28 April 2010

Another note on immigration

A disagreement!

I think I follow where my disagreement comes from: the latter explanation given. I think the immigration laws we have at present are illogical and without merit or function. I suppose that a significant democratic polity which wants immigration restricted should have this wish respected. If they can come up with a way to do it that doesn't potentially impose upon the civil liberties of citizens or risk being used, as it has been by police in Arizona BEFORE it was passed, to racially profile and otherwise harass people who are, in some probability but without any certainty and certainly not uniformly, here illegally (but have committed no other more serious violations), ie, to target an unfavored group simply because they are unfavored and not because they represent any actual or potential harms to anyone.

My disagreement as summed up is that I am fairly sure that our present immigration laws are either:
1) unenforceable because they are incoherent and need reform anyway
2) not desired to be enforced anyway by political and business elites, despite considerable public disaffection (which I think is misplaced and often exploited by other authority figures to seize powers unrelated to the problem, as in the case of this most recent bill's rhetorical supports. But does not mean it does not exist). And therefore, are irrelevant laws suggesting some other reforms should take precedence (civil service reforms or campaign finance as examples). Any attempt to enforce meaningful law reform on this topic appears liable to end up in much the same place as the health care "reform": right where we started.

The other problem is this: the vague and unspecific objection that liberals or (some) libertarians seem to have with the law is that they don't think immigration should be restricted to begin with (I don't at least). But left unanswered is why conservatives seem to think it should be. Their responses for this more specific question are just as unspecific and illogical as conservatives seem to think liberal objections to Arizona and federal laws on immigration are.

"They're causing crimes!" - without acknowledging that (violent) crime is way down and most of it is still caused by native-born Americans or residents, and not immigrants, illegal or otherwise. Or that immigrants are disproportionately likely to be the more law-abiding resident, not wanting to attract attention is a powerful motivator to follow laws. "They're living off the welfare teat!" Without acknowledging that the vast majority of our welfare dollars go to older white people who've lived here for decades and the vast majority of social welfare programs we employ are not used by immigrants, illegal or otherwise, without some sort of fraud being committed (an actual crime worth investigating). Or that the vast majority of such immigrants are working at jobs, and probably paying their taxes (if they aren't being paid under the table by their employers, which is a problem worth taking up with their employers, not the illegals). The "precise" objection seems to focus mostly around the notion that they are not "American". If forced to choose only between the strict arguments of "rule of law needs to be enforced" and "we need to keep outsiders out", I'm pretty sure I would come down on the former as correct. But this is, by and large, not the best solution to our immigration problem: to construct harsher legal regimes. Figure on why they are coming here as a root issue and base that on the empirical data of what immigrants actually do when they arrive, legally or illegally. Anecdotal stories will make for wonderful campfires, but they are not sufficient to establish that the cause of crime rates (which have been going down) or the expansive welfare state (which has been going up) is a bunch of people from South of the Rio Grande (otherwise known in America as "Mexicans", even if they are from Argentina). I think we do quite enough to be worthy of praise or blame on those two subjects on our own without needing to spread it around.

This is also a pretty good summary of the issue. Obviously I am not a Christian and therefore did not suffer such a conundrum myself, but there are some Christian sentiments I find quite agreeable. That was one such notion. I think it was roughly encapsulated in the "cosmopolitan egalitarian" sentiment, but occasionally "cosmopolitan egalitarians" get a lot of pushback from the religious folks. On this issue, I think, for the most part, religious authorities have had a pretty good notion to cooperate not with the state authorities in enforcing a silly law (when they actually want to enforce it), but with the immigrants in sheltering them against often very real external harm.

Another political-economy perspective here (Caplan returning to his usual form after a couple weeks in exile from his bizarre defence of restricted women's political, social, and economic rights or opportunities during the 19th century).
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