Monday, February 24, 2014

Musings about immigration

Some thoughts about immigration:

  • 2 million illegal immigrants have been deported since Obama became President, more than under any previous president and nine times the rate of nine years ago
  • Technological changes are making low-skill, manual labor jobs less remunerative and less attractive. Consequently, many Americans decline to seek these positions, preferring to collect unemployment compensation while seeking a new job rather than to accept what our society widely perceives to be a dead-end job. Employers can continue to pay low wages for these jobs because immigrants, some of them in the country illegally, find the jobs offer better lifestyle if not employment prospects than they had before immigrating to the U.S.
  • Foreign-born individuals earn half all PhDs in science and technology awarded by U.S. schools and are co-authors of four-fifths of the drug patents, i.e., foreign-born individuals, regardless of immigration status, contribute to U.S. technological progress and economic productivity. In other words, current immigration policies arguably harm rather than benefit the nation.
  • Most U.S. citizens are immigrants or the descendant of immigrants.
  • National borders are an attempt by nation states to define themselves in terms of geography and citizens. In the absence of strong border controls, numerous people relocate to improve their economic or social prospects, e.g., in the European Union (EU) with its relatively open borders citizens of less prosperous countries in Eastern Europe often grab an opportunity to relocate to a wealthier Western European country. Anecdotally, when I spent a week in London last autumn, eating in restaurants and staying in a hotel, I think only one of the service people spoke with a UK accent.
  • God is no respecter of persons, i.e., God makes no distinctions in how God treats people based on their national identity or origin and desires that we similarly treat all people with equal respect.
  • Entirely eliminating border controls would result in substantial numbers of people moving to the United States. Some would contribute greatly to our national ethos, bringing their entrepreneurial spirits, industry, ambition, skills, and native abilities. A few would come seeing an opportunity for criminal activity and a few would come seeking welfare benefits. These few collectively represent a distinct minority. Most people, regardless of where they live, are neither criminal nor constitutionally lazy.
  • History suggests that the risky policy of allowing open immigration pays dividends in terms of social and economic benefits, e.g., the history of North America from the sixteenth through the imposition of immigration controls in the nineteenth century. If the U.S. opened its borders, would it spend less on additional policing and welfare benefits than it now spends in vain attempts to control its borders? (Notwithstanding the huge number of deportees, current border control efforts are largely in vain, given the presence of millions of illegal immigrants.)
  • The best prevention of illegal immigration may be to promote human rights, liberal democracy, and economic prosperity abroad. Tellingly, a depressed U.S. economy causes fewer Mexicans to attempt to enter the U.S. illegally. Canadians, who enjoy their own prosperous liberal democratic nation, rarely try to immigrate illegally to the U.S. or elsewhere.

More specifically, the current U.S. approach to immigration benefits few:

  • Deportation is an expensive, time-consuming process.
  • Illegal immigrants brought by their parents to the U.S. as children (i.e., these illegal immigrants had no choice in their immigration status) may know no other language, culture, or identity. Sending such individuals back to their nominal country helps nobody and carries significant costs for society, e.g., an illegal immigrant recently was the runner-up in the election of the University of North Carolina's student body president and obviously a talented young man with much to contribute.
  • Sending parents home while allowing a child born in this country to remain because the child is a citizen and the parents are illegal immigrants hurts everyone. Parents with sufficient initiative to come to want to be in the U.S. illegally so that their newborn will be a citizen have genes from which this nation can benefit.

I don't anticipate that the U.S. will eliminate its border controls in the near future. I'm admittedly uncertain about the full ramifications of such a radical change. EU member nations have struggled with their open borders, although many of the difficulties may be transitional rather than permanent if those relating from poor to wealthy nations bring disproportionate amounts of industry, ambition, and talent.

However, current U.S. immigration policies and laws are broken and inconsistent with God's equal love for all. Incremental changes may represent the preferred answer, especially given Washington's polarized politics and widespread though biblically and historically unwarranted xenophobia.

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