Sunday, April 02, 2006

George Will admonishes "faux conservatives"

George Will's Washington Post Op-Ed 'Guard the Borders -- And Face Facts, Too' chastises "faux conservatives" (or did he mean Fox conservatives) for arguing that the President's guest worker policy for illegal immigrants amounts to amnesty (ed. emphasis added):

...Of the nation's illegal immigrants -- estimated to be at least 11 million, a cohort larger than the combined populations of 12 states -- 60 percent have been here at least five years. Most have roots in their communities. Their children born here are U.S. citizens. We are not going to take the draconian police measures necessary to deport 11 million people. They would fill 200,000 buses in a caravan stretching bumper-to-bumper from San Diego to Alaska -- where, by the way, 26,000 Latinos live. And there are no plausible incentives to get the 11 million to board the buses.

Facts, a conservative (John Adams) said, are stubborn things, and regarding immigration, true conservatives take their bearings from facts such as those in the preceding paragraph. Conservatives should want, as the president proposes, a guest worker program to supply what the U.S. economy demands -- immigrant labor for entry-level jobs. Conservatives should favor a policy of encouraging unlimited immigration by educated people with math, engineering, technology or science skills that America's education system is not sufficiently supplying.

And conservatives should favor reducing illegality by putting illegal immigrants on a path out of society's crevices and into citizenship by paying fines and back taxes and learning English. Faux conservatives absurdly call this price tag on legal status "amnesty." Actually, it would prevent the emergence of a sullen, simmering subculture of the permanently marginalized, akin to the Arab ghettos in France. The House-passed bill, making it a felony to be in the country illegally, would make 11 million people permanently ineligible for legal status.
To what end?

Within a decade the New York and Washington metropolitan regions will join the Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco regions in having majorities made up of minorities, partly because immigrants have higher birthrates than whites. Since 2000, births, not immigration, have been the largest source of growth of America's Latino population.

Urban immigrant communities, with their support networks, are magnets for immigrants. Good. Investor's Business Daily reports a new study demonstrating that "over the past 30 years rising immigration led to higher wages for U.S.-born workers. Cities that served as migrant magnets did better than others. Why? Hiring one worker creates wealth with which to hire more workers."

The president, who has not hoarded his political capital, spent some trying to get the nation to face facts about the bleak future of an unreformed Social Security system. Concerning which: In 1940 there were 42 workers for every retiree; today there are 3.1. By 2030, when all 77 million baby boomers will have left the work force, there will be only 2.2. And that projection assumes net annual immigration, legal and illegal, of 900,000, more than double the 400,000 foreigners who, under the terms of proposed Senate legislation, could come here to work each year....

Porkopolis takes a closer look at some of the 'facts', and arguments based on those 'facts ', that Mr. Will utilizes in making his case. (Related: Fellow S.O.B Alliance member Steven Kelso thinks Mr. Will's Berlin Wall agruments are also specious.)

Let's look first at illegal immigration statistics cited:

Of the nation's illegal immigrants -- estimated to be at least 11 million, a cohort larger than the combined populations of 12 states -- 60 percent have been here at least five years.

Mr. Will owes his readers a source for his claim that 60 percent of the nation's illegal immigrants have been here at least five years. It is also important to look a little deeper at how the estimates are arrived at with illegal immigration data. Let's face it (using Mr. Will's arguments), the average illegal immigrant is not making concerted efforts to make him/her-self known to government authorities.

According to the March 7, 2006 Pew Hispanic Center (PHC) report 'Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S.':

Analysis of the March 2005 Current Population Survey shows that there were 11.1 million unauthorized migrants in the United States a year ago. Based on analysis of other data sources that offer indications of the pace of growth in the foreign-born population, the Center developed an estimate of 11.5 to 12 million for the unauthorized population as of March 2006.

In the March 2005 estimate two-thirds (66%) of the unauthorized population had been in the country for ten years or less, and the largest share, 40% of the total or 4.4 million people had been in the country five years or less.

The PHC's report provides the following chart on page 2 of its report:


More than likely, the PHC report was the source for Mr. Will's assertion. What's of interest is the methodology used to determine the statistics.

The report states that the data are a result of surveys. The authors of the report point this out on page 1 (ed. emphasis added):


Part 1 - Unauthorized Migrants: The Numbers
How the estimates are formulated

Neither the Census Bureau nor any other U.S. government agency counts the unauthorized migrant population or defines its demographic characteristics based on specific enumeration. The “residual method” is, however, a widely-accepted methodology for estimating the size and certain characteristics, such as age and national origins, of the undocumented population based on official data. This methodology essentially subtracts the estimated legal-immigrant population from the total foreign-born population and treats the residual as a source of data on the unauthorized migrant population (Passel, Van Hook, and Bean 2004).

The estimates reported here are based on this methodology applied to data from the March 2005 Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS, a monthly survey of about 50,000 households conducted jointly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, is best known as the source for monthly unemployment statistics. Every March both the sample size and the questionnaire of the CPS are augmented to produce the Annual Social and Economic Supplement, which provides additional data on several additional subjects, including the foreign-born population...
The statement that, "Neither the Census Bureau nor any other U.S. government agency counts the unauthorized migrant population or defines its demographic characteristics based on specific enumeration" is confirmed by this report found on the Census Bureau's site: 'Evaluating Components of International Migration:The Residual Foreign Born'.

Let's address Mr. Will's next assertion:

We are not going to take the draconian police measures necessary to deport 11
million people. They would fill 200,000 buses in a caravan stretching bumper-to-bumper from San Diego to Alaska -- where, by the way, 26,000 Latinos live. And there are no plausible incentives to get the 11 million to board the buses.
Mr. Will should provide a reference to any legislative proposal for a 200,000 bus caravan; otherwise his argument amounts to the proverbial straw-man. That being said, deportation is the current law of the land. Mr. Will appears to be arguing for selective deportation...only for those that are actually caught in the act of illegally entering our country. More on that in a moment.

Some might argue that a draconian problems call for draconian measures, but even one of the most ardent supporters of enforcement, CongressmanTancredo, is not calling for anything near Mr. Will's scenario.

Mr. Tancredo has proposed a resonable, if old, solution: We simply inforce the laws on the books. This would result in the voluntary return of illegal immigrants to their country of origin once they realize that employers are not offering jobs to illegal immigrants any longer. (See video for ABC's This Week; a program which Mr. Will contributes to.)

Is it unreasonable to think that individuals that voluntarily found their way into our country will voluntarily return if the prospect of employment doesn't exist? Aren't our borders capable of handling, illegal or legal, migration in both directions?

As to Mr. Will's claim that

Conservatives should want, as the president proposes, a guest worker program to
supply what the U.S. economy demands -- immigrant labor for entry-level jobs.
Mr. Will's "faux conservatives" would reply: Certainly...as long as we add the 'legal' qualifier to 'immigrant labor'.

The next argument from Mr. Will is uncharacteristically lacking in logic:

And conservatives should favor reducing illegality by putting illegal immigrants on a path out of society's crevices and into citizenship by paying fines and back taxes and learning English. Faux conservatives absurdly call this price tag on legal status "amnesty."
Illegality is no longer a problem because we just change the rules...Let's look at the implications of this.

We currently spend about $1.6 billion a year just at the federal level for border enforcement. Mr. Will's arguments implies that these huge expenditures are essentially wasted efforts if an illegal immigrant is lucky enough to circumvent the border patrols...Just find a way to evade border officials, supported by a very expensive bureaucracy, and the path to citizenship begins on the foundation of illegal residency.

Futhermore, George Will's, and the President's, recommendation don't appear to give any consideration for other reasonable conditions of citizenship. For example: do individuals have to prove clean criminal records, are they free of communicable diseases, do they have a citizen sponsor that will keep them from becoming a ward of the state, etc?

On his economic argument, the following reference to the benefits of illegal immigration are only half the story:

Investor's Business Daily reports a new study demonstrating that "over the past 30 years rising immigration led to higher wages for U.S.-born workers. Cities that served as migrant magnets did better than others. Why? Hiring one worker creates wealth with which to hire more workers."
Again, Mr. Will owes his reader a source. The studies, ('Press Release: Immigrants Benefit American Workers', 'The economic value of cultural diversity: evidence from US cities' and 'Rethinking the Gains from Immigration: Theory and Evidence from the U.S.') are referenced in an IBD Editorial. It's not clear if the studies' conclusions incorporate illegal immigrants because the press release simply refers to immigrants as do the abstracts for the individual studies.

Nevertheless, Mr. Will would serve his readers well by pointing out counter economic arguments like that offered by the Center for Immigration Studies:

The Costs of Illegal Immigration
Illegals Cost Feds $10 Billion a Year; Amnesty Would Nearly Triple Cost

WASHINGTON (August 25, 2004) — A new study from the Center for Immigration Studies is one of the first to estimate the impact of illegal immigration on the federal budget. Based on Census Bureau data, the study estimates that households headed by illegal aliens used $10 billion more in government services than they paid in taxes in 2002. These figures are only for the federal government; costs at the state and local level are also likely to be significant. The study also finds that if illegals were given amnesty, the fiscal deficit at the federal level would grow to nearly $29 billion.

Finally, Mr. Will notes a connection to the Social Security and illegal immigration:
In 1940 there were 42 workers for every retiree; today there are 3.1. By 2030, when all 77 million baby boomers will have left the work force, there will be only 2.2. And that projection assumes net annual immigration, legal and illegal, of 900,000, more than double the 400,000 foreigners who, under the terms of proposed Senate legislation, could come here to work each year
Again, a source for the numbers would be helpful.

It turns out that the statistics Mr. Will utilizes are from the assumptions the Social Security Adminstration utilizes when discussing possible future economic conditions ( low cost alternative I, intermediate alternative II, high cost alternative III) associated with the programs they benefits they manage. The projections range from a low of 672,500 to 1.3 million legal and illegal immigrants. The numeric assumptions involving just illegal immigrants are not offered.

An argument can be made that nothing is stopping us from making these numbers reflect 100% legal immigrants by means that don't involve amnesty. If our Social Security system requires additional workers, we can accomplish this without resorting to a dilution our laws. We can simply increase legal immigration with conditions we inact; not simply based on an individual's ability to evade law enforcement. (Actually, Porkopolis would prefer privitazation to address Social Security's solvency, but that's another argument. ) It could also be argued that increasing legal immigration of highly skilled workers is an argument that stands on its own merits.

It's easy to understand how many readers of this op-ed can conclude that George Will is committing a Harriet Miers-like faux pas; taking the easy way out on a tough issue. A disregard of principles is just that and not like Mr. Will. Where there's a will, um, dedicated effort to create a respect for our immigration laws, there's a way.

1 Comments:

Blogger Ben said...

Good piece Mario.

April 3, 2006 at 12:24 AM  

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