Friday, August 24, 2007

Immigration and Racism [updated]

It's always dangerous to accuse people who profess opposition to illegal immigration of being racist. And by-and-large, I believe that most people who think critically about the issue, and come to a conclusion that we need to significantly reduce the influx of illegal immigrants, are well meaning. Illegal immigration is a question of justice to them - these folks broke the law (entering the country illegally) and should pay a penalty (deportation). It's a perfectly logical argument.

(Of course, many of those folks may also be screaming about the injustice of the new abuser fees, somehow not realizing that law must be obeyed and enforced too. Oh well, "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.")

But from an evidence-based perspective, the general case against immigration is extremely weak. The problem isn't the illegal immigrants, it's the fact that we don't let enough people in in the first place.

Immigrants help economy.

There is evidence that immigration moderates inflation.
The study finds that immigration can lower the prices of food, clothing, furniture, and appliances and have a significant moderating effect on inflation. - Science Daily
Immigrants start more companies than native-born citizens.
Last year, the rate of business startups by immigrants increased to 0.37 percent, or 370 out of every 100,000 adults, up from 0.35 percent in 2005, according to an annual index of entrepreneurial activity by the Ewing Marion Kauffman foundation, a Kansas City-based advocacy group. By contrast, native-born entrepreneurs launched businesses at a rate of 0.29 percent in 2006. -Inc. Magazine
Immigrants frequently pay taxes even when they are undocumented.
The IRS issued 1.5 million ITINs in 2006 — a 30 percent increase from the previous year. All told, the tax liability of ITIN filers between 1996 and 2003 was $50 billion. The agency has no way to track how many were immigrants, but it’s widely believed most people using ITINS are in the United States illegally. - MSNBC
And it's a good thing they do, because Social Security may depend on it.
Taxes paid by undocumented immigrants go into the SSA’s “suspense file,” when the Social Security number does not match SSA’s records. In 2002, the suspense file grew by $56 billion in reported earnings, with about $7 billion in Social Security tax and $1.5 billion in Medicare tax paid. This tax contribution represents about 10% of the current Social Security surplus—the difference between what is being collected in Social Security taxes and what is being paid out in benefits. - The National Immigration Forum (paraphrasing a New York Times article)
One of the biggest critiques of immigration is that it increases crime. But the anecdotal evidence isn't borne out by applied study.

Immigration has no significant impact on crime.

Immigrant children are actually less likely to commit crimes.
Sampson and his colleagues followed a diverse group of nearly 3,000 Chicago youths from 1995 to 2002, and found that immigrant kids were less likely than peers of similar socioeconomic backgrounds to participate in everything from gang fights to arson to purse snatchings. Not only that, but even nonimmigrant kids who happened to live in immigrant neighborhoods were less likely than otherwise to be involved in violence. - The Boston Globe
And when they do commit crimes, they're less likely to do it again and be sent back to jail.
INS data, recently made available at the request of the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees that fund the agency's budget, show a lower recidivism rate for immigrants. Of the 35,318 criminal aliens INS released from custody (but not did not deport) during October 1994 and May 1999 there were 11,605 who went on to commit new crimes. This recidivism (repeat offender) rate of 37 percent was well below the 66 percent figure for the U.S. criminal population for the comparable period. - The Center for Immigration Studies (2001)
And withholding services while rounding them up doesn't actually improve the situation.
They say lets send them back. What is the problem with that? It’s the turnstile at the boarder [sic]. It costs money to send them back, and then someone else returns. If they return as an illegal re-entry and are caught, its a five year sentence in federal prison. We pay for that. Now we are talking about withholding food, housing and medical. Well guess what, in prison they get Food, Housing and Medical. And now they are not working, they are not contributing or paying taxes, as many do. - Sheriff's Candidate Mike George
So the next time someone tells you that immigration is a problem, think carefully about that statement. It may be a question of comfort, not compatibility. Immigration makes some people uncomfortable. Too often, I fear that "quality-of-life" means "looks-and-sounds-and-thinks-like-me." And when people argue "it's only a question of citizenship," I would like to ask whether they'd mind an Indian Reservation next to their house. You don't get more native born than that.

We're all neighbors here in Loudoun County, regardless of where we come from (and remember, most of us don't come from here). We all moved here for fundamentally the same reason: better opportunities and lives for our families. All of us have that fundamental value in common. And that commonality is stronger than any difference in origin.

We should not care where you're from, we should only care what you do once you get here.

[update] On my honor as a graduate of The University, I wrote this post before seeing today's Leesburg Today cover story. Bridges is just an example of the wide diversity of Loudoun County, which may come as a surprise to some of our neighbors. We're a truly multicultural county, and for some reason, we appear to be able to live together just fine.

No comments: