Thursday, August 11, 2005

Why Illegal Immigration is Good

One of the arguments usually proffered against looser immigration laws is that you can't have immigration and a welfare state. Though perhaps driven by xenophobia, there is some truth to that dilemma. With a broad welfare state immigrants will be attracted to the country, not solely because of job opportunities, but because of welfare benefits as well. This is bad since the proportion of the population who receive more from the government than they contribute in taxes will go up. (It's also presumably why we are fighting Mexican immigrants but asking for more visas for Europeans and Asians)

Illegal, yet tacitly allowed, immigration solves this problem. Immigrants who come illegally from Mexico don't collect from government programs. They come only because there are jobs here that pay more than in Mexico (it goes unsaid that this is a good thing). Since they aren't citizens they can't collect welfare or most other government services. Their children, however, will be American citizens if they are born here, so it's not as if there will be some sort of persisting underclass. So why not have strict, but very laxly enforced, immigration laws?

2 Comments:

Blogger Isaac said...

There is the broader problem that at the low end of the labor market they are put in a position of being exploited for fear of being reported to immigration, which is troubling both from a human rights standpoint, and because it makes the lower end of the labor market more unpleasant for Americans as well.

Also, while they may not use welfare and medicaid, they do use the education system (though this is their kids) and the charity system...

I actually sort of agree with you, but it smells like a too-clever by half argument, and I'm trying to figure out why. Partially, it's because there is something distasteful about having a group of people in the country who can't become full members in their communities. Not an economic problem, true, but a problem in some broader sense.

1:17 AM  
Blogger henry said...

Yet if you didn't really enforce immigration laws there wouldn't really be a fear of being reported.

Yeah, but there is something about the argument that is not quite right. You run into problems like having a large informal economy if they can't legally have businesses and things like that.

11:24 AM  

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