Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Why we have illegal immigration

The WaPo for once is not merely a waste of newsprint and pixels:
A large majority of the 11 million illegal immigrants are unskilled or low-skilled Mexicans. Many of them have no relatives over age 18 who are either U.S. citizens or permanent residents in possession of green cards.

That makes them ineligible for any realistic visa category. They are barred in most cases from employment-based visas, which favor skilled and well-educated applicants, and from family-based visas, which require applicants to have spouses, parents or siblings who are U.S. citizens or hold green cards. (Even the “line” for those visas often takes 15 to 20 years or more.) There is simply no immigrant visa category for which most unskilled Mexicans qualify and no realistic prospect they could be legally admitted to the United States. About half of the unauthorized adults in the country are Mexicans who probably have no category for admission, according to Pew Hispanic Center senior demographer Jeffrey S. Passel.
The market says that unskilled/low-skilled Mexicans are needed. Federal regulations say otherwise. As so often, you can't regulate around the market.

So why isn't "market-based immigration" a Republican war cry? Doesn't it fit their ideology to a T? What could there be about these workers that motivates the GOP to contradict its principles?

I leave the explanation as an exercise for the reader.


... In the interests of fair-mindedness, however, America may have an obstacle to a guest-worker program that other countries don't: the Fourteenth Amendment and birthright citizenship. Is it reasonable to admit unskilled workers if their children born here will become citizens?

I don't know the relevant data: are we better off overall if such immigrants do come here, settle, and raise families? How much upward mobility is there for immigrants' children? How many illegal "guest workers" in fact settle here, as opposed to working in America for a while and then returning home? It's probably a lot harder to gather accurate data on illicit behavior.


  1. Part of Republican "ideology" is to get Americans off the welfare roll and onto the employment roll. I get annoyed when I hear that there are jobs that "Americans won't do." What that means is we want to import a peasantry and pay them really low wages for hard work.

    If we enforce immigration laws, it will no doubt cause wages for unskilled labor to rise. Those hiring nannies, yard men and dishwashers will squawk. But we will be on our way to providing a more equitable society for our citizens as our unskilled workers see their standard of living rise.

    Certainly amending the constitution to get rid of birthright citizenship would make a guest worker more acceptable, but I think we would do better to bring in high-skilled workers and depress the wages of the rich instead.

    I'm tired of seeing Republican opposition to immigration called racism. Certainly I have a worry of any massive cultural change, but racially Hispanics are really that different from the rest of us. Dressed properly, with dry hair and no accent they are just ordinary Americans, seen as no different from anyone else. I had a number of fully American "Hispanic" fraternity brothers, and while you could look at them and tell they were of Hispanic extraction, we just didn't "see" it. They were our friends. In short, once Hispanics adopt American mores, they are just white (and come far closer to the Greek standard of "beauty" than do those of us from the British Isles).

  2. I think the problem goes back to James K. Polk-we stole all that Mexican land and then gave the states funny names like "New" Mexico and Montana. Do you have to dress properly and have dry hair to be an "ordinary American" now?JL

  3. Anonymous,

    I was addressing the issue of discrimination. There is a tendency for many Americans to avoid those who have oily hair, dress funny, or with different accents, no matter where they are from. However, it is discrimination based on behavior, not ethnicity. So yes, you have to try to fit in to fit in, regardless of where you are from.