Nate Smith

Immigration

83 posts in this topic

Harry Binswanger recently wrote a very interesting article on immigration that appeared on Capitalism Magazine. Coincidentally, just last week I was discussing this topic with some friends who work in labor industries that employ a relatively high percentage of Mexicans. One friend in particular is a sider (he puts siding on homes) for a living. He was complaining about how more and more of these jobs are being "taken away" from Americans because Mexicans are willing to work for much less.

As Dr. Binswanger says in his article:

It is asked: "Won't the immigrants take our jobs?" The answer is: "Yes, so we can go on to better, higher-paying jobs."

While I agree with this point completely, and I am aware that a capitalist economy necessitates changing markets, it is difficult to argue this point with someone who's skills are becoming less marketable. How do you tell someone that has little education and a family with 3 kids that, this is an opportunity to move on to bigger and better things? I'm not saying that this isn't the right argument, but this can be a sensitve subject to talk about with someone in that situation.

I was wondering how others might deal with a situation like this. Thanks.

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... I am aware that a capitalist economy necessitates changing markets, [but] it is difficult to argue this point with someone who's skills are becoming less marketable. How do you tell someone that has little education and a family with 3 kids that, this is an opportunity to move on to bigger and better things? I'm not saying that this isn't the right argument, but this can be a sensitve subject to talk about with someone in that situation.

It certainly can be a difficult situation for any person who loses his marketability, but how that person handles the situation often reflects on his character. Regardless, though, the rightfulness and value of particular ideas have to be grasped independent of the emotions felt due to particular cicumstances. A man may be suffering from an incurable disease but he still can grasp the value of modern medicine, even if modern medicine cannot cure his disease. Fortunately, your friend who works in siding is suffering from something that is curable, but he either has to educate himself and learn a new marketable trade, or get used to a lower standard of living since his skills have been reduced in value. There are no metaphysical guarantees of survival from moment to moment, much less from year to year.

I say all this because this is what your friend needs to grasp intellectually, apart from and independent of his feelings. All you can do is appeal to his rationality, and if he can put aside his feelings and grasp the principles involved, then eventually he can also change his emotions. If he responds by struggling to reach a new opportunity, or alternatively if he resigns himself to what he thinks is the inevitable, either way in the long run he will most likely get what he deserves.

Permit me to add that I sympathetic at least to one part of how your friend feels as a result of immigration. To the extent that he is forced to pay not only for the education of his own three children but for the education of the children of those taking his job, and to the extent that he likewise has to pay for their health care and other requirements -- in short, to the extent that he bears the burden of our social welfare system -- then to that extent I am sympathetic to at least this part of his current feelings.

As an aside, personally, I differ with many about this current emphasis on immigration, not as a matter of principle but rather as a matter of priority. The place to start is to get the governement out of the business of education and substantially reduce or completely remove our welfare society, and only then should we repeal our immigration laws.

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Thinking of the sider friend reminds me of my own industry: software.

Years ago I was a full time programmer, making good money in a great job. Then, in the early part of this decade, I detected that the programming jobs were getting fewer and fewer. A lot of them were going overseas and the existing local programming staffs were getting smaller. I heard similar sentiment from disgruntled programmers, but my personal response was to move into a more customer-focused position.

Over the last four years, I have noticed a number of programmers becoming consultants for professional services departments. The same disgruntled former programmers have finally realized that the end of one kind of job does not necessarily spell the end of their careers. Indeed, they are better paid and more productive working on customer projects versus simply writing code all day.

Given that I had a background in teaching and writing, my transition was pretty painless, but it was difficult for some. They were used to their cubicles and Mountain Dew cans piling up. Now they have to work with people and travel occasionally. It's a different world, for sure, but many appear to have come around to the new "reality" in software companies.

My suggestion to your friend would be to investigate project management or areas immigrants do not typically excel at - YET. He may thank you later.

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My suggestion to your friend would be to investigate project management or areas immigrants do not typically excel at - YET. He may thank you later.

I wonder whether it's that immigrants don't "typically excel at" areas like project management, or whether it's just that the immigration laws ensure that many of them remaiin programmers (or scientists, etc.) for longer than they would like.

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I should clarify that I mean NEW immigrants. It's not that they cannot be project managers, but they probably don't start out that way. In the case of Mexican workers, their English is most likely not strong enough to deal with customers. Over time, and if they put forth the effort, they too will come to possess the skills to move up higher. That's the beauty of employment versus welfare: one always acquires SOME skills by doing a job, enabling a person to advance.

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As an aside, personally, I differ with many about this current emphasis on immigration, not as a matter of principle but rather as a matter of priority. The place to start is to get the governement out of the business of education and substantially reduce or completely remove our welfare society, and only then should we repeal our immigration laws.

My biggest personal problem today is immigration, and I am - and have always been - on the 'Open Immigration' side of this debate. When my political adventure in this country had just begun, I still used to advocate closing/fencing the border, a position I now know to be metaphysically - and thus, politically - impossible. Consider: Who will do the work but immigrants? Who will police them? And at what cost?

I disagree in the strongest possible terms with the idea that separating state and education and/or separating state and business ought to come before the repeal of immigration laws. And not just because this affects me directly. (Not that I am in any way afraid or ashamed to assert my interest in the matter, though.)

To wait for government to (begin to) restrict itself to its legitimate concerns before productive men and women of spirit are able to live their lives, is to ask that a potential Ayn Rand, the person who unmasked the philosophy of altruism wait to live till the philosophy of altruism dies. This, as you can see, is itself altruism in a very fundamental way that perhaps only a rational person who did not grow up in the civilized West can fully grasp.

So, what about those immigrants who live off the government? I can tell you firsthand that there are by far many more American citizens doing that than there are undocumented immigrants.

Some of these immigrants pay taxes, and those that don't have employers (businessmen) who do so from the profits they make.

And, in any case, the laws that keep them undocumented also make it impossible to pay taxes and not jeopardize whatever limited freedom that they retain. (I do not use the term 'possess,' for no man can grant rights to another.)

So, what idea is it that clouds the judgment of so many Americans that they want, either, someone to do work (menial and highly-skilled [H1B]) at low wages but live a hemi-demi-free existence; or, everyone to live at or above minimum wage, thereby punishing the productive businessmen in America? What idea is it that keeps them in thrall to the aforementioned bad choices, in thrall to the welfare state, like it's some kind of 'golden goose'? What idea makes them refuse to fight their true enemies in far away lands, but keeps them eager to hunt down men who simply want to live?

We all know that no native American unmasked it.

Having said that, I am hugely thankful for America, for the fact that it is a society where we can even have this debate over immigration laws; and where one can expect the laws, when reasonable, to be reasonably enforced. Where men can appeal to the reason of their fellows and expect some kind of hearing.

I am thankful, not to just any "random" American walking on the street (there are 'random' types in all human societies), but to the Best Americans, such as the men who Founded this country politically and economically. I know they had someone like me in mind when they created this great nation, and there is no expression, potentially or actually, in existence that could convey my limitless gratitude.

I was about 21 when I first read the Declaration of Independence, at the back of a Webster's Dictionary my mother had bought for the household. I wept openly at the grandeur of the words and right there, I knew I had glimpsed the essential difference between the country of my birth and the subject of the text.

But, I, and countless others, cannot reasonably be expected to somehow view the American public in a self-immolating light; to somehow respect non-objective laws; to somehow "wait [our] turn", till the people born into the highest statistical opportunity on earth absorb the right ideas.

My ultimate question to those who expect this is: By what standard?

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But, I, and countless others, cannot reasonably be expected to somehow view the American public in a self-immolating light ...

And what of the sacrifice of my property to build and run the schools to educate the children of the poor, and to build the hospitals and provide doctors to care for them when they are ill? Am I not being forced to sacrifice my life and property for the well-being of others?

I am not for the current immigration laws; I am against the current laws that steal my lifetime of earnings so that others can live the life that they want. Open up the borders with the absolute restriction that all immigrants must be self-sufficient, and then I offer my support. Let them be responsible for educating their children, and caring for themselves when they are ill, and don't allow a newborne on our soil to automatically be folded into the welfare system.

But if our country could actually do that, then we could also remove the structure of the social welfare society and require our own citizens to be self-sufficient. And that is what should be a priority in reform, since that forms the basis for honest and productive immigrants to be welcomed to our country without sacrificing the lives and property of those who are already here.

In the transition from our mixed to a proper society the repeal of unwarranted restrictive laws cannot all be done at once, and some thought and analysis must be applied to the order and significance for the transition to work, on both moral and realistic legal grounds. For instance, without doubt social security should be completely abolished, but is it moral and realistic to stop payments immediately to all those who paid into the system and now depend on it to survive? Immigration laws also should be repealed, but is it moral and realistic to steal the wealth of citizens here to help support whoever wants to come?

It's simply a matter of prioritizing our efforts, and I say it is moral and realistic that we first work to repeal unwarranted social welfare in all of its forms, or -- at least, not have it apply to immigrants -- before we repeal unwarranted restrictions on immigration.

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I see a few different basic classes of immigrants.

The first class are educated (perhaps highly so), hard working, typically English speaking people who can not only find a job in America, they can do so more easily than the average American. If arbitrary restrictions were limited, they could immediately move here and almost immediately be self-sufficient. I know of several extremely intelligent Objectivists in that position, but who either suffered years of stress of uncertainty about their status, or could not stay, or who couldn't even start, because of boneheaded immigration policies. At least three of them have posted to this board. I would trade the entirety of Washington D.C. for any one of them and come out ahead on the deal (speaking metaphorically.)

The second class are uneducated, typically non-English speaking people, who want to work and who can easily find it among the lowest paying jobs that most Americans do not want to do, such as working in fields, clean hotel rooms, etc. I do not observe these people straining to get welfare.

The third would be anybody who wants to move to America to get a "free ride". I don't know how many they are, but they don't appear to be anything like a majority.

As far as priorities goes within these classes, I think it should be easy and legal for the first two to live and work in America. In fact, given the steadily declining home-grown literacy rate, and the non-linearly declining rate of American graduates in the hard sciences and advanced engineering, it should be a priority to *encourage* the first group to immigrate to America. That group already has incentives from many other countries in the world.

I think the biggest problem as far as U.S. immigration policy goes, is that it's deliberately egalitarian. A country such as Singapore has no qualms about being openly elitist in their immigration policy - it explicitly encourages more educated/more intelligent people. If there's to be discrimination, it shouldn't be with a simple minded thing like a fixed number of visas or a fixed number per country - it should be on the basis of measurable, meaningful parameters that encourage the best and discourage the worst.

As far as legal immigration goes, there are already big financial barriers. I can say from personal recent experience that an American marrying an alien is legally required to agree to, and to financially prove with tax returns, that they can support that person for *10 years*, including reimbursing the government for welfare payments made to them if it came to that.

So, I think that immigration policy could be greatly improved while still barring welfare parasites, or at least most of them. The real problem is that there are artificial quotas, and no way for an immigrant to even *buy* their way in, as has been possible in even Canada for many years - which is one reason they got some extremely hard-working, high-assets businessmen from Hong Kong to live there before the PRC takeover and why the U.S. did not. Who benefited from that?

I completely agree that the welfare state should be stamped out, but if the best minds around the world are kept out while waiting for that to happen, the U.S. can look forward to becoming a 2d or 3d tier country.

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And what of the sacrifice of my property to build and run the schools to educate the children of the poor, and to build the hospitals and provide doctors to care for them when they are ill? Am I not being forced to sacrifice my life and property for the well-being of others?

Yes. But, well, so am I.

I, too, along with countless other immigrants, am being forced out of my home country into America, the freest place a man can live, where I am then again forced to sacrifice for some shiftless native Americans and a few lazy immigrants.

I pay taxes, yet, a lot of my money goes to some lazy people.

I am not for the current immigration laws; I am against the current laws that steal my lifetime of earnings so that others can live the life that they want. Open up the borders with the absolute restriction that all immigrants must be self-sufficient, and then I offer my support. Let them be responsible for educating their children, and caring for themselves when they are ill, and don't allow a newborne on our soil to automatically be folded into the welfare system.

I would like that too, just as I would like America to invade Iran. But, the American people aren't listening because of altruism. So, what to do? Immigrants should wait in the spiritual tombs which we hail from till they do listen? That would be altruism, the very thing Americans are practising.

But if our country could actually do that, then we could also remove the structure of the social welfare society and require our own citizens to be self-sufficient. And that is what should be a priority in reform, since that forms the basis for honest and productive immigrants to be welcomed to our country without sacrificing the lives and property of those who are already here.

We are all being sacrificed, Mr. Speicher. Pardon my slang, but "Nationality ain't got nothin' to do with it." The proportion of people who want to work as opposed to coast is higher among native-born Americans. Immigrants who come to work actually help to improve the ratio. We come almost ready-made with drive.

If a native-born American can have a kid even though welfare has not been retracted, why not an immigrant? Imagine if we asked Americans to stop giving birth till the welfare state were repealed? What do you think their reaction would be? And how would that differ from the immigrants' ?

In the transition from our mixed to a proper society the repeal of unwarranted restrictive laws cannot all be done at once, and some thought and analysis must be applied to the order and significance for the transition to work, on both moral and realistic legal grounds. For instance, without doubt social security should be completely abolished, but is it moral and realistic to stop payments immediately to all those who paid into the system and now depend on it to survive? Immigration laws also should be repealed, but is it moral and realistic to steal the wealth of citizens here to help support whoever wants to come?

But, their wealth is not being stolen by working immigrants; only by dishonest Americans for the most part and a precious few immigrants.

It's simply a matter of prioritizing our efforts, and I say it is moral and realistic that we first work to repeal unwarranted social welfare in all of its forms, or -- at least, not have it apply to immigrants -- before we repeal unwarranted restrictions on immigration.

I don't agree. The welfare system grows bigger every day thanks to the native-born philosophers and politicians, while the immigrant population swells in protest of these bad ideas in their native countries.

A man only lives so long on earth, but ideas live forever. There is no guarantee, and in fact, no sign, that the American people are going to renounce altruism in my lifetime, or in two lifetimes. But, I intend to live fully, and no non-objective law (or enforcer) can stop me.

Let me be clear: politically, the issue of immigration is as serious as the issue of abortion. It is a matter of life and death.

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The second class are uneducated, typically non-English speaking people, who want to work and who can easily find it among the lowest paying jobs that most Americans do not want to do, such as working in fields, clean hotel rooms, etc. I do not observe these people straining to get welfare.

The third would be anybody who wants to move to America to get a "free ride". I don't know how many they are, but they don't appear to be anything like a majority.

There is also a mixture between those two classes: those who are not literally seeking welfare but who want to cash in on subsidized education, health care, etc. But then so do most American citizens. We have a badly mixed system and people with badly mixed premises. That does not lend itself to rational, properly prioritized reform in the forseeable future and makes it very difficult to figure out how practically to best save ourselves from being looted in any way we can. I agree with Stephen's sentiments, but don't know the actual statistical breakdown on what kind of people we are actually contending with amongst the illegal immigrants. Stephen may have a different first hand experience with this because he lives in southern California, which is being swamped with people coming in illegally from Mexico.

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Let me be clear: politically, the issue of immigration is as serious as the issue of abortion. It is a matter of life and death.

When women broke the law to have an illegal abortion they did so at their own risk and expense. When people break the law and enter this country illegally, a whole array of expenses, such as the education of their children, are in part borne by me. There are currently at least 10,000,000 illegals in this country, 35 to 50 % of whom reside in the state where I live. How many more children can I pay to educate before I am as poor as those who come here illegally? How many more will cross the Mexican border when they are free to do so?

You are preaching to the choir in passionately espousing the value of immigrants; I stand first in line in wanting to repeal our current immigration laws. But I refuse to sacrifice my property, and, therefore, my life, to anyone in the world who does not like where they live. Get rid of social welfare first, or require immigrants to be completely self-sufficient, and then open the borders without any sacrifice.

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Mr. Speicher,

I have nothing but the utmost respect for you. But, on this issue, it seems that we are unable to reason with one another.

When women broke the law to have an illegal abortion they did so at their own risk and expense. When people break the law and enter this country illegally, a whole array of expenses, such as the education of their children, are in part borne by me. There are currently at least 10,000,000 illegals in this country, 35 to 50 % of whom reside in the state where I live. How many more children can I pay to educate before I am as poor as those who come here illegally? How many more will cross the Mexican border when they are free to do so?

But, abortion today, under a Leftist government, would be paid for in many instances, by the State.

What has changed? Only that government is seizing money from someone on behalf of some other. What difference does it make if those people are native-born or immigrant? You would still be paying. The only difference I can see is that some of the receivers of your payment happen to be born in America, and some don't or won't. What principled difference does that make?

In other words, what difference does the type of people make? Or whether there are 20 more people benefitting from that bad law, or 20,000? The bad laws are still there. And the repeal of those laws would mean 20 or 20,000 off the welfare rolls. The principle applies, whether to 20 or 20,000; whether to one or many. And it applies to all involved, whether white or black; rich or poor; young or old; citizen or not. The number, and the origins of the number, of beneficiaries of an evil have no bearing on that evil's repeal - or enactment.

If immigration were open, yes, many bad eggs would take advantage; but, just as there would be more parasites, there would also be more producers. In the same way, and for the same reasons, that the release of one innocent man is worth the penalization of a thousand guilty ones, Americans should not prohibit the producer in order to put paid to parasites.

There is a statement Ayn Rand made in response to a question about an issue analogous to this one [in Ayn Rand Answers -I will look it up and post it when I get home]. She said that, when trying to get rid of an evil, one should not look for a solution that creates more victims.

You are preaching to the choir in passionately espousing the value of immigrants; I stand first in line in wanting to repeal our current immigration laws. But I refuse to sacrifice my property, and, therefore, my life, to anyone in the world who does not like where they live.

And neither do I, Mr. Speicher; neither do I. If we cannot agree, then we are in a position analogous to the men in the example used by Dr. Peikoff in one of his lectures (I think it was one in the Founders of Western Philosophy series). He used the example to concretize the nature of rights.

In his example, a man who has survived a shipwreck arrives on an island which has only one inhabitant. The inhabitant refuses to let the shipwrecked man remain on the island, saying that his property rights are in effect, and threatening to cast the survivor back into the sea. In such a case, Dr. Peikoff said the issue reduces to whomever smashes the other's head first.

Dr. Peikoff had used the example to show that rights don't come into effect until men decide to form a civilized society.*

It is unfortunate that we are at such an impasse; so be it.

Get rid of social welfare first, or require immigrants to be completely self-sufficient, and then open the borders without any sacrifice.

I would support, at any time, any and every law that says anything like this: If you want to come to America, swear off public monies forever. That is my spirit and I would live by those terms without grouse, even now.

Note, however, that there is still an element of injustice involved in the above should some Americans live off my taxes while I can't. But, that is a small price to pay for freedom, if the taxes aren't too bad.

But, I reject any form of self-immolation, for the same reason that I am a man: I do not exist for others. Least of all for altruists who would gladly leave in ruins the world better men have created. I cannot - I will not - wait for the irrational to know reason.

Such a path of action as you have prescribed would require my death. On such terms, may the best man win.

* Any misrepresentations of Dr. Peikoff's words or position are mine.

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Mr. Speicher,

I have nothing but the utmost respect for you.

And I like you, Mercury. At times we share a similar sense of life, at least as evidenced in our response to movies.

But, on this issue, it seems that we are unable to reason with one another.

Well, I've given my reasons and I am content to leave it at that, except for one point that I do not want to let stand.

In his example, a man who has survived a shipwreck arrives on an island which has only one inhabitant. The inhabitant refuses to let the shipwrecked man remain on the island, saying that his property rights are in effect, and threatening to cast the survivor back into the sea. In such a case, Dr. Peikoff said the issue reduces to whomever smashes the other's head first.

A "lifeboat" situation is an unusal emergency in which morality does not apply. But we do not live our lives on a lifeboat. I am sure for many living in the United States is preferrable to living in Mexico, but that preferrence is hardly a lifeboat situation which "reduces to whomever smashes the other's head first."

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Should antitrust laws be applied to labor unions as well? Should unions be broken up into smaller unions under the power of antitrust?

No! Antitrust laws are so vicious and so non-objective an injustice that one does not correct the injustice against businessmen by extending the same evil to another group of people. There are many conservatives who, instead of advocating the repeal of antitrust laws, try to solve the problem by victimizing labor unions the way businessmen are victimized, in the hope that this would equalize the bargaining position of business and labor. But nobody gains from those laws except bureaucrats and the government. The extension of antitrust to labor unions would not help business; it would merely help enslave a part of the population that is still relatively free. You cannot correct one injustice with another injustice.

Labor is often more philosophically alert on the issue of freedom than are businessmen - probably because labor leaders are still free to speak, whereas businessmen are not, owing to antitrust laws. Labor is aware of government encroachment, as witness the opposition of George Meaney to Secretary Goldberg's attempt to sacrifice both labor and management to the "public interest" -- to dictate in labor negotiations what the public interest is. If you want to protect freedom, leave labor and every other group free. [APM 62]

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And I like you, Mercury. At times we share a similar sense of life, at least as evidenced in our response to movies.

I, too, have noted this sense-of-life similarity. It is always sad when a man must disagree so violently with one he regards so highly. It would make for the highest drama in fiction, if the stakes weren't higher - in reality.

Well, I've given my reasons and I am content to leave it at that[...].

I concur, and shall let our disagreement here "be submitted to a candid world."

A "lifeboat" situation is an unusal emergency in which morality does not apply. But we do not live our lives on a lifeboat. I am sure for many living in the United States is preferrable to living in Mexico, but that preferrence is hardly a lifeboat situation which "reduces to whomever smashes the other's head first."

You may be right about the degree, statistically, to which an immigrant's native country is a threat to the immigrant's well-being. But, the statistics of sheer survival are no determinant or indicator of the possibility of any particular individual's eudaimonia.

Notice that, today, immigration news is perhaps the only time when Americans get to see flesh-wood-and-blood lifeboats: from Cuba, from Haiti, from Venezuela, and, if we replace the boats with planes full of positive-spirited immigrants who mean no harm to America, from across the world.

While a few immigrants may still be able to seek refuge in Canada, Britain, Australia or New Zealand, most do not even have that 'out.' Outside the land of the living, only death awaits - in a sacrificing sea.

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In our current political context, opening the borders cannot be endorsed or condemned in terms of a single principle because pening the borders necessarily means a package deal that opens the borders to mass looting in the terms described by Stephen. Even though some immigrants like Mercury are not part of that, rational individuals most affected by it in regions such as California (with moral support from the east) must judge the situation in terms of the actual meaning of the actual political choice available, and not sacrifice themselves in the name of a concept of immigration that currently does not and politically cannot exist.

But no one is advocating bashing Mercury's head in either. Mixed socio-economic systems are not "lifeboat" situations, they are simply mixed. That we can be glad Mercury came (illegally or not) is not a contradiction. The spreading disrespect for the law while we try to live moral lives in spite of its corruption is one of the broader consequences of a "mixed" form of government, and that is not restricted to the realm of immigration.

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My family and I came here as immigrants 25 years ago, so forgive me if I fail to rein in my emotions over this issue in my posts in this thread.

Here are some stats presented by a National Review article on the extent to which immigrants take from the social welfare system:

According to Forbes magazine, only 10 percent of illegal Mexicans have sent a child to an American public school and just 5 percent have received food stamps or unemployment benefits.

Of more interest, however, is a fact presented by Harry Binswanger in an article at ILW.com:

A popular misconception is that immigrants come here to get welfare. To the extent that is true, immigrants do constitute a burden. But this issue is mooted by the passage, under the Clinton Administration of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity and Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which makes legal permanent residents ineligible for most forms of welfare for 5 years.

I have misgivings about your position Stephen, but I'm still chewing on it and hopefully will post later. (E.g. why do we stand to benefit more in the long run from repealing one set of unjust laws over another in this particular instance?: It seems to me that we stand to benefit more from the influx of a productive class than from keeping them out for the sake of picking away bit by bit at the long-standing social welfare system.) In the meantime, I hoped to present this information to flesh out more of the context of the immigration issue.

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Here are some stats presented by a National Review article on the extent to which immigrants take from the social welfare system:
According to Forbes magazine, only 10 percent of illegal Mexicans have sent a child to an American public school and just 5 percent have received food stamps or unemployment benefits.

Huh? 90% of the children of illegal Mexicans don't go to school? Why don't I see these millions of children wandering the streets of LA? I haven't heard of even one prosecution for such child abuse, much less millions. Besides, if Mr. Kudlow were right, I guess the Californian taxpayers who spent $8 billion last year to educate that 10% would be glad to hear that, since otherwise the cost would have been $80 billion.

As to the food stamps and unemployment benefits, disputing those figures hardly matters as the cost is peanuts compared to education. Most of my argument has been focused on education, the overwhelming cost borne.

Of more interest, however, is a fact presented by Harry Binswanger in an article at ILW.com:
A popular misconception is that immigrants come here to get welfare. To the extent that is true, immigrants do constitute a burden. But this issue is mooted by the passage, under the Clinton Administration of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity and Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which makes legal permanent residents ineligible for most forms of welfare for 5 years.

This merely shifted most of that tax burden from the national to the local level. Congress permitted state supplements, which the social welfare mentality of California eagerly provided.

I have misgivings about your position Stephen, but I'm still chewing on it and hopefully will post later. (E.g. why do we stand to benefit more in the long run from repealing one set of unjust laws over another in this particular instance?

That's a fair question, and I think the answer depends, in part, on how long between respective repeals, and who is the "we" to focus on. I've given some arguments from my personal perspective; convince me I am wrong and I will change my mind. Incidentally, what do you think of the intermediate idea of opening up our borders but requiring all immigrants to be completely self-sufficient? No public education, etc.

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Huh? 90% of the children of illegal Mexicans don't go to school?

There is a switch here in the meaning of the statistic from "children of 90%" to "90% of the children". I don't know whether that changes the numbers, but a more fundamental question is how do they know? With illegal immigrants routinely using forged documents like social security numbers, drivers licenses, etc., how are local schools and census takers supposed to know, assuming they care. One thing we do know is that we are being run over by taxes supporting these "middle class" welfare programs, so the immportance of the question of how much is going to illegals cannot be so easily dismissed.

Also, the question in the current context of welfare state package deals is not whether "we benefit" more or less, but what injustices are being heaped on individuals forced to pay taxes for it.

Incidentally, what do you think of the intermediate idea of opening up our borders but requiring all immigrants to be completely self-sufficient? No public education, etc.
The answer on this forum should be obvious, but so is the non-practicality of achieving that in the forseeable future.

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A few factual issues regarding Harry Binswanger's comments on overcrowding in his article on immigration:

HB: Take an extreme example. Suppose a tidal wave of immigrants came here. Suppose that half of the people on the planet moved here. That would mean an unthinkable eleven-fold increase in our population--from 300 million to 3.3 billion people. That would make America almost as "densely" populated as today's England (360 people/sq. km. vs. 384 people/sq. km.). In fact, it would make us less densely populated than the state of New Jersey (453 per sq. km.). And these calculations exclude Alaska, Hawaii, and counts only land area.
The population of the country is not uniformly distributed and still would not be with an order of magnitude increase in population. You cannot compare the current population of New Jersey with the average after such an increase; New Jersey and many other areas would be much much denser than they are even now.
HB: And contrary to widespread beliefs, high population density is a value not a disvalue...People want to live near other people, in cities. One-seventh of England's population lives in London.
More valuable to whom? A lot of people live in cities because they economically have to. If you have ever seen the crowded tenements around London you would have a hard time believing people live like that because they prefer it! It may be a value because it makes certain kinds of jobs economically possible for people to find, but it doesn't mean people prefer living in crowded conditions, let alone more crowded than we have now. It's well known that many people prefer to sprawl out, leading to the migration to the suburbs even at the expense of harder commuting so they can have a larger house, a yard, and more space between people -- leading to the "sprawl" decried by viros who want us all to be packed into cities as part of their drive to depopulate areas they want to revert to wilderness.

Harry and others who share his view are certainly entitled to their their preference for living in Manhattan, but I, as a refugee from New Jersey where people routinely complain about the traffic and congestion, prefer -- as often as I can -- being an hour away from the nearest traffic light :angry2: .

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[...]I don't know whether that changes the numbers, but a more fundamental question is how do they know? With illegal immigrants routinely using forged documents like social security numbers, drivers licenses, etc., how are local schools and census takers supposed to know, assuming they care.

They use forged documents because they have to. Mind and force are opposites.

One thing we do know is that we are being run over by taxes supporting these "middle class" welfare programs, so the immportance of the question of how much is going to illegals cannot be so easily dismissed.

And, in spiritual terms, how much is being taken from illegals (erosion of individual rights, assault on dignity, abuse of consciousness, incineration of career possibilities, etc.), cannot be easily dismissed.

What is your attitude toward immigration? Doesn't open immigration have a negative effect on a country's standard of living?

You don't know my conception of self-interest. No one has the right to pursue his self-interest by law or by force, which is what you're suggesting. You want to forbid immigration on the grounds that it lowers your standard of living - which isn't true, though if it were true, you'd still have no right to close the borders. You're not entitled to any "self-interest" that injures others, especially when you can't prove that open immigration affects your self-interest. But above all, aren't you dropping a personal context? How could I advocate restricting immigration when I wouldn't be alive today if our borders had been closed? [FHF 73]

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There is a switch here in the meaning of the statistic from "children of 90%" to "90% of the children".

Yes, thanks for catching that. Very sloppy of me. Not an excuse, but by way of explanation, I was in a terrible hurry. There is a lesson there ...

In either case, based on figures I have seen, the end result is pretty much the same. Even considering a disproportionate number of men without a wife, the number of children per family outstrips the rest of the birth rate. That 10% figure creates an impression that trivializes the cost, at least here in California where 35 to 50% of all illegal immigrants reside.

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They use forged documents because they have to. Mind and force are opposites.

But they did not have to come here; they did so by choice, not force. And in doing so they broke the laws of our land, by force. Mind and force are opposites.

QUOTE(AYN RAND ANSWERS ...

This continued quoting from Ayn Rand is a straw man. As far as I can tell, no one here is against open immigration.

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A practical plan: Every Objectivist would like open immigration and abolishment of public support. We're not likely to get either for decades. So, while it is perfectly fine to lay them down as goals that help us find our way, it isn't reasonable to assume we'll get either anytime soon. Having put these forth as the ultimate goal, we should aim to do two things: pushing for an ambitious but politically viable step toward less public support, while at the same time pushing for an ambitious but politically viable step toward open immigration.

I think the best way to acheive this is to implement a work-permit style program. As long as people can still go on public support, do not open the borders to the moochers. Instead, open it to people who will work and pay taxes. The simplest way to implement this is to stipulate a minimum earning level that qualifies a person as someone who is coming to work. Such a system already exists for work-permits. So, this is nothing new; it is just a question of applying the principles in existing laws to other lesser-paid occupations. Some law-makers want to use length of stay to decide who is allowed to remain. I submit that income is a better criteria.

Secondly, people who are on work-permits and earning less than a certain amount can be made to pay some type of fee or tax.

Allowing legal immigration for people earning more than a certain amount a year (and their families) would at least not be worse than the status-quo. Allowing legal immigration of this type would more clearly identify the others (i.e. illegals) as moochers. Asking some immigrants to "pay back" part of the money as tax would also at least not be worse than the status-quo.

The Status Quo: The status quo on immigration is bad. Having 11 million people breaking the law is a sure way of undermining the rule of law. So, the status quo cannot stay. The only alternatives are either doing something to get the illegals out, or doing something to let the better ones stay.

The status quo is also a minor security risk, particularly seeing how ineffectively the U.S. is fighting against militant Islam. The number of people crossing the border illegally needs to be reduced drastically, so that real criminals find it more difficult to hide among the throngs at crossings, at border-patrol interviews, in detention centers, at routine police stops. With a long, shared border the practical thing to do is to work out a scheme that allows the better Mexicans to come here in a controlled and documented way.

Once a law gets more strict than reasonable people are willing to obey, the mass begin to break the law. Then the bad guys hide among them.

More important changes: With the current immigration debate the focus is on the poorest of immigrants. It is essentially a pessimistic debate, in which the discussion seems to be about holding fort, and how not to lose too much more wealth. However, like a good businessman who looks for "top-line growth", the law should look elsewhere: to the best and brightest of the world.

For years, the U.S. has drawn extremely competent immigrants from all over the world, who end up as some of the richest and most qualified within the middle-class. Many of these people did not want really want to leave home. They did so because the options in their home countries were so poor. Living in Ireland in the early 1990's, I saw the first generation of people who no longer planned to immigrate to the US en masse. In the early 2000's I saw the same trend begin with my ex-countrymen from India. The Chinese can't immigrate very easily; but there too, many alternatives are opening up at home. The U.S. still has an edge; but, the gap is narrowing. This is a good thing, of course, because it is those countries than are opening up to the world and improving.

While some improvement is required to the current status-quo of low-income immigrants, a very different approach is required with regard to high-earning immigrants. Instead of putting them through a grinder, U.S. law should be constructed to welcome them. In a couple of generations, the better folk will no longer put up with even the small inconveniences and uncertainities that U.S. immigration law puts in their way. If I was graduating from my Indian college today, I doubt I would aim to immigrate. I would probably want to go abroad to see how the world works, for a couple of years, and then return "home" where the economy is booming from such a low start.

If you want to understand how the worst outliers in this group are treated, read this story of a friend who is planning to return to India. If economic value is to be the measure of worth, he earns about three times the median income of the typical U.S. citizen. I weep when I think of his story. [some on the forum may recognize him; but he wishes to remain anonymous.]

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I think the best way to acheive this is to implement a work-permit style program. As long as people can still go on public support, do not open the borders to the moochers. Instead, open it to people who will work and pay taxes. The simplest way to implement this is to stipulate a minimum earning level that qualifies a person as someone who is coming to work.

I don't follow how this will work. In California at least, many of the illegal immigrants are day laborers, doing odd jobs as hired on a daily basis. And for others, those who, for instance, do janitorial or other similar work, how can it be known how steady the work and how much can be earned? Besides, if a man comes with his wife and three children, the cost borne in educating the children alone could far, far exceed what is paid in total taxes for relatively menial work. Remember, at least here in California, these millions are not doctors and engineers who are crossing the border, but rather mostly uneducated folk.

Incidentally, I am not sure what you mean by "moochers." If you mean those who come here to get on the public dole, then okay, that term is appropriate. But, at least based on my own firsthand observations, most of the illegal immigrants are hard-working people who are seeking a better life, not coming here for the purpose of mooching. Unfortunately, what they pay in taxes does not cover the cost of services given, such as educating the children and medical care, which is one reason why I think that any plan that permits these sort of social services is doomed.

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