Saturday, April 01, 2006

Immigration: recent trends and opinions

A quick summary of some immigration happenings.

The Migration Policy Institute has a great summary on the current immigration proposals. In the summary pdf they set out, side by side, the various provisions, from whether one must return to one's home country before applying for the amnesty, to how many new employment inspectors are to be funded. Most plans, for example, revert to serious punishments if an immigrant illegally enters after the bill is enacted; so we'll probably see another amnesty in twenty years. The current status of these bills, as I understand it, is that all Senate proposals are live; in December of last year a fairly harsh House proposal, HR 4437, was passed (with, for example, no guest worker provision); Sensenbrenner was a leader on this bill, but it is effectively just a threat and backdrop. It made it a crime to provide humanitarian assistance to illegal immigrants, which led Roger Cardinal Mahoney to call for civil disobedience if the law is passed, and brought unusual praise for the Catholic Church by the NY Times. Bush's program, from the side-by-side comparison, seems pretty generous; still, Howard Dean accuses him of scapegoating Hispanics.

John Tierney has an April 1st column in the NY Times (TimeSelect--sorry) entitled "King Canute at the Border" about trying to get the debate to the point of realism--the border is porous and employers need labor. This is the same problem as the supply-demand conundrum in the war on drugs. Can we integrate a previously illegal activity into society?: "About 4 in 10 of [illegal immigrants] said they're already getting taxes deducted from their paychecks, and 70 percent said they'd be willing to pay back taxes to get legal status. More than 90 percent said they'd comply with other requirements, like paying a fine of $1,000, getting fingerprinted and submitting to a criminal background check."

The Minutemen have restarted their border watch. Tons o' folks marched in a pro-illegal immigrant rally on Saturday. Was the 1986 Reagan amnesty a success? Opinions differ. Also: take the Reagan amnesty pop quiz. (Quite tendentious.) A great paper from a former senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission discusses the legitimate uses of immigration policy to stop terror: stopping terrorist mobility has been a neglected focus.

David Friedman has a post on immigration noting that voluntary transactions increase the utility of both parties; but that not all interactions are voluntary. Immigrants might come here and get welfare benefits that are coercively funded. On the other hand, he notes, they may come here and pay for things they don't get, like Social Security. It's an empirical question, again, and the direction of argumentation is unclear: does open migration make a welfare state less attractive; does our insistence on a welfare state mean we have to close our borders? My take is that small, effectively targeted welfare programs are consistent with significant immigration, so I can have my cake and eat it too. To paraphrase Friedman, welcome home, immigrant.

Vicente Fox (who I am very fond of) has stated that Mexican police will not be used to stop illegal emigration to the U.S. This is because of a "freedom of movement" clause in the Mexican Constitution. Mark Levin at NR mocks this a bit on general grounds, finishing with a good rhetorical flourish. I can't find the "freedom of movement clause--please comment if you know where it is. To the contrary, the Mexican Constitution, at Section III (Power of Congress), the first article therein (73rd overall), at XVI, states that Congress shall have power:
To enact laws in regard to nationality, the legal status of foreigners, citizenship, naturalization, colonization, emigration and immigration, and the general health of the country.
While looking for the etymology of "immigration," I found this. And you thought Aristotle and the ancient Greeks had some wacky scientific ideas:
1611, of persons, 1646 of animals, from L. migrationem (nom. migratio), from pp. stem of migrare "to move from one place to another," probably originally *migwros, from PIE *meigw- (cf. Gk. ameibein "to change"), from base *mei- "to change, go, move" (see mutable). Migrate is first attested 1697. That European birds migrate across the seas or to Asia was understood in the Middle Ages, but subsequently forgotten. Dr. Johnson held that swallows slept all winter in the beds of rivers, while the naturalist Morton (1703) stated that they migrated to the moon.


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