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Initial Thoughts on the Immigration Deal

We will have much more to say about the immigration proposal that was put on the table today by a bipartisan group of senators, but here are a few initial questions and observations.

1) The proposal begins with the oft-repeated claim that “our immigration system is broken.” But what does this mean? I think our immigration system is fundamentally misguided because it does not serve our interests. We should be recruiting highly-skilled people to come here from around the world, not unskilled people from, e.g., Somalia, who are recruited, in effect, because they are related to someone who is already here. Which, of course, is how that person got here, too. The present system is perverse. But the reorientation of our legal immigration system to emphasize skilled over unskilled labor has nothing to do with the issue of illegal immigrants who are currently here. What reason is there to link the two?

2) Countless politicians and commentators have said today that the presence of 11 million illegals in America is intolerable and we urgently need to do something about their status. But why? We have had millions of illegal residents in the U.S. for a long time. Why is it urgently necessary to do something now?

3) How is the current proposal different from the “comprehensive immigration reform” plans that we have seen through the years? In essence, it provides a “path to citizenship” for something like 11 million illegals in exchange for promises of future law enforcement–the same promises that have been made and broken in the past. See Mickey Kaus on this. Moreover, the Obama administration is now actively subverting our immigration laws, by, for example, recruiting illegals into the food stamp program. Why would anyone expect Obama to enforce future immigration laws any better than he is enforcing the ones we have now?

Jeff Sessions released a statement today that said in part:

We would be in a much better position to achieve immigration reform if the Obama Administration had spent that last four years enforcing federal law rather than dismantling it. Brave immigration agents have been left with no recourse but to sue their own Department head, simply so that they—like any other law officers—will be allowed to do their jobs. Just last Friday a federal judge made an important preliminary ruling in their favor. The ICE union also held their own agency head, John Morton, in no confidence with a unanimous vote. The first task for every media agency in the country ought to be to study this lawsuit, to listen to the long-documented complaints of ICE agents, and to review the record of stymied attempts at congressional oversight of DHS.

No comprehensive plan can pass Congress as long as this administration continues to defy existing federal law. What good are promises of future enforcement when the Administration covertly undermines those laws now in place?

4) In my opinion, Republicans who endorse amnesty on the ground that it will turn Hispanics into Republican voters are delusional. John McCain, for example, said today: “We are losing, dramatically, the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours….” Seriously? Why should it be ours? Barack Obama won the Hispanic vote 71% to 27% in 2012, and those numbers are getting worse, not better. Check out any sociological statistics on the Hispanic population–illegitimacy, welfare participation–and ask yourself whether you can detect millions of Republicans-in-waiting. The Democrats have a major demographic problem in that they tend not to have as many children as Republicans. This is the main reason why they are so anxious to bring 11 million new, mostly Democratic voters into the fold. (Bear in mind that Obama’s margin of victory in November was a little under 5 million votes.) Why on Earth would Republicans go along with such a proposal?

Republicans can, of course, compete for the votes of Hispanic Americans, just like all other Americans, by preaching a color-blind message of economic opportunity, freedom, equality under the law and strong national defense. But that message will be harder to sell, not easier, to today’s population of illegals.

5) Why is anything agreed upon by a group of eight senators newsworthy? Haven’t we been down this path already? Actually, there is an answer to this question: today’s proposal is newsworthy for the sole reason that Marco Rubio is one of the senators who endorsed it.

6) Finally, one of the principal industries where the presence of illegals is said to be vital is agriculture. A reader and frequent correspondent offers this economic analysis:

Agricultural activity, beyond subsistence farming, is about return to capital, especially land values, not labor income. If the farmers have to raise wages to entice native-born American labor, given the latter’s alternative opportunities, then the price of ag products might have to go up, maybe enough to make imports worthwhile.

But everyone EXCEPT the farmer is indifferent to that. Obviously, the consumer is–but so is labor since, by hypothesis, native-born Americans do not have and are not “losing” the jobs to imports. They don’t want the jobs at the wages offered because they have better opportunities…they are the so-called JAWD/JAAND. The distributors don’t care; they get their value-added no matter what the source of product is. Investors don’t care; they can re-direct capital to foreign agribusiness and get the same (risk-adjusted) return.

On economic grounds alone EVERYONE is at most INDIFFERENT to substitution of imports for home-grown, EXCEPT the farmer! He CANNOT easily re-direct his land to a higher value use, so all of this adjustment gets capitalized in land values. The value of his property (and that of the surrounding community) goes DOWN to reflect its diminished RELATIVE value compared to the other factors of production in the economy as a whole.

So the farmer, alone, would rather import Mexicans than allow importation at the margin of competing products, because a reduction of volume and profitability at the margin gets CAPITALIZED immediately into his land value.

So the farmer/landowner ACTIVELY supports illegal immigration, as does his entire community and the politicians who serve them. It’s totally democratic–the people WANT illegal immigration. In big ag/meatpacking states like Nebraska and Iowa, of all places, they are totally open about this–illegal immigration prevents depopulation and props up land values. They openly SAY this!

The value of farm land has, of course, skyrocketed in recent years, due no doubt in part to the availability of cheap, often illegal labor. My own preference would be that some of the millions of unemployed Americans displace illegals, even if ag businesses have to pay them a little more to do the work.

More to come.

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