Obama vs. McCain 2008: Round 19: Illegal Immigration

This is the nineteenth of a weekly series of public forums on TMB. Watch for a new round every Monday.

Illegal immigration. McCain. Obama.


Next week: Race and Gender Issues

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16 Responses

  1. Why are there problems with E-Verify? Put an end to the madness by requiring E-Verify of everyone in the workforce and getting government aid?


    About Form I-9 and E-Verify
    The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) seeks to control illegal immigration by eliminating employment opportunity as an incentive for unauthorized persons to come to the United States, by prohibiting the hiring or continued employment of aliens whom employers know are unauthorized to work in the United States. To comply with the law, all U.S. employers must verify the employment eligibility and identity of all employees hired to work in the United States after November 6, 1986 by completing Employment Eligibility Verification forms (Forms I-9) for all employees, including U.S. citizens. Employers who hire or continue to employ individuals knowing that they are not authorized to be employed in the United States may face civil and criminal penalties. Unquote.


    Politics of Illegal Immigration – Census, E-Verify, and I9s: http://tinyurl.com/3ru8w5

    Come and join us at http://www.alipac.com

  2. A bad economy is a pretty good cure to illegal immigration. Combine that with even moderate enforcement of current laws and I hear lots of (admittedly anecdotal) evidence that many illegals are headed home.

    Illegal immigration artificially depresses low skill wages. This harms inner city and rural residents who already have fewer economic opportunities. I think McCain and Obama are pretty close to the same page on this and that it doesn’t matter as much as it looked like it did a year ago.

    I like some things I heard back in the Republican Primaries. The immigration laws are backward: we let low skill labor in easily, and it is hard for skilled labor like scientists and doctors to get in. We should work to attract the best and brightest from around the world.

  3. Tony,

    You say that “illegal immigration artificially depresses low skill wages.” Do you mean “artificial” in the economists’ version of the word – meaning, a non-market force distorts markets?

    I would argue that laws against illegal immigration “artificially” distort markets. I find it amusing that Republicans claim to support free markets. Labor is a market, and the GOP doesn’t support free movement of labor! Restricting immigration is a market intervention, something Republicans claim to be against.

    Now, since I’m not a die-hard Republican, I don’t have to subscribe to GOP dogmas. I believe government intervention in ANY market is ok if it makes markets more efficient or serves national security interests. Hence, I believe the government has a right to “artificially” regulate immigration in some ways, just as the government needs to insert artificial constraints in financial and other markets. But the fact that illegal immigrants come here and push wages down is not “artificial” – it’s just a simple force of free markets!

  4. Ryan,

    “I find it amusing that Republicans claim to support free markets. Labor is a market, and the GOP doesn’t support free movement of labor! Restricting immigration is a market intervention, something Republicans claim to be against.”

    The GOP is a coalition of conservatives, not everyone supports all the planks of the party to the same degree. The base is very much against illegal immigration, but many that are heavily on the economic conservative side of the party do not feel the same way.

  5. “Over 2,600 people have died trying to cross from Mexico to the U.S. in the past decade, ten times the number of people who died trying to cross the Berlin Wall during its entire 28-year existence.”

    See http://www.rcnphoto.com/images/gal_mpr/03.html and the rest of the photo’s in this essay.

  6. Leo, are you accusing the Mexican government of shooting people that try to escape?

    You’re the one that compared it to the Berlin wall…

  7. I am comparing the number of deaths to the Berlin Wall. Did you have any idea how many deaths there were? This is something we have allowed to happen. I am not proud of what we have done with our border and to our neighbors. We have surrounded the shining city on a hill with barbed wire. We have said, don’t give me your tired, your poor. We have, however, and I urge you to look at the rest of the photo essay, exploited the labor of hard working Braceros and farm workers. See http://www.rcnphoto.com/images/gal_mpr/15.html

  8. I have a question for Ryan, Tony, and others.

    I know it’s probably hard to predict, but what difference do you think this economic crisis could play on immigration?

    I see at least two possibilities, recognizing that I am hardly an expert an economics. For all I know, I could be way off base here.

    One possibility, if things really do get quite bad in terms of unemployment, is that many jobs currently filled by immigrants (legal or illegal) will be in higher demand by natives and thus there will be a demand for even greater efforts to clamp down on immigration (perhaps even curtail legal immigration).

    A second possibility is that there will be more of a demand for the cheap labor that illegal immigrants provide and thus less demand to clamp down on illegal immigration.

    Or perhaps a combination of the two?

  9. Leo,

    Do you have locks on your home? The problem with an open border is that it isn’t only hard-working American-dream-seeking people that will cross it. Protecting our border is an essential part of our National Security Policy.

  10. Aluwid,

    Immigrants are coming here to grill our meals, not burn our fields.

    I would say we we need an orderly border with reasonable checks, like we have with Canada.

    We have home-grown criminals that freely cross between U.S. states. I am not yet ready to close the state borders.

  11. I’m half-Mexican and some of my Mexican relatives lived illegally in the US for several years. They’re legal now, have become US citizens, and seem to be doing very well.

    The thing that always surprised me was just how easy it was for them to live there illegally. It was so out-in-the-open and such a piece of cake to find employment (sometimes even decent employment — one relative worked for an immigration lawyer of all people, who was a great help in getting them their legal status later on) and they got a great house, nice car, kids enrolled in school, no problem. I was amazed. And my Mexican grandmother would often go to the US for visits, sometimes let her I94 visa expire (which is supposed to be surrendered when you leave the US so that they can see that you’ve actually left when you were supposed to). And every time she went back, they let her back in without any problem. Unbelievable! I love my grandma, but if US customs had denied her entry because of her irresponsibility with the I94’s, I can’t say I would have blamed them. And now she’s emigrated legally to the US as well.

    Even though my relatives didn’t use them, they told us about people they knew who had used these “coyotes” who help Mexicans over the border for a fee. It’s terribly dangerous and because they need help from an insider, it shows just how it’s always possible if you have the money.

    I even know Canadian Mormons who went to the US, overstayed their legal time without a visa (I think it’s 6 months), ended up marrying someone there and then “turned themselves in” after a couple years. And they were allowed to stay in the US without any hassles once they got the paperwork going. On the other hand, my brother married an American and did the whole immigration process the “right” way, was totally honest, paid all the fees, etc. It was way more of a hassle than those who did it the wrong way.

    The saying goes among Mexicans that no matter how big a wall the Americans will build, Mexicans will always find a way over or under it. What they need is more of an incentive and reason to stay in Mexico. Remember that their view of America is what they see on TV. The most realistic portrayal of what life in America is like for the average family is probably “Roseanne,” but they believe that if they reach the US, it’ll be more like “Beverly Hills 90210.”

  12. FD:

    The saying goes among Mexicans that no matter how big a wall the Americans will build, Mexicans will always find a way over or under it. What they need is more of an incentive and reason to stay in Mexico.

    “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall
    That wants it down.”
    -Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

  13. I like a lot of what both FD and Leo have said.

    Dennis, in response to your question.

    I think it is difficult to tell what the economic effects will be on immigration.

    What I do think I may be able to predict are political effects. Economic hardships create the need for scapegoats. Two inevitable scapegoats are free trade and immigrants.

    There is basically no evidence that illegal immigration creates unemployment among citizens; however, this is an idea easily exploited by politicians. There are just a lot of uninformed people who believe that immigrants are stealing our jobs (when you meet someone whose job was stolen by an immigrant, let me know).

    As such, demand increases for anti-immigrant legislation. Case in point: both Oklahoma and Arizona, especially Pheonix, have severely cracked down on the employment of illegals during the last several months (forget the fact that this has led to a sharp decline in GDP).

    So, this could lead to bigger crackdowns.

    Regarding FDs claim that illegals can usually live here pretty easily: I think you’re right. If the government really wanted to shut off the flow, they could do it. But immigration is absolutely necessary for the economy. In addition to the humane reasons Leo has cited, I think severely cracking down on immigration is pretty harmful for the economy. I believe the solution is to dramatically increase the ease and availability of guest worker programs before we do anything more restrictive on the borders.

    This was partly the idea behind McCain-Kennedy -which I think was a great bill, but McCain has pandered to the Right and disowned it. It’s just not practical to carry out what Romney and others were arguing for.

    One other note: no matter how bad the economy gets in the US, it will still be better than Mexico’s. The wealth gap between us is shocking (and embarrassing). Immigrants will still want to come here.

  14. Very true, Ryan. Let’s face it, the illegals do a lot of the work that Americans won’t. And for Americans do be fighting for those jobs means that times are going to have to get really, really, really tough.

    And things in Mexico don’t really appear to be improving for the average person. Mexico is a country of classes, much like the US, but worse. You have filthy rich Mexicans and you have Mexicans who live in shacks. All in the same city. But the main problem is crime and corruption. There are a lot of kidnappings for extortion attempts, murders, and the drug war is getting way out of hand. It’s been in the news a lot lately.

  15. Recent immigration has resulted in a modest net gain for our economy according to a number of economists. See http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1727

    Whether the current economic downturn will reduce immigration (legal and otherwise) will depend partly on the relative rates of decline in the U.S. and Mexican and other economies.

    With NAFTA we allowed free movement of goods without allowing free movement of labor, which is problematic in my view. If cheap U.S. corn drives Mexican farmers off their land, where do we expect them to go? See http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0425-30.htm

  16. Here is my issue with the immigrants and all. I’m going to ask a question and see what people think about it. whats the deal with the saying freedom and opportunity in the US? Thats y people come to the US for freedom and better life. they are not here to hurt anyone. they are here to get a better job to support their families and children. Also i don’t see the big deal of them being here, anyone of us would do the something for our families. Also if it was not for them our jobs would not be done because their allot of Americans that would not do jobs that they do. i believe that Mexicans are not the only immigrants. theirs Asians, Africans, u name it. they are not the only ones I’m sorry to say, Americans only see the bad terms not the good terms.We only think about our selfs not anyone else. and thats called being selfish. If we say out country is about freedom and opportunity then would we should fallow it not just say something and not do it. thats all i got to say. thanks you for your time.

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