Thursday, June 08, 2006

Damned With Faint Praise

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention yesterday, I got one more birthday present on Monday. Smallholder finally responded to me with regards to Illegal Immigration. Well, OK, I didn't forget to mention it, I didn't see it until yesterday afternoon.

I suppose I should be glad that he clarifies his belief that I, myself, am not "knowingly" prejudiced:

I do not feel that Brian is intentionally basing his anti-immigrant stance on concious prejudice. Once again I got caught up in the heat of the moment and used words loosely and did not mean to give great offense to our blogsopheric buddy. Brian is a good man and would not conciously hold ideas that were prejudiced.

But I'm not sure that "unwitting dupe of prejudiced ideas" is that much of a step up. Oh, well, you take what you can get.

He then goes on to say,

Many of the folks on his side of the argument are prejudiced. And prejudiced in ways that require them to contort logic. When presented with clear evidence, in the form of FBI records, that immigrants are slightly LESS likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans (or should I say nativists?), there is a pause and then "what about Hispanic gangs!" come right back out. As if Hispanic gangs are not included in the FBI statistics and as if Tookie Williams and the Crips are an export of Tijuana.

Funny -- most of the people I talk to on this side of the illegal immigration debate believe exactly as I do. Yet they’re prejudiced, I’m not. And he did it again. Notice the absence of the word "Illegal" in front of the word "Immigrant". That is a glaring and important omission. I called Smallholder on it in an earlier post, and he backpedaled, saying it was an unintentional gaffe, and I accepted that explanation. However, given his stubborn insistence on using this particular ploy, and further given the tone of Monday’s post, I can no longer trust the sincerity of that apology. Fool me twice, and all that.

So before I continue to respond to Smallholder’s post, let us make this point painfully clear: Despite what Smallholder would have you believe about us, I and those like me on this side of the Illegal Immigration debate do NOT hate immigrants, we do NOT oppose immigration; we oppose ILLEGAL immigration. We’re quite aware, thank you, that most if not all of us are descended from immigrants, and we have a great deal of respect and admiration for those who play by the rules and come to this country legally.

One commentor on Brian's site, and I'm calling Lurch out by name, makes the farcical argument that, FBI statistics be damned, illegal immigrants must commit more crimes since they have shown a willingness to violate immigration law…. … Perhaps we are more likely to believe them Hispanics are capable of crimes because they are.... icky.

Well, considering Lurch never saw your original reference to the FBI study (because he onmly reads my blog usually), I don’t see how his comment could be construed as “FBI statistics be damned”. And implying that my best friend is an anti-Hispanic racist isn’t really progress after clarifying that I’m not.

Interesting thing about that FBI document Smallholder references. I read the quote he mentioned, and it specifically refers to immigrants, not illegal immigrants. Again, that’s an important distinction. And it’s a distinction that Lurch made in his comment to my earlier post (he pointed out that he did not believe that the illegal immigrant population was representative of Hispanics in general) – a distinction Smallholder ignores in implying that Lurch thinks “Hispanics are icky”. Smallholder says, “Note that the conclusion that illegals have a lower crime rate than citizens…” Um….. Again, the study doesn’t say anything about illegals, it says immigrants. Repeat after me, Smallholder: Not all immigrants are illegals.

But it’s not the only time in his post that Smallholder does that in the post, as we will see as we progress:

On the anti-immigrant side of the argument you have the following threads:

Anti-ILLEGAL Immigration. Get it straight!

Economic: Immigrants are bad for America.

No, ILLEGAL immigrants are economically bad for America.


Interesting that right after taking Lurch to task for “ignoring” the FBI study, Smallholder then readily “refutes” the economic costs of Illegal Immigration, studies (many of which are readily available with a simple Google search, and some of which were provided by reader Polymath in a Maximum Leader post) be damned.

At this point, in order to discuss economics and Illegal immigration, the difference between legal and illegal immigrants is VASTLY important, even more so than on the issue of crime. The reason for this is simple: Large numbers of illegal immigrants, especially in border states and western agricultural states (that’s redundant, isn’t it?), do NOT, contrary to Smallholder’s assertion, obtain false papers and get legitimate jobs paying at least minimum wage and withholding taxes. Maybe some do, maybe even a large number, but I suspect that, especially out here, the completely undocumented illegals are if not the majority, a very large minority at the least.

So let’s take both groups separately. With regards to the group relied on by smallholder to support his argument, namely, the group that is using fraud to pose as legal workers (but the only crime they ever committed was crossing the border, I thought? Huh….), they provide not a single valid economic advantage to the US economy that can’t be provided by streamlining the immigration process and making it easier to admit more LEGAL immigrant workers (something I’ve advocated all along, as have many others).

So that brings us to the completely undocumented illegals: the day laborers working for lower than minimum wage with no benefits, withholding, etc. The only reason they are economically cheaper than citizens or legal immigrants is because their illegal status and the threat of discovery allows people to hire them for lower wages than they could get away with for a legal laborer. And while they may provide an economic benefit, especially for their employers, I’m not sure it’s as big an advantage in the long run as Smallholder claims. One study indicates that the cost of labor accounts for only 6% of agricultural production expenses. A shift from underpaid illegals to higher paid legal immigrants and citizens isn’t going to suddenly result in $5 Avocados, folks. And no, rich folks in California aren’t going to stop having their roses trimmed just because they have to pay Juan $8/hour instead of $4.

But even allowing for some cost advantage to hiring such underpaid illegals, economists have for some time pointed out the myriad of drawbacks: artificially deflated wages in certain industries; the financial strain on certain government services (more on that in a moment), the added burden on the prison system….

Which brings us to this:

Crime: Immigrants lead to higher crime rates.

Actually, that’s a gross misrepresentation of the argument against illegal immigration from the effects of crime. The real argument for our side is this: A porous border that allows people to cross with near total impunity is bound to attract, and has attracted, individuals who intend to cross over into this country in order to engage in activities far less innocent that merely seeking work. Furthermore, the shadow society created by such a large number of illegal immigrants, and their willingness to help each other avoid deportation, makes it easier for the criminal element within their community to hide from and escape prosecution. And while this criminal element may (or may not) be a smaller percentage of their population that the crime rate in general (a claim that is not established by Smalklholder’s FBI study of IMMIGRANTS IN GENERAL, not ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS), given the estimated millions of illegals crossing the border, even a single digit percentage of them would amount to tens of thousands of predatory criminals. Securing the border against all (or ass close to all as possible) illegal immigrants will also contribute to preventing these criminals from entering.

The examples cited: Los Angeles Gangs; Oregon drug rings and child molesters are not meant to prove that immigrants in general are more criminally inclined, but that a lax immigration policy has made it easy for these individuals to import their crime.

Refuted. Government statistics definitively show that immigrants are, if anything, slightly less likely to commit crimes.

This is true, but also irrelevant, because WE’RE TALKING ABOUT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS, NOT ALL IMMIGRANTS IN GENERAL!!!!!!!!!

Now, back to the economic cost/benefits analysis of illegal immigration:

Tax fairness: Immigrants don't pay their fair share of taxes and use social services.

Immigrants do, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS DON’T!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry, Smallholder, but I’m not going to let you “Big Lie” this into a general immigration debate, this is about ILLEGAL immigration.

[Illegal] Immigrants actually pay the same sales tax on all purchased goods

Ummmm…. No. This assumes that all goods and services are taxed at the same rate across the board. This is certainly not true in California (they have a few illegals, don’t they?), where necessities like food and medicine are not taxed, which means that low income illegals, less likely to purchase luxury goods, are not paying sales tax on the same percentage of their purchases as are higher paid legal immigrants and nationals. Furthermore, one state near the border, my home state of Oregon, has no sales tax at ALL.

and do not get any of the taxes they pay under false social secutiry numbers back. They do not get welfare or social security (becuase they are illegal).

Two things:

1. I’m to assume that they’re willing to commit fraud (not a crime, I suppose, since the only crime they ever commit is crossing the border) in order to get jobs, but not to get government services? Riiiiight……

2. This may come as some surprise to Smallholder, but Federal assistance in the form of welfare and Social Security are not the only forms of government assistance available, and are not the only burden an individual might place on the system. There is state assistance. Here in Oregon, the U of O, in conjunction with the State and the Mexican Consulate, actually held seminars for illegals on how to apply for and get all sorts of government assistance. In California, Illegals account for very high percentages of the uninsured motorist population, as well as uninsured visits to emergency rooms.

Job theft: Immigrants steal jobs from hard-working Americans.

No, ILLEGAL immigrants steal jobs from hard-working Americans and LEGAL immigrants.

Anti-immigrant folks are also typically opposed to raising the minimum wage because it will eliminate low-level jobs by rejiggering employer's calculations of marginal utility, but somehow magically think that an indirect lift of the minimum wage would not have the same effect.

Again, Smallholder’s argument here is based on ignoring the fact that American and legal immigrant workers must be hired for the minimum wage, while a large portion of the illegal population can be hired for less.

Plus, Republicans are supposed to value hard work and individual initiative.

Yes, we also value a level playing field, one that doesn’t exist when legal workers are given an artificial limit to what they’re able to do to get the job (work for less than minimum wage), a restriction that illegals are not hampered by.

How hardworking are Americans who are outcompeted by folks who don't even speak English?

In other words, Yanquis are icky and lazy and deserve to be unemployed.

Or maybe they’re outcompeted because that minimum wage vs. subminimum wage imbalance gives illegal immigrants an unfair edge? Hmmmm……

The Law is the Law! We should punish all wrongdoers: "What part of illegal do you not understand?" When the legal purists demand the harsh punishment of speeding and fellatio, I'll pay more attention.

That was never MY argument, so I’ll let the strawman defend himself in my comments. Or not.

Assimilation: Hispanics, unlike all other immigrant groups of the past (aside form the involuntary immigration of Africans), will not assimilate. Open to question. BUT, historical trends say they will.

The popularity of La Raza and the Chicano movements among young Hispanics in the Southwest would seem to indicate otherwise. But since this is not an argument I’ve ever made against illegal immigration, I’ll not belabor this point.

American Morality. Talking with the Foreign Minister, I realized there is another aspect to the immigration situation. Given that legalizing currently illegal aliens will lessen the countrywide financial benefit of illegal labor, on purely economic grounds we ought to make sure that they never get legal status. Of course, such a Machiavellian stance has moral implications: Is it okay to exploit the willingness of immigrants to work to benefit ourselves while at the same time denying them basic benefits of American society? This is troublesome. I don't know where I stand here.

I know exactly where I stand on this one: Using their illegal status to force them to work for less than Americans would is not only unfair to American/legal immigrant workers, it is a form of economic slavery, and is equally victimizing of the illegals themselves.

Elitiism. Rich middle class people only like immigration because it threatens the poor and less fortunate.

Not an argument I’ve made. Scarecrow?

Smallholder would have you believe that opposition to illegal immigrants is opposition to all immigration, and is thus racists. I hope I’ve made it painfully clear that those of us on this side of the argument don’t oppose all immigration. As Lurch says, “among those of us who oppose illegal immigrants, the "immigrant" part is not the thing that concerns us.” And I hope it’s clear why this distinction is important.

I wonder if perhaps there isn’t a little bit of reverse racial bias in Smallholder’s point of view: The implication of image of all immigrants, and by ignoring the distinction, all illegal immigrants, as honest, hard-working simple folk without an evil bone in their body, is that anyone who opposes them must be racist. It couldn’t possibly be that we oppose illegal immigration for any other reason.

Could it?

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