Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Some really good writing on immigration

Via an excellent blog post from Tim Lee guest-blogging at Megan McArdle's usual spot, I came across an equally fine piece by Philippe Legrain on immigration in Forbes. I'd long suspected that our country let in fewer people of particular origins than would make economic sense, and therefore I've never found it surprising that so many of them resort to illegal tactics to come here and escape the poverty ailing them at home. I had no idea, though, that it would take approximately 131 years for a 30-year-old Mexican worker with an HS diploma and one sister in the United States to get a U.S. green card. That really is utterly crazy, and statistics like this really ought to be trotted out more frequently in public debate whenever people ask "But why don't more Mexicans come here legally?" The answer -- "Because our current law makes it too difficult. And people who want something badly enough will do whatever they can to do it, even if illegal -- c.f. Prohibition" -- is made all too plain by the Forbes stats.


  1. I literally felt my jaw drop when I read the words "an excellent blog post" in reference to that race-baiting, petulant piece of heartstring-yanking demagoguery. Who are you, and what have you done with the usual author of this blog?

    In any event, while it is true our immigration system, as a military person might put it, is FUBAR, it is not particularly racist. The examples he cites were cherry-picked and the 131-year claim is ludicrous. The government doesn't even know how much money it will have to spend next year to within hundreds of billions of dollars, and this schmoe claims he can use its data to predict how long it will take it to do something in excess of a human lifetime?

    If you like, I can send you a link to an excellent little CLE audio program I did for my MCLE which explains how the Immigration service portions out various kinds of visas, and why there are multi-decade waits for would-be immigrants from such hotbeds of Hispanicicity as, say, Poland.

  2. MarcW: first, I don't think my views out of this subject are particularly out of the mainstream for a moderate conservative/fusionist/libertarian/classical liberal. I recognize that people on the right, broadly defined, do disagree on immigration. But as far as I'm able to tell, my views aren't far off of those of the WSJ editorial board, the Cato staff, the Reason magazine group of writers and bloggers, or many of the Volokh contributors. The first link goes to a piece by a guest contributor to Megan McArdle's blog. She's a pretty mainstream/moderate libertarian, and the guest bloggers she's recruited to tide the blog over during her honeymoon all share much the same worldview.

    I don't mind holding weird opinions. I just don't think I do in this case.

    Second, I'm happy to listen to your CLE talk, or to read more specific criticisms of the Forbes guy's methodology. That said, I think it's equally insane that a Polish person -- or anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity -- should have to wait multiple decades for a visa.
    The Forbes guy's graph says that an Indian computer engineer has to wait 35 years for a green card. I didn't highlight that figure because it's not quite as eye popping as 131 years. But it's still appalling.

    If people want to come here to work, and Americans want to hire them to do work, then they ought to be allowed to come here. I'm willing to live with minimal background screening for criminal past, infectious diseases, etc. But I remain troubled by a system that routinely requires multi-decade waits for people of any background.

  3. Mr. Lee's post was the one to which I referred when I said, "that race-baiting, petulant piece of heartstring-yanking demagoguery." Which, in my opinion, it was.

    You and I have, so far as I can tell, just about the same actual views on the morality and preferred mode of immigration law. My problem with Mr. Lee's piece is that it is inflammatory, inaccurate to the point of deliberate deception, and implied that anyone who doesn't think that current law should just be ignorable at will is a heartless, racist monster.