« The Flypaper Theory Is No More. | Main | Explanation, Justification, Blah Blah Blah »

August 26, 2005

Comments

Double post! Don't delete the one with Edward's comment!

Bravo! to this post, too. In fact, I like this one even better.

No, no, Edward_ saying Bravo! adds joy to any post... the other one was better.

Look, saying that the current immigration laws are not working is not decreeing that the laws should not be enforced

That is precisely what you say in the next paragraph.

And let's also, please, recognize that immigration has made the U.S. the rich and righteous place that it is today

Let's recognize that illegal immigration over the last few decades has reduced the wages of legal workers, with the reduction hitting poor workers the hardest.

a place where, if you're willing to work hard, dreams can come true

Let's recognize that over the last few decades, it has become less likely for poor people to be able to work their way to the middle class or higher, and that illegal immigration is one of the reasons for this.

Those who would shut the door to the next group of immigrants are not standing up for our history and culture; they are fighting them.

Enforcing laws against illegal immigration is not "shutting the door to the next group of immigrants". Limited immigration, adjusted in response to economic conditions, is part of our history and culture. When 1 out of 8 Mexicans lives in the US, most of them illegally, at a time when real wages have been stagnant for decades, it is not time to coddle criminals.

F-R-M, three thoughts.

First, my annoyance with Malkin's immigration blog is not directed to you. There is a legit "other side" to this debate, and you're a representative of it.

Second, even the most generous studies that I've seen (those frequently cited by the anti-immigrant crew), suggest that illegal immigration has cut "real wages" of low-income workers by about .1 or .2%. (Pardon the lack of a cite; I'm thinking of a Borjas study from 1997, but can't find it at the moment.) There's no study showing any discernable effect on middle or higher-income workers, SFAIK; indeed, even Borjas at one time conceded that illegal immigrants have, on aggregate, had a beneficial effect on the economy. (Borjas's point has been that the beneficial effect is skewed, in that the rich disproprotionately win -- although his data doesn't always support that.)

Third, we're not talking about "coddling criminals." We're talking about allow those poor folks who want to work to work, but to compete on a fair playing field with other workers. We're also talking about keeping companies from taking advantage of illegal workers.

I mean really: It's simply not possible that we simply think that Ms. Malkin and her blog are wrong. Misguided. Passionate but ill-informed. Mistaken on the basic economic principles involved. Guilty of lack of vision and foresight.

Stupid. Bigoted. Talentless. Hack.

...or is that a little too on the nose?

See...now why should we continue to take Malkin seriously?

Oh, right. Because others do.

totally OT, but this is pretty funny.

von,

If you're going to make effectively the same argument in support of illegal imiigrants as you did before, can you at least respond to the arguments raised in the prior post, such as mine ?

I agree 100% with this post, but to be clear:

Only if businesses are required to pay immigrants minimum wage (or whatever American citizens get paid for the respective jobs).

Second, even the most generous studies that I've seen (those frequently cited by the anti-immigrant crew), suggest that illegal immigration has cut "real wages" of low-income workers by about .1 or .2%. (Pardon the lack of a cite; I'm thinking of a Borjas study from 1997, but can't find it at the moment.) There's no study showing any discernable effect on middle or higher-income workers, SFAIK

Borjas recently estimated the effect of immigration (both illegal and legal) as being a 0.3-0.4% reduction in wages for each 1% increase in immigration, during a period when immigration increased labor supply by 11%. He did find this affected workers with college degrees, although it impacted low-skill workers more.

Third, we're not talking about "coddling criminals." We're talking about allow those poor folks who want to work to work, but to compete on a fair playing field with other workers

You are talking about allowing criminals to benefit from their crime, and about refraining from punishing them or taking steps to reduce the amount of crime in the future. If we legalized every immigrant in the US today, tomorrow we would still have an illegal immigration problem.

Let's recognize that illegal immigration over the last few decades has reduced the wages of legal workers, with the reduction hitting poor workers the hardest.

Perhaps we should regulate businesses such that they are not allowed to pay their legal workers any less than a certain reasonable ammount. It seems to me that would be a good idea regardless of immigration issues.

Undocumented immigrants pay sales taxes. In fact, as a low-income population, they pay a disproportionate share of income in sales taxes, particularly in high sales tax states like Texas. They also pay property taxes in the form of rent.

Kyle,

"Perhaps we should regulate businesses such that they are not allowed to pay their legal workers any less than a certain reasonable ammount."

How is this different than minimum wage laws?

You are talking about allowing criminals to benefit from their crime, and about refraining from punishing them or taking steps to reduce the amount of crime in the future.

See, I know nothing of immigration policy, but this argument smacks of desperation. What if the whole point is that the "crime" shouldn't be a crime in the first place? At least, not a serious one?

If people are consistently doing 40 mph on a road marked 30, and the city council decides that the road actually can handle the 40 limit and that it should be changed, are we rewarding the speed criminals? giving in to them? failing to stay the course?

If people are consistently doing 40 mph on a road marked 30, and the city council decides that the road actually can handle the 40 limit and that it should be changed, are we rewarding the speed criminals?

If you decide that the road should have a new speed limit, and you then conclude that you should go back and rescind penalties on people who broke the old speed limit, then yes, you would be rewarding the criminals. More important would be the moral hazard involved.

What if the whole point is that the "crime" shouldn't be a crime in the first place?

Then that point would be irrelevant to the argument here, as I don't believe von was arguing in favor of allowing unlimited immigration. Are you? If so, how many people do you think would move to the US if immigration were not restricted, and what would happen to wages if the elasticities estimated by Borjas above (3-4% drop for each 10% increase in labor supply) are correct?

"Perhaps we should regulate businesses such that they are not allowed to pay their legal workers any less than a certain reasonable ammount."

How is this different than minimum wage laws?

Indeed.

If legal workers can't support themselves because their wages are too low, regulate the wages. Reducing the supply of workers in an effort to influence "the market" to pay more is circuitous hocus pocus, in my opinion.

The problem with any solution that utilizes the "carrot" of legitimizing illegal immigrant workers by setting wage standards and other regulations regarding their treatment and status, is that it is doomed to fail without a corresponding "stick" aimed at noncompliant businesses. So long as they can use them with impunity, and it is more economically feasible to do so, businesses who do so now will continue to do so.

There is an effectively limitless supply of undocumented workers. There will always be as long as there is a demand for them. The only way to shut off the demand is to make the exploitation of illegal immigrants so legally dangerous, so economically risky, that virtually no one will do it any more. Once we seriously address the demand, then we can start talking about what to do about the people who are already here.

I'm talking about felony prosecutions for executives and hiring managers. Discorporation or forfeiture of business license. Staggering penalties. Make undocumented workers a third-rail labor supply that no one will touch.

If legal workers can't support themselves because their wages are too low, regulate the wages

First of all immigration drags down the wages of those who make more than the minimum wage as well those who don't. Your solution doesn't solve anything. Second, your implied belief that employers that now illegally hire workers at less than minimum wage would, out of respect for the law one assumes, pay the minimum wage if current illegal immigrants were legalized is oddly touching, but sadly, wrong. They would simply hire from the new batch of illegal immigrants that would follow.

Illegal immigrants will always be drawn to the US as long as we remain as prosperous as we are. Therefore, we should take immediate action to reduce our prosperity.

I'm really out of time but since D-T-M still hasn't received an answer to his argument, here goes the attempt:

D-T-M essentially posits (follow his link) that once we open the tap, more and more immigrants will enter the market and depress wages to (almost) the point that they're at today. I think that analysis rests on a faulty assumption, namely, that travel and entry to America is costless, such that every immigrant who (all things equal) would prefer the American wage will come to America. There's no reason to think this, and plenty of reason not to: there's the uprooting, the travel, the difficulties of starting anew and finding a job, the lack of marketable skills, and the limits of our own labor market. IOW, money does not rule everything. (Take it from me, a man who -- at the request of his wife -- moved from Chicago to Indianapolis, incurring a $30k+ pay cut in the process.)

What felixrayman says.

The US has not had an open immigration policy for nearly a century. So what is the source of this? Those who would shut the door to the next group of immigrants are not standing up for our history and culture. Our modern history and culture are founded on limited immigration.

First of all immigration drags down the wages of those who make more than the minimum wage as well those who don't. Your solution doesn't solve anything.

You said earlier that the poorest were the hardest hit. People making minimum wage are (by definition) the poorest. Thusly I conclude that my solution helps those who need it most while perhaps not helping some others who are not in quite as dire circumstances.

Second, your implied belief that employers that now illegally hire workers at less than minimum wage would, out of respect for the law one assumes, pay the minimum wage if current illegal immigrants were legalized is oddly touching, but sadly, wrong. They would simply hire from the new batch of illegal immigrants that would follow.

I didn't say anything about legalizing currently illegal immigrants. I just don't think "poor people are suffering" has much bearing on the discussion. If the house is cold, you can run around trying to plug every little crack, or you can just turn up the heat. If your concern is the poor, raise the minimum wage. Driving out the immigrants is an expensive and unreliable way to get a similar effect.

Hey!

Did I wake up in Communist Cuba this morning??

What's with the free-of-expression-squashing censorship of my comment???

I'll repeat what I wrote, but if it disappears this time, I'm marching in protest! (where's your office again, von???)

;-)

Bravo!

If your concern is the poor, raise the minimum wage.

False dichotomy. Let's do both.

Driving out the immigrants is an expensive and unreliable way to get a similar effect.

Since we have good estimates as to the elasticity of labor demand, it is not true that increasing enforcement of current laws is an unreliable way to raise wages. We can make a very educated guess as to the effects. Since there are minor steps that could be taken to decrease illegal immigration, it need not be expensive, and certainly wouldn't be at the margin.

"First of all immigration drags down the wages of those who make more than the minimum wage as well those who don't."

Cite?

False dichotomy. Let's do both.

True, we could do both.

I wonder, though, if there would be any objection to illegal immigrants if all legal American workers were comfortably prosperous. If the house is warm enough after turning up the heat, would we still go around plugging all the cracks? Maybe we would. I know it's a ridiculous hypothetical, but there it is.

We can make a very educated guess as to the effects.

The effects of a mimum wage hike are, to my mind, more certain. And still cheaper. But to be honest, I'm speculating. Maybe you'd call it an educated guess.

Cite?

"The Labor Demand Curve Is Downward Sloping: Reexamining The Impact Of Immigration On The Labor Market" by Borjas, which I mentioned above, for example.

Tom DeLay told the anecdote of the constiuent (an old woman) who was pestering him about kicking out the immigrants. He reportely turned to her and said, "OK, I'll send some federal agents over to take away your maid and your gardner."

"You'll do no such thing!" the woman protested. "I didn't mean them. I meant those immigrants who hang out by the depot and such."

It's the only time I've ever had any respect for Tom DeLay.

I just want to take this opportunity to say that I am a Derrida-lover.

I now leave it to someone else to show how this statement is, in fact, a denunciation of all that Derrida stood for.

Sincere question for those advocating immigration limits: if one is concerned not only with the welfare of current American citizens but also the welfare of the rest of the people of the world (including potential immigrants), how does one morally justify limiting immigration to America? At what point can you confidently say that the potential slight marginal loss of happiness of the existing residents outweighs the potentially substantial gain of happiness for the immigrant?

"...by Borjas, which I mentioned above, for example."

Respectfully, traditionally online if one is asked for a cite, the answer comes in the form of something checkable, namely a URL. "...but [I] can't find it at the moment" is not a cite. Not that I'm saying you are in error. I was simply asking for a checkable cite (without having to go to a University library). But, that's okay, I'm not really all that interested in the debate, to be honest, so I'll just drop it. But one question: who are Borjas' main opponents/disagreers in his/her field? Presumably they exist, and you've weighed the arguments in coming to your conclusions. So if I were to read on this issue, who is the opposition I should also read to consider?

Sincere question for those advocating immigration limits

First of all, who here is not advocating immigration limits of any sort, and for those people, what do you think the end state is for the median US standard of living in that case?

Secondly, illegal immigration as it stands now penalizes the poorest Americans the most. If one wishes to help workers from other countries, there are ways to do it that are more equitable than permitting unrestricted immigration of unskilled workers. Do you feel you need a moral justification for not donating to workers in poorer countries that portion of your income greater than the world average?

Respectfully, traditionally online if one is asked for a cite, the answer comes in the form of something checkable, namely a URL

Here you go.

who here is not advocating immigration limits of any sort

I don't know, perhaps no one; but what does an "open immigration policy" mean if not an absence of immigration limits (apart from the exclusion of criminals and other undesirables, of course)?

what do you think the end state is for the median US standard of living in that case

Presumably it would fall to something closer to the world median, although as von mentioned, immigration itself is not cost-free. But my question is precisely why we're concerned with the median US standard instead of the median world standard. That seems rather parochial to me, thus my question.

Do you feel you need a moral justification for not donating to workers in poorer countries that portion of your income greater than the world average?

Yes, on some level. Or more precisely, I don't think it's morally justified at all, simply that such selflessness is uncommon enough that I don't feel a driving pressure to act on that belief.

Basically I was just struck by all the arguments expressing concern for Americans when the dominant ethos here (I thought) was to have equal concern for all the citizens of the world (except for terrorists, natch).

By the way, I really am not looking for a fight, just floating some thoughts and seeing where they lead. Please accept them in that spirit.

Thank you, FRM; if I might suggest, next time you wish to cite it, just link directly. Or to the pdf version.

"First of all, who here is not advocating immigration limits of any sort...?"

I toy with it; I always have; I wouldn't say that I advocate it. But I do ponder what the moral basis is for immigration laws, and have for as long as I can remember.

Don't know if you all have seen South Park's take on this issue, with people from the future coming to the present to work at Wendy's and put the money in a savings account to accrue for their future families. Typically nihilist, but still pretty durned funny, especially the "Little Future."

Thanks for the link; I see that it Borjas mentions his 1997 paper -- the one that suggested that illegal immigration has a slight (if any) effect on wages -- but doesn't seem to address it in this paper, which appears (based on my quick read) to have a different methodology. I have to wonder what was wrong with his old "national" methodology, and which needed correcting (other than it did not fit his intuitive sense of the labor supply curve).

I do think, however, that some of criticisms of other work -- specifically, the work focused on the city/regional impact of immigration -- are well founded. I think that he probably overstates these problems, but I'm happy to concede that they are real problems in some of the prior data that demonstrated that immigration has a zero (or even positive) effect on wages. (Of course, his musings on whether rapidly-growing cities disproportionately attrack illegal immigrants and, through their gowth, hide the effect of those immigrants' arrivals on local wages presents a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem.)

von,

Thanks for the answer. While I agree that immigration is not costless, so long as people view the costs as being less than the perceived benefits (which is incredibly likely as a result of the differences in wages), we will still have people trying to come in. Therefore, any solution to immigration policy has to include restricting immigration, or it is not a stable, long run solution.

I'm talking about felony prosecutions for executives and hiring managers. Discorporation or forfeiture of business license. Staggering penalties. Make undocumented workers a third-rail labor supply that no one will touch.

Although I'm willing to try stricter enforcement against businesses, we shouldn't expect miracles here. For one thing, many businesses who employ illegal immigrants are are employing illegal immigrants with working papers and social security numbers. There are, to be sure, illegal immigrants sans documents who work under the table, but there are American citizens who work under the table, too.

I believe any serious push on the enforcement side is ultmately going to require high tech national ID cards. Although there's likely no such thing as a completely non-forgeable ID card (I mean, I'd like to think our own CIA would always be able to get around such devices if need be), perhaps technology can devise one that would cost, say, $50k to forge. I mean, I'm not willing to throw somebody's 20-year old sister in prison because she happens also to be a "hiring manager".

I think that analysis rests on a faulty assumption, namely, that travel and entry to America is costless, such that every immigrant who (all things equal) would prefer the American wage will come to America. There's no reason to think this, and plenty of reason not to: there's the uprooting, the travel, the difficulties of starting anew and finding a job, the lack of marketable skills, and the limits of our own labor market. IOW, money does not rule everything.

Von: this is a good point, especially if one is talking about the prospect of continued, high levels of illegal immigration in the context of a big increase in US immigration quotas; the various costs you cites are hiked exponentially when one is talking about sneaking into the country, as oppposed to immigrating legally. I mean, no doubt, the air fair from Sichuan province to LAX costs a pretty penny when you're an underemployed Chinese laborer, but it's not nearly as expensive as hiring immigration smugglers to take you across the Pacific in a cargo ship. And more importantly, it's not nearly as deadly.

Moreover, the lifestyle to be expected upon arrival isn't exactly one of great ease, especially compared to the life awaiting one who can immigrate legally and enjoy the various benefits that accompany the possession of a green card.

My point is, if US immigration quotas were raised to a level that could accommodate current real totals (say, around 2.5 million annually), most would-be immigrants to the United States would do the calculus and conclude it makes sense to eschew the illegal route and come here legally, with the permission of the US government, even if that mean waiting a few years until one's number comes up.

Thus, I conclude that raising our immigration quotas would, in fact, result in a precipitous drop in the flow of illegal immigration heading to our borders. And a much smaller illegal immigration flow would mean our enforcement efforts were more effective, because of the much smaller scale of the job.

"Although there's likely no such thing as a completely non-forgeable ID card (I mean, I'd like to think our own CIA would always be able to get around such devices if need be), perhaps technology can devise one that would cost, say, $50k to forge."

First we try a device that utters an unpronounceable symbol directly into the mind of anyone who touches it. But after that fails, we need the Arisians. (Sits back, starts stopwatch to see who comes back with the first hint they get it, without blurting out the full answer, leaving room for more hints from others.)

And let's also, please, recognize that immigration has made the U.S. the rich and righteous place that it is today -- a place where, if you're willing to work hard, dreams can come true.

Living in the past. Latest figures show that upward economic mobility is more common even in France & Germany than in the US. Probably has a bit to do with economies of scale and regressive taxation policy. Too many in the US believe outdated self-congratulatory national myths -- poor Republicans in particular.

Gary-

I don't think anyone's likely to get whatever you're talking about, at least not without some sort of mentor having explained it to them.

Gary, that's a nasty sort of eddore/or situation you've set up there.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad