Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Linda Chavez on Immigration

Linda Chavez recently wrote an article called "Immigration misconceptions." It attempts, in essence, to allay any fears that high levels of immigration will cause problems in the U.S.

Let's deal with the assertions one at a time:

First, she states that illegal aliens are not necessarily criminals (unless, of course, they have committed crimes in addition to being in this cpountry illegally), as their offenses are civil ones. True, asnd as I said before, I don't want to change that. I want deportation, not incarceration.

Second, she states that illegal aliens got here the same way that immigrants (and other aliens got here in the past, "until the success of the immigration restriction movement in the 1920s." Although she doesn't say so explicitly, her implicit message is that the real problem with illegal immigration is not people coming in without permission, but that we are too stingy about letting people in.

This ignores the very salient fact that this is not the 1920s, and things have changed. Immigration, like other things, is more regulated because we have a more complex society that requires it to be regulated, and because there are so many things that immigration effects that would not have mattered 100 or 200 years ago. Plus, to be blunt, a lot of the ways that we used to do things weren't as good as the way we do them now, which is why they have been changed. Would she likewise disparage recent clean air regulations, because they penalize behavior that was considered inoffensive in the 1920s, or suggest that it is foolhardy that we are not as free-wheeling with hazardous chemicals as in the 1920s?

The fact of the matter is, we have affirmative action and quotas now (which, whatever ou have been told officially, are the inevitable consequence of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). We have the welfare state and greatly-expanded public services. Education, hospital care, etc. etc. are not just available but are considered to be rights, at least to the extent that when a person who comes here illegally and is unable to pay the hospital cannot deny him service on the public dime.

So things are different and the system needs to be different.

Moreover, as I have said before, illegal immigration isn't the real issue. The real issue is who and how many foreigners we want to let into our country each year, both temporarily and permanently. Illegal immigration per se is only an issue to the extent that it prevents us from being able to achieve the immigration numbers that we determine to be best. In other words, if we can't control our border, any policies reagrding who, and how many we let into our country (and for how long) will be moot because we won't be able to enforce them. Curbing illegal immigration is important because it is necessary to be able to bring about whatever policy we determine to be best.

Next she argues that illegal immigrants pay taxes, and so are not a burden on the economy. In fact, they are a benefit, as they overpay income tax, being scared to get refunds.

This ignores a lot of costs associated with illegal immigrants that doi not accrue to the immigrants themselves. For example, the cost of providing an education to school-age American-born, citizen children. The argument that they pay property tax also ignores that a lot of illegal rent small spaces and house a lot of people there; we're not talking about huge amounts of rent here paying taxes on a huge number of apartments. Talk of slaes tax revenues asumes that the immigrants spend a lot of money here, rather than sending it to Mexico. There is the problem of emergency room treatment for uninsured illegals eating up medical resources. I'll try to do a more detailed post later, using some of the articles of Edwin S. Rubinstein for back-up, but you get the idea.

But there is another fundamental flaw in Ms. Chavez's post. If illegal aliens are paying extra taxes because they are afraid to apply for refunds, won't that benefit end if the illegals are made legal? That is, once they are made legal, they will apply for income tax refunds, and they will pay much less, if anything, in income tax. They will also escape Social Security taxes once you take into account the earned-income tax credit. If anything, this is an argument that legalizing illegals is costly.

This line is hilarious:

Do these facts mean we ought to ignore the problem of 12 million illegal aliens living in the United States? Of course not. It's bad for all of us when laws are so wantonly flouted. Those who have entered the country should pay some price for having violated the law — a heavy fine, for example, which is the usual penalty for misdemeanor offenses.

So in other words, give them a slap on the wrist. She should just say that she doesn't really care, rather than pretending to.

And this last paragraph is priceless:

The more difficult question is how to stop more people from coming here illegally — and the best way to do that is to increase border security and change our current, inflexible laws to make it possible for more people to come here legally.

Yeah, you wouldn't get raped so often if you said "yes" more!

That is all.

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