President Obama and Immigration

I’ve blogged before about the benefits of immigration reform and (more) open borders. I also think our path to citizenship is a mess. So, my initial reaction to the President’s announcement regarding immigration was mixed. Peter Suderman at Reason has a pretty balanced take on why my reactions were mixed. In response to the claims that President Obama’s actions are “unprecedented and illegal,” Suderman notes the following:

1. Probably legal: “As Reason’s Shikha Dalmia and Case Western Reserve University Law Professor Jonathan Adler have noted, the president has a great deal of authority to set enforcement priorities and exercise discretion when it comes to immigration law. Even some of the loudest critics of Obama’s action have come around to the idea that, at least technically, it would not exceed the president’s discretionary power, even if it would constitute an unusual and strained use of it.”

2. It is unprecedented: “The administration and some of its supporters are arguing that various presidents, including Republicans, have taken comparable steps before, limiting deportations through executive order, and that makes this well within political norms. This argument leaves out crucial details about congressional involvement and support for those previous presidential orders.” These crucial details have been well-documented by David Frum at The Atlantic.

3. It is a further expansion of executive power and the norms around using it: “Just because an executive action is technically legal does not mean that it falls within legal norms, and executive power can be expanded not only through explicit assertions of previously off-limits authority, but by making use of powers that existed but were never used, or never used to such an extent…Anyone who worries about executive overreach, even those supportive of expanded immigration, ought to be wary of the precedent this move, and the thin line of reasoning behind it, could set.” Expanding the power of one man should be troubling.

4. Executive action may be preferable to reform bill: “If you favor making immigration easier and more straightforward, and think that draconian enforcement efforts are both wasteful and counterproductive, then there are real upsides to executive action when compared to a big congressional overhaul.” Increased border control funding and an “incredibly invasive form of workplace nannying which would create huge hassles for workers and employers, as well as large numbers of false positives—making hiring, and finding employment, an even harder process than it already is.”

5. Executive action could poison broader, more stable reform: “There’s no question that the immediate political consequence would be to further outrage Republicans, and turn a party that has long had a mix of views about the virtues of expanding immigration into one dominated by opposition…But the backlash might not just be the immediate consequence, and it might not just be limited to the congressional GOP and its core supporters; unilateral action might result in a deepened long-term opposition to greater immigration as well.” I highly doubt this has anything to do with the morality of immigration. It is likely nothing more than a political move meant “to provoke Republicans into a frothing rage, in hopes that they will do something politically stupid as a result. (They might oblige.)”

Suderman concludes with caution:

This is not to simply condemn Obama’s plan, but instead to warn enthusiastic supporters that the choice to act at this time, in this way, without legislative backing or public support, might be satisfying in the moment, but also stands a real chance of closing off opportunities for a better, more lasting solution at some point in the future. Consensus is hard, and sometimes it seems impossible, but in politics, it’s also important.

The Racist History of Disease, Africa, and Immigrants

I tend to react to the Ebola scare with the following:

A recent article from The Washington Post provides further reasons to react in such a way:

The long history of associating immigrants and disease in America and the problematic impact that has on attitudes toward immigrants should make us sensitive to the impact of “othering” African immigrants to the United States in the midst of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Scare-mongering about infinitesimally small risks in one context serves no purpose to the greater good of trying to curb disease transmission and relieve people’s suffering in another context.

The article is full of links to various studies on colonial history, political history of immigration, Ebola breakouts, etc.

An excellent read. Check it out.

Immigration and the Poor

Pretty much
Pretty much. The claims provoking this sign tend to be untrue.

Immigration is in the news again with the influx of Central American children across U.S. borders. Some of the responses to these child immigrants have shown the ugly side of American nationalism. This skepticism toward immigration can be traced back to several of the Founding Fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and John Jay. However, even the skeptics among the Founders expressed the benefits of immigration. But I’m not particularly interested in cherry-picking Founders statements. What I am interested in is alleviating global poverty. Here are a few links that cover a variety of studies demonstrating increased immigration does just that:

  • Economist David Henderson, writing in a 2012 issue of The Freeman, notes, “Boston University economist Patricia Cortes, in a study published in the Journal of Political Economy, found that cities with larger influxes of low-skilled immigrants had lower prices for labor-intensive services such as dry cleaning, childcare, housework, and gardening. In a later study, Cortes and coauthor Jose Tessa found that these low-price services allowed Americans, especially women, to spend more hours working in high-skilled, high-paying jobs.The gains from eliminating barriers to immigration are huge. In a recent article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, economist Michael Clemens finds that getting rid of all immigration restrictions worldwide would approximately double world GDP.” He continues, “…Harvard University economist Lant Pritchett’s observ[es] that the average gain from a lifetime of microcredit in Bangladesh, such as that provided by Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed Yunus’s Grameen Bank, is about the same as the gain from eight weeks working in the United States. Asks Pritchett, “If I get 3,000 Bangladeshi workers into the US, do I get the Nobel Peace Prize?” …Pritchett found that if rich countries allowed just a 3 percent increase in their labor forces through immigration, the world’s have-nots would benefit by $300 billion a year, and the residents of the rich countries would benefit by $51 billion a year.”
  • The Economist reports on a brand new study that “offer[s] ammunition for fans of more open borders. In 19 out of 20 countries, the authors calculated that shutting the doors entirely to foreign workers would make the native-born worse off. (Never mind what it would do to the immigrants themselves, who benefit far more than anyone else from being allowed to cross borders to find work.) The study also suggests that most countries could handle more immigration than they currently allow. In America, a one-percentage point increase in the proportion of immigrants in the population made the native-born 0.05% better off. The opposite was true in some countries with generous or ill-designed welfare states, however. A one-point rise in immigration made the native-born slightly worse off in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. In Belgium, immigrants who lose jobs can receive almost two-thirds of their most recent wage in state benefits, which must make the hunt for a new job less urgent. None of these effects was large, but the study undermines the claim that immigrants steal jobs from natives or drag down their wages.”
  • Lydia DePillis at The Washington Post reports on two new papers that demonstrate immigrants fill labor gaps, complement existing capital, tech, and labor, and that this complementarity increases production and consequently wages.

Be sure to read and research the actual studies.