Trump is a conman. A fraud. He means nothing he says. But decades of totally incoherent, stupid immigration (non)policies have caused this.
— John Schindler (@20committee) September 1, 2016
Say what you will about Donald Trump, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day (if you’re a Trump fan then he’s not a stopped clock and he’s running fine.)
Immigration policy (to the extent there is one in the US is a jumbled mess of crazy, mostly designed to benefit big businesses and democrat politicians trying to pluck at heartstrings to get votes. Even as Trump shouts about walls and deportations and the evils of NAFTA, we’re no closer to actually discussing immigration than we were 10 months ago. Granted this is not unexpected.
Instead of shouting “Build the Wall!” and “Deport them all” I’d like to present a few starting points. Things that as I see it are either basic facts or directly follow from facts (but I’m open to discussion.)
- The Defining Feature of a Nation is the ability to control it’s borders.
I want to be clear about this, I’m talking about a definition here, not about practicality or whether a nation actually controls it borders (whether by choice, ineptness or some combination.) What separates a nation from everything below it on the organization hierarchy is the ability to control it’s borders. This is a defining feature separating a “state” from “nation” (to use the US as the example.) This, by the way, is exactly what the Brexit was about. Losing border control (among a host of other things) to the EU rendered the UK not even a country anymore. Saying we simply cannot secure our border because it would “unfair” to Mexico or some such would render the US not a country anymore, but some sort of subsidiary of the United Nations I guess.
Incidentally, choosing to go full on open borders would effectively dissolve your nation status. However, let’s be clear “open borders” is not the same thing as a liberal (non-politically) immigration policy. For starters that’s because a liberal policy can (theoretically at least) be changed should conditions warrant.
- A country should put it’s citizens first
This should be axiomatic, and yet for some reason it’s constantly argued. This doesn’t mean we should treat other countries’ citizens like shit, but it does mean we should prioritize the interest of our citizens over the interests of other countries’ citizens.
Now we may disagree about what that means. I tend to think trade creates a net benefit for our country for example. But the argument should at least be over what benefits us best, not whether we should benefit our fellow citizens.
- Deportations won’t matter until we have operational control of the border
This should also go without saying, but apparently it needs to be said. We could start deportations immediately, and it would…do pretty much nothing. Already we have multiple violators illegally entering the country. Until we have something approaching control of the border, deporting is just a revolving door.
Now the border has tons of problems, but it’s not the only problem we have either. We don’t have an entry\exit visa tracking system yet, despite it being on the books for almost 10 years now. And some estimates put visa overstays at upwards of 500k/year. So this is not a small issue.
- The American Public likely doesn’t have the stomach for mass deportations anyway
Fact is, you don’t even need a sobbing parent pulled away from their child to make your average American feel bad. Ripping anyone out of the community is going to be uncomfortable and the media will turn the emotion up to 11 and everyone will feel bad and the policy will fail. But this leads us to the catch-22 of….
- Allowing illegals to stay: a) rewards lawbreakers while b) punishing those who waited.
My primary objection to amnesty is that it is fundamentally unfair. It rewards those who broke the law, either by illegally crossing or overstaying their visa, while effectively punishing those who waited in line.
- Immigration lowers wages
This is a simple economic fact. Increasing the supply of laborers lowers wages. We’re often told illegals do jobs Americans won’t do. But part of the reason American’s won’t do them is the low wages, perpetuated by a continual labor supply.
Now, like trade, this isn’t all bad, in that higher wages mean higher costs for the goods and services those wages provide, but we need to ask if this is a tradeoff we want to make. Frankly, it’s never even discussed. EVER. It’s just taken as gospel truth that we need the immigrants to do work American’s won’t. We need to finally discuss what we want out of an immigration policy. Which brings us to another point.
- Not all immigration actually benefits the US
This one is a little harder to explain, but there’s whole swaths of immigration, especially in the academic world, that could arguably said to have no real net benefit at all. While lower wages leading to lower prices might benefit at least a portion of the population, things get murkier in academics (and I’m sure this could be applied elsewhere, but go with what you know.)
There are lots of post-docs, who by the way are often funded by NIH money (read: taxpayer dollars). Many of these post-docs are US citizens, some are not. Of those who are not, some want to stay in the US after they finish others do not. How do I know? I’ve worked with these people. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved my post-doc from India. He was a friend and at times teacher as I was adjusting to full time lab work right out of college. I wished he had any interest in staying in the US. But he had none, he was here to get his experience and head back home. So while I liked him very much, I was (and still am) a bit uncomfortable with the fact that a taxpayer funded money went to train someone who ultimately had no interest at all in staying in this country.
The very existence of “postdoc” as a category of employee pushes wages down (It was often said around our lab it was cheaper to higher a postdoc than it was to hire a research technician.) And when you combine this with the above point about immigration and wages you begin to see part of the reason why. Competition from around the world drives down the wages for these positions (to almost an extreme level I might add.)
- Illegal immigration probably benefits Mexico
Any idea that we’re going to get Mexico on board to help us here is frankly naïve. Illegal immigration is on the whole a net positive for Mexico. On the one hand it offloads people who not succeeding in their home country. (Note: These are not necessarily bad people, anymore than out of work coal miners in WV are bad people. Though some are criminals). Additionally, the drug flow across the border is a substantial part of the Mexican economy even if they don’t want to admit it. Finally, the money sent back across the boarder by immigrants (legal and illegal) provides a further boost to Mexico.
Basically there’s no reason for Mexico to help us at all, and every reason for them to make our problems worse.
On this note, even before today Trump keeps saying he’ll get Mexico to pay for the wall basically by threatening them with tariffs and/or using tariffs to pay for it. Which of course means, ultimately the US taxpayer is going to pay for the wall anyway.
This is honestly only a start. I’m just tired of typing frankly and I have some stuff to get to. But it’s a necessary start to any real conversation on immigration. I’ve wanted to have this conversation for a while, so now that Trump’s bloviated it to national coverage, maybe rational people can start having it. (But likely not.)