Some Immigration Links

by Don Boudreaux on May 10, 2010

in Crime, Immigration

The Boston Globe‘s great columnist, Jeff Jacoby – who, it’s important to say in this context, is more accurately described as a free-market conservative than as a libertarian – again writes wisely about immigration.  Here’s a key passage:

I have never understood the anti-immigrant hysterics. Industrious self-starters who come to the United States to find work, create new wealth, and improve their lives are not a menace or a threat. They are an asset. No state seeks to drive out hard-working newcomers from New Mexico or Indiana; why should hard-working newcomers from Old Mexico or India be treated any differently? To say that they cross the border illegally only begs the question. Why should it be illegal for any person to come to the United States, assuming his intentions are peaceful and he is not likely to become a public charge or health risk?

The Wall Street Journal‘s always-wise and eloquent Mary Anastasia O’Grady puts her finger on Arizona’s real problem: drug crime.  Here are Mary’s opening paragraphs:

The organized-crime epidemic in Latin America, spawned by a U.S. drug policy more than four decades in the making, seems to be leeching into American cities. Powerful underworld networks supplying gringo drug users are becoming increasingly bold about expanding their businesses. In 2008, U.S. officials said that Mexican drug cartels were serving their customers in 195 American cities.

The violence is only a fraction of what Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia live with everyday. Yet it is notable. Kidnapping rates in Phoenix, for example, are through the roof and some spectacular murders targeting law enforcement have also grabbed headlines.

While this has been happening, would-be busboys, roofers and lawn mowers from Mexico and Central America have been using the Arizona desert to get to the U.S. because legal paths are closed and they want work.

Technically both groups are law breakers. But it is a tragic mistake to paint them with the same brush. Doing so could inflict serious economic and moral damage on the most successful nation of immigrants in human history. Blaming the migrants for the increase in organized crime also has another downside: While it may make people feel good about legality for a time, it will do nothing to stem the growth of gangster violence in the U.S.—which is the greater threat to national security.

It’s tempting to couch the organized crime problem as an issue of sovereignty (i.e., Mexicans are invading!) but that ignores the role of the demand for drugs. The solution has to start with acknowledging that drug trafficking through Arizona—a key concern of citizens of that state—is the product of a complex set of federal policy failures.

Stuart Anderson, of the National Foundation for American Policy, has two superb must-reads: “Death at the Border” and “Family Immigration: The Long Wait to Immigrate.”

EconLog’s David Henderson sees the current struggle over Arizona’s new immigration statute as a “battle of the collectivists.”  With a follow-up post here.

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