Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Jews Love: Illegal Immigrants

Historically Jews have been immigrants. We've been expelled, and invited, and expelled, and invited, and expelled, and tolerated, for a long time. Maybe it's this long history, and the fact that a good portion of Jews worldwide (6 million or in America, and another 5 or 6 in Israel) are relatively new immigrants, that makes me extremely sympathetic to the plight of more recent immigrants.

Steven E. Landsburg has an article in Slate about the economic impact of immigration. Two years ago Mimi in New York wrote an article for the Village Voice on How To Become an Illegal Immigrant. Landsburg focuses on legal immigrants, but if you look at the economics alone, illegal immigrants* help our economy in numerable ways:

1) While NY Times claims that "affluent white families" are leading the baby boom, other sources (like the Immigration News Blog) point out that "The number of births to Mexican women increased 28 percent from 2000 to 2005, a time in which the city’s overall births were down." And we need to have a positive population growth rate. Despite issues in world overpopulation, societies that do not have positive growth rates are having a great deal of difficulty. Look at Japan (piece from UMW), for instance. Not enough doctors, an increasingly elderly-heavy society with few caregivers, and many other related issues.

2) There is a lot of talk about how illegal immigrants decrease wages by increasing competition. Thing is, a lot of the jobs they do are jobs that Americans don't want. In January of this year Daniel Gross wrote two pieces for Slate on jobs that Americans won't do. They include working as sailors on cargo ships, long-haul truckers, agricultural laborers, landscaping, entry-level construction, and the list goes on. Also, again, refer to Landsburg's article for a breakdown of how much impact they actually have on our society and earning power.

3) Myth: Immigrants take a lot of social services, and funding. Fact: Many illegal immigrants use stolen social security numbers at their place of work. This means that while they are paying payroll (and other) taxes, they don't get a refund. In many cases they cannot take advantage of Medicaid, Medicare, and other government entitlement programs, yet they contribute to the general coffers. An influx of immigrants, with their earning and tax potential, certainly helps move our stagnant social security system. Also: illegal immigrants are consumers, which means that they pay all regressive taxes, like sales tax, tolls, and more, once again contributing to systems whose services from which they disproportionately do not benefit.

4) Now I recognize that this point is pure rhetoric, but: we are a country based on immigration. Some of our greatest gains were made when our borders were either porous, or less restricted than they are now. With new immigrants come new blood, new ideas, and people with a hunger for success. Many American-born Americans have a sense of entitlement. We don't work as hard, aren't as ambitious, and, are generally spoiled. If we wish to continue our economic dominance we need to either regain the traits that made us great (hard work, entrepreneurship, etc) or we need to import people that have them.

Obviously there are some security and other concerns about opening our borders to illegal immigrants. I understand them. But right now for every immigrant who is caught at the border, two make it in. We clearly need to change our frame of reference, and while the new legislation granting amnesty is interesting, I think that it doesn't really address all of the issues.

* I have chosen to use the term "illegal immigrant" instead of "undocumented immigrant" because while a person can never be illegal, their immigration was, technically, outside the bounds of American law.


The Pedant said...

I agree with the term "illegal immigrant." If I drive without my license, I'm not an "undocumented driver." I'm driving illegally.

Anonymous said...

Disagree with the above. As long as you still have a license, you're legal. You may incur a fine if you're stopped, because you are supposed to carry certain documentation with you (insurance, registration) but it isn't the same as not having it.