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Poll: Majority Of Americans (And Republicans) Support Pathway To Citizenship For Illegal Immigrants

There are going to be many issues on the political docket this year, but perhaps one of the most contentious among them will be immigration. Notwithstanding  Marco Rubio’s very good ideas, Republicans still seem to be committed to a restrictionist position that emphasizes little beyond border control, while Democrats are apparently intent on pushing broad immigration reform in the relatively near future. The GOP’s immigration position has already had consequences, of course, in the form of the massive Latino rejection of Republican candidates int he 2012 elections. Now, however, we have polling evidence that suggests that the GOP position does not have much public support:

WASHINGTON — A new Associated Press-GfK poll has found that more than 60 percent of Americans now favor allowing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country.

That’s a significantly higher number than last time the AP polled on the question, in 2010, when just 50 percent supported the idea.

The turnaround has been driven by Republicans changing their views. A majority in the GOP — 53 percent — now favor allowing illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. That’s up 22 percentage points from 2010.

That ought to stand as a powerful note to Republicans in Congress. Rather than being ruled by the limited wing of their party dominated by the Jan Brewer’s of the world, perhaps they need to open their ears. If they do, then I think that the prospects for significant immigration reform this year will increase significantly.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. stonetools says:

    Good post. You should note, Doug, that Marco Rubio’s very good ideas are similar to Obama’s previously proposed very good ideas-and that conservatives oppose these ideas,regardless.

    The White House has said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s immigration plans, which could legalize the status of some of those unlawfully in the country, “bode well for a productive, bipartisan debate.”

    A reason for that optimism: Rubio’s ideas and comments closely mirror those of President Obama in a 2011 policy speech in El Paso Texas.

    “This is the Rubio-Obama immigration plan,” Mark Krikorian, head of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, told Mother Jones.

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/16/3185077/rubio-obama-immigration-plan-senators.html#storylink=cpy

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I don’t know that Brewer is the talisman for the extreme irrational side of the GOP spectrum on this particular issue. In Arizona you actually can see the effects of long-term, unchecked illegal immigration. Not the Brewer’s viewpoints about illegal immigration are all sound; definitely they’re not. But before being so quick to judge take a stroll around the barios of Yuma or a construction site or two in Bullhead City. Illegal immigration might be a quaint hypothetical in various suburbs, but in certain places it’s a hard core problem. Jim DeMint, on the other hand, by way of example, has no such excuses for being off the rails.

    In any case, W. Bush nearly a decade ago had a very good proposal, but for obvious reasons that went nowhere. To me it seems pretty f’n obvious that if you combined real border control with a guest worker visa program that squeezed out the exploitation black market for cheap illegal labor, provided a path to citizenship for young illegals who were brought here as young children, visa-to-green card programs for adult illegals, and simultaneously reformed the administrative and judicial components of the immigration system, and added a hundred thousand or more annual H-1B visas to boot, it would be a no brainer for all sides to sign off on that and to move forward torwards real reforms. But of course there’s the laws and sausages component to all of this, along with various fringe elements that categorically are opposed to any reform and who possess large and loud microphones and campaign dollars. So we’ll see what happens. I’m not too optimistic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  3. Console says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Arizona’s problems with immigration come from Arizona. Every other southwestern state seems to have no trouble (There’s a reason Bush and Perry both have the same attitude towards immigration).

    Oh that’s not snarky enough…

    You mean the state that voted against MLK day has problems with brown people? Say it ain’t so!

    That’s better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  4. Rafer Janders says:

    Here’s my question: giving someone a “pathway to citizenship” effectively means giving them a green card or equivalent, rather than just legal immigrant status. (Because most legal immigrant statuses come with a timeline; at a certain point, you have to leave).

    But, if we’re going to give illegal immigrants green cards, shouldn’t we then, as a matter of simple fairness, also have to give a green card/pathway to citizenship to all legal immigrants? Because right now, we don’t. Many legal immigrants do not have a pathway to citizenship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. Justinian says:

    Just a few words.

    1. The proper term for these people are unlawful aliens. Even guest workers brought in legally under various visa programs (H-1B, H-2B, and many others), are expressly called non-immigrants in federal statutory law.

    2. These people already have citizenship: in the country of their origin. On the table, then, is not offering them citizenship, as if they didn’t have any, but granting them U.S. citizenship in addition to the citizenship they already hold.

    3. These other countries do not, of course, hand out citizenship in their country like candy to U.S. citizens who come to theirs.

    4. People appear to be oblivious to the effects of open immigration on working people in this country. I once spoke with someone who was quite down on his luck. Like everyone, he had a story. His was this. There was a time, now twenty years ago, when he could just show up at a construction site, where a house was being built, and be hired as a day laborer and get $35 an hour. Now (the time he told me this story several years ago), there is a bunch of illegal alien labor show up, and the wages paid are not even $8 per hour. Multiply his story by millions upon millions, and you see why unemployment is so high among the rising generation.

    4b. I know there will be people say that the solution is to raise the minimum wage. People do not understand that wage-and-price controls historically have been historically very ineffective, while market forces are known to be overwelming. Thus, the working people get their policy set by proponents of wage-and-price controls, while the businessmen know that the more glutted the market is with foreign labor, the lower the wages go down and the higher the profits to themselves go up.

    Laboring people get “wage-and-price control economics,” which is known to be weak and not to work very well, while the business owners get “market economics,” which is known to be extremely effective. It is no wonder that the differential in wealth has spread so much in the past several decades, seeing who gets which economic theory on their side.

    Again, and emphatically: the United States does not have jobs for everyone in the world. Having persons of foreign citizenship taking jobs en masse that would normally be performed by the native and citizen population is alienating in all senses of the word.

    The only thing keeping people from revolting already is the influx into the economy of two thousand million dollars of borrowed money each day through federal government deficit spending. Once that jig is up, and the country is forced to live in financial reality rather than in the fool’s paradise of living beyond its means, the resentment against a government that gleefully authorizes jobs going to foreign labor will be immense.

    All the unlawful aliens in this country already have a path to citizenship: return to the countries of their origin where they are, indeed, citizens, and always have been.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  6. David M says:

    @Justinian:

    1. I’m not sure calling them unlawful aliens matters as a matter of policy.

    2. That was kind of understood and doesn’t really add anything to the discussion.

    3. So?

    4a. Seems unlikely.

    4b. “the United States does not have jobs for everyone in the world” I congratulate you on beating that straw man severely.

    And finally “All the unlawful aliens in this country already have a path to citizenship: return to the countries of their origin where they are, indeed, citizens, and always have been.” Why do you hate America?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  7. Console says:

    @Justinian:

    You don’t get to try to play smart and invoke market economics and then pretend like the labor market doesn’t exist. People don’t move places to be unemployed. Insomuch as there is a demand for low wage labor, it will be filled. And it won’t be filled by businesses raising wages out of the goodness of their hearts. Illegal immigration exists for a reason. Black market labor exists for a reason. People seem to get that when talking about minimum wage, but talk about immigration and all of a sudden protectionism is supposed to magically be viable. Controls on supply is just as much an uphill battle as wage and price controls

    Now we can deal with this in a rational way through our immigration system, or we can let your job get outsourced to some guy living in a country where a dollar buys him a mansion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  8. Justinian says:

    @David M:

    In reply to David M, who wrote:

    And finally “All the unlawful aliens in this country already have a path to citizenship: return to the countries of their origin where they are, indeed, citizens, and always have been.” Why do you hate America?

    Weird! People in Estonia believe that immigration laws should be enforced, not flouted. What makes them hate Estonia?

    People in Bolivia think the same. What makes them hate Bolivia? And so on for every country on earth. Weird, weird!

    What is it about America that when an American puts forth an opinion that is a commonplace all over the rest of the world, he is accused of hatred? It must be that “American exceptionalism” I’ve heard tell of.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  9. superdestroyer says:

    I guess this means that a majority of Republicans support their own political extinction. I would guess that most of the Republicans who support amnesty and increasing the amount of legal immigration are the types who keep telling themselves that Hispanics are really conservatives.

    In the end, the polls are a huge win for the Democrats because the will eventually get millions of additional automatic Democratic Party voters, millions of poor people who will increase the demand for government services, and fewer fussy middle class voters who may switch parties.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  10. David M says:

    @Justinian:

    We are a nation of immigrants and immigration is a net positive thing for this country. You see nothing good about immigration and propose patently ridiculous solutions. It’s not much of a leap to ask you why you hate America, mostly as a joke.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. Justinian says:

    @Console:

    Concerning Console’s comment, two entries above, let me reply seriatim:

    You don’t get to try to play smart and invoke market economics and then pretend like the labor market doesn’t exist.

    We differ only in that you appear to believe that the labor market is outside the control of the government. I believe the labor market exists, and the government has power to decide the broad parameters of what that market is.

    People don’t move places to be unemployed.

    Exactly why workplace sanctions against the employment of unlawful aliens was so very effective the few years it was actually practiced.

    Insomuch as there is a demand for low wage labor, it will be filled. And it won’t be filled by businesses raising wages out of the goodness of their hearts.

    Not every demand is fulfilled. There is also supply. There is a demand for people all to live in mansions, but it is unfilled by the short supply of mansions. There is a demand even for slave labor in this country, but it goes unfilled because the federal government actually goes after people who enslave others in this country (and it does happen). Businesses do nothing (properly, almost nothing) out of the goodness of their hearts, we all grant, but they do respond to supply and demand. Limit the supply, and the cost of the item goes up: same with labor as with anything else.

    Illegal immigration exists for a reason. Black market labor exists for a reason.

    Yes, and the reason is that businesses like to drain economic value out of U.S. citizenship, so that they can reap greater profits off the cheaper labor. And as to the reason Congress aids and abets it . . . I’ll leave it to your speculation.

    People seem to get that when talking about minimum wage, but talk about immigration and all of a sudden protectionism is supposed to magically be viable.

    Yes, I do believe protectionism is viable. Many countries all over the world have working, enforced laws on immigration. It is only in the United States that we have a government that takes a quarter of the fruits of our labor from us, spends money like drunken sailors and goes hurtling deeper and deeper into debt, and cannot perform a basic government function that is routinely performed by all the non-dysfunctional governments around the world. Thus, you may be right: given the current state of Washington, viable enforcement of immigration law is just dreaming.

    Controls on supply is just as much an uphill battle as wage and price controls

    Again, I disagree. The government does set a minimum wage, and it is by and large enforced. It just does not help the working poor, because the market forces are so much greater. When, though, the government controls immigration, it is controlling market forces, and the working poor (at least those who are citizens) are helped much, much more.

    Now we can deal with this in a rational way through our immigration system, or we can let your job get outsourced to some guy living in a country where a dollar buys him a mansion.

    Having immigration laws that have meaning and are enforced as in other countries in this world is rational. It is the opposite that has trouble finding justification. To the American who is without a job because foreign labor is in his niche in the economy, it matters not whether that foreign labor is employed here or abroad. And much labor cannot be outsourced: stocking grocery shelves, harvesting produce, working on cars and trucks, and so forth.

    * * * * *

    What we have here are two different economic systems, which I’ll call Southern and Northern. Back in the 1850s in the American South, you could see articles about how the economy needed cheap (slave) labor, performed by non-citizens, and oh yes also how bad tariffs are. Damned protectionism! Up North, labor was performed much more by citizens, and support for tariffs was high.

    We all know that the North economically clobbered the South, even without any Civil War. Charleston, for example, was as important a port as New York in 1790, but became a mere feeder port to New York by 1840. Southerners who needed any skilled labor had to get it from the North, because there was no reason for anyone in the South to become skilled: you either were a slave or in economic competition with slaves, so why bother.

    The same held true in Ancient Greece. Sparta (the South) relied exclusively on slaves for labor, but Athens (the North) had some slaves, but highly valued labor by citizens. I simply do not know the tariff or protectionist policies of Sparta and Athens. And, guess what, who economically clobbered whom? It was Athens, though Sparta did defeat Athens by force of arms.

    All this abhorrence of tariffs and protectionism and love of labor of non-citizens: Wow! We’re back in the ante-bellum South, only now it is the whole country! The North may have defeated the South 150 years ago, but the Southern economic ideology has now taken the North. If only it was a winning ideology, or a morally justifiable one —.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  12. Justinian says:

    @David M:

    In reply to David M, who wrote:

    We are a nation of immigrants and immigration is a net positive thing for this country. You see nothing good about immigration and propose patently ridiculous solutions. It’s not much of a leap to ask you why you hate America, mostly as a joke.

    I was unable to follow your original argument, but can now that you have supplied the missing links. I hope you can excuse me if I did not find being accused of hatred against my own country to be funny.

    To the substance of your comment.

    We are a nation of immigrants This oft-repeated phrase can be found in Congress, Presidential addresses, and judicial opinions. However, I do not believe it. Just etymologically, a nation is something one is born into (natare in Latin = to be born). Immigration is, of course, migrating into. Thus, a Nation of Immigrants is an oxymoron. We are a nation of natives, or we are not a nation at all.

    Again: you cannot have a functioning polity without loyalty, and if the government cannot see fit to distinguish its own citizens from all the rest of the world, that government is unlikely to remain standing for long.

    Except for tribal members, we are all descendents of immigrants, but that does not make us immigrants ourselves. No, we are natives. And there is that point of U.S. history that is politely omitted in nearly every exposition: all the Indian Wars, from King Philip’s War of 1675 to Wounded Knee of 1890, with many, many wars in between. It is not as if the original inhabitants of this land welcomed immigrants with open arms (Massasoit and Pocahantas excepted, of course).

    Immigration is a net positive thing for this country.

    Obviously I disagree. The rising generation is having trouble finding jobs in a manner that the already established generation can hardly imagine. They do not see immgration as a net positive thing. Those in job markets glutted with foreign labor see their lives ruined by it.

    You see nothing good about immigration.

    You are right. My sympathies are so much to those Americans looking for jobs in markets glutted with foreign labor that I have fogotten to look at the good side of immigration. I’m sure it has a good side, somewhere.

    [You] propose patently ridiculous solutions.

    I never proposed much of anything specific. Having real immigration laws that are actually enforced, like so many other countries on this planet, probably sums it up. I do not believe it is patently ridiculous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  13. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    In the interest of taking the thread in another direction, why do the Republican leaders need to learn anything when even someone who is not (or at least claims not to be) on their team says

    So, phony Inauguration, phony National Anthem. Seems appropriate somehow.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. Rob in CT says:

    he could just show up at a construction site, where a house was being built, and be hired as a day laborer and get $35 an hour.

    This is quite a claim. I rather doubt it. At 8hrs day/5 days a week, 50 weeks/yr, that’s $70k.

    That said, I think many of the pro-immigration (obviously a loose term) side do downplay the impact on the low-end of the labor market. You can try and mitigate this, of course, but first acknowledge it happens.

    I’ve been questioning the standard neoliberal line on the evils of protectionism for a while now. I’m not yet read to switch over from my current “free(ish) trade has its downsides but is better than protectionism/trade war” to a protectionist position, but I have this nagging sense that we’ve screwed this up.

    Regarding immigration, I’ve long held a position roughly halfway between the hardline anti-immigration types (build a wall with guns and shoot) and the status quo. I think we need to do a better job of controlling the flow. I think we can indeed absorb and benefit from immigration, but not at the levels we allowed it to reach in the recent past (I’m aware it’s depressed at the moment, given the economic situation. But if things pick up, that won’t last).

    I want people on the grid, and I want them to become citizens. This isn’t about xenophobia for me: I generally have a positive impression of immigrants who put themselves through significant hardship to come here and work their tails off. So I’d like to see both a “path to citizenship” coupled with more effective enforcement (I’d go after the employers, hard. Make some examples).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  15. Rob in CT says:

    The Right and the Left each have ideological issues that tend to keep the status quo in place.

    The Left is extremely suspicious of anti-immigration rhetoric b/c they think (with a lot of justification, I believe) it stems from racism/xenophobia. The Democratic coalition also includes many Latinos with immigrant roots/ties. Though they don’t seem to have put *that* much pressure on the Obama administration over the rise in deportations. Flipside is the recent leniency for kids brought here illegally.

    The Right is anti-immigrant, but very hesitant to enact what I think would be the most effective enforcement: cracking down on employers. These, being virtuous “job creators” must not be oppressed any more than they currently are [this is me, rolling my eyes].

    Also, more effective enforcement probably means even better tracking of citizens which will offend civil libertarians on the Left and Right.

    Result: status quo.

    Did I miss anything?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  16. Al says:

    @Justinian:

    So, you’re in favor of the government artificially restricting supply in order to manipulate price?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  17. Rob in CT says:

    I think it’s clear that he is. He’s arguing that restricting the supply of cheap labor is a more effective method of helping the working class than the minimum wage. That’s clear from his posts, I think. [Frankly, I think his suggested parallel between the economics ante-bellum South and the present day is interesting. Especially if you add in increased automation, since economically speaking a robot is the functional equivalent of a slave...]

    The government “artificially” restricts supply now. It does all sorts of “artificial” things, actually. It sets ground rules for the market.

    There are very few people who are actually arguing for a real, true “open borders” policy, which is the only one that avoids “manipulating price” via restricting labor supply. The rest of us are arguing over the level of restriction that is reasonable & effective for our desired ends.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rob in CT:

    So I’d like to see both a “path to citizenship” coupled with more effective enforcement (I’d go after the employers, hard. Make some examples).

    But why, necessarily, a “path to citizenship” rather than merely a path to legal residence status? As I pointed out above, we don’t right now always offer a path to citizenship to legal immigrants/residents, i.e. those people who played by the rules and did things right, so offering citizenship to illegal immigrants while denying it to legal immigrants would be rather unfair and bizarre.

    Like you, I tend to fall into an uncomfortable middle on this debate: one of my parents was an immigrant who then became a naturalized citizen, but my parent did it legally, followed all the steps, took years to do it. So my sympathy for line-jumpers is fairly limited.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Rob in CT says:

    I’d prefer citizens to legal resident aliens. I don’t necessarily mind some resident aliens, but if those folks want to become citizens, to me that’s an improvement. This should be straightforward for those who have played by the rules (been employed, paid their taxes, stayed out of trouble and so forth).

    As I pointed out above, we don’t right now always offer a path to citizenship to legal immigrants/residents, i.e. those people who played by the rules and did things right

    This should change.

    I don’t know all the ins and outs of it. My father was a resident alien (“green card” though it wasn’t green) for decades until he decided to go for citizenship in the… late 1990s, IIRC. Maybe it was early in the 2000s. He did this w/o any significant problems that I recall. It all seemed quite easy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. Rob in CT says:

    Hmm. To flesh this out a bit, there should be 2 “pathways.”

    For those who complied with the law from the start, this should be reasonably easy.

    For those who broke immigration law but are otherwise law-abiding, the path should exist but have some hoops to jump through.

    I’m not entirely sure where I’d put kids who were brought here by their parents… I’m tempted to say door #1, but I could see an argument for door #2. I knew a guy who was through no fault of his own nearly deported when we were in college together. The end-around ended up being a quick marriage to his girlfriend. I hope that marriage worked out…

    Door #3 is deportation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rob in CT:

    My father was a resident alien (“green card” though it wasn’t green) for decades until he decided to go for citizenship in the… late 1990s, IIRC. Maybe it was early in the 2000s. He did this w/o any significant problems that I recall. It all seemed quite easy.

    It’s not always. It’s complicated, and there are multiple exceptions to exceptions, but there are many categories of resident aliens (people on work visas, student visas, family visas, etc.) who are not eligible to apply for a green card, or the eligibility is conditioned on several factors that they will not be able to do on their own.

    For example, a foreign national friend of mine has been living here for years on a work visa (and was before that on a student visa in grad school), employed by a company. For him to get a green card, his employer would have to sponsor him, and for the employer to do so, it would have to certify that no American could fill the job, and would have to first advertise for the position – but if even one qualified American applies, the job can’t provide my friend that certification. So, practically, my friend has no path to citizenship, despite the fact that he has an honors doctorate from an Ivy League American university, has been working in the US for years now, owns an apartment here, pays taxes, has been contributing to the American economy, etc.

    If we’re going to offer illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, we should offer one to my friend as well.

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  22. Rafer Janders says:

    One problem with these discussions is that most people don’t understand immigration law, which is incredibly complicated. But as a handy thing to keep in mind, “path to citizenship” basically equals green card. But not all legal immigrants / foreign nationals here on work visas, student visas, etc., get a green card, so by offering an illegal immigrant a path to citizenship, you are placing them ahead in line of legal immigrants. Which is a rather perverse incentive, to be honest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. Rob in CT says:

    For him to get a green card, his employer would have to sponsor him, and for the employer to do so, it would have to certify that no American could fill the job, and would have to first advertise for the position – but if even one qualified American applies, the job can’t provide my friend that certification

    This is stupid. Either you allow the guy to come here and take the job and become a citizen, or you simply don’t allow him to come here and take the job in the first place. That’s a good example of why we need reform.

    And yes, your friend should have a leg up on someone who broke our immigration laws, as a matter of fairness.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. matt bernius (formerly MattB) says:

    Also, its worth noting that many people who are here to work — either legally or illegally — are NOT interested in becoming US Citizens. Which is why in addition to *immigration* reform, we need *resident alien worker* reform (especially for workers who migrate multiple times a year within the US based on growing cycles).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. Rafer Janders says:

    @matt bernius (formerly MattB):

    Great point, and especially true of people who move here for business, school or family reasons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. Rob in CT says:

    Also, its worth noting that many people who are here to work — either legally or illegally — are NOT interested in becoming US Citizens

    I think it’s worth considering whether fostering this is a good idea, or at least to what extent it should be allowed/encouraged.

    Here’s my thinking:

    A business brings in a foreigner to take a job. A job that otherwise would likely have been filled by an American citizen (perhaps a less qualified one, or one one who simply would cost more). This is fine by me if that foreigner is going to become a citizen. A person who is going to put down roots here for the long term. I’m less enthused about the worker who comes here for a while, makes some money (how much of which is sent overseas instead of spent here?), and goes home. I’m persuadable on this. Persuade me, if you’re so inclined.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. Console says:

    @Rob in CT:

    The government tries to limit supply, but we have 12 million illegal immigrants for a reason.
    Plus, I don’t see the how slavery compares to immigration. Only one of those things involves any real labor market. Of course the side that actually has human capital development, wage allocation, and competition will come out on top economically. That’s sort of the point of expanding immigration. And I definitely am a fan of open borders. I mean, people have been migrating across the Rio Grande for centuries, but all of a sudden we need to rethink it because the modern nation state has decreed that arbitrary lines on a map matter above all else? While not everyone could be a citizen, America essentially had open immigration until the 1880′s. The only thing that’s fundamentally changed about the world with relation to labor since then is that now someone doesn’t have to move here for you to compete with them. And that competition is made a lot easier when you don’t have to worry about taxes, public policy, exchange rates, etc. distorting your value.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  28. Rob in CT says:

    The government tries to limit supply, but we have 12 million illegal immigrants for a reason.

    Certainly. However, if the government’s efforts at limiting supply are unsuccessful in part because enforcement of laws is poorly done, that can be addressed. We can also attempt to deal rationally with the millions of people who are here, since we’re not going to deport ~10 million people.

    Plus, I don’t see the how slavery compares to immigration. Only one of those things involves any real labor market

    The comparison is pretty rough. Robots are a much closer comparison.

    And I definitely am a fan of open borders. I mean, people have been migrating across the Rio Grande for centuries, but all of a sudden we need to rethink it because the modern nation state has decreed that arbitrary lines on a map matter above all else?

    We do all sorts of things for reasons that are, in the end, quite arbitrary. US citizens have certain privileges. The USA exists to benefit its citizens. If you want to do away with the modern nation state, well, that’s a position but I don’t think it’s a winner anytime soon. Lines on a map have mattered for quite some time, so I think it’s a little silly to pretend that this is some brand new development.

    Also, I’m a fan of paying attention to context. Wide open immigration may make sense at certain times, while more restrictive policy may be a better choice at other times. Is the US labor market (or, more specifically, the market for low-wage labor) particularly tight at the moment? No? Then perhaps restriction makes sense. I don’t think policy should be static.

    The only thing that’s fundamentally changed about the world with relation to labor since then is that now someone doesn’t have to move here for you to compete with them

    Indeed, I think globalization outranks immigration when it comes to impact on our economy. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about our immigration policy. Also, there are many jobs that, by their nature, cannot be outsourced. For those, immigration ranks higher on the list.

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  29. Franklin says:

    @Rob in CT: This is quite a claim. I rather doubt it. At 8hrs day/5 days a week, 50 weeks/yr, that’s $70k.

    Not to mention it was 20 years ago, which makes it the equivalent of roughly $115k per year.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. matt bernius says:

    @Rob in CT:
    Here are a couple points…
    The key thing about guest worker programs is that beyond creating a system where guest workers can pay for and have access to community resources, it allows them to legally enter, exit, and reenter the country. The last two parts — legally exist and reenter — are critical btw.

    Before I get to those, and to your question, simply ensuring that guest workers pay taxes and can legally do things like drive cars would help foster community stability. Licenses alone not only helps increase public safety, but frees up LEO time. It also means that existing communities don’t have to “knowingly look the other way” when dealing with significant amounts of their population.

    The reasons legal exit and reentry are important is that current immigration law essentially “traps” illegals within the country. We talk a lot about the high price of getting smuggled *into* the country. But less attention is paid to the high price of getting smuggled *out* of the country. Because, if you’re here illegally, you can only “legally” leave the US through the auspices of the US government. And while being here illegally is a civil law violation, getting caught and deported creates a lot of issues.

    So the first thing we want to do is make it possible for people only here to work to easily leave the country when they want to. And be able to renter if they have done their due diligence.

    As to the long term good of the community, it’s important to note that the nature of some industries — in particular farming — which traditionally employ illegals, prevent many workers from putting roots down anywhere. The fact is that the position of farm hand, and in particular, produce picker, are seasonal jobs. Which means that the people involved in those positions are typically already migrating multiple times in a given year, with shifts in the growing cycle. So, what a guest worker program would allow is a parent to temporarily enter the country, travel with the growing seasons for X months, and then return home for the off months. Even in cases where both parents might come to the US, there’s no reason for them to bring their children, as they have no fear of a trapped, long-term separation.

    In other, more fixed, industries, one can argue that you don’t want people to come and then leave. In response, let me offer two points.

    First, there’s no reason that someone who comes to the US as a temporary worker might later decide they want to stay. And if that’s something we want to encourage, then it makes sense to include legal pathway’s to switch tracks.

    Second, as things stand, there’s no provision in place to prevent the migration of existing US citizens. Many young people go one place after college, only to move-on after a few years. If we’re ok with that, then why not allow guest workers to legally do the same?

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  31. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I’m less enthused about the worker who comes here for a while, makes some money (how much of which is sent overseas instead of spent here?), and goes home. I’m persuadable on this. Persuade me, if you’re so inclined.

    If the worker is a professional / university educated / in a skiled job, etc., rather than an illegal immigrant who’s come here specifically to send money home to his family, then most of the money is spent and invested here. I work with many, many foreign nationals who moved here for their jobs, and virtually all of the money they earn here gets spent here (they buy houses and apartments, buy clothes, eat at restaurants, buy cars, take vacations, deposit their money in American banks, invest, etc.). The work they do helps generate jobs for other Americans, and they pay lots of taxes (many of which they will not get back eventually, unlike American citizens). At least at a professional level, there’s less crowding out of local labor, and more economic benefit generated.

    This does not, however, necessarily apply lower down the wage and skill scale.

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  32. Rafer Janders says:

    @Console:

    And I definitely am a fan of open borders. I mean, people have been migrating across the Rio Grande for centuries, but all of a sudden we need to rethink it because the modern nation state has decreed that arbitrary lines on a map matter above all else?

    Yes. We live in a system of nation-states. These lines do matter.

    If you doubt it, try moving to Mexico without any papers and telling the Mexican authorities you don’t plan to obey their laws because, after all, their country is just an arbitrary line on a map. I don’t think they’ll see it that way, to be honest, but you can give it a shot.

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  33. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Also, there are many jobs that, by their nature, cannot be outsourced. For those, immigration ranks higher on the list.

    Those jobs — among them construction, landscaping, farming, slaughterhouses, crop picking, maids, restaurant work, nannies, etc. — have seen the greatest impact on local labor due to widespread illegal immigration.

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  34. Rob in CT says:

    MattB:

    First, I agree that having people be what I call “on the grid” is an improvement on the status quo. I want that too, for basically the same reasons you do. I think it’s corrosive to have a bunch of people in varies degrees of hiding.

    I was quibbling with the idea of having a semi-permanent group of guest workers for something like migrant farm labor. I’m not sure I like it. I appreciate your fleshing out your support of it, though. My thoughts on this are not well-formed as yet.

    First, there’s no reason that someone who comes to the US as a temporary worker might later decide they want to stay. And if that’s something we want to encourage, then it makes sense to include legal pathway’s to switch tracks

    Indeed: my father, for example.

    Second, as things stand, there’s no provision in place to prevent the migration of existing US citizens. Many young people go one place after college, only to move-on after a few years. If we’re ok with that, then why not allow guest workers to legally do the same?

    Because US citizens moving within the country is fundamentally different than guest workers crossing an international border? This gets back to the whole nation state/lines on a map thing.

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  35. Rafer Janders says:

    @Console:

    I mean, people have been migrating across the Rio Grande for centuries, but all of a sudden we need to rethink it because the modern nation state has decreed that arbitrary lines on a map matter above all else?

    All of a sudden? Nations have been controlling their borders for the thousands of years since we’ve had nations.

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  36. Rob in CT says:

    I get a doctrinare libertarian arguing for open borders (full-on open borders, not current policy). It’s part & parcel of a quasi-religious belief in the power of free trade, free markets and free movement of labor, and not really caring about other stuff. That’s at least ideologically consistent, and can exist pure in the realm of theory (which is basically the only place libertarianism exists).

    The rest of us have trade-offs to make.

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  37. matt bernius says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    All of a sudden? Nations have been controlling their borders for the thousands of years since we’ve had nations.

    Not really. The modern nation state — complete with ridged borders, is between one and two centuries old — depending on who you ask. Much of it came about due to a combination of a rise in interest in statistical measurement and the fallout to WWI and WWII.

    Prior to that, while there was concern about who, generally speaking, ruled what territory (and collected the taxes for it), the exact limits of territory were really porous. And there wasn’t much concern at all about the flow of workers across borders. Likewise, language, family, and other local connections made even finding a border next to impossible.

    Our current understanding of borders is a very modern thing.

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  38. Rafer Janders says:

    @matt bernius:

    The modern nation state — complete with ridged borders, is between one and two centuries old — depending on who you ask.

    The modern nation-state in the West is a few centuries old (more than one and two). But the concept of a nation, of a country as a distinct political-ethnic-cultural system that had enforceable borders, is thousands of years old. That’s why, for example, the Romans patrolled the Rhine and Danube and prevented the barbarians crossing for hundreds of years. Japan and China closed their borders for hundreds of years. Many ancient kingdoms had very explicit movement controls, passports, restricted border crossings, etc.

    The notion that if you don’t like where you like, you can just pick up stakes and move to another nation, and that that nation has to take you in, is probably more prevalent today than it was throughout much of history.

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  39. Rafer Janders says:

    @matt bernius:

    And there wasn’t much concern at all about the flow of workers across borders.

    If you were let in as a worker, there were generally no expectations that you would ever be granted citizenship, or be treated the same as the natives. If the work dried up, you were out.

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  40. Console says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    The notion that if you don’t like where you like, you can just pick up stakes and move to another nation, and that that nation has to take you in, is probably more prevalent today than it was throughout much of history.

    As far as America and the new world goes, it isn’t even close to being the case that people didn’t just pick up and move to the western hemisphere. Citizenship is a different story… but citizenship and social standing were reserved based on privilege anyways. People still could come though.

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  41. Console says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Trade-off implies that you live in some reality where you don’t already have 12 million illegal immigrants in America, in spite of immigration quotas.

    Are you sure about which of us is speaking on theory?

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  42. Rob in CT says:

    @Console:

    No, I don’t think it implies that. We have to face that fact (~12MM people here in violation of immigration law) *and* craft better policy going forward. And the last thing I want is unrealistic, unenforceable laws.

    I’m not really sure what you read into my trade-offs comment, honestly.

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  43. Rafer Janders says:

    @Console:

    As far as America and the new world goes, it isn’t even close to being the case that people didn’t just pick up and move to the western hemisphere.

    That’s fairly recent history, from about the 17th-18th centuries on, when large-scale migration to the Americas began. My comment was concerning most of human history, i.e. the thousands of years before then.

    And even in the case of the Americas, migration was allowed because it was to colonies which the overseas European landlords considered to be empty and wanted settled in some degree, not to the home countries. The Dutch tolerated people moving to New Amsterdam in a way they never would have if those same people had tried to settle in Amsterdam itself.

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  44. matt bernius says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    But the concept of a nation, of a country as a distinct political-ethnic-cultural system that had enforceable borders, is thousands of years old.

    Again, I think you’re overstating the notion of enforceable borders. Likewise while you can argue “political” system for past nations, “ethnic-cultural” is a lot harder to argue. Especially in the context we think of both today.

    That’s why, for example, the Romans patrolled the Rhine and Danube and prevented the barbarians crossing for hundreds of years. Japan and China closed their borders for hundreds of years.

    Rome’s a bit of unique example, and even there the borders were pretty porous. And they were defined *against* the enemy incursions.

    I figured someone would bring up Japan or Britian. Both cases are a bit unique due to the island nature of those nations. With China, the north eastern border was patrolled and demarcated. The Southern and Western borders were far less defined. Depending on when and who you asked, the entire Korean Peninsula was part of China (or Japan). Even today, the nation of China is still attempting to colonize its western (internal) provinces. Pretending that was ever a “unified China” united by Culture or Ethnicity was, and to some degree still is, bogus.

    If you were let in as a worker, there were generally no expectations that you would ever be granted citizenship, or be treated the same as the natives. If the work dried up, you were out.

    Right. But even the concept of “citizenship” we’re talking about is a western, post enlightenment construct. So trying to back project it is entirely anachronistic. Ditto doing the same to the modern concepts of borders.

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  45. Justinian says:

    @Al:

    In reply to Al, who wrote:

    So, you’re in favor of the government artificially restricting supply in order to manipulate price?

    I think you have hit the nail on the head.

    I have never thought that immigration laws and their enforcement are all that artificial, since they are practiced in virtually all ages and nations. By that standard, immigration laws are among the most natural things in the world. But even if such laws are classified as artificial, it hardly speaks to their detriment. Artifice is not all bad. Nearly everyone lives in houses rather than in trees.

    By restricting the supply of labor, immigration laws have laborers get paid more and be better treated than any number of minimum-wage-laws and their like could accomplish.

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  46. Console says:

    @Justinian:

    Or they ensure that your job will be outsourced to a country where the dollar goes further…

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  47. David M says:

    @Justinian:

    By restricting the supply of labor, immigration laws have laborers get paid more and be better treated than any number of minimum-wage-laws and their like could accomplish.

    Seems unlikely that reducing immigration would affect wages more than the minimum wage.

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  48. Justinian says:

    @Franklin:

    There has been some question on the figure I originally quoted that someone I knew made $35 an hour being a day laborer showing up at a construction site prior to the current wave of nearly open immigration. For those who care, I’ll relate the story as nearly as I can remember.

    I am one of the few people who pick up hitch-hikers, and with each hitch-hiker, you get a story. The story of one hitchhiker was that he was so down on his luck because he could no longer get any decent wage for his labor.

    So nearly as I can recall, he said, “Yeah, I used to make 25, 30, even 35 dollars an hour just showing up at a construction site.”

    Thus, my original post should have said 25 dollars an hour, not 35. Clearly the lower figure is what he usually got, sometimes the middle figure, and only rarely the upper figure. And all this is based on my memory. Also, so nearly as I can recall, he said that no construction site any more was paying even so much as 8 dollars per hour for day laborers.

    The details may have beome fuzzy with time, and I could not swear to them now, but I could testify in Court as to the main point of his story: how he was personally ruined by the influx of cheap, immigrant, and almost surely illegal labor.

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  49. Justinian says:

    @Rob in CT:

    In reply to Rob in CT, who wrote [Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 12:15 ]:

    Persuade me, if you’re so inclined.

    I am so inclined. Rob in CT writes:

    A business brings in a foreigner to take a job. A job that otherwise would likely have been filled by an American citizen (perhaps a less qualified one, or one one who simply would cost more). This is fine by me if that foreigner is going to become a citizen.

    Look at the situation from the point of view of the American displaced from employment. For the sake of brevity, let’s call this person Joe. Do you think it is “fine by him”? Multiply this scenario by over an hundred thousand jobs annually in the technical professions alone, all by the H-1B Visa Program alone, and Joe is not just out of the one job you described, he is locked out of all employment in his field in this country.

    And Joe is not a fictional character. I have known several people in exactly his position. Multiply Joe’s feeling by hundreds of thousands, the effect of decades of this dynamic playing out on the American landscape, and you do not have a pretty picture.

    Think what it would feel like to be out of a job, while nearly all the jobs in your field are filled by foreign labor. Think what it would be to send out application after application for employment, in vain, while the employers are filling their positions with foreign labor. Think what it would be like to be driven into unemployment by these processes.

    In a few years, the thought-experiment will not be hypothetical. If these dynamics are not stopped, it is only a matter of time when you will be out of work, replaced by foreign labor.

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  50. Tyrell says:

    Studies have shown that these people are hard working, honest, self sufficient, intelligent, strong religious faith, strong traditional family structure, law abiding, and good character. Sounds like the kind of people this country needs more of.

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