In December 2005, the House of Representatives approved the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, also known as . The Senate did not like this bill, and in May 2006 it approved its own Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, also know as S.2611. These documents are worlds apart. Proponents of the House bill say that the Senate bill is bad and should not become a law under any circumstances. Supporters of the Senate draft say that the House bill is evil and should be scrapped. The sad truth is that both sides are one hundred percent right. Politicians are completely lost on this issue.
Neither terrorists nor comprehension
Incidentally, the names selected by both the House and the Senate perfectly reflect the spirits of both documents. The House bill bundles immigrants with terrorists. Every American knows how harmful terrorists can be. At the same time, most Americans feel a little uneasy about the increased influx of foreigners. Fear of the unknown is a part of the basic survival instinct of every living creature. The House bill tries to bank on this. By listing immigrants in the same breath as terrorists, the authors of the House bill try to scare those Americans that might have some concerns when seeing people of different cultures moving into their neighborhood. Clustering words this way is a dirty old propaganda trick such as one used in Nazi Germany, where people were told that the country needed to be cleansed of thieves, prostitutes, and Jews. However – judging by the overall intelligence of the House bill – it is unlikely that the authors of this bill used the dirty propaganda trick knowingly. Knowledge of the subject does not appear to be the strong suit of the authors of the House bill. They just seem to feel this way.
The Senate bill is a rebuttal to the House proposal. With its scare tactic approach, the House bill practically asks for the expulsion of all illegal immigrants. Senators noticed that logistically it might be hard to catch and deport 12 million people. Furthermore, about five percent of all people now employed in the USA are illegal immigrants, but in some economic sectors such as agriculture, for example, they are nearly 25% of the workforce. Removing all of them might harm the U.S. economy. Additionally, at least some senators seemed to remember that the political system of this country was established on the concept of the individual’s freedom to pursue happiness, not on the concept of using police and putting people with views that differ from the government in prison, even if that government is rightfully elected and represents the voice of the majority. The House bill practically asks for establishing a police state and imprisoning everybody who would disagree with the government on how to use the foreign-born workers to prison.
Senators realized that the issue is much more complex than the authors of the House bill were capable of grasping. Consequently, the authors of the Senate bill felt the need for a more comprehensive law. In their pursuit of comprehension, they went one step too far. They did not focus on preparing a bill that could resolve once for all the issue of illegal immigrants. They focused on preparing a draft of a bill that would most likely be acceptable to as many senators as needed to have the bill passed. They ended up with a document that is full of good intentions, but does not solve any of the burning immigration issues.
The belief in the power of the bad law’s written word
The House draft of the bill means no immigration rights for aliens that are presently illegal. If this approach prevails, staying here illegally would become a criminal offense instead of the violation of civil law that it is now. Two hundred thirty-nine congressional representatives voting for this bill naively believed that many illegal immigrants, after having their status upgraded to being a criminal, would leave the country voluntarily. As that is unlikely to happen, this bill would turn 12 million people into criminals almost overnight. The bill asks for the quick deportation of any illegal immigrants that are caught, but does not specify how chasing and catching illegal immigrants should be executed. It does not set a quota for government agencies on how many illegal aliens should be captured. Reading this document sends shivers down one’s spine. Throwing people into prison seems like a preferable solution to all immigration related problems. This document was drafted basing on fear and it is frightening, because, as it was once rightfully pointed out, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.
Senators did not have the civil courage to make a bold move and offer legalization to all illegal aliens. They came up with a lame three-tier solution, offering legalization only for those illegal immigrants who have been here five years or longer. Those living here for two to five years were also given a path to legalization, but were asked to report to the border first, which would create the illusion that they had left the country and were readmitted afterwards. Those living here for less than two years would have to leave the country.
Senators conveniently overlooked the simple fact that it would be a hassle to verify how long these illegal immigrants have actually been in the country. Furthermore, about 1.5 million immigrants have been here for less than two years. They are supposed to leave. They stay here despite the existing law saying that they should not. If they have not left because of the old law, is there any reason for them to leave just there is a new law that ask them to do so?
What is the American dream? Owning the passport or the house?
Illegal immigrants who would decide to legalize their status would need to pay fines and fees that would amount to about $3250 per person. A couple with one child would need to pay almost $10,000 for legalization. This amount of money can buy a decent car, make a nice down payment on a house, or pay for about half of a college education at a state university. Of course, that is if someone has that $10,000 on hand to begin with. The fees for legalization are set so high that they would be a major financial burden, even for medium income families. The senators’ perception of the monetary value of legalization is likely way above what most illegal immigrants are willing to pay. They might need a new car now. Owning a house, not an American passport, means for them the realization of the American dream. A college education is the best they can give to their children. Those expenses will take priority over spending ten thousand dollars on immigration papers. They will worry about the legalization of their immigration status when they are caught. With millions of others doing the same, the chance of this happening will be close to that of winning the lottery. Likely, very few illegal immigrants would find the Senate’s offer attractive. The fee for legalization should be in the range of $200 – $300, what a reasonable person can find justified by the work needed to process the application.
Numbers from the sky
The House bill does not offer any worker’s visa program. It is also silent on the number of immigrants allowed into the country legally. The first and main reason that we have so many illegal immigrants here is that the economy is in good shape and needs more workers. New workers give even greater boosts to the economy, creating even more new job opportunities. Addressing these issues appears to be beyond comprehension of the authors of bill HR.4437.
Senators scratched the surface, offering 200,000 guest worker visas a year. Why 200,000? Originally, it was 400,000, but with not much discussion, it was lowered to 200,000. This number was selected out of the blue sky without any deeper thought on how it might correlate to the actual needs of the country. If the economy takes a dive next year, even 20,000 new workers might be too many. If the economy gets an extra boost, it might need even 2,000,000 new pairs of hands willing to work. Focused on lofty ideas, politicians had no time to worry about such details.
Border protection, the holy cow of the immigration agenda
Border protection made it into the title of the House bill. The Senate did not dare to kill this holy cow. The issue of the border control, which for no logical reasons is attached to the post 9/11 shock, is the biggest baloney in the whole immigration agenda. With at least about 1000 people sneaking every day through the porous U.S.-Mexican border, there is no evidence that this influx compromises the security of the nation. Furthermore, the terrorists that might actually be dangerous can slip into our country anyhow because they are sophisticated enough to be one step ahead of whatever border protection we could deploy. Relying the security of our nation on border protection means acknowledging that the CIA is not capable of doing its job and that there are no chances that it might be able to do it in the near future. If this is true we are in deep trouble; if it is not, we do not need any super border protection measures.
About half of all illegal immigrants crossed the border legally and overstayed their visas. Therefore, illegal border crossing is only half of the problem. Furthermore, even if we seal the border with concrete, barbed wire, and infrared cameras, it will not stop illegal immigrants from coming. Smugglers will just move to the next weakest link in the border protection: forging documents, and bribing border guards.
The House bill asks for the building of about 1130 km of a two-layer fence. Senators voted for a triple-layer fence about 600 km long. The concept is to provide enhanced border protection in areas known for illegal border crossing. The foolishness of this thinking is almost painful. If some part of the border is well protected, smugglers will move to other sections of the border. A person only needs a 16 inch wide crack in the wall. If only people who play chess were allowed to be elected to Congress, we would have politicians capable of thinking one move ahead.
How much would it cost to build the fence and maintain it? How effective might it be in stopping illegal immigrants from crossing the border? It would be interesting to find out if anyone calculated how much it would cost taxpayers per every illegal immigrant stopped at the border due to the enhanced fences and additional border patrols. Are there any more clever ways of dealing with illegal immigration so that we might avoid the need to build the wall along the border? How much would those alternative measures cost and how effective might they be? Are there any historical precedents of similar physical barriers built to prevent the migration of people and how did they work?
There are better ways than building fences for managing the inflow of immigrants. Furthermore, history shows that similar walls did not work in the past. The most recent is the shameful Berlin Wall. Some may recall the Hadrian Wall. However, the most compelling is the comparison to the Great Wall of China; its length of 6,352 km is almost exactly double the 3,141 km length of the USA border with Mexico. The Chinese built the Great Wall to protect their country which was then relatively prosperous, from nomadic Mongols. It did not help. In the critical moment, it took only one post commander, likely bribed, to open only one gate. The Mongols took over China. However, the supremacy of Chinese culture soon prevailed, and invading Mongols were assimilated, accepting Chinese language and culture. If the sophisticated three-layer border fence with Mexico was built, it is likely that, similarly to the case of the Great Wall of China, local people would bless it as a tourist attraction for centuries to come.
Why do we have 12 million illegal aliens, not two or twenty-two?
About 400,000 people sneak into the U.S. illegally through our Mexican border every year. One may ask why it is 400,000 and not 40,000 or 4,000,000. In particular, why is it not 500,000; 800,000; or one million? From anecdotal reports, we know that presently, practically everyone who wants to cross the border illegally eventually does it, even if it takes several attempts. In other words, if it was, let us say, 600,000 who wanted to come here illegally, they would likely cross the border as easily as those 400,000 have been doing. Therefore, why is it 400,000, no more or less? This is the number of new jobs matching the needs of these illegal immigrants that the U.S. economy is creating at its present pace of growth. It is the old-fashioned invisible hand of the free market.
We have 12 million illegal aliens, not two or twenty-two, because this is the number that the free market decided is good for the country.
The House bill may effectively resolve the problem of illegal immigration
In a twisted way, the House bill, if it worked as intended, might actually be effective in stopping illegal immigration. Presently, illegal aliens stay here because there are jobs for them. If somehow we could convert the current economic boom into depression, there would be no more jobs here. Immigrants living here illegally would go back home, and new ones would not be coming.
With millions of undocumented workers, despite the complaints of some individuals, unemployment is low. Immigrants accept lower wages than natives do and this keeps prices of many goods and services lower than they would be without immigrants. This keeps inflation low. Let us assume that the House bill becomes a law, and by voluntary departure and forceful deportation a meaningful number of undocumented workers leaves the country. With illegal immigrants gone, it would cost more to deliver many goods and services; therefore, less of them would be sold, and less people would find employment producing and delivering them. In particular, having difficulty in finding workers during harvesting season, some farmers might stop cultivating their farms altogether. The import of some fruits or vegetables would be cheaper. Similarly, some factories, short of cheap labor, might move abroad. In other words, removing illegal immigrants would cause the economy to shrink, with less jobs and higher prices for Americans. Additionally, besides working here, illegal immigrants are consumers as well. With millions of them gone, the shrinking effect would accelerate, likely putting the economy into deep depression. There would be no need and no place for illegal immigrants. The House bill has all the provisions to eliminate the problem of illegal aliens in this peculiar way.
If more people work, does it make the country poorer?
Opponents of increased immigration argue strongly that low-income immigrants create a burden for social services; schools are overcrowded, hospitals are flooded by the uninsured, and Social Security payments are going up. The underlying basis of these arguments is the assumption that the wealth of Americans comes from government giveaways. It is understandable to worry that with more people stretching their hands out, everybody would get less. However, this false logic leads to the absurd conclusion that the more people that work, pay taxes and spend money here, the poorer the country becomes.
An employer makes a profit selling the product of the labor of his employee. The consumer buys this product freely, satisfying his or her needs. The employee spends the money earned and other people make a profit in the process. The government collects taxes on all the above transactions. Some people question whether the amount of worker’s pay is fair. Some argue that employers make too little or too much profit. Some advocate higher or lower prices. Some say that government takes too much, some that it takes too little and does not have enough for social services. Some say that we should have obligatory health insurance, some say that we should not. All those arguments are about how to divide the added value made in the process of producing and selling products and services. There will never be a perfect social justice. The best that people have invented so far is a free market economy. In this approach, even if at a certain point some people might get less or more than might seem justified; freedom of enterprise puts money into redistribution. In the end, most of the wealth lands in the hands of the most entrepreneurial individuals, those who by their talents and hard work make the whole society, and every individual, richer. In other words, in a free society, the more people that are employed, the richer the society is. Therefore, we should welcome as many foreigners as we can employ. The free market should define how many of them should come, and the government should have no power to set any quotas or border crossing restrictions.
Some say that low-income immigrant families take more in social services than they pay in taxes. As explained above, it is a distribution issue. If a worker was not paid enough to stay above the poverty line and had been taking more in social benefits than paying in taxes, someone else collected part of the money that the worker made. It is likely, that money was split between his employer and the consumer, as the product of the worker’s labor probably cost less than it would if the worker had been paid a prevailing wage. Therefore, the argument that an increased number of low-paid workers puts a burden on society makes no sense. It puts a burden on the social services delivered by the government. Creating new jobs makes the economy grow. However, if hiring new workers puts a burden on social services, it simply means that the policies implemented by the government restrain the economy’s growth. We should not limit the number of workers that the economy can employ. We should limit the amount of money that the government gives away to people, not for working, but just for being. As cruel as it might sound, it works. The welfare reform implemented during the Clinton administration limited welfare payments and encouraged people to take responsibility for their own fate. It appears that we need further reform of social services following the same spirit.
Cutting the branch
“Baby boomers” are reaching retirement age. There will be more people collecting Social Security checks, and fewer will be working. Many are concerned that the Social Security system might become insolvent. Several years ago, the media was full of predictions that the system could collapse soon. It did not, due to the economic boom. Indeed, the Social Security fund received extra cash from new employees, many of them immigrants – 12 million of them here illegally. If the House bill prevails, illegal immigrants would go away and there would be not many new ones coming. Less people would work and contribute to the Social Security fund. By cutting this cash inflow, Americans would cut off the branch they are sitting on.
Opponents of the legalization of currently undocumented workers and their families often say that most illegal immigrants pay no taxes. To the best of my knowledge, that is not true. In today’s cashless economy, it is almost impossible to run even a small business without leaving easy to detect traces of money flow. In other words, it is hard for the employer to keep and conceal cash paid employees. Furthermore, it is a serious federal offense, and for employers it is not worth risking close encounters with an IRS auditor. If the loud opponents of the legalization of undocumented workers ever ran any business themselves, they would know that. However, for some people with strong opinions, facts do not matter.
Illegal aliens may have phony Social Security numbers, and some may use other people’s identities, but most of them pay taxes. They have banking accounts, credit cards, and own houses. Because of fraudulent IDs, many people who pay taxes might never be able to collect their Social Security benefits.
Legislating common sense, or about learning the English language
Around the whole world kids learn English in school and adults take evening classes. Almost anywhere in the world, it is hard to make a career in life without the ability to communicate in English.
It is common sense that an immigrant learns the language of his host country. All previous generations of immigrants did it, and so does the current one. As it was in the past, it is usually not easy for older people, who work extended hours, and often have a poor education from their mother country. Some of them would live for decades within their ethnic communities speaking little or no English. With the increased inflow of immigrants, many businesses and government agencies found it practical to offer some services in foreign languages. However, it is not coincidental that many top contestants in spelling bee competitions come from immigrant families. First generation immigrants might have a hard time fully integrating into American culture, but most of them would not spare any effort to have their children be fluent in English.
It would likely take Dr. Phil to explain why suddenly some Senators felt it necessary to legislate what for everybody else is plain common sense.
Is it constitutional?
The political system of the United States was built on the philosophical concept that all individuals should have equal freedom to pursue happiness. The government should not implement laws that would infringe on that inalienable law of individual freedom. It is easier said than done. Let us imagine an American citizen with an entrepreneurial spirit who pursues his happiness by having his own business, and hiring other Americans that pursue their happiness just by working for their entrepreneurial compatriot. Everybody is happy until a group of foreigners comes into town, ready to work for less than American workers do. Suddenly, the entrepreneurial American wants to pursue his happiness by hiring these newcomers. Some American citizens lose their job, so they petition the government to ban hiring foreign workers. Is it constitutional to establish a law like this?
The argument of the entrepreneur would be that by hiring cheaper labor he could create more wealth for himself (which is his constitutional right) as well as for society by lowering the prices of his products. Furthermore, he would argue that the people he fired still have the same rights to pursue happiness as he does. They can open a business as he did and compete with him. They are not limited in finding employment with other employers or in different towns. His hiring of foreigners did not infringe on the constitutional rights to pursue happiness of the American citizens he fired. Consequently, the government has no constitutional grounds to impose laws limiting his freedom to employ foreigners. Additionally, he argues that what his opponents request is the government-secured right to happiness (which in this case means being employed at the place they want) at the cost of limiting his freedom (which in this case means finding cheaper labor) to pursue happiness. This is unconstitutional, because although the Constitution guarantees the freedom to pursue happiness, but does not guarantee the happiness.
Consequently, all government laws limiting American employers from employing foreigners are simply unconstitutional. However, I do not envision any lawyer making this case to the Supreme Court, since, if this argument prevailed – and it likely would – it would put out of business thousands of immigration lawyers that make a good living by helping millions of foreigners navigate through the maze of U.S. immigration laws.
No amnesty for illegal aliens
Supporters of the House bill persistently repeat that undocumented workers have broken the law of the country and that we should not make a precedent of rewarding people for breaking the law.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 did not work as intended. Everybody agrees on that. In other words, it was a bad law to begin with. Candidly, this law did not have provisions for American employers to legally get the foreign workers they needed. Many aliens who were able to find jobs here could not do it legally, either. Realizing that the existing immigration law was flawed, law enforcement agencies did not enforce it. Now, when this faulty law has resulted in 12 million illegal residents in the country, the legislators are turning around and telling them, “It is your fault; you have to pay a hefty fine to legalize your status.” Illegal immigrants did not vote on the faulty law, Congress did. It is time for Congress to take responsibility for its actions and recognize that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 is a bad law that needs to be revoked. No amnesty is necessary. Congress needs to apologize to all Americans and foreigners that have suffered due to the bad law.
103 million legal immigrants
A study by Robert Rector from the Heritage Foundation gave a warning that the Senate bill, if passed in its original draft, would result in 103 million new immigrants coming into the country within the next 20 years. Alan Reynolds, a researcher from another prominent think tank, the Cato Institute, called this number absurd. Whatever it is, the number made it into the news and is worth looking into.
Putting aside the accuracy of the Robert Rector methodology, he assumed that the nonsense of the current immigration laws would be combined with the nonsense of the proposed bills. Whatever resulted from these suppositions is worthless, because paper can bear anything, but reality would put itself on a self-correcting course. There was a famous scientific prediction in the second half of the nineteenth century, indicating that if traffic in big cities grew at the same pace as before, somewhere in the middle of the twentieth century, there would be so many horses that cities would be buried under horse droppings, as every minute more droppings would be produced than could possibly be removed. The scariness of the Robert Rector findings is of similar value.
The entry point to any discussion about numbers is to know how many foreigners, regardless of their status, actually arrive and stay here. This way we would know the real number of newcomers that the economy can handle today. We know that about 850,000 illegal immigrants are coming every year. According to official government statistics, within the last few years an average of about one million people get a green card every year. Therefore, we know that the average actual number of foreigners that physically enter U.S. territory and stay is likely no larger than about 1.8 million per year. However, among the people that receive a green card every year, only about 400,000 are new arrivals; the rest, about 600,000 per year, simply have their status adjusted. It means that those people were already here illegally, or as students, or on temporary work permits, or on extended stays with family members who are U.S. citizens or legal aliens. Having no better data for this analysis, I am assuming that among those having a status adjustment only about 100,000 are former illegal immigrants. Therefore, in our estimation of how many people actually enter the country every year with intent to stay, we have to deduct 100,000 from 1.8 million to account for those that arrived in previous years, but have legalized their stay in the given year. We arrive at 1.7 million as the number of foreigners that arrive at the country every year with the intention to stay.
Looking into the statistics, one can see that about 60% of legal immigrants are so-called family-sponsored immigrants. This family reunion program is the biggest absurdity of the current immigration law. As soon as one family member obtains legal residency or citizenship, he or she acquires rights to apply for residency rights for other family members. The process takes time, but it is worth it because – for example – by the time the parents arrive, they are around retirement age, and therefore, instead of living poorly in their mother country, they can have a decent retirement at the courtesy of U.S. taxpayers. If the parents obtain citizenship as well, they can even stay in their old country and spend their U.S. Social Security check there, where it usually has much bigger buying power than it does here. About 20% of legal immigrants admitted every year is in the age group above 45, so it is obvious that many of them look more for social benefits than for restarting their life career.
The easiest and fastest way to become a legal immigrant is by marriage to a U.S. citizen or legal alien. It is right from the human perspective. However, everybody knows that for a few thousand dollars many people would fake a marriage to help someone obtain immigration papers. The House bill noticed this situation, and offered the same solution used for any other problem: throwing people into prison.
The family reunion program needs to be scrapped. The only way to come to the U.S. and stay here should be by finding employment here. After five years with a temporary worker status, a person should gain the right to obtain legal resident status, leading to citizenship. If family members want to come, they should have the freedom to do it like everybody else to come here and work for five years before earning the right to a green card. By applying this simple policy, we would reduce the number of legal immigrants that do not come here to work, but instead to take advantage of social benefits offered here. It is a wild guess that, by ending family sponsoring, we would have at least 200,000 fewer legal immigrants each year. We should deduct these 200,000 from the estimated 1.7 million coming every year, and get 1.5 million as the number of foreigners that the economy proved it could accommodate and benefit from in current economic conditions.
The calculations of Robert Rector resulted in ridiculous numbers because he assumed that, due to family sponsoring, every new legal immigrant would bring a few more new ones and those new ones would bring even more new ones. His conclusion was that we should limit the number of new legal immigrants. The right conclusion is that we should discontinue family sponsored immigration.
Starting with the 1.5 million newcomers per year that the economy can handle now, we can calculate how many immigrants would arrive within the next 20 years. If we assume that only employment-based immigration takes place, and that we let the market decide how many people can come, we can calculate how many people would come depending on the average pace of the economy’s growth. If the economy grows evenly at 3% every year, then within the next 20 years, about 42 million foreigners would settle in the U.S.A. With an economy growth rate of 5% per year, it would be about 50 million. The economy would need to grow at a constant rate of 12% per year in order to generate an inflow of 108 million foreigners within the next 20 years. I wish we could have this problem.
Practically, it is unlikely that the average economy growth would exceed 3% per year. With some good luck, we might be closer to 5%. It means that, assuming that the free market would rule, somewhere between 42 and 50 million foreigners would settle in the U.S.A. within the next 20 years. This number does not include the currently illegal aliens, as they are already here.
USA or SUA?
In its very concept, the American political system was created in response to the totalitarian governments of Europe. It was built around the idea of protecting the freedoms of individuals. Gradually, the government was given extra powers that in essence limit the freedoms of individuals for the sake of the good of society. Some people believe that thanks to this government intervention, the nation is doing better than it would without it. Others believe that the good of society is best served when all individuals have the freedom to pursue their selfish interests, and that the good of society (defined as something above the interests of individuals) does not exist and is just sugar-coated socialism. These two schools of thought are reflected in opinions about immigration.
Proponents of a bigger role for the government are willing to give the government extra powers to limit the inflow of foreigners into the country. Opponents say that this would give the government power to limit an individual’s freedom of movement. Freedom, once lost, is hard to get back. The government, after gaining some new power, is unlikely to give it up easily; instead, it will find new justifications to use it.
In particular, we cannot ignore the very possibility that by expulsion of undocumented workers the government might put the economy into a downspin. Additionally, if the House bill prevails, millions of Americans might become criminals, as out of their basic economic interest or just out of simple human compassion, they might side with the undocumented workers and not the government. In this environment, illegal immigrants might leave, and soon engineers, scientists, and university professors might follow. The government would realize that this is not good for the country. Therefore, the authors of HR.4437 would put their heads together one more time. In the new law, they would put a strict limit on the number of U.S. citizens and legal aliens with college degrees allowed to leave the country every year. At this time, the triple-layered fence with national guards on duty at the Mexican border would come in handy to catch university professors trying to sneak to Mexico. Following the spirit of HR.4437, those caught escaping, and those helping them, would be put in prison.
Could it really happen? It is unlikely to happen next year. However, it happened in the countries of the former Soviet Bloc. Evil people with bad intentions did not build the system over there. Good people with good intentions exactly like our legislators did it. Therefore, we have to be vigilant and protect the U.S.A. from becoming the S.U.A. – the Soviet Union of America.
What do Americans think about illegal immigration?
The apple does not fall far from the tree. When voting, the legislators reflected the opinions of a deeply divided public. Polls, as well as voices expressed on public forums from mainstream media to websites like this one, indicate that Americans are sharply split on the immigration issue. In an article published on May 29, 2006, when looking into the results of Gallup polls, USA Today came up with the conclusion that the nation is split four ways. The results of this poll are less telling than the way the poll itself was conducted. People were asked if they agree or disagree with the following four statements about illegal immigrants: “The issue is extremely or very important,” “We should build a fence along the border,” “Let them stay and work toward citizenship”, and “Removing them would help the economy.”
Let us look at the question of whether removing illegal immigrants would help the economy. How can an average person know? The flaw of this question is in the assumption that the responding party is an expert on macroeconomics. Most of us are not. A reasonable person, before answering this question, would like to hear the arguments of at least two experts representing opposing views. Furthermore, regardless of what people think, this question has only one right answer. Economy is a science, not a matter of preference. Therefore, how the economy would react to the removal of immigrants is not a matter of voting. The cold analysis of facts says that removing illegal immigrants would harm the economy. Two plus two is always four, even if the majority votes that it is five.
Similarly, there is only one right answer to the question of fencing the border. It will not stop illegal immigrants from coming. However, by asking this question, Gallup suggested that the answer could be decided by a vote.
There is a hidden meaning in another question of the aforementioned Gallup poll, whether we should let illegal immigrants stay and work toward citizenship. The underlying message is in the assumption that Americans need to sacrifice something that is theirs in order to give illegal immigrants a favor, and allow them to stay. Allowing aliens to stay in America is seen as a gift to them, as in giving them something they did not earn, as in giving them a pass to paradise. None of this is true. Illegal immigrants stay here due to cold business transactions. Millions of businesses in the U.S. make profits they could not make without illegal immigrants. Almost every American somehow benefits from the lower prices of goods and services available thanks to the work of 12 million illegal immigrants. There is no need for Americans to show mercy or provide favors to illegal immigrants. Americans need to forget about their hearts; they should look into their wallets, and should verify where the money is coming from, and – in order to keep the current prosperity – they should legalize all the illegal immigrants, and broaden the entryway for the new ones.
In the discussed poll, Gallup asked questions that – despite being about illegal immigrants – in their essence were about what Americans know about how the economy works. The answers are not relevant to immigration; however, they tell us that about 50% of Americans do not understand and do not appreciate the rules and the benefits of a free market economy. These Americans form a strong anti-immigration voice.
Instead of questions about illegal immigrants, Gallup could ask where people look for information about social and economic dilemmas. It is hard for an individual to do independent study. Most of us follow major mass media political commentators.
A small group of fast-talking commentators that represent narrow-minded anti-immigration sentiment dominates the voices heard in the mass media. They are full of lofty patriotic phraseology but are short on knowledge. They have published many popular books; however, judging by the sophistication of their arguments, often a sarcastic thought comes to mind that they wrote more books than they have read. The level of the public debate on immigration is pitiable. More than likely, the commonly known poor quality of American education is bouncing back.
The arguments heard are sometimes laughable; however, in the mouths of influential political commentators or politicians, they are simply dangerous. We witness a very peculiar equilibrium: intellectually shallow political commentators spread anti-immigrant demagogy; the undereducated public seems to go for it; the politicians follow the public; this gives extra momentum to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the commentators. The public is besieged by anti-immigrant propaganda. Individuals that might have some doubts suppress their thoughts, being overwhelmed by high-pitched patriotic demagogy about protecting borders, terrorists, illegal aliens and preserving American values. The self-propelling nonsense gets momentum. It dominated congressional representatives when they voted their draft of the bill. It immobilized senators, so they limited themselves to mitigating the absurdity of the House bill and gave up a chance to come up with a real solution.
As worrying as it is, situations like this are nothing unusual in human history. In 1917, communist demagogues convinced Russian masses that socialism was best for them. Millions of people volunteered to fight, and many of them gave up their lives just to have this system established. In 1933, in a democratic election, Germans gave power to Hitler, who later gained absolute power through legal parliamentary maneuvers, leading to the war. Not long ago, in 1919 the Eighteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, together with the Volstead Act, established Prohibition in the Unites States. Similar, to the immigration issue, several years of public debate preceded Prohibition. Parallel to today’s debate on immigration, the voices of reason were suppressed by the loud rhetoric of good intentions by the advocates of a noble cause. No one wanted drunks then, just as no one wants illegal immigrants now, so the majority of Americans and politicians mindlessly followed the high-pitched demagogy and suppressed their own independent thinking. As someone once said, history teaches us that it cannot teach us anything.