Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It Worked!

I managed to goad Smallholder into another post on Immigration.

Unfortunately, I don't trust the comments over there to work yet, so I'll just respond here.

Smallholder writes:

(Self-congratulatory note to self: Bush and Congress did exactly what I predicted. Absolutely nothing of substance. Sure, we might have sent a few thousand guardsman to the border and generated a few headlines for the November election, but Congressmen are smart enough to know that illegal immigrants are good for the economy, regardless of what they tell their innumerate constituents during campaigns.)

Congratulations. You were right about Bush. Sadly, so was I. Please note that I never expressed support for the President's position on the issue. We may disagree about what should be done, but we did agree on what would be done under the current administration. Why do you think I have been so angry about it the whole time?

For the record, I think Memento is misguided, not racist. Characterizing the opposition to illegals as boiling down to "brown people are icky" was too broad of a stroke in the same way as "liberals hate America" is too broad of a stroke.

And yet, it is exactly the stroke YOU painted in an earlier post. Just holding you to your own words.

Seriously, Brian, I consifder you to be one of those exceptions: I don't think you are a racist. Can we bury the hatchet, please?

Only if you'll make me a promise: When addressing Illegal Immigration in direct response to any post of mine, can you please try not to bring that canard up at all? If it doesn't apply to me, it's not germain to rebuttals of my arguments.

Dealing with a) first. I guess Brian is still trying to fight the FBI. You see, when everyone was jabbering about the crime caused by illegals, I linked to the official government report by the FBI. Law enforcement data shows that illegal aliens are slightly less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens.

Ah-HA! I was hoping you'd trot this argument out again. PLEASE go back and read that FBI study to which you linked again. As I've pointed out before, and as you've NEVER addressed. the study addresses crime rates among immigrants, it never addresses Illegal immigrants. Now, repeat after me: Immigration and Illegal Immigration are not the same issue.

There are a few hardened narco-trafficers, but there are also native-born narco-trafficers.

Please don't tell me that you honestly believe that the only criminal element sneaking across our borders is "hardened narco-trafficers". I know you're not stupid, but you certainly are accepting that assumption uncritically.

Despite what law enforcement says

Most law enforcement sources I have read contradict YOU, Mark, including the LAPD and most agencies on the West Coast and in Texas, where II's are the most prevalent. And the one source you rely on is irrelevant, since it addresses Immigrants, not illegal immigrants. The FBI, which SH quotes, seems reluctant to make the distinction and single out illegals. But others have offered some thoughts you might want to consider -- see the links in the comment by Lurch, where he is responding to this post.

the answer from the anti-illegal side is "nuh-uh."

I find it highly ironic that Smallholder would use this particular criticism of his opponents. In earlier discussions of the issue, when he was provided with evidence, either by me or by Naked Villainy readers like Polymath, that most economists who study the issue have concluded that even taking into consideration positive benefits of illegal immigration like lower prices on goods produced by II's and the (somewhat suspect) claim that they contribute to tax revenues on an equal level with legals, that illegal immigrants constitute an economic burden on the U.S. economy, Smallholder's response has been that these economists must not really be counting all the benefits (as if people become well-respected economists by practicing bad math), and that their findings are wrong -- in other words, "Nuh-uh" -- the very criticism he has of us for not kowtowing to his claims because of one (misquoted) FBI study. Sauce for the goose, my friend.

Others go back to the old canard: If they are willing to break one law, they will be automatically break another law.

Um, no. You've done this before in this debate -- taking an actual argument used by his opposition, exaggerating it, and then refuting the exaggeration. While I'm of a belief that this particular argument, while valid, is the weakest of the crime-related arguments in favor of tougher border and immigration enforcement, I'll address it nonetheless. The REAL argument, not Smallholder's strawman facsimile of it, is "If they are willing to break one law, and find that they can do so with impunity, many will be more incline to break another law." That's quite different from "all will automatically". Furthermore, I'd argue, that the truly evil criminal element in other countries, when they observe how easy it is for anyone to cross the border into the US illegally, avail themselves of that easy opportunity and use the porous border to prey both on the US and on their weaker, less violent fellow illegals.

This belief conflicts with reality - the government's own statistics show this.

NO, no they don't. The only government statistics you've referenced address immigrants in general, not illegals.

I'd like to take a moment to address more specifically the point made in that FBI study, and why I think in reality it comes closer to supporting my position than Mark's:

The report points out that statistically, immigrants are less likely to commit crime than native born US citizens. Quite frankly, not only do I not refute this claim, I am unsurprised by it. In a moment I'll explain why that conclusion seems not only plausible, but intuitive.

But first, I'd like to repeat and belabor the point that the study addresses immigrants, and that at no point does it make the claim that these statistics are for illegal immigrants. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that the crime rates among legal immigrants is even lower than the rate listed in the study, and the rates among illegals higher, and that the rates listed in the study either apply to only legal immigrants, or if they apply to both, are an average of two. I'd argue that not only is it unreasonable to think that the same rates of crime apply to both sets of immigrants, it is unfair to legal immigrants to suppose that they are only as law-abiding as their illegal immigrant counterparts. Here's why:

Legal immigrants to the US, whether temporary or permanent immigrants working towards citizenship, have, by the very act of going through the immigration process, submitted themselves to a very rigorous process of application, and must jump through some very strenuous hoops to get and to stay here. This tells me that they are people who are willing to play by the rules, no matter how hard and unfair those rules may (or may not) be. This speaks volumes as to their propensity for law abidingness. Furthermore, for the entirety of the time they are here as an immigrant, whether that be until they attain citizenship or until their visa expires, they are under the scrutiny of the INS. They do not have the same level of privacy and freedom of movement that a US citizen has, and they are not shadow entities like illegal immigrants. They know that if they break the law, they will most likely be deported and all of the effort they have gone to will be in vain. For this reason, it is logical and unsurprising that immigrants in general are more law-abiding than even native citizens.

Ilegal immigrants don't live under the same constraints. They are hiding from the government to begin with, and quite successfully, so it is easier to hide other crimes as well. Furthermore, they have snuck in once, they know they can do it again, so while they desire to avoid deportation, it doesn't hold the same level of loss and risk that it does for someone who has been working for years to stay here legally.

Of course, the study doesn't support or refute my assertions about illegals vs. legals, but then, neither does it support nor refute Smallholder's -- it merely states that immigrants in general have a lower crime rate. Good news for those of us who support legal immigrants, but useless for sorting out the illegal immigration debate.

As for the rest of the paragraph in question:

In addition, the "illegals are more lawless and will steal your car" types are also blind to their own hypocrisy. I would wager that the vast majority of our readers (yes, you!) have, at one time or another, committed a victimless crime. This does not make us all more likely to commit armed robbery. The Minister of Propaganda, for instance, has violated 43 states' restrictions on extra-marital hanky-panky. Yet he has not, to my knowledge, been knocking over liquor stores in his spare time. Absolutists who demand law enforcement and harsh punishment for every violation of law - "down with illegal border crossers for illegally crossing the borders" have yet to explain their plan for prosecuting the Minister of Propaganda's sluttishness. Or, for that matter, prosecuting Polymath and my "experimentation" with alternative fuels.

A couple points:

A) Illegal Immigration is not a victimless crime. Smallholder wants to believe it is, but he has yet to provide satisfactory proof of his claim that ILLEGAL immigrants (not immigrants in general) provide a net gain to the economy, and his argument that any American jobs lost to illegals are lst because American workers are lazy smacks of "The victim(s) had it coming, so it's as good as victimless".

B) Just because All A are B does not mean all B are A. While it is certainly true that not everyone who has at some point committed some minor offense goes on to become Babyface Nelson, I'd be willing to wager that most hardened criminals started out with much less extreme offenses -- very few people who've never commited any crime wake up one day and say "I think I'll knock over a 7-Eleven today". Furthermore, we're not talking about people who have committed an occasional criminal act, however minor. We're talking about people who are intentionally and actively pursuing a lifestyle that is in violation of the law. And while many may stop at that, the fact that they are allowed to do so means that they and we are developing a subculture that neither respects our laws nor fears the consequences of breaking them. It should come as no surprise that many decide to break other laws besides those pertaining to immigration.

Memento Moron, who refuses to accept the validity of the government statistics

I accept their validity, I refuse to accept, and believe I've quite ably refuted, their relevancy. Again, the statistics you used spoke of immigrants in general, not illegals.

using a weak piece of datum to reinforce his own (erroneous) belief in the lawlessness of illegals reminds me of a quote I heard from Joel Salatin this weekend:

"Science can never convince. We only believe science when it agrees with our heart."

True words.

Sort of like... refusing to accept the analyses of experts regarding hte economic impact?

Pot... Kettle...

As for statistic, again, find me some that address illegals specifically, then get back to me.

But let me try one more time to lift the veil from Memento's eyes. (I know that it is pointless, but hell, I'm a teacher.

Oh, a personal insult, nice. So much for burying the hatchet.

When the San Bernadino policemen, trained officers of the law, suspect someone is an illegal alien, they check to see if they are. Surprise, surprise, 500 of 600 suspected illegals are indeed illegal. Is this the whole sample of criminals?

Actually, yes. Sorry if I stated it poorly, but the report seemed to indicate that all incoming inmates pass by these screeners, and that 500 out of 600 was the ratio of illegals to all incoming inmates. If I misunderstood, and this is not the case, then I retract the point.

As for part "b," I'm gobsmacked that Memento would even bring this weak crap.
Correlation, my friend, does not imply causation.

Again, my fault for not presenting the report properly. The report did go onto say that the CDC had reason to believe there was causation. I'm not sure what that reason or reasons were, but the report made it clear that the CDC did believe that illegal immigrants were the primary source of the higher levels of the disease.

Didja miss me?

Until you decided to add personal insults and condescension to the mix, yes.

I still think you mean well. But you insist on repeating certain tropes that I have refuted, and then either acknowledge my point, but go on with the same error (such as your tendency to use Immigrant and illegal immigrant interchangeably), or ignore my counterpoint altogether (I pointed out months ago that the FBI report only addresses the general immigrant population). You've used Ad hominems (the "icky" argument), non sequiturs (Using data on immigrants in general to support your claims about illegal immigrants), and straw men (misrepresenting or exaggerating the position taken or argument made by my side of the argument and then refuting that exaggeration). You know, you call yourself a "squishy centrist", but with that debating style, you'd fit right in amongst the "hard left" at DU.

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