Monday, July 17, 2006

The Mythology of Immigration

Heather Mac Donald's City Journal essays are invaluable resources--particularly for those who understand that "common knowledge" may not be fact-based "knowledge."

She offers a number of myth-busters regarding the Immigration Debate which are worthwhile:

On "human rights" of illegal immigrants:

Less than a week before the Library of Congress conference, illegal aliens on the streets of Southern California were making the identical demands: “We just want some respect and human rights,” a Santa Ana protester told the Los Angeles Times. “We’re fighting to give [immigrants] equal rights,” explained a marcher in Riverside, California, holding a “Legalize, Not Terrorize” sign.

This call for “human rights” is a clever one, for it hides its radical status in a rhetorical safe harbor. What, exactly, are the “human rights” that the U.S. is denying illegal aliens? They have unfettered access to free medical care, free education, welfare for their children, free representation in court when they commit crimes, every due-process protection during criminal prosecution that the Constitution guarantees citizens and legal immigrants, the shelter of labor laws, and the miracles of modern industrial society like clean water, the control of infectious diseases (including the ones that they bring with them), and plumbing. The only putative “right” that they lack—and that, of course, is the “human right” to which they and their ambassadors refer—is the right to legal status regardless of illegal entry.

On whether enforcement actually works:

Elite wisdom for decades held that the police cannot affect crime. The social forces pushing criminals to break the law—poverty, racism, addiction—were too powerful; policing could at best try to solve crimes after they happened. New York’s Mayor Giuliani and his first police chief, William Bratton, rejected that fatalism. They empowered the New York Police Department to enforce aggressively laws that had long lain moribund. The targets of the new public-order push complained bitterly that it was unfair to arrest them for marijuana sales and other crimes after years of de facto decriminalization. The NYPD continued its enforcement drive anyway and brought crime down 70 percent in a decade. It turns out that the well-founded fear of getting caught changes behavior.

And as applied to border incursions:

Federal agencies have designated a stretch of the Texas border a zero-tolerance zone for border trespassing since December 6, 2005. Rather than releasing illegal entrants upon capture, the feds jail them for their border crime, then deport them. One Border Patrol agent told the Washington Post that the 51 percent drop in apprehensions since the operation began are “the most dynamic results” he had seen in 19 years on the force.

What about the "family values" of Hispanics? Don't we want more?

If someone proposed a program to boost the number of Americans who lack a high school diploma, have children out of wedlock, sell drugs, steal, or use welfare, he’d be deemed mad. Yet liberalized immigration rules would do just that. The illegitimacy rate among Hispanics is high and rising faster than that of other ethnic groups; their dropout rate is the highest in the country; Hispanic children are joining gangs at younger and younger ages. Academic achievement is abysmal.

Illegitimacy concerns: Without doubt, many Latinos are upwardly mobile. But a significant portion of their children are getting sucked into street life...

Half of all children born to Hispanic Americans in 2002 were illegitimate, twice the rate for American whites and 42 percent higher than the overall American rate.

Literacy Concerns: Nationwide, 53 percent of Hispanics graduate from high school, according to the Manhattan Institute’s Jay Greene—the lowest rate among all ethnic groups

Crime: Open-borders conservatives point to the relatively low crime rate among immigrants to deny any connection between high immigration and crime. But unless we can prevent immigrants from having children, a high level of immigration translates to increased levels of crime. Between the foreign-born generation and their American children, the incarceration rate of Mexican-Americans jumps more than eightfold, resulting in an incarceration rate that is 3.45 times higher than that of whites, according to an analysis of 2000 census data by the pro-immigrant Migration Policy Institute.

Assimilation into US culture: Multicultural cheerleaders argue that assimilation is proceeding apace by pointing to the fact that virtually all third-generation Hispanics can speak English. Even so, linguistic and cultural segregation among Hispanics is increasing. The percentage of Hispanics living in Hispanic enclaves rose from 39 percent in 1990 to 43 percent in 2000, reports Robert Samuelson, and as more and more aliens from Mexico and Central America enter, the size of Spanish-speaking-only areas expands.

As most business-types know, understanding the problem is critical to formulating a solution. Ms. Mac Donald's research SHOULD go a long way toward shaping a Congressional response which utilizes enforcement AND recognizes the national interest--growth, but not a disproportionate increase in crime, illiteracy, and illegitimate children.


M.Z. said...

I'm not sure how these are specifically illegal immigrant myths. In regards to illegitimacy, the more interesting number would be the convergence factor between 3G Hispanic births and those for other racial groups.

In regards to enforcement, the US certainly could do more in enforcement, and I agree that it would have an impact. Where this diverges from the NYC example is on two fronts. The first front is that we sanction some immigration in this country; we do not sanction murder (dp isn't murder.) The second area of divergence is that illegal immigration is not considered an intrinsic evil by a significant portion of the population. Therefore, voluntary compliance and cooperation are going to be lower in cases of illegal immigration than they are going to be for murder or even drug dealing.

Dad29 said...

The NYC reference (it's in the article, which I excerpted) was to the "broken windows" theory of policing. NYC went after folks who committed "tolerable" offenses, such as graffiti-ing, rowdyism, etc.

It had the effect of reducing ALL criminal activity.

Another un-cited example had to do with INS crackdowns on businesses employing illegals. A couple of "show raids" were conducted, and all of a sudden, illegals started to disappear.

As to "3G"--that's not the issue. We should not wait another 20 years or so in the first place; in the second place, the "2G" problem is FAR the more significant, numerically.