Integration of Immigrants
I am not big on arguing the immigration issue from an integration perspective, any more than I like to argue about who will pick the lettuce. Free movement around the globe and the ability to take a job by mutual consent of the two parties rather than based on their country of origin should drive immigraiton policy.
I live in the state with the highest percentage of illegal immigrants, and I have never gotten my head around why this was culturally bad. I think the Hispanic culture here brings at least as much to the table as, say, the Irish do in Boston. So I did not find this to be surprising (from the Manhattan Institute, via Reason)
In general, the longer an immigrant lives in the United States, the more characteristics of native citizens he or she tends to take on, said Jacob L. Vigdor, a professor at Duke University and author of the study. During periods of intense immigration, such as from 1870 to 1920, or during the immigration wave that began in the 1970s, new arrivals tend to drag down the average assimilation index of the foreign-born population as a whole.
The report found, however, that the speed with which new arrivals take on native-born traits has increased since the 1990s. As a result, even though the foreign population doubled during that period, the newcomers did not drive down the overall assimilation index of the foreign-born population. Instead, it held relatively steady from 1990 to 2006.
"This is something unprecedented in U.S. history," Vigdor said. "It shows that the nation's capacity to assimilate new immigrants is strong."
Immigration and Welfare
Well, I should be skiing right this moment, but my son woke up barfing this morning, making it a perfect 15 of the last 15 family trips where one of my kids has gotten sick.
But the ski lodge is nice, and the wireless works great, and Q&O has a very interesting post on immigration and welfare.
High unemployment among immigrants is of course not confined to just Sweden or Scandinavia. Throughout Europe, governments have found that well-intentioned social insurance policies can lead to lasting welfare dependence, especially among immigrants. Belgium is the European country with the highest difference in employment rates between the foreign-born and natives. The images of burning cars in the suburbs of Paris that were broadcast around the world illustrate the kind of social and economic problems France is facing with its restive immigrant population.
Given the high barriers to entry, many immigrants in Europe no longer start accumulating essential language and labor market skills. This is in stark contrast with the situation across the Atlantic. For example, in 2000, Iranians in the U.S. had a family income that was 42% above the U.S. average. The income of Iranian immigrants in Sweden, however, was 39% below the country’s average.
Lots of interesting stuff there. Which reminds me of something I wrote years ago:
In the 1930's, and continuing to this day, something changed radically in the theory of government in this country that would cause immigration to be severely limited and that would lead to much of the current immigration debate. With the New Deal, and later with the Great Society and many other intervening pieces of legislation, we began creating what I call non-right rights. These newly described "rights" were different from the ones I enumerated above. Rather than existing prior to government, and requiring at most the protection of government, these new rights sprang forth from the government itself and could only exist in the context of having a government. These non-right rights have multiplied throughout the years, and include things like the "right" to a minimum wage, to health care, to a pension, to education, to leisure time, to paid family leave, to affordable housing, to public transportation, to cheap gasoline, etc. etc. ad infinitum....
These non-right rights all share one thing in common: They require the coercive power of the government to work. They require that the government take the product of one person's labor and give it to someone else. They require that the government force individuals to make decisions in certain ways that they might not have of their own free will.
And since these non-right rights spring form and depend on government, suddenly citizenship matters in the provision of these rights. The government already bankrupts itself trying to provide all these non-right rights to its citizens -- just as a practical matter, it can't afford to provide them to an unlimited number of new entrants. It was as if for 150 years we had been running a very successful party, attracting more and more guests each year. The party had a cash bar, so everyone had to pay their own way, and some people had to go home thirsty but most had a good time. Then, suddenly, for whatever reasons, the long-time party guests decided they didn't like the cash bar and banned it, making all drinks free. But they quickly learned that they had to lock the front doors, because they couldn't afford to give free drinks to everyone who showed up. After a while, with the door locked and all the same people at the party, the whole thing suddenly got kind of dull.
Licensed to Parent
I guess it was inevitable, but a court in California has determined that the most basic function of parenting, ie educating your children, requires a license from the state. If you don't have such a license, you have to turn your kids over to the state to educate them for you (via Overlawyered)
Parents who lack teaching credentials cannot educate their children at home, according to a state appellate court ruling that is sending waves of fear through California's home schooling families....
"Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," wrote Justice H. Walter Croskey in a Feb. 28 opinion signed by the two other members of the district court. "Parents who fail to [comply with school enrollment laws] may be subject to a criminal complaint against them, found guilty of an infraction, and subject to imposition of fines or an order to complete a parent education and counseling program."
Whoa! No Constitutional right to educate our kids how we see fit? With an imminent government takeover of our kids' eating habits as well, that will leave exactly what parental duties to parents?
Of course we are just concerned about the well-being of the children. Of course it has nothing to do with unionized teachers protecting their turf. Or not:
Teachers union officials will also be closely monitoring the appeal. A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said he agrees with the ruling.
"What's best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher," he said.
Update: It is being argued that this is actually more narrow than it first appears. The current debate seems to come down to whether the judge is an idiot and the decision is overly broad or whether the judge is an idiot and the decision is narrow.
Next Step for Author of AZ Employer Sanctions: Target the Babies
Russell Pearce is the Arizona legislator who authored the AZ employer sanctions law. Remember, that's the law that requires, among other things, employers to check the immigration status of current employees using an INS system that has federal rules in place that make it illegal to use this system to... check the immigration status of current employees. His plan is to reduce a major source of labor in the Arizona economy which, by the way, has a 3.5%-4.1% unemployment rate over the last year, the lowest level in 30 years.
The newest front in the battle over illegal immigration is dragging health-care workers into the fray.
The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association is trying to kill a proposal by Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, that would require its members to check the citizenship of patients who deliver babies at Arizona facilities.
If neither of the parents can prove citizenship, the hospital would be barred from issuing a regular birth certificate.
Babies of parents who are here legally but not citizens also would be denied regular birth certificates.
Beyond the obvious concerns about driving moms away from medical care for their deliveries, Mr. Pearce has a teeny-tiny Constitutional issue he must deal with in the 14th Amendment:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
Mr. Pearce is hoping that "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" can be stretched to say that such persons do not include immigrants. In fact, the Supreme Court does not seem to have ruled on this specific issue (corrections welcome in comments) but historically they have been extremely loath to place limits on this. And no one except Mr. Pearce and perhaps a few of his immediate family members believes that barring citizenship to children of legal immigrants will pass Constitutional muster. And I am pretty sure that no matter how these questions come out, disallowing birth certificates would never survive a court challenge. I don't think the immigrants' home country would issue a birth certificate in such a case so we would be creating people without a country.
Arizona Business Death Penalty Enacted
This Tuesday, Arizona's death penalty goes into effect for businesses that knowingly hire workers who have not been licensed to work by the US Government. Employers must use the e-Verify system the Federal government has in place to confirm which human beings are allowed by the federal government to work in this country and which people businesses are not allowed to employ. Businesses that don't face loss of their business license (in itself a bit of government permission to perform consensual commerce I should not have to obtain).
There are any number of ironies in this law:
- The Arizona government has resisted applying the same tight standards to receipt of government benefits, meaning the state is more comfortable with immigrants seeking government handouts than gainful employment.
- The state of Arizona resists asking for any sort of ID from voters. This means that the official position of the state of Arizona is that it is less concerned about illegal immigrants voting and receiving benefits than it is about making sure these immigrants don't support themselves by working. This is exactly the opposite of what a sane proposal would look like. (and here)
- In the past, we have used Arizona drivers licenses to verify citizenship. By implementing this law, the Arizona Government has said that an Arizona driver's license is not sufficient proof of citizenship. Unable to maintain the integrity of their own system (e.g. the drivers license system) the state has effectively thrown up its hands and dumped the problem on employers
- The e-verify system, which the law requires businesses use, currently disappears in 11 months.
- The law requires that the e-Verify system be used for both current and new employees. It is, however, illegal under federal law to use the e-Verify system on current employees.
- In fact, the e-Verify system may only be used within 3 days of hire -- use it earlier or later, and one is violating the law. In a particular bit of comedy, it is illegal to use the e-Verify system to vet people in the hiring process. The government wants you to entirely complete the expensive hiring process before you find out the person is illegal to hire.
- There are apparently no new penalties for hiring illegal immigrants at your house (since there is no business license to lose). State legislators did not want to personally lose access to low-cost house cleaning and landscaping help. We're legislators for God sakes -- we aren't supposed to pay the cost of our dumb laws!
Update: Typical of the government, the e-Verify registration site is down right now.
Update #3: By the way, I guess I have never made my interest in this issue clear. We do not hire any illegal immigrants. Since most of our positions require employees to live on site in their own RV, it is seldom an issue since the average illegal immigrant does not own an RV. We have always done all of our I-9 homework, even though the government stopped auditing I-9's about 8 years ago. We have in fact been asked about five times by foreigners to hire them under the table without having the licenses and papers they need from the US government -- all of them have been Canadian.
Immigration Thought of the Day
Frequent readers will know that I am a strong supporter of open immigration. I don't disagree with McQ at Q&O when he writes "Open Borders or Welfare State: Pick One," but I don't think that this is the logic of most folks who are anti-immigration. It may be their public stance, but if more folks really thought this way, there would be serious discussion of tiered citizenship or guest worker models similar to what I have proposed on several occasions.
However, I am tempted to become a close-the-border proponent if the left continue to use numbers skewed by immigration to justify expansions of taxation and the welfare state. Whether they are illegal or not, whether they should be allowed to stay or not, the fact is that tens of millions of generally poor and unskilled immigrants have entered this country over the last several decades. These folks dominate the lower quintile of wage earners in this country, and skew all of our traditional economic indicators downwards. Median wages appear to be stagnating? Of course the metric looks this way -- as wages have risen, 10 million new folks have been inserted at the bottom. If you really want to know what the current median wage is on an apples to apples basis back to 1970, take the current reported median wage and count up about 10 million spots, and that should be the number -- and it will be much higher.
Income distribution numbers are the same way. I showed in a previous post how these numbers are deceptive, when we compare them to Europe, because though European poor have a higher percentage of the median wage in their country, it is a higher percentage of a lower number. When you correct for that effect, the US poor look pretty equal. But immigration exaggerates this effect even more. Instead of having income distribution numbers comparing, say, a lawyer and a blue collar worker, they are now comparing a lawyer and a non-English-speaking recent unskilled immigrant. Of course the disparity looks worse!
The folks using these numbers have to be smart enough to understand this issue, so it can only be hugely disingenuous that they simultaneously promote immigration (which I support) while at the same time using immigrant-skewed numbers to say that the average US worker is somehow worse off. If they keep this tactic up, even I may be tempted to close the borders.
State Run Medicine: Bureaucrat Salaries Trump Patients
Italian Daniele Capezzone writes in the WSJ($):
This situation is especially dire in Italy. The government has capped spending on pharmaceuticals at 13% of total health-care expenditures while letting expenses for infrastructure and staff skyrocket. From 2001 to 2005, general health expenses in Italy grew by 31% while expenditure on medicines increased a mere 1.7%. Italian patients might well have been better off if the reverse was the case, but the state bureaucrats who make these decisions refuse to acknowledge the benefits of advanced drugs....
Part of the problem is that regional authorities manage most of Italy's health-care spending. A strike by health-care personnel has an immediate impact on the region, but the consequences of cutting the budget for medicines are only felt in the long term and distributed across the nation. Hence, local authorities continue to focus on personnel and infrastructure in an age when medical research has become the most efficient way to improve public health.
Gee, government officials more concerned about raising government salaries than performance? Couldn't possibly happen in the US, could it? This is classic government management -- freeze or reduce expenses that actually provide customer service, and raise administrative costs and salaries many times faster than inflation. This is exactly what has happened in public schools, as infrastructure and teaching aid investments have been deferred in favor of raising salaries and adding untold number of vice-principals and administrators to every school.
But the government is focused on the long-term while greedy old for-profits are short-term focused. Right?
Unfortunately, most of today's cutting-edge research is conducted outside Europe, which was once a pioneer in this field. About 78% of global biotechnology research funds are spent in the U.S., compared to just 16% in Europe. Americans therefore have better access to modern drugs. One result is that in the U.S., the annual death rate from cancer is 196 per 100,000 people, compared to 235 in Britain, 244 in France, 270 in Italy and 273 in Germany.
Update: Ronald Bailey points out that drug re importation is just a way to impose drug price controls in the US, effectively applying the most aggressive price-control regime for each drug worldwide to US prices. Right now, drug companies tolerate price controls set as much as 2/3 under US prices or more because they can still make money at the margin, because the marginal cost of drug production is so much lower than the total cost with R&D, etc. included. However, they cannot survive at these prices applied to US demand. Remember, drug companies have profits margins averaging in the 18-20% range. Perhaps you might argue they should only be making 10%, but that only gives you room for an imposed 10% price cut, not the huge cuts politicians would like. And you would get that only at tremendous costs in terms of lost freedoms and demolished incentives for new drug development.
Jane Galt on Immigration
Jane Galt takes on some of the more common anti-immigration talking points. Just for example:
5. There were ethnic newspapers, but nothing like today's ethnic media.
This is just ridiculous. Immigrants in 1900 could get all the entertainment that was then available in their own language; for example, by 1918, New York City boasted 20 Yiddish theaters. The idea that Latin American immigrants are somehow uniquely unable to assimilate because they can now watch soap operas and the Venezuelan version of Eurovision in their very own language seems to me self-evidently absurd; an immigrant at home watching television in Spanish is immersed in her own culture no more thoroughly than was the typical resident of an ethnic neighbourhood who shopped, worked, went to services, and partied entirely with their compatriots.
I am working on some research right now -- immigration opponents are claiming that "yes, immigration may have been OK in the past, but its different now." I am in the process of putting together anti-immigration quotes from the late 19th and early 20th century that cover all of the same ground -- they're lazy, they breed too fast, they have disease, they don't integrate, they have divided loyalties -- but aimed at Irish and Italians.