor who insured that you would not be on the public dole for the first year or so.
6. In the 1960s national interest began to be ignored in the enforcement of existing immigration laws. In its place arose altruistic arguments to again accept one and all; this time if their admittance increased re/election chances for politicians pandering to America’s ethnic minorities for votes, or to commercial interests (seeking cheap labor) for money. But now things have changed; instead of an open continent and a receptive private sector for immigrants, today we have a socialistic welfare state that provides for both immigrant and illegal entrant. America’s message to the world is again ‘y’all come, and we’ll take care of you from cradle to grave no matter how you get here’. (And illegally is better since it avoids all those very visible administrative hurdles and appeals directly to “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. …”
7. From the above, it should be clear that laws securing a nation against illegal entrants have nothing to do with a nation’s immigration policy, and everything to do with the nation’s security policy. Therefore not differentiating between an immigrant and an illegal entrant is a fundamental contributor to our problems. All these nuances are lost today as we babble at each other with no common understanding of the words we use. (see figure above)
8. Before starting any reasonable discussion about fixing our immigration policy, we need to define what are the existential objectives and constraints of a desirable policy. Examples would be 1) attract talented STEM students and workers, 2) dispose of the 11M+ illegal aliens in our midst through prescribed paths to legal residency, citizenship, and/or exit the US without prejudice.
9. “Sealing borders” is not a solution to the illegal alien problem nor a shortcoming of the current immigration policy. Since we can’t deport them, we need a policy to legalize most of the 11M+ illegal aliens in the country as stated above.
10. Our foreign policy has centered on the twin notions of exporting our kind of democracy and capitalism. There is much evidence that this policy works only when the recipient country has a culture that is receptive to democratic governance and a capitalistic form of commerce (e.g. recognizing the workings of win-win relationships)
11. Attempting to fix the countries from which our illegal entrants emigrate has not worked, at least during the last fifty years. Our clumsy attempts at spreading our wealth and the means for creating it have cemented in cultures of corruption and class divisions in our client countries. The same people we have tried to help now look at us (and other western countries) as imperialists serving only our economic interests. The appeals for us to stop are growing louder – Africa and Haiti come to mind (here and here).
12. We have spent trillions of dollars here and abroad over the years to stop drug trafficking with little/no measurable improvement in our ‘drug problem’. It’s time to do something different. Legalizing and taxing drug manufacture and consumption is the logical next step. But the major opponents of such a course are the drug cartels and our own ‘justice system’ – in short, there’s good money in growing, transporting, selling, and attempting to stop illegal drugs.
13. Cultures change slowly and all cultures are not capable of accepting what we have to offer. We don’t know our own economy’s response to policy inputs (i.e transfer function), much less how foreign economies and cultures may wind up after they attempt to adopt democracy and/or capitalism in one form or another.
14. Cultures also have a genetic basis that continues to guide their evolution. This politically incorrect fact is supported by some considerable research that is presented in Troublesome Inheritance (2014) by Nicholas Wade. The bottom line here is that capitalism and democracy simply will not succeed everywhere it is introduced, simply because the people will not accept, let alone emplace, the cultural institutions required for their success – in short, race matters. (I can hear the screams already, but I’ll have more to say about that in a future post.)
15. Marshall Plan type aid has not and will not work everywhere. German and Japanese cultures have been receptive to that kind of aid. Many African and Mideast cultures are not. The acceptance of autocracy and corruption as a normative behavior seems to play and important part in how successfully most forms of capitalism can be adopted.
16. Our labor force participation rate is under 63%, which means that the US has tens of millions of potential workers who can work but are not looking for jobs. We know that government unemployment insurance programs affect both labor force participation and unemployment rates. Absent politicians buying votes, there would be no reasonable explanation for why we illegally ‘import’ workers when our own people lay idle. Here are some stats and costs related to illegal aliens in the US.
17. The magic word for illegal entrants today is ‘refugee’. For some unfathomable reason, being transported across a thousand hostile miles of Mexico by a for-profit smuggler, and then darting across our southern border is totally acceptable if the illegal entrant claims to be a refugee from dire circumstances in his own country. (Mexico abets such passages as long as palms are crossed and the transition is quick. Nobody gets to stay.) We used to accept refugees under open yet strict policies when they requested permission to immigrate. Hanging a refugee sign around your neck after paying off your smuggler is now considered to be a perfectly acceptable form for getting all the benefits of a federal welcome and paid dispersal into our vast countryside. When did we start quietly admitting hundreds of thousands of illegal entrants (many sick with TB) annually as a matter of national policy?
18. Finally, it is safe to say that our policies regarding illegal entrants have been a dismal failure that continues to be a drain on our “troubled welfare state”. Of the 11M+ illegal aliens now ensconced here large fractions of them are on the public dole or imprisoned or contributing to our crime statistics. The Left continues to torture the data that these illegal aliens provide a net contribution to our land. But even without considering the attendant unemployment, education, healthcare, and acculturation factors, it is not too hard to understand that promoting the arrival of illegals and then providing them succor has not delivered the benefits that historical immigration lavished on the empty land and waiting shops and factories.
19. The following is a list of related and relevant pieces on the ‘immigration problem’ that bear on the above, and have therefore not been expanded here.