Some Economics of Homeland Security

by Don Boudreaux on May 28, 2007

in Immigration, Terrorism

In refreshing contrast to the jingoistic and anecdotes-masquerading-as-analyses offerings of Lou Dobbs, Michelle Malkin, and other xenophobes, the Washington Post‘s Sebastian Mallaby today talks much good sense:

Of the many infuriating assertions in the immigration debate,
perhaps this one takes top prize: that we have to keep illegal
immigrants out for the sake of our security. This notion is wrong, not
just because undocumented workers are statistically less likely
than native-born Americans to commit crimes or because they are
serenely indifferent to al-Qaeda’s teachings. It is wrong because it
misses the most basic rule of smart homeland security.

Smart
homeland security starts with the reality that you can’t protect
everything. The federal government alone spends more than $58 billion
on homeland security per year — a sum greater than the entire defense
budget of Britain and about three times the estimated level of the
pre-2001 homeland security budget. This spending has bought important
gains: There are air marshals on planes, cockpits have been reinforced
and so on. But the United States contains half a million bridges, 500
skyscrapers and 2,800 power plants, not to mention thousands of
schools, shopping malls and subway stations. Even if you doubled
spending and then doubled it again, there would be too many targets to
protect. Total security is unattainable.

….

Which raises a few questions about the immigration bill in Congress. If
Clinton and Obama are upset with the misallocation of homeland security
funds, why aren’t they yelling about the proposed crackdown on
immigrants? As a Post editorial
recently pointed out, the immigration bill would require that the
Department of Homeland Security hire, train and deploy 5,000 to 6,000
new border agents; recruit and support several thousand civilian
employees required to fingerprint and register immigrants; build 370
miles of border fence; and create a whiz-bang database that would allow
businesses to check whether a prospective employee has entered the
country illegally. In a world of limited homeland security dollars, how
is any of this a priority?

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{ 39 comments }

True_liberal May 28, 2007 at 10:10 am

It seems to me that one of the 2004 Dem candidates (Kerry? Edwards? …) proposed that total security was unattainable and at some point we would have to live with a tolerable level of insecurity (paraphrased).

The Republicans pounced on & booed this idea and the media seemed to disavow it too.

But it's true, isn't it? There is no such thing as "safe vs unsafe" – there is always some finite degree of risk.

Jasper May 28, 2007 at 10:40 am

It seems to me that Mallaby is glossing over something here.

If one were an al-Qaeda operative attempting to sneak into the Unites States, I think one of the more plausible strategies (especially given the much stricter screening carried out at US airports) would be donning the garb of a Mexican laborer, learning a few words of Spanish, and joining the huddled millions swimming the Rio Grande. Lou Dobbs is correct: our borders are porous, and, for a country at war, that's a dangerous state of affairs.

The real debate ought not to be about whether or not to secure our borders: everybody should want them as secure as possible. The real debate ought to concern how to go about doing this. Here's where I differ with the Dobbs crowd. They have pie in the sky fantasies about a inanimate objects ("build a wall") doing the job, whereas I'm utterly convinced what would really be required would be a crushingly expensive militarization of the borders (ie., hundreds of thousands of troops). What I want to do, rather, is simply legalize "the problem" out of existence by allowing for generous immigration flows from the south. Take away a Latin American's need to sneak in the US against the law by handing him a work permit, in other words, and you should see a precipitous drop in the illegal flow heading north.

Rufus May 28, 2007 at 10:52 am

The "Real" question for thee and me, of course, is "Are they worth the Cost? And, at what level of CHAIN MIGRATION do they Cease to be Worth the Cost?"

If you can anwer these questions you can pick up your "Nobel" at the door.

Steven M. Warshawsky May 28, 2007 at 11:45 am

Jasper,

Your comment is a droll parody of the "open borders" position, right? How else to explain that, on the one hand you recognize the dangers of insecure borders, but on the other hand you propose to "legalize the problem out of existence" by simply handing heretofore illegal immigrants a "work permit" — thereby turning them into legal immigrants and erasing "the problem"? Because no rational person could believe such nonsense, I conclude you must be joking. Good one!

Sam Grove May 28, 2007 at 11:50 am

Perhaps web cams could be placed around the multitude of sites that require monitoring and the aoutput made available online for monitorin by anyone and everyone. Post a reward for reporting of unusual developments. Millions of people would only have to spend a few minutes at a time looking at the video coverate. Disabled people might spend more time. Come up with a scheme to make it worth their time.

R.E. Finch May 28, 2007 at 12:14 pm

I prefer treading softly when considering immigration legislation out of concern for future generations of Americans. Economic considerations, particularly those that only affect the short term, must take a back seat when we're talking about the sort of America we pass along to our children. There is no other area of policy with the potential to radically alter the future character of any nation than how it decides who gets to come, who gets to stay and who gets to share in the franchise. So I start with the most salient question I can ask regarding what I see in the bill: Does this legislation contain within it the potential to result in radical change that might bring damage upon the the current citizens (to whom our legislators are supposed to answer) and, more importantly, might it damage the cultural goods passed on to their children and descendants?

From what I can ascertain, this bill would legitimize as many as 25 million illegal aliens, give them pathways to citizenship and allow them, for at least the first eight years, to bring their extended families here without limitation. Looking at past spurts of chain migration, and paying attention to those who research this sort of stuff, this bill potentially adds 60 to 80 million total new residents to this nation in a generation.

The following are incontrovertible facts: 1) Despite our owing much of what we are as a nation to those who immigrated here after our founding generation set the stage, we have never had as many as 15% of our residents being foreign-born and this bill promises at least to push the number of foreign-born past the 20% threshold, so there really is no comparable American experience for us to learn from; 2) this nation no historical experience in assimilating significant numbers of people from one single source alien culture; 3) this nation has not proved capable of peacefully assimilating any Diaspora that did not have its origins in Western Civilization; yet 4) this bill requires us to experiment on ourselves regarding all of these things; 5) every "enforcement" provision passed into law by Congress since 1965 has been either ignored or mismanaged leading us to where we are today. Therefore, this bill (and any amnesty of such proportions) represents a potential radical and irrevocable change to the definition and character of this nation.

From those who seek it, all there is is "talk" that nation-altering and potentially ruinous change would not result from the passage of this sort of legislation. If we are going to be rational and fair to our posterity in this grand experiement, the onus, the burden of proof that there will not be horrific consequences of this bill must be placed upon those who propose we take such an irremediable risk with the franchise.

I've not read nor heard anything but insulting platitudes and accusations of racism and bigotry directed at those of us who think and care deeply about what we leave for posterity. The proponents of this legislation will not even try to address these concerns because they fear the facts will betray their desires.

Rufus May 28, 2007 at 12:21 pm

Don't misunderstand; there really is a strong longing in certain very influential quarters for an EU-type North American Union, open borders arrangement. It's starting to look like this is a very popular sentiment in the White House, itself.

Poll after poll shows the "Great Unwashed" just want the laws obeyed. They seem to feel like they didn't go to all this trouble just to live in a "Lawless" jungle.

The "Right Wing" just doesn't want to repeat 1986, which this bill in it's present iteration surely will.

Rufus May 28, 2007 at 12:27 pm

Wonderful Comment, Finch. You've captured my sentiments, exactly. Perhaps, if more of us had your erudition we could slow this avalanche down.

Jasper May 28, 2007 at 12:54 pm

Steven M. Warshawsky:

I assure you I'm as rational as can generally be expected in most representatives of the species. What about my argument do you find irrational? Have you done cost/benefit analysis on solving the illegal immigration issue via an enforcement-only strategy? It makes far more sense to simply legalize at least some of the annual inflow we're going to get anyway. I'd personally sleep easier at night if such people, when crossing our border, were fingerprinted, background checked, inoculated, etc., and were furthermore subject to tax withholding like the rest of us. Perhaps employers of such immigrants might even be required to pay a superminimum wage and a health maintenance tax (or provide health insurance). The point is, under a legal, regulated system, there are all sorts of creative ways one can think of to cope with and ameliorate the various collateral problems associated with illegal immigration. And the national security dividend is this: if, as a result of such reforms, we slash the number of people trying to illegally cross the border, we automatically reduce the size of the enormous task faced by our border guards, and this, in turn, should increase the effectiveness of their work. In other words, we increase our chances of actually capturing a terrorist trying to pose as an illegal migrant from Honduras. Given the scale of the problem, I doubt very much Akhmed is likely to be stopped at the Rio Grande under the status quo.

Rufus May 28, 2007 at 1:42 pm

Way too rational, Jasper. Way too rational.

Brad Hutchings May 28, 2007 at 5:50 pm

Rufus, you are absolutely right. And this North American EU will be the legacy of libertarian thinking of the first part of this century. It'll probably start with British Columbia joining the United States , follow with some Northern states of Mexico and finish with everyone else but Quebec ;-) . It'll be a good thing. Heck, who else is going to pay for your Social Security? Think about it…

Ray G May 28, 2007 at 8:43 pm

I’m totally anti-Dobbsian, and pro-immigration, but we do need to have our facts straight.

Mallaby is building his position on the false premise that people are worried about illegal aliens being a national security threat.

Dobbs might be saying that, but no one else is concerned with Jose being an al Qaeda operative. The concern is that real terrorists are using the southern border as an easy entrance to this country.

Because no buildings have been bombed yet by Saudi terrorists that entered through the Sonoran desert doesn’t mean that it is not a threat.

You know, kind of like the Thanksgiving turkey feeling pretty well cared for up until early November. He was thinking “Threat? What threat?”

That total security is not possible is true, but why does he have to preface those remarks with the false premise of Latino al Qaeda?

Mallaby sets up a totally false premise, follows it with a true observation but one that is not really connected to the false premise in the hopes of making the original premise true?

Personally, I don’t trust anyone in power on this issue. Left and Right are purposely blurring the lines on this in order to make hay on their favorite angle, and Mallaby seems to be just as guilty as the rest of the power and punditry.

anon 2 May 28, 2007 at 9:03 pm

1)if we are going to post facto legalize then we should repeal all immigration law and be done with it. otherwise it is just hypocritical. either WE decide who enters or just leave the door open.

2)all of these illegals, YES ALL, will be net beneficiaries of the welfare state. I don't want to pay for them and I shouldn't have to simply because the government fails to enforce the law and congress changes the rules mid-game.

lock the fricken' door and enforce the laws. Then if we need more immigration then open the door and let some in.

there was it that hard?

Ray G May 28, 2007 at 9:15 pm

Since I don't have the patience to wait for enough traffic to answer my rhetorical question, I'll bring it myself.

Obviously, Mallaby is trying to project the truth of his second statement onto the false initial statement so as to make an argument against border security.

Or, in other words, he is trying to say “Since we cannot guard or guarantee every bridge, mall, et cetera, then border security itself is not possible either.”

But of course, that is definitely not true.

Personally I believe we can control our border while still maintaining a very liberal immigration policy.

But why do people feel that they have to lie and distort the issue in order to make their point? If the only way one can "prove" a point is with such lies, then apparently their real position is very weak.

xteve May 29, 2007 at 12:02 am

R. E. Finch:

While reading your post I couldn't help but notice that you didn't actually explain what unfavorable consequences you fear. You alluded to national character & culture & all that without explaining in what way it would necessarily change for the worse.

Also I should point out that culture is an extremely dynamic thing in the first place & that any thing could set off a change, pop music for example. But perhaps I misunderstand what you mean by cultural change, which I probably do, because you were vague at best.

You'd probably have to describe the culture we have now, too, because we've always had a diverse culture that varied from place to place & depending on your social circle.

xteve May 29, 2007 at 12:11 am

anon 2:

"2)all of these illegals, YES ALL, will be net beneficiaries of the welfare state."

How do you know it's all of them? Can you back that up?

I agree that you shouldn't have to pay for any of them. It's criminal that the state makes us subsidize other people. As I see it, that makes two laws they shouldn't enforce: current immigration law & the welfare system. Problems solved!

Seriously, we could probably solve a lot of "national issues" this way.

Ray G May 29, 2007 at 12:43 am

I can't speak for Finch, but I know that the core problem with this issue is that of national sovereignty.

No other national culture in the world is as dynamic as the American culture precisely because of our immigrant DNA. However, it is our freedom that has allowed this to come about, and destroying our national sovereignty in the name of free markets or multiculturalism, or whatever, will effectively end the American character as we know it.

Think about it; with the current trends in the world, we're going to tear down national borders and become more free? Really?

Problems with welfare socieities, restricted markets, etc are simply going to vanish once the strongest free market in the world (not necessarily the freest though) is abolished for some kind of a superstate?

Russell Nelson May 29, 2007 at 1:44 am

From time to time the tree of liberty must be refreshed with the toil of immigrants.

Who are most like the people who created greatness in this country? The coddled masses? Or the immigrants, willing to give up home, country, and tongue?

xteve May 29, 2007 at 3:13 am

Ray G, I don't mean to be annoying, but you'll have to explain what national sovereignty has to do with anything. Perhaps you're using a different definition than I do. What exactly do you mean by national sovereignty, so I know we're discussing the same thing?

You also speak of the "American character as we know it" as if it were something objectively measurable, when it's really just whatever image you have of America, which probably varies wildly among most of the people here. Unless you give something tangible I'll have to assume you're talking about your own subjective impressions of what America means to you. To enforce such an abstraction would destroy the equally valid "American character" as seen by others. Do you see the problem with such a policy? I apologize if I'm mischaracterizing your argument.

"Think about it; with the current trends in the world, we're going to tear down national borders and become more free? Really?

Problems with welfare socieities, restricted markets, etc are simply going to vanish once the strongest free market in the world (not necessarily the freest though) is abolished for some kind of a superstate?"

Who said anything about a superstate? & who said that abolishing any free market will solve any problems caused by anti-market activities? Not I.

If I move from North Dakota to South Dakota then nobody cares, because the borders are largely treated for what borders are: the imaginary line separating one government's jurisdiction from another. There's no need to create the Great Union of Dakota to bring this about. If the government of North Dakota has some dumb welfare scheme there's no call for blaming any South Dakotans who move there to avoid South Dakota's corrupt goverment.

But that all changes when it's national borders. People get all emotional & nationalistic & talk in vague collectivist abstractions. But can anyone explain to me why individuals crossing a political boundry is any threat without:

(1) blaming these individuals for something the American government is doing
(2) creating artificial catagories or false agregates & pretending these are actual things
(3) declaring opinions valid just because a majority of politicians voted for these opinions
(4) claiming I'm arguing something I'm not & then arguing against that

Please someone set me straight. Anyone?

Jon May 29, 2007 at 10:16 am

It seems to me that there are three seperate issues being discussed here.
1.)National Identity
2.)National Security
3.)Abuse of the Welfare State

When it comes to national identity I find it funny that so many flag-waving republicans would be opposed to the idea of a much more liberal immigration policy. (Keep in mind that I am not speaking to the bill in congress right now, but rather immigration in general.) This coutry was built up by the sweat of immigrants, many of them not knowing english. the identity of this country used to be that you could come here and find a new future for yourself. Now it seems to be that you can come and find a new future for yourself, but only if you jump through years of hoops and go through miles of red tape. (Case in point: In the current immigration queue/lottery is that preferential treatment is given to certain groups most notably non-whites.) We have to be willing to accept that America is supposed to be a free country.

Second the issue of National Security.

This whole issue of terrorists posing as mexicans is easily solved. Loosen the immigration red tape and then have every immigrant go through a short interview in spanish answering a set of randomly assigned questions. This should weed out any middle eastern individuals posing as mexicans.

When it comes to the abuse of the welfare state, well that's what we get. I mean you start just giving things away to people and you get screwy incentives … go figure.

Walt from Mid-Michigan May 29, 2007 at 10:54 am

The feds could issue "Letters of Mark" to unemployed "Vets" with the bounty set at different levels according to Illegal's economic and/or terrorist "threat".
Catch an illegal get a check!
Kinda like the whistleblower laws.

Jon May 29, 2007 at 3:02 pm

Oh hell Walt, of the Gov't agreed to pay for my fuel and hardware costs plus a small stipend …. man that sounds like fun. But then again I think eggregious violation of speeding laws is fun too, so take what I think is amusing with a grain of salt…

R.E. Finch May 29, 2007 at 3:10 pm

Response to Ray G.:

While reading your post I couldn't help but notice that you didn't actually explain what unfavorable consequences you fear. You alluded to national character & culture & all that without explaining in what way it would necessarily change for the worse.

I don't believe anyone has to explain precisely what negative consequences might come as a result of changing a nation that little more than a mere generation ago was more than 95% native-born to one in which 20% to 25% of the population is foreign-born and an additional 10% to 15% is the second-generation (likely in Diaspora) children of foreign-born residents. As I said in my first response, the onus of proving that such radical change will not cause serious problems lies with those who desire it, particularly if they do so for selfish reasons without concern for the potential fallout for posterity. We've fallen off the wagon when it comes to putting forth the effort to assimilate anyone these days. Interestingly, the Senate bill being debated replaces the term "assimilation" with "integration" and funds ethnic-grievance groups to "ensure integration." There appears more than a bit of intent in the bill to do more than simply provide business with cheap labor or Democrats with new voters.

If I give someone in need of an AA 12-step program my car keys, I'd better be prepared to defend myself against whatever claims of damage he might do. No reasonable person would put himself in that spot. It is not for those of us who put stewardship before satisfying cheap labor addiction to prove a single thing regarding what sort of damage might befall us or our descendants. The burden of proof lies with anyone who wishes to fundamentally change the ethnic makeup of this nation; prove without a doubt that it will not harm me or my children down the road.

Every other large immigration wave this nation has experienced has been from nations that share cultural artifacts of the Western traditions. The previous groups we assimilated that were not of Britain and Germany still required much effort, intent and four decades of severely curtailed immigration to bring fully into the fold. I consider it prescriptive to note that the group that differed in heritage most from America's core stock in the last great wave (1880 – 1920), Italian migrants, had the greatest number and percentage that chose to repatriate rather than assimilate. Yet those of us who are concerned about today's mass immigration are dismissed as racist, bigots and xenophobes for even wondering out loud for an instant how masses of Mestizos might be successfully encouraged to embrace our particular iteration of temperate liberty without fundamentally altering it. There are no mechanisms in place today like those successfully promoted by Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge and the Dillingham Commission to assure that 80 million new residents 20 years hence do not exist as a fifth-column with enough franchise rights to keep us from defending ourselves. Prove specifically how this is not a legitmate concern.

Also I should point out that culture is an extremely dynamic thing in the first place & that any thing could set off a change, pop music for example. But perhaps I misunderstand what you mean by cultural change, which I probably do, because you were vague at best.

Please don't conflate "pop culture" with "heritage." To proffer that Madonna is as important as Madison is simply absurd, but you sort of did it. Pop culture is by its very nature ephemeral, subject the next whim, fancy or press release. While difficult to put into tight words, inherited culture is enduring; it is carefully stewarded and handed down through the generations. Believe it or not, there are still plenty of American families that do this with intent, and cherish it. Finding them is as simple as taking a voyeurstic peek around Ancestry.com.

You'd probably have to describe the culture we have now, too, because we've always had a diverse culture that varied from place to place & depending on your social circle.

Actually, I don't have to describe it to rebut another straw man. It doesn't make sense to try to explain it when there is confusion about pop culture versus heritage. There's a lot of Burkean concept in what I'm writing about. The difference between what the Senate wants to do to this nation's heritage and this nation's immigration history may well prove to be as different as the French Revolution as compared to America's. Burke opposed the former because it was too radical a break with tradition and standard; if you believe the Reign of Terror wasn't such a great thing, and you understand that the American Revolution was a struggle on behalf of the status quo more than any particular change, then you probably agree at least a bit with Burke. And you will probably understand my position completely. If not, we're just not going to connect here.

Steven M. Warshawsky May 29, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Jasper,

Perhaps other people have already made this point, but I don't have time to read all the comments above. I apologize if I am repeating another person's post.

You write: "I'd personally sleep easier at night if such people, when crossing our border, were fingerprinted, background checked, inoculated, etc., and were furthermore subject to tax withholding like the rest of us."

In otherwords, you want *secure* borders. Just like me, and Finch, and Rufus — and most Americans

Your "alternative" is based on the very assumption that you somehow can ensure that the 500,000 to 700,000 illegals who arrive each year (mostly across the southern border) will queue up to be fingerprinted, background checked, etc. Why would they do this, so long as the border remains as porous as a sieve?

Your position, just like the "restrictionist" (or "nativist") position is only possible if the government first effectively shuts down the ability of foreigners to make unauthorized border crossings. Granted, this will be a significant undertaking, but hardly as difficult or expensive as you suggest.

Sure, we can debate the level of legal immigration that should be allowed. You probably prefer a higher number than I do. But your plan is no different than mine in first requiring *secure* borders.

Bruce Hall May 29, 2007 at 7:27 pm

One cannot generalize about the experience of immigrants. Much depends on their country of origin, their education levels, and their personal resources. As long as immigrants "melted in" to the general population, they have been accepted.

The U.S. and Europe have been faced with a new kind of immigrant: one who has less interest in adapting to their new country than adapting their new country to them.

In the U.S., the greatest problem has been with illegal immigrants from Mexico who have numerous built-in obstacles to "melting in," not the least of which is the constant threat of deportation. A second, and much smaller group, has been the Middle Eastern/Muslim groups who have, in some fashion, attempted to "fit it" without necessarily an inclination to "melt in." Presently, the second group has created only isolated instances of cultural dissonance in the U.S.

Europe has a far greater problem with immigrants who are primarily Muslims from many different countries. With smaller and homogeneous European populations, the Muslim immigrants are being perceived as a threat to the culture and the safety of many European nations.

Muslims have chosen to escalate the rhetoric of confrontation with their host countries, many of which have bent over backwards to accommodate the "special needs" of the Muslims.

The series of "European Backlash" posts that I have written and plan to write is projecting the nature of the conflict between the European and Muslim cultures and the likely outcomes… and giving specific examples as they occur. I maintain that by 2010, there will be no doubt about the nature and extent of the cultural conflict in Europe… and the outcome… in even the most accommodating mind.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., "persons of illegal entry" have become more embolden and participated in marches and demonstrations. Many state and local governments have bent over backwards to accommodate the "special needs" of these "persons of illegal entry."

Don't be surprise to see a similar development in the U.S. unless the government gets the situation under control and "invites" the "persons of illegal entry" to leave.

xteve May 29, 2007 at 9:22 pm

R.E. Finch:

"Yet those of us who are concerned about today's mass immigration are dismissed as racist, bigots and xenophobes for even wondering out loud for an instant how masses of Mestizos might be successfully encouraged to embrace our particular iteration of temperate liberty without fundamentally altering it."

Maybe people would be less likely to assume xenophobia if you would explain exactly what concerns you about a large influx of immigrants from areas not western enough for you. But you say you don't have to explain. You say the burden of proof is on me. How can I prove your fears are unfounded when you refuse to explain what your fears are? One can't prove a negative. Neither I not the U.S. government is obligated to convince you that some abstract catagory of people is not going to disturb your undefined image of American Heritage.

Heritage, tradition, culture, national character. It may be self evident to you what these emotional words mean, or it could be that the reason you won't define them is because when you look at them closely you can't see anything tangible. They're just emotional reactions, which makes it your issue to deal with.

As for the potential drunk driver, I share your concern only because I'm aware of the damage he could do. You refuse to explain what damage I should fear from immigration.

Jasper May 29, 2007 at 9:55 pm

Your "alternative" is based on the very assumption that you somehow can ensure that the 500,000 to 700,000 illegals who arrive each year (mostly across the southern border) will queue up to be fingerprinted, background checked, etc. Why would they do this, so long as the border remains as porous as a sieve?

Steven M. Warshawsky: They "would do this" because obviously life as a legal immigrant confers significant benefits compared to life as an illegal immigrant. I mean, which would you prefer if it were you who needed to sell your labor to a willing American buyer?

Daublin May 30, 2007 at 4:11 am

Finch, your facts are not only controvertible, but flatly wrong. The United States has a very strong history of integrating immigrants.

We had about 15% being foreign-born in the late 19th century, and it worked out just fine. Right now we're at around 10%.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2007/05/why_should_we_curtail_immigrat.cfm

Further, I flatly reject your precautionary principle. The safe bet is actually to ALLOW immigration. That is what has worked historically, and that is what, other things equal, we should assume will work best for the future.

Homogenous societies risk becoming weak and sickly, just like pure-bread animals. I would rather we be cross-breads. It will make us stronger, and it will mean the restaurants are better.

R.E. Finch May 30, 2007 at 3:03 pm

To Bruce Hall:

Everything I've written should be crystal clear, especially if you are familiar with even the most basic primer on traditional conservative thought. But if I must explain, I shall. My contention is and has been consistently that we do not have any experience with even trying to assimilate a sizable Diaspora from any culture from outside Western civilization. I challenge you to show where and when we have. I challenge you to explain, with some specifics, how we can. (hint: simply assuming this will all work out does not count as a "specific") I challenge you to explain to me how I'm supposed to trust this government to do as it promises, and what is right for my child, though it has for 40 years shown no inclination to do anything but grant amnesty after amnesty to feed the needs and desires of cheap labor whores. "Enforcement" isn't even in this regime's lexicon. So, I do consider it the responsibility of change mongers like you to show stewards like me precisely why and how it is not insidiously radical or horrifically risky to to try this flippantly unconsidered change. In the cosmic sense, all cultures may well be of equal value, but I reject the notion all cultures are equally capable of joining in this experiment in Republican democracy. If it were so, more people and cultures would have already been able to have it and keep it in the world than as evidenced today – and they would not be coming here for "better lives." If it were so, building nations in our own image wouldn't cost thousands of lives, be so poorly received and doomed to such likely abysmal failure.

We simply have no experience in trying to assimilate any Diaspora of the size proposed from a single source culture or nation – not even close. Our leaders show no intent to compel assimilation in those to whom they would give amnesty, as has been the time-tested and true tradition. Many of those who demand and desire this unprecedented – I suppose I must emphasize the unprecedented part here – mass immigration have questionable motives at best, for they represent corporate, and, if Milton Friedman is to be believed, amoral interests; yes, the onus is on them to prove that their actions will not result in harm to future generations of Americans. Is there something you don't get about the complete irrevocability of this amnesty, one that will bring as many as hundred million new alien residents during my child's lifetime?

What do you want, a laundry list of my concerns? OK. How about, for starters, the notion that an unending supply of cheap labor allows businesses to defer innovation, putting off research and development costs that ultimately would lead to greater productivity at lower cost using less labor and, in the bargain, require only one or a few highly-trained technicians to do the stoop labor of hundreds? That's what happened at the end of the Bracero Program when the Federal Government incentivized innovation. Check your history. I believe that economist William H.Mallock was right when he wrote, "it is natural to seek greater prosperity, even through the agency of government; but if this fancy prosperity is attained by despoiling the other elements of society, it will stifle Ability and will lead, in short order, to general poverty and eventual barbarism." Exchanging an opportunity to broaden the general Ability for the convenience of cheap Labor does no society, no nation, any favors. Amnesty is dismissive of this nation's traditional ability to innovate rather than grovel for "help" from the outside world; our greatest strength means nothing if some sleazy alternative can save a buck for the cheap labor weasels while keeping them from having to think too hard or put forth a little extra effort to act in the broader interest of their fellow citizens.

Our ancestors paid for and amortized the current local state and federal infrastructures by taxes, sweat-equity and blood. Much of that infrastructure today is already overburdened. It is about to reach, or has already reached, the end of its useful life earlier than planned. Please explain to me how millions of new people, most of whom will qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit and represent a net burden rather than a net benefit to our local, state and national government balance sheets and coffers are going to help us pay for the early replacement and required-by-their-presence expansion of our power grid, our water supply capability, schools, prisons, hospitals, roads, sanitation, law enforcement, parks, playgrounds, disaster preparedness, demand for bureaucrats, and on and on and on…

It sounds to me like a formula for national embracement of the "Lord Of The Flies" concept of progress.

Answer all of my concerns without being disingenuous as a snake-oil salesman. Prove to me that granting amnesty for more than 20 million poorest of the poor is not incredibly stupid, dangerous and risky. Give me facts, not platitudes. Prove to me that the results of amnesty will not be things incredibly immoral, like leaving this nation in far worse shape than it was when we inherited it. Prove to me that this amnesty will assure that future generations will still benefit from the traditional incremental increases in the the standard of living, opportunity, security, and the general enjoyment of life: All the gifts that are supposed come with being born of this nation, this experiment, this Providence we call "America" as it was dreamed and provided by parents, grandparents, and all of our ancestors for precisely 400 years.

Do all that and you can have your amnesty.

To Jasper:

Jasper, actually we had 14.8% foreign-born residents in 1910, slightly more than in 1890. This was, until today, the highest percentage of foreign-born the nation had ever seen. But sometime last year, if the department of Census is to be believed, we exceeded 12% foreign-born population for the first time since about 1920. However, if Bear Stearns estimate that we had more than 20 million illegal aliens here in 2004 is correct, we surely have eclipsed the old percentage mark by at least a percentage point or two.

Don't try to sell me the notion that the roughly 95% native-born population we had from between the mid-1950s to about 1970 represented "bad times." It certainly was a shame that we had 20 million Germans and 15 million Italians living here in diaspora at the end of 1941. And we likely could have defeated the Germans and the Japanese; we'd all be speaking english instead of german while enjoying freedom to discuss matters like amnesty. Oh wait! I'm sorry. That's not what happened. Thanks to the work of people like Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, those who served on the Dillingham Commission and the passage by Congress of the Johnson Reed act, our German and Italian Diasporas were dissolved and replaced by a generation of Americanized, sons and daughters, of a more homogenized sort. Surprise! This "nation of immigrants" was made much better and much safer thanks to a 40-year legislated time out in net immigration.

Ponder this:

Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 8

The number of its inhabitants?

Thomas Jefferson; 1787

…But are there no inconveniences to be thrown into the scale against the advantage expected from a multiplication of numbers by the importation of foreigners? It is for the happiness of those united in society to harmonize as much as possible in matters which they must of necessity transact together.

Civil government being the sole object of forming societies, its administration must be conducted by common consent. Every species of government has its specific principles. Ours perhaps are more peculiar than those of any other in the universe. It is a composition of the freest principles of the English constitution, with others derived from natural right and natural reason. To these nothing can be more opposed than the maxims of absolute monarchies.

Yet, from such, we are to expect the greatest number of emigrants. They will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in their early youth; or, if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. These principles, with their language, they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their numbers, they will share with us the legislation. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass. I may appeal to experience, during the present contest, for a verification of these conjectures.

But, if they be not certain in event, are they not possible, are they not probable? Is it not safer to wait with patience 27 years and three months longer, for the attainment of any degree of population desired, or expected? May not our government be more homogeneous, more peaceable, more durable?

Suppose 20 millions of republican Americans thrown all of a sudden into France, what would be the condition of that kingdom? If it would be more turbulent, less happy, less strong, we may believe that the addition of half a million of foreigners to our present numbers would produce a similar effect here. If they come of themselves, they are entitled to all the rights of citizenship: but I doubt the expediency of inviting them by extraordinary encouragements….

Golly! Even our founding fathers didn't buy into that Orwellian "diversity is strength" nonsense. Who would a a thunk it!

Bruce Hall May 30, 2007 at 5:24 pm

R.E.

You might actually read what was written. I have no idea about what you write.

My point was that despite the great amount of effort in both the U.S. and Europe to accommodate recent immigrants, there is a growing backlash against immigrants who want their host nations to adapt to them rather than adapting to the host nations… and this will lead to actions that self-serving politicians don't seem to comprehend.

Your point seems to be that you are among those who are "backlashing."

R.E. Finch May 30, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Bruce, please accept my sincerest apologies; I'm not used to comment attribution being at the end, in most instances I find it at the beginning.

I'm mostly in agreement with what you write. I don't see Europe avoiding some very bloody ramifications of their lack of selectivity regarding who they allow to come stay with them. And I fear that the same will be in store for us very soon. Today's leaders on both sides of the Atlantic are not going to be looked upon kindly by historians for what they leave for posterity to eradicate.

My apologies to Jasper, also.

If I'm now reading this right, I should have addressed my response to "xsteve" and "daublin."

xteve May 31, 2007 at 2:06 am

R.E. Finch:

Okay, cheap labor. Thank you for finally being specific amidst a huge amount of emotional rhetoric. Cheap labor is not a threat to a population. If you're interested in why this is so, there is a great amount written on this in this very blog, written by people much more qualified than me. There's a whole list of catagories on the left hand side of this page. It's all there.

Two questions: (1) Are you equally afraid of robotics? That's even cheaper than foreigners. (2) If the immigrants charged more for labor, would it be okay then?

If the answer to either of these is no, then I think this has nothing to do with cheap labor.

I'm not sure anything will convince you, though, since I suspect you're way too emotionally attached to abstractions. You're afraid. I get it. But I doubt it's a mere economic issue like the cost of labor. I think you're mostly afraid of how your subjective image of What America Means To You, which you've grown comfortable identifying yourself with, might change, & it's not my responsiblility to help you deal with it.

I do, however, feel it's my responsiblility to help dissuade people from demanding that the government impose a certain abstract image onto otherwise peaceful individuals. Clearly I've done all I can here.

Daudlin:

I agree with you about the animals, but I think a better example is the English language, where a constant, nondiscriminating importation of foreign words has made it much easier to have complex ideas with subtle distictions. Contrast that with French, were their quest for micromanaged linguistic purity will, I predict, eventually stifle it irrepairably. & you're absolutely right about restaurants.

R.E. Finch May 31, 2007 at 1:32 pm

xteve,

It appears your reading comprehension could use a lot of remediation. How on earth you could read what I wrote and build a strawman about my position regarding "cheap labor" is beyond me.

To wit:

"How about, for starters, the notion that an unending supply of cheap labor allows businesses to defer innovation, putting off research and development costs that ultimately would lead to greater productivity at lower cost using less labor and, in the bargain, require only one or a few highly-trained technicians to do the stoop labor of hundreds? That's what happened at the end of the Bracero Program when the Federal Government incentivized innovation. Check your history. I believe that economist William H.Mallock was right when he wrote, "it is natural to seek greater prosperity, even through the agency of government; but if this fancy prosperity is attained by despoiling the other elements of society, it will stifle Ability and will lead, in short order, to general poverty and eventual barbarism."

Last time I checked, we had little robots running around on Mars. But the promoters of amnesty demand that we lack the capability of fending for ourselves, that we have somehow lost one of our greatest strengths as a nation – the ability to innovate – and instead need a never ending stream of costly, illiterate, alingual and culture-warping serfs to be lorded over by big business and amoral elites.

In my response to your insistence I provide examples of my concerns, I challenged you repeatedly, gave you numerous examples, and asked that you provide some evidence to the contrary that might serve to ameliorate my concerns. Apparently you do not have any answers, only the ability to blow smoke when put to a real test.

Clearly, if your response is all you are capable of, you need to find a less challenging intellectual playground!

xteve June 1, 2007 at 1:17 am

We have plenty of ability to innovate, & I see no reason to doubt it will decrease with increased immigration. Quite the contrary. But now that you've reduced this to pot-calling-the-kettle-black namecalling, I see no further point in feeding you.

xteve June 1, 2007 at 1:33 pm

I actually meant to say: I see no reason to doubt why our ability to innovate won't INCREASE.

skh.pcola June 1, 2007 at 9:11 pm

There does exist an "Underground Railroad" for middle easterners to travel to Mexico and slip over our border. Replete with coyotes and ambassadors who sell genuine visas, nobody knows how many Islamic extremists have entered the US in this way, but it certainly happens frequently.

The lax enforcement of our immigration laws has bred a culture of impunity in the face of the legal system. Hardly a day passes without yet another story of an illegal who has killed/murdered/raped/etc. an American citizen. Usually that illegal has been arrested numerous times, but law enforcement authorities and the courts have released the illegal back into our society to wreak more havoc. They aren't subject to laws that apply to the rest of us.

And, since Prof. Boudreaux takes obvious pleasure in casting the "xenophobe" pejorative about, I suppose that gives me permission to call him a hateful, anti-American traitor. It's even more ironic that he has used it twice in the last couple of days to refer to Michelle Malkin, who has never expressed a fear or hatred of "brown-skinned folks." Or, at least, not that I know of. However, if the term fits her because of her opinion on the immigration issue, then "traitorous rat-bastard" aptly applies to those who hold the opposite point of view.

xteve June 2, 2007 at 1:05 am

"There does exist an "Underground Railroad" for middle easterners to travel to Mexico and slip over our border. Replete with coyotes and ambassadors who sell genuine visas, nobody knows how many Islamic extremists have entered the US in this way, but it certainly happens frequently."

A valid concern, if true. Can you point me to any documentation of this?

"Hardly a day passes without yet another story of an illegal who has killed/murdered/raped/etc. an American citizen. Usually that illegal has been arrested numerous times, but law enforcement authorities and the courts have released the illegal back into our society to wreak more havoc."

If anyone murders or rapes or steals then he should be tried & locked up. I don't think it matters whether he's an illegal alien or not.

"They aren't subject to laws that apply to the rest of us."

They should be, including the laws that allow me to live & work in America.

skh.pcola June 2, 2007 at 2:58 pm

xteve,

Look here for info on Mideasterners sneaking into the US:

http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&safe=off&client=opera&rls=en&hs=Was&q=mexico+lebanon+border+smuggle&btnG=Search

"I don't think it matters whether he's an illegal alien or not."

It does matter, and there's evidence that illegals get a "pass" when it comes to punishment for breaking the law. Witness "sanctuary cities" that remove entire police traffic divisions, simply because they were catching too many illegals with no license or insurance.

Illegals who are arrested for serious crimes are frequently released on their own recognizance, only to jump bail and reappear elsewhere and at a later time committing yet another violent crime.

xteve June 2, 2007 at 10:58 pm

If it's true that they're more likely to release illegal aliens then that's a legitimate concern. They shouldn't do that. But that wouldn't be an immigration problem; that would be a problem with the justice system releasing violent criminals. It shouldn't make any difference to us if they're illegal immigrants, even if it made a difference to the judges, because then it would be the judges who are wrong.

As for potentially smuggling terrorists, I'd like to suggest that if it were easier for honest Mexicans to cross legally then it would be easier to catch the dangerous people. It's a valid concern. Our disagreement here may be in the methods the government uses to prevent it. I think greater restriction on immigration would only make it easier to smuggle in potential terrorists.

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