Open Thread and Link Farm: Photographic Proof That Yertle the Turtle is Real Edition

This is an open thread — post what you like. Don’t post what you don’t like. Wiggle your bare toes in the pond. And feel free to self-link.

  1. Prison Rape in Popular Media « Law Journal for Social Justice A good post by our old “Alas” friend Raznor.
  2. It’s neat how the Onion did a perfect satire of Gene Marks’ incredibly clueless “if I were a poor black child” piece so many years before it was published. An Open Letter To A Starving Child
  3. But if you read just one response to that piece, make it this one: A Muscular Empathy – Ta-Nehisi Coates
  4. The Poor Black Kid Tumblr is also pretty funny.
  5. The border wall now stretches across Arizona in the easiest places to cross, so that migrants are purposefully funneled into the most treacherous conditions. The remains of over 6,000 human bodies have been found in the desert since militarized immigration policies started in the mid 1990s.”
  6. Rich People Create Jobs! And five other myths that need to die for our economy to recover.
  7. The Non-Problem Of Online Piracy “In the absence of serious evidence that the public is suffering from some kind of content drought, I think we have ample reason to oppose new strong IP rules…”
  8. The Gender Ternary: Understanding Transmisogyny | Gender Agenda
  9. QUOTE: “I heard a speech by Noam Chomsky who said that corporations are like super humans. They cannot be hurt like a human can and they never die. They are not susceptible to scrutiny or accountability. This makes them more profitable. If companies want to enjoy these benefits to some degree they have to live with what else comes with being not human. You miss out on compassion, forgiveness, comraderie, empathy, trust — all kinds of shit.”
  10. 50 best photos from The Natural World – The Big Picture – Boston.com
  11. Natural Hair Group Gives Away 40 Barbie Dolls with Natural Hair Makeover – COLORLINES
  12. Which Countries Fail the Most at Climate Leadership? | ThinkProgress
  13. The evidence on Unemployment Insurance | Jared Bernstein | On the Economy
  14. Supreme Court Could Tilt US House Majority
  15. The Civil War happened, in part, because people on both sides couldn’t picture what war would be like.
  16. Boycotting the All-American Muslim, and why we should boycott boycotts in general.
  17. Search “let it snow” at Google
  18. I didn’t really get the point of this video until about 30 seconds into it, and then I went “whoooa!”

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89 Responses to Open Thread and Link Farm: Photographic Proof That Yertle the Turtle is Real Edition

  1. 1
    Lisa Millbank says:

    Thanks for linking The Gender Ternary article! Gender Agenda reprinted the article with my enthusiastic permission but here’s a link to the original article on my blog. :)

  2. 2
    Eva says:

    Thanks for the link to Ta-Nehisi Coate’s ‘Muscular Empathy’.

  3. 3
    RonF says:

    Turtle: Great picture!

    Bike Video: someone is going to be riding alongside or behind this guy and end up running into someone.

  4. 4
    Robert says:

    Re: 9, on what planet? Corporations can die. They can end through dissolution/going out of business, and they can have their charters revoked by the state and be extinguished altogether. No scrutiny? Public corporations have to publish meticulous financial accounts and have entire news channels devoted to their doings. No accountability? Corporate executives can go to jail for criminal acts by the corporation, and corporations that engage in wrongdoing that causes harm can be sued or fined for billions.

    He’s right that they don’t get hurt like a human in the sense that they don’t catch hepatitis or get broken arms. That’s the only clause in the whole quote that isn’t factually wrong.

    It is certainly fairly arguable, and sometimes extremely strongly arguable, that the system coddles business too much, that they get away with stuff, that crimes don’t come to justice often enough, and so forth. I’ll agree with a lot of those arguments. But this quote is akin to feeling that murderers get away with it far too often and saying “murder isn’t even a crime in this country”. It’s stupid rhetoric.

  5. 5
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    “The border wall now stretches across Arizona in the easiest places to cross, so that migrants are purposefully funneled into the most treacherous conditions. The remains of over 6,000 human bodies have been found in the desert since militarized immigration policies started in the mid 1990s.”

    If you close the easiest places to cross, the goal isn’t “have everyone from the easy crossing go take a walk through a deadly desert.” You’re not trying to “funnel” them into danger. The goal is “have people evaluate the risks of walking through a deadly desert and decide against crossing at all.”

    It’s sort of like a minefield: the goal of a minefield is to deter crossing, not to sucker people into crossing it so they can be blown up.

    The problem is that people don’t realize how dangerous the desert really is.

  6. 6
    Robert says:

    The problem is that the Mexican economy is in the toilet and has been for a long time, so it’s more attractive to become a fugitive alien in a foreign land working at crap jobs for sublegal wages than it is to stay home.

    I agree that this is a misstatement of the intentions behind where they’ve made it harder to cross, although I also don’t think the intention was to create a “damn, I don’t want to cross a desert” mentality and thus deter crossings. Rather, it went like this: We have funds to close one place where people cross. OK, close the one that the most people use. Yay, nobody uses it anymore, they redistributed their movements across the other good places. New funds for a closure! OK, close the new most popular place. Etc. Continue iterating until we reach the point where the only places left to cross are the last places anyone would ever cross if they had any better options.

    I’m not a Newt supporter (don’t think he can win the general even against SCJ) but he has a good idea on immigration, and I hope whoever does win picks it up, wipes the Newtiness off it, and puts it in place.

  7. 7
    Robert says:

    Also, that baby turtle picture is soooo cute. Looking at it, I realized that if you cropped out the mama or papa or neighbor turtle it’s crawling on, you wouldn’t think it’s very cute; it’s the contrast that makes me go awwwwww, wook at his widdle smooshy face.

  8. 8
    chingona says:

    The problem is that people don’t realize how dangerous the desert really is.

    It’s a weird thing because it’s much, much more dangerous than it was, but all those deaths still represent a tiny percentage of the crossers. You are much more likely to make it than not.

    (The death toll is also dwarfed by that of Mexico’s drug war.)

    The dangerousness and the difficulty of the crossing has had some other unintended consequences — more people brought their families to stay here instead of keeping their families in Mexico and going home to visit themselves. And the people running the crossing are much worse – more violent, more criminal, less scrupulous. It’s a lot of the same people running the drug trade — and often forcing migrants to carry drugs as part of the price of passage. And now you have what are basically land pirates who raid migrant groups and hold them for ransom.

    It’s a mess.

  9. 9
    Ampersand says:

    I think the “there’s no intent that any migrant crossers should die” argument might have made sense 10 years ago, perhaps. But nowadays it’s just ridiculous. Everyone involved in this at a policy-making level knows that the outcome of increased, militarized border security is more migrants dying. That’s not an unexpected outcome; it’s a known result of policy. And yet every year, politicians continue to call for yet further increases in the policies that we know cause death.

    I can see that there’s a thin moral line between WANTING to kill migrants, and just wanting the harshest immigration policies you can get away with and being INDIFFERENT to how many migrants die. But I don’t see that as a very good defense of continuing to cause deaths with the current policies.

  10. 10
    Sebastian H says:

    What immigrant policy would you suggest that reduces crossing (presuming that reducing illegal immigration appears to be the democratic desire of the nation). I think immigration should be strongly encouraged. But the people of the US don’t seem to agree with me.

  11. 11
    Elusis says:

    RonF – apparently you can’t see the effect with the naked eye, just on video.

  12. 12
    Radfem says:

    If you close the easiest places to cross, the goal isn’t “have everyone from the easy crossing go take a walk through a deadly desert.” You’re not trying to “funnel” them into danger. The goal is “have people evaluate the risks of walking through a deadly desert and decide against crossing at all.”

    It’s sort of like a minefield: the goal of a minefield is to deter crossing, not to sucker people into crossing it so they can be blown up.

    The problem is that people don’t realize how dangerous the desert really is.

    This is courtesy of Operation Gatekeeper which just pushed those migrating eastward away from California towards the desert areas instead. This basic article discusses how lethal this policy turned out to be and provided recommendations. Agree or disagree but if you deny that O.G. did cost lives through its implementation even after people realized how dangerous the desert was, then you’re naive or in denial or you just don’t care about migrant lives.

    Do the migrants know the desert is dangerous? Yes, it’s dangerous and it’s deadly but given that a higher percentage of migrants are coming through Mexico from Central American countries (like Guatemalans attracted by the construction trade in the Southwestern states) it’s just one part of the dangerous trip.

    But then Guatemalans, El Salvadorans already have mass graves of bodies discovered in their own countries in part because of how deadly to them U.S. involvement in foreign policy in order to fight the “Cold War” which is crap b/c it was really done to prevent the nationalization in these countries of their own industries (i.e. fruit). So we help including financially their repressive governments kill, rape and torture anyone in disagreement in their own country and then we create policies where they die here in some cases fleeing the messes in their own countries we helped create going back into the days of the Monroe Doctrine and since. We trained these folks to rape, torture and to kill on American soil. None of the people trained there except maybe a few ever went to jail for their crimes but Americans served time in jail for protesting at the primary installation where this training of rape, kill and torture was given.

    Having interviewed plenty of folks who survived what happened in these countries and Honduras and Nicaragua, it just makes me sick and as an American whose country behaved these ways, deeply ashamed. Seeing torture scars, hearing of women who were raped, whose families disappeared one night because of some speech one made or some article that got published, and then reading and hearing about U.S. involvement in all that. Even got to talk to people who were assigned to carry out actions on behalf of agencies of the United States. Some of whom have to live with what they’ve done.

    So no, policy created and kept in place even after the lives of migrants have been lost (and would you like to suffocate or dehydrate to death inside a sealed off train car?), no I’m not surprised at all that it took place and does take place considering our shameful history in this region.

  13. 13
    mythago says:

    Corporate executives can go to jail for criminal acts by the corporation

    Under very, very rare circumstances they can. But the owners won’t. That’s the whole point of a corporation; to create a fictional Mr. Nobody sort of entity to absorb finger-pointing.

    Of course, the downside of this is that, unlike with a human, a corporation’s bad acts don’t ‘die’ with the executives or decision-makers who committed them. If RobertCo invests its CEO with a lot of authority and, within the bounds of that authority, he does things that make the corporation criminally or civilly liable, RobertCo doesn’t get out of liability by saying “oh hey, we fired that CEO so we’re a different person now.”

  14. 14
    Jake Squid says:

    What immigrant policy would you suggest that reduces crossing (presuming that reducing illegal immigration appears to be the democratic desire of the nation).

    The only effective strategy that I’m aware of is to make the US economy much, much worse than that of Latin America. As long as economic opportunities are greater in the US, there will be many, many, many people desperate enough to risk death to gain entry.

  15. 15
    Robert says:

    in order to fight the “Cold War” which is crap b/c it was really done to prevent the nationalization in these countries of their own industries (i.e. fruit)

    Stopping countries from nationalizing their industries was part of the Cold War. Just sayin’.

  16. 16
    RonF says:

    Actually, there’s a very simple solution to the issue of illegal aliens dying because crossing the border has been made more difficult in areas where it’s easiest/safest to cross. Finish the wall.

    The current border crossing walls were never intended to be the only barriers – they were intended as a start. If “funneling” illegal aliens into desolate areas is inhumane, then the humane thing is to finish what was started so that they can’t cross anywhere.

  17. 17
    chingona says:

    @ RonF … finishing the wall would require filling in canyons and cutting a number of endangered and threatened species off from their traditional migratory routes (ETA: I realize that last bit is rife for all sorts of stuff and likely doesn’t concern you, but seriously and there are rules about this stuff).

    There also are these things called tunnels that continually sprout up everywhere they have a wall.

  18. 18
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Radfem says:
    Agree or disagree but if you deny that O.G. did cost lives through its implementation even after people realized how dangerous the desert was, then you’re naive or in denial or you just don’t care about migrant lives.

    Are we seriously going down the “you’re _____ unless you agree with me” road? I’m frankly not even sure this is worth a response. I also don’t agree with your three options.

  19. 19
    RonF says:

    I’ve got degrees in biology and I teach Environmental Science MB. I know a little about endangered species and conservation. There are ways to mitigate such things. Not all walls have to be solid, as well. Tunnels can be detected well before they actually get put through with the proper sensor network.

    The problems can be solved. It’s an issue of political will, not technology.

  20. 20
    chingona says:

    It’s also an issue of cost-benefit analysis. Maybe that’s another way of saying political will. We can close the border, but it will cost more than the Iraq War and our crops will rot in the fields. The recession has done more to deter immigration than border policing.

    It would be cheaper, more practical and more humane to open up more work visas for unskilled labor. But there is no political will to do that.

  21. 21
    chingona says:

    Since this is an Open Thread, I’m curious if any of the folks here who have participated in The Good Men Project have any thoughts on the kerfuffle around the “Being a Dude is a Good Thing” piece. (I’ve only read there when it’s linked elsewhere, so I’m not a real regular over there.)

    I learned about it from Amanda’s take here.

  22. 22
    Ampersand says:

    G&W, from a simple fact-based perspective, what possible argument exists that Operation Gatekeeper did not cost lives? And the ACLU, among many other groups, has been talking about this for years, so I don’t think you can reasonably argue that policymakers just aren’t aware that O.G. costs lives.

  23. 23
    Ampersand says:

    Chinoga, I haven’t participated, other than linking to some posts. But it just seems sad to me. And a bit infuriating, because his arguments are so dishonest.

  24. 24
    Ampersand says:

    Ron, you could try to complete the fence, but to call that a “simple” solution is ridiculous. To “finish” the fence — which currently covers less than half of the border — would be an extremely expensive and complicated thing to do (the hard-to-travel in areas that are the last to get fenced are also the most difficult and expensive to work in), and for it to be meaningful, you’d then have to staff it with tens of thousands of new agents who do not work for free.

    Plus, how do you deal with things like the American Indian groups who would have their territory cut in half by the fence?

    It’s an extremely complex and expensive solution that (even according to progressive liberals like Rick Perry) might not work and would cost billions of taxpayer dollars. To call it simple is like saying the Iraq war is going to be a cheap and quick operation.

  25. 25
    Ampersand says:

    Also, Ron –

    It’s not going to happen. There is not going to be a complete 2000-mile plus wall between the US and Mexico. Even you admit it won’t happen, although you attribute this to a lack of political will, rather than to the fact that it’s a staggeringly huge and difficult project.

    Meanwhile, the partial fence we do have is leading to the deaths of migrants. Every day.

    What do you propose doing to stop the deaths? Is it your position that if the wall can’t be completed, then we should maintain the status quo?

  26. 26
    Ampersand says:

    What immigrant policy would you suggest that reduces crossing (presuming that reducing illegal immigration appears to be the democratic desire of the nation). I think immigration should be strongly encouraged. But the people of the US don’t seem to agree with me.

    Well, by far the most effective policy for lowering undocumented immigration, so far, has been to deregulate the financial sector and let them torpedo the economy with new financial instruments. The rate of undocumented immigration into the US has plummeted along with the economy.

    I don’t favor that policy, but I do think it illustrates that economic approaches are more effective than militarized approaches. On the US side of the border, that would me working with employers to reduce their demand for hiring undocumented immigrants. South of the border, that means pressure on governments to improve economic conditions for their poorer citizens, combined with targeted economic assistance.

    But really, like you, I think immigration should be strongly encouraged — it’s good for the immigrants and it’s good for America. The way to deal with most “illegal” immigration is to legalize it.

  27. 27
    Grace Annam says:

    Ampersand:

    Ron, you could try to complete the fence, but to call that a “simple” solution is ridiculous. To “finish” the fence — which currently covers less than half of the border — would be an extremely expensive and complicated thing to do…

    Ah, sweet, rare delight. It’s so rare that I get to publicly channel my Inner Physicist.

    Ahem. Here goes.

    Well, yes, Amp, but we’ve already done the heavy lifting, the conceptual work. All the rest is mere engineering.

    Aaaah. Always feels good. Time for a cold drink.

    Grace

  28. 28
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    What do you propose doing to stop the deaths? Is it your position that if the wall can’t be completed, then we should maintain the status quo?

    It is not possible to do.

    I feel differently about the death of people who understand the risks and decide to take them (“the desert is dangerous, but maybe I’ll get rich!”) than those who are forced into it (“if I don’t cross the desert I’ll die of starvation anyway.”)

    I don’t think you can ever stop people who are willing to take huge risks to try to better themselves. We can try, but it’s unlikely to ever work. The best that we can hope for is to prevent people from functionally being forced into the crossing.

    Of course, that’s not really just our issue. In fact, it’s not even MOSTLY our issue. Mexico isn’t rich, but it’s certainly capable of keeping its citizens from starving…. if it chooses to do so. It’s more PC to blame the U.S., i know (notice how few of these screeds actually assign blame to anyone other than the US?) but as a practical matter, “keeping people from emigrating out of ___ country” has a lot to do with the government of said country. And since most of them would rather have their starving folks come here (who wouldn’t?) and send money back there (likewise) they’re no hugely incentivized to play ball.

    I guess I’d reply with a different question: imagine for a moment that you actually have the job of preventing noncitizens from coming into the country illegally. What would YOU do?

    this

    The way to deal with most “illegal” immigration is to legalize it.

    is a serious duck of the question.
    What would you do? Some shit just needs to be donWe cannot let eveeyone into the country who wants to be here. Even if you let in an extra 100,000 per year or 500,000 per year you will always have one more who doesn’t get in for some reason or other. You don’t get to postulate some magical utopia, and you sure as shit don’t get to do it while you’re mocking folks for failing to fully flesh out their ideas.

    How would you keep them out?

  29. 29
    Myca says:

    It’s more PC to blame the U.S., i know (notice how few of these screeds actually assign blame to anyone other than the US?)

    Oh, christ.

    Ever notice how many of these screeds are written in the US by US voters who might have some influence over US policy that therefore ought to maybe discuss what the US does as opposed to elsewhere?

    I mean, really? Really?

    When you read the writing of Mexican activists, I’ll bet that there’s plenty of criticism of the Mexican government’s policies regarding wealth and poverty … since … y’know … they’re in Mexico.

    —Myca

  30. 30
    Robert says:

    I agree that immigration policy causes a loss of life. I also agree that while maybe at some point in time the people in charge of policy managed not to understand that, it is certainly no longer possible to think that.

    However, I think possibly that many people are putting too much direct importance on the word “cause”. Consider:

    US transportation policies cause death every year. Some bureaucracy or board sets standards for, say, the minimum required strength of steel used in door panels. With that minimum obeyed, and X car accidents involving door panels annually, there will be Y expected deaths. Y is greater than zero, nonzero deaths means people die, the standard has some bearing on the size of Y, ergo, the policy causes death.

    Stronger side-panel proponents make impassioned arguments for more standards and better ones – not unreasonably, as the automakers acknowledge that there’s plenty of wriggle room for more strength, at the cost of using more raw materials, rejecting more parts, and decreasing the fuel efficiency of the cars a bit because of the weight. So we get the new standards and lo, the number of deaths drops to 0.6Y. Hooray!

    A bit of that goes away, naturally, since more cost means a few margnal buyers have to continue walking to work and get hit by cars and die, and (statistically) a couple of soldiers die as our increased fuel use means more Wars for Oil. But still, even safety-hating libertarian murder junkies like me have to admit, the better standard saves lives. This kind of improvement demand really works, and is a big reason cars today are so much more refined and safer than those of decades past.

    But after the celebrations die down, the slower people start to realize:

    US transportation policy still causes deaths. Fewer, true – 0.6Y is < 1.0Y. But it's still 1, too.

    Almost no practicable vehicle design will reduce all the various Ys to 0; it might be barely possible but it would cost a gazillion dollars and go 10 mph.

    All policies concerned with things more life-critical than sugar levels in ketchup will cause, to a greater or lesser extent, loss of human life. There are obviously policies more immediately causal than others; the policy to bomb Gadhaffi's training camps is a heck of a lot more instant than a policy to let there be more sugar in ketchup; even if both policies kill 100 people (one with shrapnel, one with more diabetes) its a lot more believable to use the "policy kills" rhetoric against the bombings.

    But we should recognize it as rhetoric, and in the case of people earnestly advancing it as an argument, recognize that they are making a true but largely unchangeable observation, not a specifically distinguishable one.

    Policy X kills. Most policies do.

  31. 31
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Myca says:
    December 19, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    It’s more PC to blame the U.S., i know (notice how few of these screeds actually assign blame to anyone other than the US?)

    Oh, christ.

    Ever notice how many of these screeds are written in the US by US voters who might have some influence over US policy that therefore ought to maybe discuss what the US does as opposed to elsewhere?

    I mean, really? Really?

    When you read the writing of Mexican activists, I’ll bet that there’s plenty of criticism of the Mexican government’s policies regarding wealth and poverty … since … y’know … they’re in Mexico.

    —Myca

    There’s a huge bloody difference between
    “This is primarily the mexican government’s problem and is primarily something that they could control, although the u.s. is a contributor’
    and
    “this is caused by the U.S.”

    If the latter is P.C. bullshit, then it wouldn’t be a valid excuse to say “oh, but I’m from the U.S. and for this particular issue it’s best to ignore local opinion and writing and take a U.S. view.”

    I mean, it’s not like this blog has shirked form looking at other countries, to say the least. And in fact Radfem mentioned other countries in her own post. Why on this issue are you all “oh we’re USians of course that’s what we talk about” when you know full well you’ve participated in many discussions that deal with the reality of multinational relations?

  32. 32
    Ampersand says:

    Yes, but Robert, with Operation Gatekeeper type policies, we get a significant, unambiguous increase in deaths.

    But the benefits of Operation Gatekeeper and similar policies, in contrast, are extremely ambiguous. AFAIK, we haven’t seen any clear decrease in immigration that can be attributed to Operation Gatekeeper. This isn’t surprising, because immigration is determined more by the economy than by border security. OG-style policies also carry many other costs; they cost a lot of money, obviously, and they’re a big boon for criminals who now have a big market for running people over the border.

    It’s true, as you say, that in some cases the costs and benefits are too murky for “lives saved” to be a good metric for deciding policy. I don’t think this is one of those cases.

  33. 33
    Ampersand says:

    G&W, in this thread I also addressed what’s going on in other countries (although I did it from the POV of what American policymakers can do), when I wrote that a good immigration policy would include “pressure on governments to improve economic conditions for their poorer citizens, combined with targeted economic assistance.”

    Can you please specifically quote the person who said “this is caused by the US,” full stop? Because I don’t know that anyone in this thread has said that.

    That said, although the immigration problem as a whole has many causes, the US’s operation-gatekeeper type border policies ARE the responsibility of the US. Those policies were and are designed and implemented by our lawmakers, after all.

    Imagine for a moment that you actually have the job of preventing noncitizens from coming into the country illegally. What would YOU do?

    I’d return us to pre-militarized, 1998-style border controls. They’re as effective than our current border controls, but they kill thousands fewer people, and are much less costly.

    I see no evidence that an effective, affordable, humane total ban on illegal crossings is possible. For those who think it is possible, it’s up to them to explain how it’s to be done, not up to me.

  34. 34
    Elusis says:

    Wanted to share these reflections on inappropriate humor and gender policing with kids, re: Jimmy Kimmel’s Halloween and Christmas “challenges” where parents basically played mean pranks on their kids and videotaped it, then put it on TV:

    http://www.drsheilaaddison.com/2011/12/17/bad-santa/
    http://www.drsheilaaddison.com/2011/12/18/bad-santa-part-ii/

  35. 35
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Ampersand says:
    December 19, 2011 at 8:16 pm I see no evidence that an effective, affordable, humane total ban on illegal crossings is possible. For those who think it is possible, it’s up to them to explain how it’s to be done, not up to me.

    Before I respond, let me make sure I read you right. From your various posts, I think I know what you mean by “humanely” but I’d like to confirm. I grok:

    A country is obliged to deliberately craft its border protections so that they will not cause harm to people who attempt to circumvent those protections.

    Is that pretty much right?

  36. 36
    Ampersand says:

    Well, that can be taken to ridiculous extremes, as if I’m saying that if even one attempted illegal border-crosser stubs her toe than the whole system should be scrapped. But basically, yes.

    Or, as the ACLU puts it (pdf link):

    The United States had not complied with international and human rights law acknowledging the principle of good faith, the abuse-of-rights principle and the human right to life. The petition recognized the United States’ sovereign right to the use of force in protecting its national security, to control its borders, and to adopt an effective border strategy. However, when exercising that right, the United States is under the obligation to ensure that its policies and actions respect the human right to life, human integrity and human dignity. It must also act to minimize threats to physical integrity and well-being. Finally, it must guarantee its actions are proportionate, necessary, and that no other alternative is available.

  37. 37
    RonF says:

    chingona:

    It’s also an issue of cost-benefit analysis. Maybe that’s another way of saying political will. We can close the border, but it will cost more than the Iraq War

    That depends on how you calculate the cost. The money that would go to pay illegal aliens to pick our crops (and cook and clean in our restaurants and care for the children of those wealthy enough to afford such services and do the landscaping of both public and private properties and a whole host of other jobs) will then go to pay citizens – who would then come off of the welfare and unemployment rolls.

    and our crops will rot in the fields.

    And dishes go unwashed and leaves and goose shit go unblown off of corporate lawns and a host of other jobs? No, one way or the other the jobs would get done. People will take the jobs. You’ll probably have to raise wages and improve the working conditions, but there’s plenty of unemployed in the states where those jobs are.

    It would be cheaper, more practical and more humane to open up more work visas for unskilled labor. But there is no political will to do that.

    First, finishing the securing of America’s borders and opening up more work visas for unskilled labor are not mutually exclusive. I’m all for the latter as well as the former, so there’s at least my political will.

    But secondly, I would appreciate it if you could document your assertion that there’s a lack or restriction on work visas for unskilled labor. For many years there have been H2-A and H2-B visas for unskilled temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers. There does not seem to be a cap on H2-A visas. There is a cap on H2-B visas, but from what I can see employers haven’t come close to it this year.

    The lack of will that’s apparent from what I can see is not on the part of the politicians or the electorate they represent to provide visas for temporary labor. The lack of will is on the part of the employers to use the program. My speculation is that the major reason for that is that it’s a lot of trouble to go through for nothing when there’s little risk for the employer in circumventing the law and a lot of risk for the employer in giving their employees leverage over them if they follow the law. I’m all for raising the costs to the employers for circumventing the law; say, by making it a criminal offense to hire more than ‘x’ number of illegal aliens (use of E-Verify being an affirmative defense against any such charges).

  38. 38
    RonF says:

    However, when exercising that right, the United States is under the obligation to ensure that its policies and actions respect the human right to life, human integrity and human dignity. It must also act to minimize threats to physical integrity and well-being. Finally, it must guarantee its actions are proportionate, necessary, and that no other alternative is available.

    The U.S. is not killing people attempting to cross it’s borders. They are killing themselves by voluntarily attempting to cross under hazardous conditions that are well known. The U.S. is not placing land-mines along its border, machine-gunning anyone who put a foot across it or electrifying it’s fences. To my knowledge when people are apprehended they are not tortured or physically punished past what it necessary to secure them (and if they are, that needs to change). None of these people are dying because agents of the U.S. exerted force against their persons. If they try to cross the border in a hazardous place that they are unprepared for because the U.S. has taken the proper precautions to prevent them from crossing illegally elsewhere, their deaths are not the responsibility of the U.S.

  39. 39
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Ampersand says:
    December 20, 2011 at 6:25 am

    Well, that can be taken to ridiculous extremes, as if I’m saying that if even one attempted illegal border-crosser stubs her toe than the whole system should be scrapped. But basically, yes.

    Ignoring the ridiculous extremes is fine.

    Protecting a border is a bit like going to war. It’s actually a LOT like going to war, since many wars derive from border disputes. Deciding who gets into your country (and barring those who you don’t want) is pretty much one of the fundamental things of country-ness.

    I think it remains highly inappropriate to deliberately harm people without benefit. Hidden minefields, open borders with snipers… those things are beyond the pale.

    But I simply don’t agree that the U.S. has an obligation to prevent people from deciding on their own to take a risk. You can put barbed wire on a fence, even if people will cut themselves on it. You can cut off land immigration, even if the only alternatives are shark-infested stormy waters. And you can cut down on easy crossings, even if the alternatives are deserts.

    Your definition of “humane” appears to be deliberately crafted to prevent border enforcement.

    For example, you cite this:

    The United States had not complied with international and human rights law acknowledging the principle of good faith, the abuse-of-rights principle and the human right to life. The petition recognized the United States’ sovereign right to the use of force in protecting its national security, to control its borders, and to adopt an effective border strategy.

    Are you seriously suggesting this is the slightest bit objective? It’s the ACLU and a pro-immigration group from Mexico (Mexico’s National Commission of Human Rights) for chrissakes. Neither of them are qualified to pass judgment on U.S. border controls, and both groups are highly suspect when it comes to bias and motivations.

    It’s also meaningless. For example:

    However, when exercising that right, the United States is under the obligation to ensure that its policies and actions respect the human right to life, human integrity and human dignity.

    Human integrity and human dignity are often catchphrases for “whatever we’re trying to convey in the frame of the moment.” but they’re basically meaningless as hard issues.

    The right to life is similar. It’s just a due process claim. Nothing in “right to life” suggests that government must protect people from their own choice to take a risky decision which may possibly result in death.

    It must also act to minimize threats to physical integrity and well-being.

    Drivel.

    Finally, it must guarantee its actions are proportionate, necessary, and that no other alternative is available.

    That’s absolutely fucking ridiculous. Must guarantee that no other alternative is available? Even a pro-illegal-immigrant activist should be able to concede that this is beyond the pale. It’s simply a way of putting border controls as impossible: in the infinite world of possibilities, how to guarantee that one, somewhere, isn’t better?

    Try it yourself: I will agree to adopt your immigration policy so long as you guarantee that it is necessary and that no other alternative is possible. (I’ll give you a pass on “proportional” but I’m a stickler for the rest.) Would you even deign to respond?

    A more reasonable person might say “well, this is what I need to do and this is what I have to do it with. If you have a suggestion about process, I’m all ears.”

    And you know, i said that, above. You didn’t answer it. Which–to me–makes it sort of evident that you’re not having the immigration conversation in good faith. You’re not actually interested in coming up with better ways to keep people out, because you don’t believe we SHOULD keep people out.

  40. 40
    RonF says:

    Amp, you said:

    Yes, but Robert, with Operation Gatekeeper type policies, we get a significant, unambiguous increase in deaths.

    and then supplied a graph entitled “Bodies of Undocumented Border Crossers Examined by PCMEO, FY 1990 – 2005″. That leaves a few questions. Who’s PCMEO? Do they have a particular agenda? What is the relationship between “deaths of illegal border crossers” and “Bodies … Examined by PCMEO”? How do we know it’s linear, especially across that entire time frame? And what happened in the last 6 years?

    Also, you were asked:

    Imagine for a moment that you actually have the job of preventing noncitizens from coming into the country illegally. What would YOU do?

    To which you answered:

    I’d return us to pre-militarized, 1998-style border controls. They’re as effective than our current border controls, but they kill thousands fewer people, and are much less costly.

    That answer is non-responsive. You were not asked to come up with something that was as effective as our current means of border control. You were asked to come up with a method of preventing aliens from entering our country illegally. Neither our current means of border control nor the methods used in 1998 do that. So I’ll also ask the question: how would you prevent aliens from entering this country illegally?

  41. 41
    Ampersand says:

    Ron, you have a lot of nerve saying that I answered questions insufficiently, considering that you haven’t answered my questions AT ALL.

    I repeat: What do you propose doing to stop the deaths? Is it your position that if the wall can’t be completed, then we should maintain the status quo?

    Who’s PCMEO?

    Pimo County Medical Examiner’s Office. Pimo County is a county in Arizona which has a long border with Mexico, and is the area of the US where the largest number of migrant deaths occur (as far as we know). As far as I know, the death trend has continued since 2005; the graph comes from a paper which was written in 2006, hence the graph ending in 2005.

    The reason PCMEO has been examining so many more corpses, is because more and more migrants are dying in the Arizona desert.

    You were not asked to come up with something that was as effective as our current means of border control. You were asked to come up with a method of preventing aliens from entering our country illegally.

    On this blog, the preferred language is “undocumented immigrants.” As a compromise with you, since you’ve made it clear that you consider it a horrible infringement on liberty for you to address people respectfully in the terms they’d prefer, you may use the term “illegal immigrant.”

    Please don’t ever refer to folks as “aliens” or “illegal aliens.” Lots of undocumented immigrants have indicated that they find these terms degrading. (As I’ve mentioned before, calling people “illegals” is also not the language used here.)

    Anyway, to answer your question, I don’t think any plausible, absolutely effective method exists. You might as well ask me how to create a working Star Trek transporter.

    There are methods of reducing undocumented immigration, however. As I already said earlier this thread, I think economic methods are always going to be more effective than physical barriers.

    If they try to cross the border in a hazardous place that they are unprepared for because the U.S. has taken the proper precautions to prevent them from crossing illegally elsewhere, their deaths are not the responsibility of the U.S.

    Please confirm this, Ron. As I understand it, your view is that if the US creates a policy that, as a predictable side effect, causes thousands of people to kill themselves, that isn’t a reason not to pursue that policy? You don’t consider that a relevant or important factor to consider when weighing a policy’s costs and benefits?

    That depends on how you calculate the cost. The money that would go to pay illegal aliens to pick our crops (and cook and clean in our restaurants and care for the children of those wealthy enough to afford such services and do the landscaping of both public and private properties and a whole host of other jobs) will then go to pay citizens – who would then come off of the welfare and unemployment rolls.

    It doesn’t work like that, Ron.

    There’s not a set amount of wealth in the country, so that every time an undocumented immigrant gets a $200 paycheck, that’s $200 less for a US citizen. Immigration makes the entire country better off; insofar as policies like those you favor succeed in reducing immigration, they make Americans poorer.

    If I hire 100 undocumented immigrants from Finland to work in my comic book factory, those 100 workers go out to lunch and spend money at local restaurants. They shop at local grocery stores on the way to their local rental homes; they pay taxes and buy clothes and everything else they need to live. In turn, the local shopkeepers/restaurants/gov’t, because they have more revenue, can hire more people.

    Also, the immigrants create work because their skills are complimentary to the skills of American workers. The workers from Finland know how to print comic books, but they can’t write and draw them, and they can’t drive the trucks required to ship them. So more Americans find work doing those complimentary jobs.

    If you send those 100 Fins home, a lot of those complimentary jobs disappear, and so does a lot of revenue to local shopkeepers, landlords, etc.. As a result, there’s less money and employment for Americans.

  42. 42
    Ampersand says:

    Tunnels can be detected well before they actually get put through with the proper sensor network.

    Look at Israel. They haven’t been able to stop all tunnels from being built. Are the Israelis stupid? Do they lack motivation? No; it’s just that walls are very long and detection technology — contrary to what you seem to think — is not perfect.

    For that matter, look at the US.

    (Reuters) – A drug smuggling tunnel that has been uncovered between San Diego and Tijuana stands out for its sophistication, with electrical rail cars and reinforced walls, officials said on Wednesday. [...] Officials said the tunnel had a hydraulically-controlled steel door, an elevator, electric rail cars on tracks, lighting, reinforced walls and wooden floors.

    Investigators found the tunnel, which measures 612 yards, on Tuesday after a six-month investigation [...]

    The latest passageway discovery marks the seventh large-scale drug smuggling tunnel discovered in the San Diego area since 2006, according to ICE. Federal authorities have detected more than 75 cross-border smuggling tunnels across the United States in the last four years, the agency said.

    If it takes six months of investigation to discover and close a tunnel this large, what are the odds that every single human-sized tunnel along a 2000 mile fence could be detected and shut down?

  43. 43
    Ampersand says:

    G&W wrote:

    Deciding who gets into your country (and barring those who you don’t want) is pretty much one of the fundamental things of countryness.

    The US had de facto open borders for many decades before the 1950s, yet it was still a country.

    But I simply don’t agree that the U.S. has an obligation to prevent people from deciding on their own to take a risk. You can put barbed wire on a fence, even if people will cut themselves on it. You can cut off land immigration, even if the only alternatives are shark-infested stormy waters. And you can cut down on easy crossings, even if the alternatives are deserts.

    Of course we “can” do those things.

    The question is, should we? I’m saying that pursing a policy that leads to thousands of deaths without leading to any apparent gains is not only inhumane and immoral, but obviously inhumane and immoral.

    Your definition of “humane” appears to be deliberately crafted to prevent border enforcement.

    You didn’t ask me what my definition of “humane” is. But let me provide a dictionary definition: “characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for people and animals, especially for the suffering or distressed.” That seems fair to me. Synonyms: “merciful, kind, kindly, kindhearted, tender, compassionate, gentle, sympathetic; benevolent, benignant, charitable.”

    Okay, that seems like a good enough definition to me.

    Tell me, do you think the policy of knowingly diverting undocumented migrants to the desert, where thousands of them die horrible deaths, is an act of “tenderness” and “compassion”? Is it “kindhearted”? Is it “merciful”?

    If – as I believe — it’s an act entirely lacking in tenderness and compassion for these humans, then why is it wrong to call such an act inhumane?

    You and Ron are attempting to define “humane” down, so that merely refraining from shooting people counts as a humane act. I think that being genuinely humane requires a little bit more from us than that.

    Are you seriously suggesting this is the slightest bit objective?

    No, of course not (nice strawman). The ACLU has an obvious and extremely well-known bias in favor of human rights and civil liberties; I thought that was too obvious to need to be mentioned. Sorry about that.

    I quoted because I thought they phrased it well.

    I think that your post makes the mistake of picking on word choices while ignoring substance. For example:

    Finally, it must guarantee its actions are proportionate, necessary, and that no other alternative is available.

    Technically, you’re correct: No one can “guarantee” anything, and requesting that is over-the-top.

    But there’s a real substantive point there, which you ignored. We shouldn’t just ask if we “can” create a policy which predictably leads to thousands of deaths, and then assume (as you seemingly do) that if we “can” do something, that settles the matter.

    Asking if policies that create a “funnel effect” are proportionate and necessary is a reasonable, substantive question. Focusing on nit-picking language while avoiding these substantive questions is not an interesting or worthwhile argument, in my opinion.

    There are thousands of people dying because of the interaction of their actions, the economy of Mexico and other countries south of the US border, and specific US border control policies.

    As the US, we can’t control the choices made by poor citizens of other countries. Nor can we control the policy choices of the Mexican government (although we can and should attempt to influence it, of course). But we can absolutely control what our own policies are. And we should consider the effects of our policies when we choose them.

    If we choose policy “A,” thousands of migrants will die. If we choose policy “B,” then they won’t die. If you say we should stick with “A,” then you should be able to coherently explain what benefits are unique to “A” that are worth thousands of deaths. That’s not an unreasonable question to ask, and it’s one that neither you or Ron has coherently addressed in any way on this thread.

  44. 44
    Myca says:

    The ACLU has an obvious and extremely well-known bias in favor of human rights and civil liberties; I thought that was too obvious to need to be mentioned. Sorry about that.

    A bias, incidentally, that GNW has spoken in favor of many times in the past. I think it’s kind of weird that the ACLU is suddenly too biased to cite.

    —Myca

  45. 45
    KellyK says:
    and our crops will rot in the fields.

    And dishes go unwashed and leaves and goose shit go unblown off of corporate lawns and a host of other jobs? No, one way or the other the jobs would get done. People will take the jobs. You’ll probably have to raise wages and improve the working conditions, but there’s plenty of unemployed in the states where those jobs are.

    Note that that’s not what’s actually happening in Georgia or in Alabama.

    I’m sure the jobs will get done, eventually, because farms will have to find a way to get them done or go out of business. But that doesn’t mean the solution will be quick or that it won’t cause major problems to have several states have crops just rot.

    It also doesn’t necessarily mean that the job conditions will get any better or pay will improve. Alabama is considering using prison labor instead of undocumented immigrants.

    I think the industry of agriculture as a whole is way too used to a population of workers who can be paid less than minimum wage and otherwise exploited because there’s no one they can complain to without getting deported. When their business model is contingent on that situation, they’re not going to pay a decent wage and/or improve conditions if they can help it. Depending on how well they’re doing overall, they may not be able to and still turn a profit.

    Also, because those jobs have been “illegal immigrant” jobs for so long, it’s not just the conditions and pay that are a problem–there’s also a stigma attached to doing them.

    I do agree with you that companies should face stricter penalties for hiring undocumented immigrants. Personally, I think that not only should the fines be steep, but that in cases where those immigrants are being paid less than minimum wage, they should receive back pay equivalent to what they would’ve earned with minimum wage including overtime, for the entire time they were illegally underpaid.

    If we want people to stop coming illegally, then we need to actually punish the companies who are hiring them. The only way businesses will stop using undocumented immigrant labor is if it’s more expensive to get caught hiring undocumented workers than it is to hire people who are legally allowed to work.

  46. 46
    nobody.really says:

    There are a variety of similarities between my county fair and the local amusement park. But there is no wall around my county fair, while there is a wall around the amusement park. What accounts for the difference?

    The county fair and the amusement park have different economic models. The fair requires people to pay each time they want to get on a ride, and offers relatively few amenities without charge. The amusement park asks people to pay upon entry, and then offers rides and other amenities at no incremental charge to everyone in the park – people who have presumably paid to get in. But if the local amusement park tore down its walls, it would likely have to change its business model.

    Arguably the US (and other nations) has some qualities of an amusement park. Typically in the US, people are entitled to a variety of benefits – roads, public parks, police protection, fire protection, elementary education, national defense – simply for being there. If the US stopped enforcing its borders as stringently, eventually I would expect the US to offer ever fewer public amenities and gradually shift more heavily to a county fair-style fee-for-service economic model. (Not sure how that would work with national defense….)

    So one answer to the question “Why do we have policies that cause 1000s to die in the desert?” is “So that my kids can go to a neighborhood school at no incremental charge.

    But it goes further than that. The amusement park is, quite literally, a gated community, and those gates keep out a certain amount of riff-raff. You can consume conspicuously while enjoying the comfort of knowing that those around you also have at least enough disposable income to be able to afford a day at the amusement park. I suspect immigration policy has some of this quality as well. If we opened our borders, we’d likely encounter more poor people. I prefer to live with at least a modicum of ignorance about the rest of the world’s poverty.

    So another answer to the question, “Why do we have policies that cause 1000s to die in the desert?” is “So that I can maintain my lifestyle without having to confront many people living in poverty.

    Related to this, Robert Putnam (Bowling Alone) finds that increasing ethnic diversity correlates with a decline in social cohesion and trust. I’m willing to be outgoing and generous, provided that I see my charitable and social acts as basically helping myself by proxy. If I’m surrounded by people who strike me as somehow foreign, I can’t maintain that illusion.

    Higher diversity is associated with:

    Lower confidence in local government, local leaders and the local news media.
    Lower political efficacy – that is, confidence in one’s own influence.
    Lower frequency of registering to vote, but more interest and knowledge about politics and more participation in protest marches and social reform groups.
    Higher political advocacy, but lower expectations that it will bring about a desirable result.
    Less expectation that others will cooperate to solve dilemmas of collective action (e.g., voluntary conservation to ease a water or energy shortage).
    Less likelihood of working on a community project.
    Less likelihood of giving to charity or volunteering.
    Fewer close friends and confidants.
    Less happiness and lower perceived quality of life.
    More time spent watching television and more agreement that “television is my most important form of entertainment.”

    So a final answer to the question, “Why do we have policies that cause 1000s to die in the desert?” is “So that I can be outgoing and generous, confident in the idea that the people who will benefit from my generosity are 1) relatively few, and 2) basically models of me.

    Basically, Juan and Manuel died in the desert so that we in the middle class can maintain what little veneer of civility and middle-class solidarity we yet retain. So the next time someone asks you to reflect upon a brown-skinned man who died for us, for our sins, at least you’ll have some idea who they’re talking about.

  47. 47
    RonF says:

    My answer is that the U.S. border can be secured, either by building a wall or through other measures, and that the deaths will be halted in that fashion. So, to answer:

    As I understand it, your view is that if the US creates a policy that, as a predictable side effect, causes thousands of people to kill themselves, that isn’t a reason not to pursue that policy? You don’t consider that a relevant or important factor to consider when weighing a policy’s costs and benefits?

    I say that we haven’t implemented a policy – we’ve implemented half a policy. The deaths are a good reason to finish implementing the policy, not a reason to stop half-way though and then give up entirely. Seems to me that if you think that our current policies are resonsible for deaths, then lay that responsibility at the feet of those who have kept us from finishing the job. Looks like they’re willing to let people die by blocking finishing the job so that they can gain some political advantage to attempt to reverse the policy entirely.

    There’s not a set amount of wealth in the country, so that every time an undocumented immigrant gets a $200 paycheck, that’s $200 less for a US citizen. Immigration makes the entire country better off; insofar as policies like those you favor succeed in reducing immigration, they make Americans poorer.

    I think immigration is a fine thing. I am descended from immigrants. I know plenty of immigrants in my wife’s family. I work with a number of immigrants, and have celebrated with them when they quite deservedly achieved U.S. citizenship. The policy I favor is to enforce the law. I think that immigrants coming into the U.S. is great as long as they do so legally. If anyone – citizen or not, in fact – enters the U.S. illegally then it’s a problem and I favor ensuring that the proper measures be taken.

    If I hire 100 undocumented immigrants from Finland to work in my comic book factory, those 100 workers go out to lunch and spend money at local restaurants. They shop at local grocery stores on the way to their local rental homes; they pay taxes and buy clothes and everything else they need to live. In turn, the local shopkeepers/restaurants/gov’t, because they have more revenue, can hire more people.

    All those benefits to local restaurants, grocery stores, etc., accrue if you hire 100 U.S. citizens as well. Plus, fewer of our taxes have to go to provide benefits and services to those citizens because they are now net tax producers instead of tax consumers. If you’ve got jobs for 100 people why do you want to hire 100 Finns that are here illegally? And how do the complementary jobs disappear if we send those Finns home and hire U.S. citizens instead?

    As far as the technology goes – no, the technology isn’t perfect. But it’s a hell of a lot better than no technology at all and would slow things down a whole lot, providing the decrease in deaths you’re looking for and the decrease in illegal entry into the U.S. that I’m looking for.

    Investigators found the tunnel, which measures 612 yards, on Tuesday after a six-month investigation

    Hmmm. I realize that the quote says it took them six months to find it, but I wonder if that’s really true or if they found it a while back but were holding off until they investigated who was using it, what they were using it for, who was handling the drugs being moved through it, who was buying the drugs, etc. I’ll bet that the DEA didn’t find the tunnel and then immediately publicize its discovery.

    But, be that as it may:

    If it takes six months of investigation to discover and close a tunnel this large, what are the odds that every single human-sized tunnel along a 2000 mile fence could be detected and shut down?

    I’m not looking for a perfect solution, I’m looking for us to do what we can. And I have no idea what resources or methods or technologies they have in use in San Diego vs. what we could practically use.

    If we turn crossing the border illegally from “very difficult” to “unbelieveably hard” but not “impossible” I think it’s reasonable to expect that deaths will drop. If I am not mistaken, a lot of deaths result from people crossing the border in remote locations where there’s practically no barrier at all – and there’s thus a high expectation of success in actually crossing the border – but there’s also no water, etc. available, and a relatively small number of people show up unprepared for those conditions. If there will now be a barrier that will be diffiicult to surmount it seems logical to me that the expectation of success will be much lower and fewer people will attempt it.

  48. 48
    Jake Squid says:

    What’s the plan for securing the coasts and the northern border when those become the easiest method of illegal entry?

  49. 49
    RonF says:

    Kelly K:

    Note that that’s not what’s actually happening in Georgia or in Alabama.

    In reading that article I don’t see any mention of raising wages or improving working conditions. Are these growers trying the old “taking the jobs Americans won’t take” trick? Failing to add “at the wages we’d like to pay”?

    Note that in that article we see something I referred to in an earlier posting:

    Tolar, and many of Georgia’s elected officials believe the key to fixing the labor shortage is reforming the federal H2-A foreign guestworker program. Tolar, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and others have traveled to Washington, D.C. to press Georgia’s Congressional delegation on the issue.

    The State Department runs the H2-A program. That’s an Executive branch agency, not a legislative one. I wonder why President Obama hasn’t directed the State Department to get busy on this?

    Alabama is considering using prison labor instead of undocumented immigrants.

    Good. That’s a great idea!

    Not so sure about the “stigma” issue about agricultural jobs. I’ll pass on that altogether. When I was a kid I worked on my uncles’ farm that my mother had been born on. That was all pretty much local kids. Nobody there illegally. But then kids were expected to work if they wanted money for anything but the necessities. Otherwise, I’m pretty much in agreement with the rest of your post.

    nobody.really

    Less likelihood of giving to charity or volunteering.

    Now this is something I have a lot of personal experience in, stretching back to September of 1992 when I first became a Scout leader. We have some Hispanic people in the area. We also have some Indians (as in the subcontinent) and some Asians. And yes, there’s reduced volunteerism (and charity, we work on a lot of service and charity projects).

    But it’s not because white people don’t come out to help the Troop or the Pack when Hispanic or Indian or Asian kids join. Oh, no, it’s not those racist white folks. It’s because the Hispanic, Indian and Asian kids’ parents don’t volunteer. And we ask, trust me. We make them as welcome as we can think of. They just won’t do it. They’re happy to have their kids in the unit, but take time out of their lives to volunteer? Heck, no. And it’s not income related, either. I’d love to have the incomes that some of the Asian and Indian kids’ parents have.

    So if you go by the numbers of kids in the unit vs. the number of volunteers, yes – the ratio drops as the unit becomes more diverse. But break down the volunteers by race and you don’t come to the same conclusion that you cite.

  50. 50
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Ampersand says:
    December 20, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    G&W wrote:

    Deciding who gets into your country (and barring those who you don’t want) is pretty much one of the fundamental things of countryness.

    The US had de facto open borders for many decades before the 1950s, yet it was still a country.

    It doesn’t mean that you can’t decide to be open. It means you get to decide what to do.

    Tell me, do you think the policy of knowingly diverting undocumented migrants to the desert, where thousands of them die horrible deaths, is an act of “tenderness” and “compassion”? Is it “kindhearted”? Is it “merciful”?

    If – as I believe — it’s an act entirely lacking in tenderness and compassion for these humans, then why is it wrong to call such an act inhumane?

    You and Ron are attempting to define “humane” down, so that merely refraining from shooting people counts as a humane act. I think that being genuinely humane requires a little bit more from us than that.

  51. 51
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    As I misposted, the “decision” part doesn’t preclude WHAT you decide. You can decide to have open borders and still be a country. You can decide to have closed borders and still be a country. But once you cede control over your decisions to someone else you start running into trouble.

    It doesn’t mean that you can’t decide to be open. It means you get to decide what to do.

    Tell me, do you think the policy of knowingly diverting undocumented migrants to the desert, where thousands of them die horrible deaths, is an act of “tenderness” and “compassion”? Is it “kindhearted”? Is it “merciful”?

    It’s none of those things. It’s made in a larger national context and a sphere of consideration in which a small number of outcomes are essentially irrelevant. Immigration is a national issue which affects the entire U.S. economy, all 100 million or so Americans, and many tens of millions more collaterally.

    As a whole, immigration policy is designed to take primary account of the well-being Americans–at least if it’s American immigration policy. As it should be. Mexican immigration (and national) policies are likewise designed to take primary account of the well-being of Mexicans.

    If – as I believe — it’s an act entirely lacking in tenderness and compassion for these humans, then why is it wrong to call such an act inhumane?

    Because ignoring someone’s problem is inhumane if you created it, but isn’t inhumane if it’s not your affair. I am not inhumane for declining to help my neighbor out. I would be inhumane if I caused harm to my neighbor and THEN ignored her distress.

    It’s also not inhumane if it’s balanced by a larger benefit.

    You and Ron are attempting to define “humane” down, so that merely refraining from shooting people counts as a humane act. I think that being genuinely humane requires a little bit more from us than that.

    [shrug] That’s not what I think, but we’ll probably just disagree anyway.

    Look, there’s only so much extra we each have to give to solve other folks’ problems. My priority goes to solving problems that I created, for people who I care about. Lower down are unavoidable problems for random people.
    Largely avoidable problems for random people are near the bottom of the list.

    And the more distant that problems get, the more reasonable it becomes to consider a larger sphere of issues which can be balanced against them.

    If we choose policy “A,” thousands of migrants will die. If we choose policy “B,” then they won’t die. If you say we should stick with “A,” then you should be able to coherently explain what benefits are unique to “A” that are worth thousands of deaths.

    The benefits (unique or not) would presumably be some combination of short or long term:
    -decrease in illegal immigration
    -decrease in certain classes of illegal immigrants that the US. doesn’t like
    -political benefits inside the u.s., for example w/r/t the power of other countries to exercise control over the u.s. polity;
    -random security measures, whether public or not;
    -political pressure on other countries w/r/t immigration; and/or
    -political or other benefits w/r/t pretty much anything else that the U.S. is responsible for and which has an effect on U.S. citizenry, whether “export controls on wheat” or “troop sharing in Bosnia.”

    It is difficult if not impossible for me, personally, to fully analyze the workings of every treaty and negotiation and political consideration. But only the naive would argue that every immigration policy must have its cause and effects analyzed only in the sphere of immigration. That’s not how governments work.

    Myca says:
    December 20, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    The ACLU has an obvious and extremely well-known bias in favor of human rights and civil liberties; I thought that was too obvious to need to be mentioned. Sorry about that.

    A bias, incidentally, that GNW has spoken in favor of many times in the past.

    With respect to free speech (of which I’m a fan) and of other constitutional civil liberties (of which I’m a fan.) Like many folks who support those areas of the ACLU, I believe that the ACLU’s random ventures into other political areas are pretty much bunk.

    Immigration has both categories. The constitutional due process issues (what we do under US law when we pick up illegal immigrants) are very important. the political issues (should we let in more immigrants, from where, how, when, why…) are not the ACLU’s focus and shouldn’t be–and if the ACLU becomes too political then I’ll stop supporting it at all.

  52. 52
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    If we choose policy “A,” thousands of migrants will die. If we choose policy “B,” then they won’t die. If you say we should stick with “A,” then you should be able to coherently explain what benefits are unique to “A” that are worth thousands of deaths.

    Just to be even more clear:

    That chart shows 200 bodies found. As a fraction of U.S. deaths that’s tiny. As a fraction of combined U.S. and Mexican deaths it’s not even on the charts.

    Mexico doesn’t care about it enough, either–though many of those folks are Mexican citizens. If Mexico did, it’d try harder to stop illegal immigration instead of functionally encouraging it. From mexico’s perspective, the national benefit of illegal immigration exceeds the national costs of the deaths.

  53. 53
    chingona says:

    I’m not sure why it’s “great!” that we’re using prison labor at 30 cents an hour. That’s what farmers have turned to in every state that has seen an exodus of Latino migrant labor, not raising wages or improving working conditions. That sure lifts up the American worker!

    The piece I was going to link on the visas is proving elusive. I’ll keep looking. But it’s also something I’ve heard from lots of immigration attorneys. It’s also confirmed in this nice flow chart from Reason magazine.

    Mexico has a culture of migration to the U.S. and has had one since, well, the bracero program, which the United States initiated. That’s a hard genie to put back in the bottle. Emigration undoubtedly provides a very important safety valve for the Mexican government, and migrants send a lot of money home. I think remittances are one of the top three sources of foreign exchange in Mexico, up there with oil and tourism. Long-term, Mexico is losing many of its most ambitious citizens, but that’s long-term.

    There’s another policy piece in which the U.S. plays a large role. NAFTA was very, very bad for small Mexican farmers. If the booming economy and low unemployment in the U.S. in the late 90s was the pull, the collapse of the domestic corn market in the face of cheaper American imports was the push. Of course, Mexico voluntarily signed on to NAFTA, and you could argue that Mexican consumers are better off with cheaper corn, just like American consumers are better off with cheaper strawberries and lettuce picked by displaced Mexican workers.

    It’s a very complicated cost-benefit analysis with lots of losers and winners and people who lose in some ways and win in others.

    The U.S. absolutely has an interest in controlling its borders and knowing who is in the country. Totally legitimate. I just don’t think it’s practical to entirely disentangle our two countries at this point. When has prohibition ever worked? We have a system of drug laws that leads us to imprison our citizens at a rate equal to China, Russia and Iran, but people still do drugs – lots of them, even! We solved the lawlessness of alcohol prohibition by legalizing alcohol again.

    I think if you make it easier to come in legally — particularly for those who are doing the work traditionally done by Mexican migrants — and couple that with stringent workplace enforcement with meaningful penalties for employers, that will go a lot further for a lot less money than a wall.

  54. 54
    KellyK says:

    I’m not sure why it’s “great!” that we’re using prison labor at 30 cents an hour. That’s what farmers have turned to in every state that has seen an exodus of Latino migrant labor, not raising wages or improving working conditions. That sure lifts up the American worker!

    Exactly. My primary point with the article was that farms would rather use prison labor than raise wages or improve conditions. (It’s also worth noting that there aren’t necessarily enough prisoners to fill those jobs.)

    In a lot of industries, I’d be willing to shrug and say, “Fine, you don’t want to pay the wages needed to get the employees you want, and now you’re going to lose a ton of money and product. You made that bed, you can sleep in it.” But when it’s food, it creates a whole different set of problems. With the current unemployment rate and the fact that plenty of people are going hungry in this country already, my worry is less for the agri-businesses and more for actual food shortages, or food being so expensive that more people go hungry or malnourished. That and the big, ugly spiral effect you have of a business or industry going down the tubes, where all the people affected now have less money to spend.

  55. 55
    chingona says:

    One of the problems is that there is only so much you can improve working conditions for a lot of the crops that are harvested by hand. Any job that involves being bent over all day under a hot sun is pretty much going to suck.

  56. 56
    RonF says:

    chingona:

    I just don’t think it’s practical to entirely disentangle our two countries at this point. When has prohibition ever worked?

    Strawman argument. Who has advocated doing this?

    I think if you make it easier to come in legally — particularly for those who are doing the work traditionally done by Mexican migrants — and couple that with stringent workplace enforcement with meaningful penalties for employers, that will go a lot further for a lot less money than a wall.

    Making the getting and use of H2-A and H2-B visas function more efficiently is fine by me. So is increasing the penalties towards employers who don’t use those programs. I’ve advocated both repeatedly. That does not preclude doing a much better job of securing the border. Each supports the other.

    My primary point with the article was that farms would rather use prison labor than raise wages or improve conditions.

    How does that make it not a good idea to use prison labor? Mind you, given that the prisoners are under State (or County or whatever) supervision and lawyers for various advocacy groups will get involved I should think that their working conditions would have to meet certain standards, so I’m not going to concede that working conditions would not improve. But even so, there’s a limited amount of such labor present. Once it’s used up the other farmers will have to raise the ante to attract labor.

    Amp: you take me to task for “defining humane down”. It’s inhumane to permit the flooding of our labor markets with cheap foreign exploitable labor while harder to exploit American workers go without work. Immigration laws were passed in part to protect American labor from precisely this outcome. They deserve to have the laws that were passed by the representatives they voted for enforced so as to obtain the benefits those laws were designed to provide. It’s inhumane to encourage draining the most ambitious and capable Mexican laborers out of Mexico so that the oligarchy ruling that country can continue to ruinously exploit the people there.

  57. 57
    RonF says:

    Re: #9:

    I heard a speech by Noam Chomsky who said that corporations are like super humans. They cannot be hurt like a human can and they never die. They are not susceptible to scrutiny or accountability.

    Try telling that to the hundreds of people who were out of work when the corporation I worked for before the one I work for now went bankrupt. As usual, Noam Chomsky’s understanding of how the world works is inconsistent with reality.

  58. 58
    Ledasmom says:

    As I recall from the article I read in the New York Times on the matter, part of the problem with hiring locals for farm labor is that it turns out it’s skilled labor. That is, the locals don’t know squat about, say, harvesting melons, and waste a lot of melons.
    It almost always makes more sense to hire the people who already know how to do the job, rather than to train new people.

  59. 60
    individ-ewe-al says:

    This is sort of related to the Amber Cole discussion from a few weeks ago: Dr Petra has written a great critique of some research into teenagers having (possibly coerced) group sex.

    The points in her critique I think very much apply to the blog and media response to Amber Cole’s case: everybody is bringing a lot of assumptions to the table about teen sexuality. We assume that everybody is heterosexual, and we assume some pretty essentialist and insulting gender roles. Teenage boys are amoral beasts who will do anything to get sex regardless of how their female victims feel about it. Teenage girls never have any independent sexual agency and any sex that is imposed upon them is irrevocably damaging, especially if it’s non-mainstream sex. And people in general are really really prurient about all this; witness how many people felt they just had to watch the video of Amber Cole in order to prove how shocked and outraged they were.

  60. 61
    KellyK says:

    As I recall from the article I read in the New York Times on the matter, part of the problem with hiring locals for farm labor is that it turns out it’s skilled labor. That is, the locals don’t know squat about, say, harvesting melons, and waste a lot of melons.
    It almost always makes more sense to hire the people who already know how to do the job, rather than to train new people.

    That makes sense, though it’s true of most jobs. The jobs we think of as easy or menial, like food service, or cleaning, actually have a lot of skill involved. They’re not highly *valued* skills necessarily, but they take some time and effort to learn.

    But when you can’t get people who already know the job, you need to suck it up and train people, or figure out a way to find people who already know the job, whether it’s by paying more, advertising more widely, or whatever. And if you knowingly hire someone with no experience, you don’t really have a right to complain when there’s a learning curve. (I once got fired from a waitressing job after 3 days, because the restaurant owner wanted someone with experience and apparently “didn’t have time” to read my application. Not that I’m bitter.)

  61. 62
    Ampersand says:

    [Edited for obvious reasons. My apologies to you, Ron. --Amp]

    Ron:

    I say that we haven’t implemented a policy – we’ve implemented half a policy. The deaths are a good reason to finish implementing the policy, not a reason to stop half-way though and then give up entirely

    Then the people who originally legislated for the wall and got it built lied, Ron. They didn’t claim that a 2000 mile wall would be necessary; if they had, the legislation never would have passed in a million years. It’s too expensive and too impractical.

    So your claim that the current wall represents an incomplete policy is a cute metaphor, but it’s literally untrue. You’re rewriting history. mistaken. IIRC, the people who argued for the current security fences explicitly said that it wouldn’t be necessary to make a complete border fence, did not produce budget calculations for a complete border fence, and the legislation they passed did not even mention the idea of a complete border fence.

    In short, they’ve gotten what they wanted; and the result is thousands of deaths. And you respond by lying. You now claim that the problem is that originally the fence builders proposed a complete fence, and then other people blocked that from happening. That’s simply not what happened in the actual legislation, Ron.

    Now you’re saying “oh, the deaths are only because 700 miles of wall aren’t enough. Our wall hasn’t measurably reduced undocumented immigration like we claimed it would, has cost taxpayers billions, and there are all those dead bodies. But the proper response to our complete, utter failure to accomplish a single thing we set out to do is to have more of the same, at greater expense.”

    Building a wall was a stupid idea from the start; undocumented immigration is caused primarily by economic conditions, not by border conditions. Why should I believe that 2000 miles will suddenly work when 700 miles have been such a failure? And do you have a real, practical plan to pay for it (keeping in mind that building and maintaining a fence through the Arizona desert will cost more than what we’ve seen so far), or is this going to be yet another Republican policy that’s paid for with deficit spending?

    The policy I favor is to enforce the law. I think that immigrants coming into the U.S. is great as long as they do so legally.

    I’m arguing that the law should be changed.

    Also, that’s not a response to my argument, which was an economic argument. Immigrants are great for the US economy, regardless of if they’re here legally.

    All those benefits to local restaurants, grocery stores, etc., accrue if you hire 100 U.S. citizens as well.

    Why would I do that?

    If you succeed in forcing me not to hire the Finnish immigrants to make my comic books, I’m not hiring 100 US citizens. I’m opening a comic book plant in Finland, where the workers who know what they’re doing are located. Since you won’t let them locate near me.

    Then all those benefits accrue to Finnish restaurants, stores, etc., not to their US counterparts.

    And how do the complementary jobs disappear if we send those Finns home and hire U.S. citizens instead?

    Because, either because of a lack of skills or a lack of willingness, US citizens and immigrants aren’t 100% identical and interchangeable. It is BECAUSE they are not 100% interchangeable that complimentary economic benefits emerge; if they were completely interchangeable, then there would be no complementary jobs.

    You’re essentially saying that you’re going to pay for manning a 2000-mile long wall, FOREVER, by waiving a conservative fairy wand. The economic literature on immigration is very clear; it is a net benefit to the US economy. That includes undocumented immigration.

    Your policy will make the US poorer, not richer. You can’t pay for a 2000 mile boondoggle out of making the US poorer.

    I’m not looking for a perfect solution, I’m looking for us to do what we can.

    One of the things we can do to reduce undocumented immigration is to make legal immigration much more easily available.

    If we turn crossing the border illegally from “very difficult” to “unbelieveably hard” but not “impossible” I think it’s reasonable to expect that deaths will drop.

    It’s ALREADY “unbelievably hard.” At the point when people die every day, that counts as unbelievably hard.

    Immigration hardliners have already made it immeasurably harder to cross the border, and the result has been a skyrocketing death count.

    Let’s say we make it even harder, and the deaths still increase. We still get people dying of dehydration in Arizona, but we also have people dying while making tunnels, falling off ladders, and getting shot by guards. What prevents you from then saying, “oh, it’s not hard enough yet. Let’s make it even harder!”

    What would actually have to happen in the real world for you to admit that a policy failure has occurred?

  62. 63
    mythago says:

    Robert – quoting Megan McArdle on economics is about as good as quoting Noam Chomsky. That is, there’s no reason for it other than the person in question shares your political leanings.

    RonF @57: Chapter 7 or Chapter 11? As you’re no doubt aware, bankruptcy is not to corporations as death is to natural persons.

  63. 64
    Ampersand says:

    Again, my apologies to you, Ron. This isn’t an excuse, but I was just having a crappy day.

    I wanted to expand on this a bit:

    I’m opening a comic book plant in Finland, where the workers who know what they’re doing are located.

    You could respond, with justice, that not all jobs can be exported. Lawn mowing can’t move to Finland (or Mexico). Some agriculture can — you can grow many of the crops that grows in the US elsewhere, the only issue is how much more it’ll cost to grow it elsewhere. The more labor costs move up in the US, the more jobs it will make sense to move out of the US. — but some agriculture jobs can’t be moved out of the US.

    Nonetheless, if out of 100 comic-book-factory jobs, I discover that I can only move 50 to Finland — that’s still a net loss for the US economy. And to say you’re going to pay for a multi-billion-dollar wall — one that has to be expensively guarded and maintained, pretty much forever, to have any shot of working at all — out of that sort of thing is nonsense.

    Labor is mobile. Many jobs are mobile. The US benefits from having immigrants and jobs here, and economically loses out when the immigrants and jobs are located elsewhere. These are not partisan opinions; they’re basic facts. A policy that stops or reduces the number of people coming here to work makes all Americans poorer. Is it worth it? Maybe — that’s a matter of values. But arguing that your immigration policy will pay for itself by making us all richer is just plain inaccurate, and inaccuracies like that aren’t a good basis for policy.

  64. 65
    Robert says:

    I’ll take it up in the new open thread, Mythago.

  65. 66
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Amp said:Immigrants are great for the US economy, regardless of if they’re here legally.

    That’s not really true.

    Immigrants are most beneficial when they simultaneously:

    1) Fill jobs which are needed for the U.S. economy, but which aren’t subject to high competition (for whatever reasons) such as some jobs in agriculture;

    and ALSO

    2) Keep much or all of their wages in the U.S. (A bit of explanation on #2: Low level wage expenditures are almost the gold standard for economic benefit. Food stamps are even better (see http://money.cnn.com/2008/01/29/news/economy/stimulus_analysis/index.htm) because they always get spent, but low level wages are almost the same thing.)

    Immigrants who do both of those things are a net gain to the economy, legal or otherwise. But such immigrants are only a small percentage of immigrants.

    Money wiring is the most common problem. Because many immigrants (especially illegal immigrants) do not bring their families with them, they have a much higher tendency to send money out of the country, which is a huge net loss to the U.S. economy. I keep seeing $20 billion/year, but mostly on right wingish sites. Even assuming they’re doubling it, $10b/year is a shitload of money. The entire U.S. food stamp program was only $65b last year.

    And of course, competition is also an issue. Remember that a large proportion of U.S. workers AREN’T competing for high level jobs. They may be high school students, or people who want to be carpenters, or farmers, or college kids looking to be a water for a year while they figure out Sartre. Anyone who suggests that illegal immigrants are just sticking to agriculture is, sorry to say, talking BS.

    And, of course, the effect of all that labor is even worse in a shitty economy like we have now.

    A lot of illegal immigrants take the intelligent tack: they simultaneously compete for jobs which can be filled (usually those with the highest wages), AND they send the vast majority of the money out of the U.S., back to their home country (which of course is why the various recipient country governments are not trying in the slightest to stop illegal immigration from their end.)

    That’s all well and good for them. But it sure as shit isn’t good for the U.S. economy to have that segment here.

  66. 67
    mythago says:

    gin-and-whiskey: the problem of sending money abroad is made worse by harsh border policies. If it’s that hard and dangerous to go across the border, people don’t bring their families and they don’t go back and forth.

    WRT job competition, wages aren’t even the big issue so much as workplace compliance. I can save a lot of money running a business where I don’t bother to keep a safe workplace because I know my employees won’t go to worker’s comp, because they’re here illegally.

  67. 68
    mythago says:

    What would actually have to happen in the real world for you to admit that a policy failure has occurred?

    Presumably, if the policy were invented and supported by liberals.

  68. 69
    Robert says:

    $10B is a big number, but it is not a big number in terms of the economy, which is (or was back pre-recession, I’m too lazy to go look it up again) about 1,300 times that size in aggregate. Remittances are a trivial portion of the “immigration problem”, however you define it.

    I agree that immigration (unauthorized or otherwise; in deference to Amp and his mewling hippie sensibilities, I’ve decided to go with “unauthorized” rather than “illegal” since it is accurate and retains the definitional aspect of such immigration, that the receiving country at least titularly does not want it, without the somewhat shrill-sounding “illegal”) CAN BE an enormous economic driver, but certainly does not have to be.

    What IS an enormous economic driver, under most circumstances, is freedom of wages to float to the market level. Unfortunately for the great god of economic efficiency, wages that float to the market level, for the lowest-valued work in an economy, usually provoke sufficient political reaction that the float isn’t allowed to stand. This can be a trivial adjustment (minimum wage laws in the US, for example, which generally set a wage only slightly above what the recipient could earn under a free market after only minimal training and experience acquisition) or it can be a big one – as in the case of unauthorized immigrants, whose natural total wage is often quite a bit less than the minimum. That sets up a huge and obvious (we see it all the time) reaction from industry, from the other workers, etc.

    I used to think that a country like the USA had to choose: a generous social welfare system, or a relatively easy immigration process, but not both. I still think that is a constraint on the viability of the public fisc, but it’s been eclipsed by the wage mismatch. We have to choose either a minimum wage that reflects the (sorry, egalitarians) lower productivity and contribution to economic surplus of an uneducated Mexican worker, compared to the same values associated with an uneducated American worker, or we need a restrictive immigration policy that prevents businesses from doing the durrr-obvious natural step of hiring the cheapest labor that can do the job. Even assuming an equality of skills and education which simply doesn’t exist, people who are willing to live six to a room are going to be cheaper to hire than people who are willing to live three to a room.

    Neither solution is optimal because there is no optimum; there are only thousands if not more competing values and tradeoffs. Set the minimum wage laws aside and let wages float: It’s darn helpful for the American economy to have Mexican domestic labor available at $2/hour. It frees up American mom and/or dad, with a half-million dollars apiece in human capital locked in their heads, to go do patent law or invent Facebook instead of wiping shit off of babies’ bottoms. It’s darn helpful for the Mexican domestic labor, for whom $2/hour is a 300% raise in cash terms and a 500% improvement in actual standard of living terms, over doing similar work in Laredo. But it sucks for the native-born nannies with a similar skill set but an expectation of living standards that sets the minimum wage at $10/hour, so they can’t get work. At all.

    On the other hand, set the wage to $10/hour and now mom and dad are tempted, sorely tempted, to break Federal law and still hire at $2. But because may will obey the law, now the locally-grown domestic workers have a viable market again, and can work. Of course, in Laredo, now people are starving. Aaarrgh! It’s enough to make you realize why socialism won’t work; there are too many painful decisions where the only way to mitigate the pain is to remove the decision from third parties, and let the individuals’ own preferences make the (still painful, but at least personal) decisions.

    Personally I think that the benefits of free movement of labor significantly outweigh the costs – and I do say that with full recognition of the fact that my weighing is undoubtedly skewed by the fact that there are no Mexican computer programmer/symbolic analyst/writer-editor/entrepreneurs coming across and putting me out of business. (They can do it from Mexico, and cheaper.) As a general principle – not always, not everywhere, not every time – the more freedom of choice and movement the people in an economy have, the more optimal the outcomes will be. The technocratic fallacy – “I can see the One True Answer from here, let’s impose it on all the fools less gifted with perspective and vision” – is almost always fallacious.

    But I think that honesty requires a real assessment of the costs, and a recognition that glib “it always pays for itself” banalities are not generally true. A lot of immigration does pay for itself, and a lot of other immigration imposes big ole’ costs. I think they’re worth it, but we can’t handwave them out of existence.

  69. 70
    Ampersand says:

    G&W, the US benefits when Joan Immigrant comes here, is a productive worker, and sends 50% of her productivity home to Finland.

    It’s true that the US would benefit even MORE if Joan didn’t send any money back to Finland. But even with Joan sending a lot of her money home to Finland, she’s still paying rent in the US, buying supplies from US stores, having the occasional beer in a US bar, making it more possible for Americans with complimentary job skills to find work, etc.. The US is net benefiting compared to if Joan wasn’t here at all, and that — not “if Joan wasn’t sending any of her income home to Finland” — is the relevant comparison.

    Labor economics is not a zero-sum game. Workers who are productive don’t take the pie away from other workers; they make the pie larger.

    The wage effect of illegal immigration on US workers seems to be either positive or nearly zero. A handful of studies have found negative short-term effects on some workers, because of the competition effects you discussed, but studies have also found net positive long-term effects on almost all workers — including low-wage workers — because of the pie getting larger.

  70. 71
    mythago says:

    Robert: but again, hourly wages are not the only issue (or even, I’d argue, the biggest one, though I’m too lazy to provide proof). Labor and employment laws are. If I don’t pay my workers overtime, don’t need to cover their insurance, don’t have to pay worker’s comp, don’t have to ensure a safe working environment, don’t get sued if I rape my good-looking employees, and so on, that saves me buckets of money beyond fifty cents an hour in wages. Certainly wages matter, but minimum wage settings will not affect those things, and it’s precisely the illegal status of many workers that allows those things to happen. However little power a minimum-wage worker has to complain that his boss grabs his ass or refuses to use safety guards on the machine press – and that’s little power indeed – people working here illegally have even less.

  71. 72
    Robert says:

    Mythago, broadly I agree with all of that. By wage I am intending to reference the sum total of all compensation, positive and negative, including things like susceptibility to the law, required treatment of people (and the psychic and/or economic costs of same to the employer), working environment, etc.

    Much of the difference in that compensation could go away if we do what (if you can imagine) Newt Gingrich suggests and create a legal status for unauthorized-at-the-moment workers so that (among other things) they have equal protection under those laws, their employers lose the ‘do it my way/knuckle under or I call ICE’ stick, etc. Industry however will fight such a program tooth and nail because as you rightly note they are scooping up big unearned rents by having these pools of no-laws-apply workers.

    Of course, we also have to reflect that such a program would probably, perversely, unemploy a lot of the people currently holding the job. At a real net cost of $5/hour, Maria is a great deal for HedgeCo; if Maria’s status changes and the new real net cost is $8/hour, suddenly Maria is no longer competitive with Frank, who is willing to do the work for a net real cost of $8/hour (just as Maria is), but who also speaks fluent English, has a driver’s license, doesn’t keep asking for a weekend off so he can go visit his mother in Laredo, etc.

    And then there’s the decreased profitability of HedgeCo; we pass a program like this and there are companies that are going to go out of business because their survival was predicated on employing lower-wage people than their competitors did or could. I won’t weep; that kind of profiteering may not be immoral but there’s no right to do it either.

  72. 73
    mythago says:

    On the other hand, SledgeCo, which has been undercut by HedgeCo’s illegal practices, will now prosper.

  73. 74
    Robert says:

    Possible but unlikely. Prices are going to go up; fine, HedgeCo now has to charge as much as SledgeCo was charging. But that doesn’t increase the size of the market for their services, it decreases it. There was a modest pool of people willing to pay $10 per widget from SledgeCo and a larger pool willing to pay $8 per widget from HedgeCo; now HedgeCo has raised their price to $10. SledgeCo already had all the people who cared about employee ethics etc.; they were the ones willing to pay $10 rather than $8. Now the pool of $8 buyers is going to dwindle; some of them will buy wodgets instead of widgets, others will in-house their widget manufacturing (and keep it to $8 per unit because there’s no advertising or marketing overhead), and most of the rest will stick with with HedgeCo because that’s who they’ve been with all along, and SledgeCo isn’t offering anything differentially that those customers want. Inertia will rule. SledgeCo ends up with the same customer base, but has actually lost its one marketing distinctive – “we use legal labor unlike those scumbags at HedgeCo, that’s why it costs a bit more”. On balance, they lose. (Yet another reason that NOBODY in industry, generally, wants to reform the system. Any change will hurt most employers.)

  74. 75
    mythago says:

    Assuming that wodgets are a good that people do or don’t choose to buy, and that it was a simple matter of price vs. ethics. If HedgeCo made a shittier product (and given their ethics it wouldn’t be surprising), then SledgeCo may in fact increase its share, since there is no longer a tradeoff in price vs. quality; you pay $10 for a wodget, and so now you have to choose SledgeCo vs. HedgeCo for other reasons. And, of course, HedgeCo may have to increase its prices to cover for all those regulatory fines and corresponding rise in its insurance premiums as a result of its misconduct.

    I’m not, btw, saying that your scenario is impossible or that everyone will be better off; certainly there are going to be employers who are hurt by actually enforcing labor laws. On the other hand, what that really means is that HedgeCo can’t shift its costs to you and me.

  75. 76
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    It’s pretty evident to me that:

    1) A shitload of people do/will want to come to the U.S.
    2) Lots of people want to come here than are ideal from a national perspective (in a perfect world, many immigrants would be educated, skilled, English-literate, and rich.)

    I sometimes wonder what the immigration outcomes of Mythago, Amp, and some others, would actually look like. Do you imagine an immigration utopia? If we gave amnesty, would you imagine it would stop the flow? If we gave amnesty to everyone in the country AND another 1 million work visas every year, would that work? Or would it take 2 million? 5 million? Open borders?

    Would you ever support deportation of illegal immigrants? Other than some fairly obvious cases involving criminals and such, in your view are we justified in excluding anyone? Deporting anyone? Who?

    Because:
    STATISTICS:
    In fiscal year 2009 (the most recent year with complete statistics), we naturalized 743,715 people and gave green cards to 1,130,818 more, for a total of ~ 1,875,000. We also admitted 36,231,554 people on temporary papers.

    Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, at http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/yearbook/2010/ois_yb_2010.pdf

    Take a look at the statistics above. We’ve got a serious illegal immigration problem even though we’re admitting thirty six MILLION people per year on some sort of temporary basis, which means that we’re allowing entry in some form or other to a tenth of the population of the U.S..

    mythago says:
    December 27, 2011 at 7:18 am
    gin-and-whiskey: the problem of sending money abroad is made worse by harsh border policies. If it’s that hard and dangerous to go across the border, people don’t bring their families and they don’t go back and forth.

    I don’t actually know the economics on this one, so I won’t guess as to the answer. There’s a downside to “send money to Grandma at home,” but there’s also a downside to “bring Grandma here,” unless she’s individually productive.

    Moreover, when you say “the problem of sending money abroad is made worse by harsh border policies” that’s not really accurate. The problem per immigrant is made worse if their families aren’t here; the problem overall must take account of the # of immigrants, which may well be affected by border policies, harsh or otherwise.

    WRT job competition, wages aren’t even the big issue so much as workplace compliance. I can save a lot of money running a business where I don’t bother to keep a safe workplace because I know my employees won’t go to worker’s comp, because they’re here illegally.

    Workplace compliance and wages are pretty fungible, when it comes right down to it. Money is money.

    But we don’t need to really agree on that detail: In any case, we obviously agree that any marginal cost of those particular illegal immigrants is far less than the social cost of noncompliance. I’d support significant penalties for those employers and I have no problem representing illegal immigrant employees in wage claims.

  76. 77
    mythago says:

    I sometimes wonder what the immigration outcomes of Mythago, Amp, and some others, would actually look like.

    Since I have no idea what policies you believe I and “some others”, whatever the fuck that means, actually support, I couldn’t possibly answer such a question.

  77. 78
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    mythago says:
    December 27, 2011 at 11:15 am
    Since I have no idea what policies you believe I and “some others”, whatever the fuck that means, actually support, I couldn’t possibly answer such a question.

    It means what it means: some others, i.e. various other people who post or have posted on Alas, who have participated in immigration discussions, and who have generally taken a comparatively open border-ish position.

    As for the policies you support: I’m trying not to ascribe particular positions to other people. That’s the polite thing to do, right? And since I don’t accurately know what policies you support, I am asking you to describe them instead of guessing.

    Why are you getting angry about this? I’m rereading my post and it’s not coming off as offensive.

    All I asked is this:

    If we gave amnesty, would you imagine it would stop the flow? If we gave amnesty to everyone in the country AND another 1 million work visas every year, would that work? Or would it take 2 million? 5 million? Open borders?

    Would you ever support deportation of illegal immigrants? Other than some fairly obvious cases involving criminals and such, in your view are we justified in excluding anyone? Deporting anyone? Who?

    I ask because it’s not always clear whether we’re mostly at odds about details (amnesty for anyone longer than 20 years or 5 years?) or about huge underlying assumptions, such as the right of countries to secure their borders at all; or the interest of any large membership-limited group in skimming the top off of an applicant pool; or predictions about the future of the US.

    To be even more precise: And no solution is going to be perfect, or even close. So it’s not really enough to say “____ solution sucks.” ALL solutions will have some suckage, so having bad aspects isn’t inherently enough to put something of the table.

    In my view this is a “least worst” debate, where we need multiple positions to compare. A position can have lots of suck and still be the best thing out there. What’s yours?

  78. 79
    Robert says:

    There is no observable correlation between employment ethics and product quality that I am aware of; if widgets are a competitive market, and they are, then the $10 SledgeCo widget and the $8 HedgeCo widget are of broadly equal quality. Is it possible that people would switch from one identical, identically-priced product to another on the basis that the new company USED TO HAVE superior employment ethics? Sure. Is it plausible? I cannot think of a circumstance in which I would switch, and – while you might make a stronger claim for yourself – I doubt that you would either. Telecomm companies, for example, have had a variety of different histories with different unions, with one company being better than others, and I’ve seen my union-loving hippie friends switch on occasion to be with the labor-friendly firm. I have NEVER seen them switch ex-post-facto once conditions equalized; “Sprint used to be better than MCI although they are now both union shops, so I am going to go to the considerable hassle of switching” is just not a likely outcome.

    The people for whom the employment ethics mattered a lot, enough to overcome the $2 price differential, already are with SledgeCo. The people for whom they might matter a little, will be making their evaluation under conditions of parity, and the very real costs of switching (new relationship, new order forms, new procedures, new delivery schedules, total flushing of the institutional memory built up about how to use this particular company’s interface and product line) are simply going to swamp the tiny, almost infinitesimal, psychic benefit of “I’m going with the guys who used to be nicer.”

    Your cost arguments are similarly unpersuasive. If HedgeCo is paying fines and legal bills, then they are not in compliance with the new order, and the situation has not in fact equalized. In addition, you speak of SledgeCo increasing its market share as if this were a road to profitability. If they were struggling to make it selling a million widgets at $10 per, then they will continue to struggle selling a million point two widgets at $10 per, unless widgets have a very steeply sloping marginal cost of production. Not many products have that kind of cost of production. Barely breaking even per unit means that an increase in volume does not equate to an increase in profitability.

    Not to be Negative Nelson here, but the characterization that “sometimes this is going to hurt the companies in the market” is a hugely optimistic view. Changes to the labor system, almost no matter what the labor system is, are going to be very disruptive to the existing players, who have reached equilibria or meta-equilibria on the basis of certain sets of conditions. I can think of almost no scenario in which a cost increase which only affects certain companies in an industry, has a substantive positive effect on the other companies in that industry, if that cost increase comes along with an equalization of other differentiators.

    That doesn’t mean “don’t do it”, heaven forbid; it means, don’t count on SledgeCo to be enthusiastic about the loss of its unique value proposition. They won’t be. They aren’t. By and large, the ethical companies that do not hire unauthorized immigrant worker, are quite vigorously opposed to guest worker programs.

  79. 80
    mythago says:

    Why are you getting angry about this?

    Have you ever personally dealt with federal immigration officials? If you had, you’d understand.

    I suspect I’m far less in favor of an ‘open-ish’ border than, say, Amp is. Illegal immigration is a multifactorial problem, and simplistic, punitive solutions (border fence! let ‘em die in the desert!) may please line-drawers like RonF, but they don’t ultimately work and they backfire (immigrants, once they get here, are disinclined to leave, and have less ability to assimilate). But the companion to more open legal paths to immigration is strictly policing those paths. Right now we have the opposite situation, where we don’t want to let Certain People in legally and then bitch when they come in illegally – although we mostly turn a blind eye when they mow our lawns or wash our dishes. It would be better, IMO, to have a more open border so we can concentrate on keeping MS-13 members out of the country instead of wasting time and resources keeping Maria the strawberry picker from working in Fresno.

    So how broad an amnesty ought to be, or how we can implement a work-visa program that is both fair and doesn’t totally screw resident workers, are details I think fair-minded people can discuss, and I certainly don’t have all the answers to those issues. I just don’t see ‘maintaining a border’ and ‘allowing Central Americans into the US’ as mutually exclusive.

  80. 81
    Robert says:

    Mythago hearts Newt Gingrich. Gingrichite!

  81. 82
    mythago says:

    I can’t help it if he’s finally come around to see the reasonableness of my positions.

  82. 83
    Robert says:

    I think it was when he fucked your husband that the tide really turned.

  83. 84
    mythago says:

    I’ll tell you, if *I* could persuade people of the rightness of my arguments just by fucking them, the Internet would be a very different place.

  84. 85
    Robert says:

    Stickier, at any rate.

  85. 86
    mythago says:

    No. No, the Internet could not possibly be stickier.

  86. 88
    RonF says:

    mythago:

    (border fence! let ‘em die in the desert!) may please line-drawers like RonF,

    You misrepresent my opinion. People die in the desert because they believe that they can cross without dying but are unprepared for the conditions. Build a barrier to the point that they don’t believe they can cross and they won’t die because they won’t be in the desert trying to cross.

    (immigrants, once they get here, are disinclined to leave,

    If they were ever planning to leave then they wouldn’t be immigrants, they’d be transients.

    Right now we have the opposite situation, where we don’t want to let Certain People in legally and then bitch when they come in illegally – although we mostly turn a blind eye when they mow our lawns or wash our dishes.

    Not that you pointed this at me specifically, but just to be clear: I’m fine with letting both transients and immigrants into the U.S. as long as they follow the laws (and remembering that the difficulties presented in getting those processes to work for you is not an excuse to illegally circumvent them). And the only people washing my dishes and mowing my lawn – and performing all the other tasks that people here illegally commonly do – is me and my wife.

    I just don’t see ‘maintaining a border’ and ‘allowing Central Americans into the US’ as mutually exclusive.

    Who has held that they are?

  87. 89
    mythago says:

    RonF @88: You’re making the very engineer-y assumption that people always act logically and with perfect information: if people die crossing into the US, it is clearly because they are erroneously calculating the dangers of doing so, and if we increase those dangers, people will adjust their calculations and arrive at a precise cost-benefit analysis that will drive them to the obvious and logical conclusion. Why do you believe that people who are unaware of the dangers of crossing now will suddenly gain perfect information about those dangers if we make it worse? Will “the coyotes will take care of all that, my cousin Julio crossed just fine” suddenly vanish in a puff of logic? Will people who are facing starvation or death from narcoterrorists at home say “nah, fuck it, not worth the risk”?

    If they were ever planning to leave then they wouldn’t be immigrants, they’d be transients.

    I look forward to your lecturing someone bitching about “illegal immigrants” that their terminology is inaccurate and misleading, because many of those people have no intention of remaining permanently in the US and therefore the correct terminology is “illegal immigrants and transients”.

    Now that we’ve dispensed with your clumsy attempt to deflect the point with nitpicking: People who would otherwise be transients, in your terminology, become immigrants when the costs of crossing the border are very high. Once Maria pays a smuggler an exorbitant sum and survives the desert, why on earth would she go home and do it all over again? She’ll stay here, and continue to work, and if she raises a family she won’t go back to Guatemala to do it.

    And the only people washing my dishes and mowing my lawn – and performing all the other tasks that people here illegally commonly do – is me and my wife.

    I’m glad that you never eat in a restaurant or utilize a public park, or for that matter eat produce you didn’t grow yourself, because there are many ways that you and I benefit from illegal labor that have nothing to do with whether we, personally, decide to hire somebody out of the Home Depo parking lot to do labor for us.