Sunday, November 26, 2006

An Immigration Roundup

This post consolidates and replaces several posts that I have written about immigration.


Steve Antler (EconoPundit) has a neat graphic in this post, which illustrates a key point. The point? The minimum wage -- to the extent that it is actually paid by employers of illegal immigrants -- raises the unemployment rate. That, in turn, gives pandering politicians yet another opportunity to buy votes by expanding welfare benefits for illegal immigrants (and other low-income groups).

Minimum wage laws and welfare programs are especially favored on the Left (though large corporations have no objection to taxpayer-funded welfare programs that subsidize labor). An article by Ben Johnson at details the Leftist connections to the massive protests of proposals to curb illegal immigration; for example:
As events spanned from California to Detroit, Phoenix to Washington, D.C., the media kept up its anti-enforcement drumbeat. Although some have credited Latino DJs for the 500,000-strong illegal immigrant turnout in Los Angeles alone – and some credit is deserved – the real legwork was done by a more eclectic group of organizations: leftist labor unions, George Soros-funded agitators, Open Borders lobbyists, Roman Catholic clergy, and teachers unions. . . .

Andres Jiminez, director of the University of California's California Policy Research Center, told the media, “It's not only Latinos who are marching in the streets, its unions too: firefighters, farm workers and Hispanic students who had thought of U.S. law as protecting them and are now starting to see it as a threat to their future.”

He was right about this much: Latino organizations did not act alone. The media has failed to report that organized labor directed the illegals and minors. The L.A. Times revealed the rally’s “security” was handled by a union identified only as “Local 1877.” That would be local 1877 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the far-Left union founded by New Left radical Andrew Stern, which called for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq in June 2004 and worked in concert with Ted Kennedy to roll back anti-terrorist Homeland Security measures. According to the L.A. Times, the SEIU’s goons kindly helped “herd marchers along the route.” That was not the extent of SEIU’s help, though. The union also “coordinated the more than 100 buses that dropped off marchers from throughout California, Las Vegas and a few Southwestern cities.”

In other words, the massive rally against Homeland Security – since that is what gaining control of America’s borders would promote – was staged by a leftist labor union and staffed primarily with illegal immigrants.

SEIU did not work alone in this. It was aided by other radical or left-wing political pressure groups [which Johnson details].
Pandering to illegals is, of course, an exercise in building political power. The pandering curries favor with those legals who want the company of their "brothers and sisters" from south of the border. And many of the illegals will become voters themselves -- sooner rather than later if the Left has its way. (U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) analyzes the Left's strategy in an article at Human Events Online: "Democrats Will Use Immigration to Divide and Conquer.") President Bush seems to believe that he can corral some of those voters into the GOP, but I have no doubt that the GOP will come up with the short end of the stick.

Which leads me to Thomas Sowell, who makes sense, as usual, in "Guests or gate crashers" at
The Bush administration is pushing a program to legalize "guest workers." But what is a guest? Someone you have invited. People who force their way into your home without your permission are called gate crashers.
If truth-in-packaging laws applied to politics, the Bush guest worker program would have to be called a "gate-crasher worker" program. The President's proposal would solve the problem of illegal immigration by legalizing it after the fact. . . .

None of the rhetoric and sophistry that we hear about immigration deals with the plain and ugly reality: Politicians are afraid of losing the Hispanic vote and businesses want cheap labor.
What millions of other Americans want has been brushed aside, as if they don't count, and they have been soothed with pious words. But now the voters are getting fed up, which is why there are immigration bills in Congress.

The old inevitability ploy is often trotted out in immigration debates: It is not possible to either keep out illegal immigrants or to expel the ones already here.

If you mean stopping every single illegal immigrant from getting in or expelling every single illegal immigrant who is already here, that may well be true. But does the fact that we cannot prevent every single murder cause us to stop enforcing the laws against murder? . . .

Let's hope the immigration bills before Congress can at least get an honest debate, instead of the word games we have been hearing for too long.
I fully understand and agree with the economic arguments for "open borders" -- and I do favor free trade and outsourcing (e.g., read this post and follow the links at the bottom). But the immigration issue is really about political power. The cause of illegal immigration is mainly (though not entirely) a Leftist play for power and the expansion of the welfare state.


Immigration, legal or not, is more than an economic issue. Most economists -- even economists I respect -- just don't get it. It is stupid to let people enter the U.S. if the result of doing so is an expansion of the regulatory-welfare state, both directly -- for the benefit of immigrants -- and indirectly -- as a result of the votes those immigrants cast (eventually) for politicians who seek to expand the regulatory-welfare state.

It's time to seal the borders and admit immigrants based strictly on their demonstrated ability to make an immediate, positive economic contribution. That prescription might seem to run against my interest, inasmuch as I live in Texas, which is a first stop for immigrants who work for low wages. Given the cost of the regulatory-welfare state of Texas, however, I believe that I would be better off with fewer immigrants. In any event, the long-run economic vitality of the United States requires a citizenry that has a stake in, and is more likely to support, limited government and free markets.

An immigrant to the U.S. makes a positive contribution to economic growth only if he or she can be more productive here than in his or her homeland. That's true of Mexican construction workers who are harnessed to America's economic-growth engine, but it's even more true of scientists and engineers from Europe and Asia, who can advance the technology that enables economic growth. Furthermore, those scientists and engineers are not going to demand welfare benefits, and they are less likely (on the whole) to vote for politicians who seek to expand the regulatory-welfare state.

Immigration is an economic issue, but a far more complex issue than the one depicted by most economists, who omit the economic implications of the politics of immigration.

UPDATE: The Conservative Philosopher says
. . . if we could kick out one leftist for every immigrant, I'd favor it.
Roger that.

Recommended reading:

Answering 13 Frequently Asked Questions About Illegal Immigration, at Right Wing News.

The 1965 Immigration Act
, at WizBang! A related note: constant-dollar (real) GDP per capita grew at an annualized rate of 2.1% in the 39 years from 1965 through 2004, compared with a rate of 2.3% for the 39 years from 1926 through 1965. The higher rate for 1926-65 was accomplished in spite of the Great Depression; for the 10 years from 1929 through 1939, real GDP per capita grew at an annual rate of 0.2%.

April 1, 2006 -- SOCIETAL SUICIDE

Eternity Road has an excellent post about societal suicide in the West. Relatedly, this op-ed at OpinionJournal suggests that the Supreme Court is about to help the U.S. slide a bit further down the slippery slope of defenselessness.


Noted economist Greg Mankiw (who now has a blog) seconds one of my key points. Here's Mankiw:
The hard issues tend to revolve around the immigration of unskilled workers, who are more likely to drain resources from the social safety net and increase U.S. income inequality by pushing down wages at the bottom of the wage distribution.

Immigration of skilled workers is another matter. A skilled worker coming into the United States will likely pay more in taxes than he or she gets in social benefits. Moreover, an increased supply of skilled labor will tend to reduce income inequality. A strong case can be made that any worker with significant skills (such as a college degree) should be admitted without restriction.
Meanwhile, over at EconLog, Arnold Kling quotes himself:
What should you call someone who wants government to provide for our education, competitiveness, and health care but whose concern about "us" stops at the border? The obvious label would be national socialist. But George Bush and Paul Krugman are not Nazis...

The alternative ideology that I would propose might be called transnational libertarianism. The ideal libertarian world would have no economic borders. There would be no problem of illegal immigration, because all forms of immigration would be legal.
My comment:
The ideal libertarian world would be governed by a unified rule of law. That rule of law would protect citizens from predators -- including government-sponsored predation (e.g., welfare programs). To the extent that immigrants come to the U.S. because it offers "better" welfare programs, those immigrants are engaging in predation and enabling the election of politicians who would multiply the predation. Your prescription works in the ideal world, but not in the real one that we inhabit.
Mankiw is that rare economist who sees the real world.


This message is prompted by the attempt to hijack the "melting pot" concept for the advancement of the regulatory-welfare state. The "melting pot" -- properly understood -- refers to the assimilation of immigrants to the prevailing culture and rule of law, not to the subversion of that culture and rule of law by a wave of illegal immigrants and their Leftist proponents.

Not all cultures and legal systems are beneficial, and none is perfect. But one culture and legal system -- the Anglospheric culture that shaped the Founding Generation of Americans and the Constitution they bequeathed us -- comes as close to perfection as one might reasonably expect in this imperfect world. It is no longer de rigeur to say that. And therein lies the tale.

Americans -- whether or not they know it -- are in a last-ditch fight to save the already much-diluted culture and rule of law that made possible our now-vanishing liberty and pursuit of happiness. And yet, many Americans and American institutions persist in enabling efforts to further dilute that culture and rule of law. This dilution, which is essentially anti-American and anti-liberty, arises from the Left -- as represented by Ted Kennedy, Michael Moore, and Hollywood -- and is abetted by the parrot-like political correctness that passes for thought among public "educators," academicians, the media, much of the legal profession, and most government officials and employees. At the rate we are going, I give the U.S. another ten years before it becomes a listless, socialist "paradise" on a par with Canada and Great Britain.

I can only hope that the Supreme Court will prove me wrong.

UPDATE: See this post by the Maverick Philosopher and follow his link to a column by Cal Thomas. Steve Burton (Right Reason) makes an excellent offering in a similar vein. Burton ends his post with this:
W$J conservatives and libertarians . . . will point out that we've done it before, back when we absorbed wave after wave of Europe's huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, and turned them in short order into unhyphenated Americans.

To which I reply: the great waves of American immigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries swept ashore in a harsh, sink-or-swim society where you either fit in and made your own way or died trying. The Latin American immigrants of today, on the other hand, show up in an advanced welfare state under the seemingly ineradicable spell of officially imposed multiculturalist dogma. So the first generation will be as hard-working and family-oriented as anyone could wish. But just wait until our educational system gets ahold of their children. Just wait. In the blink of an historical eye, their work ethic and family values will be replaced with a sense of aggrieved victimhood and entitlement to state compensation, with all the appalling panoply of ills that follow in their wake. After that, it will be ethnic separatism and socio-economic dysfunction as far as the eye can see.

It is a bitter cup that we are preparing for ourselves, and nothing in history teaches us how to drink it and live.
Dale Franks of QandO weighs in with this:
Allowing a large group of foreign persons into the country, and making no effort to assimilate them, will culminate in a disaster. Look at what is happening in Europe as a result of unbridled Muslim immigration. We're on a very similar path.

As far as I'm concerned, anyone who comes here and makes the effort to become an American, and to subscribe to our ideals and values, is welcome. Those who prefer to maintain their primary allegiance to another country need to go back to that country, rather than trying to make mine a mirror image of the Third World hellhole they hated so much that they risked their lives to flee it.
Given the difficulty of knowing ahead of time who will try to assimilate and who will not, the most effective immigration policy is one that discriminates on the basis of skills. As I wrote here,
It's time to seal the borders and admit immigrants based strictly on their demonstrated ability to make an immediate, positive economic contribution. That prescription might seem to run against my interest, inasmuch as I live in Texas, which is a first stop for immigrants who work for low wages. Given the cost of the regulatory-welfare state of Texas, however, I believe that I would be better off with fewer immigrants. In any event, the long-run economic vitality of the United States requires a citizenry that has a stake in, and is more likely to support, limited government and free markets.

An immigrant to the U.S. makes a positive contribution to economic growth only if he or she can be more productive here than in his or her homeland. That's true of Mexican construction workers who are harnessed to America's economic-growth engine, but it's even more true of scientists and engineers from Europe and Asia, who can advance the technology that enables economic growth. Furthermore, those scientists and engineers are not going to demand welfare benefits, and they are less likely (on the whole) to vote for politicians who seek to expand the regulatory-welfare state.

See "Immigrating Terror," published today at

UPDATE (9:50 pm):
There's more from the Maverick Philosopher. (Be sure to follow his links to posts by Victor Davis Hanson.)

UPDATE (04/06/06, 6:35 pm): The Senate's apparent "compromise" on the immigration issue is a surrender. It doesn't increase border security and includes unenforceable provisions for illegals who are already here, or who arrive in the future. As reported by the NYT,
the compromise would place illegal immigrants in three categories:

¶Those who have lived in the country at least five years would be put on a path toward guaranteed citizenship, provided that they remained employed, paid fines and back taxes, and learned English, a senior Republican aide said. The aide said this group accounted for about 7 million of the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants believed to be living here.

¶Those who have lived here for two to five years, said to number about three million, would have to leave the country briefly before reporting to an American port of entry, where they would be classified as temporary workers. They would be allowed to apply for citizenship but would have no guarantee of obtaining it. Those who did not would have to leave after participating in the temporary worker program for six years.

¶The remaining one million or so, those who have lived in the country less than two years, would be required to leave. They could apply for temporary worker status but would not be guaranteed it.
"Required" to leave? Who's going to make them leave, the Border Patrol, which can't even keep them out in the first place? The Immigration and Naturalization Service? Hah! Republicans are selling out for the false hope of attracting Latino votes. Democrats are posturing for even more concessions, though they'll gladly take what Republicans have handed them. But let the Times tell it:
Republicans said the compromise, whose prominent backers include Mr. McCain and Senators Mel Martinez of Florida and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, would attract votes from their members who are uncomfortable with broader legalization. But the compromise cannot pass without the support of Democrats, who said they were still weighing their options.

"Aren't we entitled to at least a chance to have a vote on a comprehensive approach?" Mr. Kennedy said.

There were signs, though, that some of Mr. Kennedy's allies among business and immigrant advocacy groups were throwing their support behind the compromise proposal.

The leaders of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which represents hotels, restaurants and other service industries, said a limited legalization would be better than a bill that focused solely on tightening border security.

In sum: If the proposed "compromise" becomes law, illegals will continue to stream in, they won't be evicted, and most of them will become citizens who vote for expansion of the regulatory-welfare state.

UPDATE (04/07/06, 12:11 pm): Well, the "compromise" fell apart. A critic nails it:
"Today is a good day for America. The Senate -- in a rare moment of clarity -- rejected its amnesty-now, enforcement-later approach to immigration," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo. "Amnesty is a non-starter. If the Senate is serious about sending real security legislation to the President's desk this year, it must take a different approach."
UPDATE (04/10/06, 4:14 pm): Michelle Malkin points out the congruence between illegal immigration and the Leftist agenda.

UPDATE (04/11/06, 9:23 pm): Thomas Sowell waxes eloquent, as always; for example:
Both liberals and free-market libertarians often see this [immigration] as an abstract issue about poor people being hindered from moving to jobs by an arbitrary border drawn across the southwest desert.

Intellectuals' ability to think of people in the abstract is a dangerous talent in a world where people differ in all the ways that make them people. The cultures and surrounding circumstances of those people are crucial for understanding what they are likely to do and what the consequences are likely to be.

Some free-market advocates argue that the same principle which justifies free international trade in commodities should justify the free movement of people as well. But this ignores the fact that people have consequences that go far beyond the consequences of commodities. . . .

Unlike commodities, people in a welfare state have legal claims on other people's tax dollars and expensive services in schools and hospitals, not to mention the high cost of imprisoning many of them who commit crimes.

Immigrants in past centuries came here to become Americans, not to remain foreigners, much less to proclaim the rights of their homelands to reclaim American soil, as some of the Mexican activist groups have done. . . .

Today, immigrant spokesmen promote grievances, not gratitude, much less patriotism. Moreover, many native-born Americans also promote a sense of separatism and grievance and, through "multi-culturalism," strive to keep immigrants foreign and disaffected. . . .

Hispanic activists themselves recognize that many of the immigrants from Mexico -- legal or illegal -- would assimilate into American society in the absence of these activists' efforts to keep them a separate constituency. But these efforts are widespread and unrelenting, a fact that cannot be ignored.

Whatever is said or done in the immigration debate, no one should insult the American people's intelligence by talking or acting as if this is a question about the movement of abstract people across an abstract line.


Leftists often deploy blatantly muddled logic in support of their statist agenda. But they can, at times, be subtle. Consider the following passage, by one Barbara Katz Rothman (from an exchange at the Debate Club of legalaffairs):
Racism takes whatever differences are biological—skin color, hair texture, eye shape—and goes on to make assumptions about personality, values, abilities, interests. Sexism does the same, taking genitalia and reproductive potential as the biologic and then making assumptions about personality, values, abilities and interests.
Here's what Katz Rothman evidently believes, and would like others to believe:

  • Biological differences have no bearing on such attributes as personality, values, abilities, and interests. (Here, she hews to a flat-wrong axiom, beloved of the Left.)

  • If differentiation on the basis of personality, values, abilities, and interests results in differential treatment of races and sexes, such differentiation is, therefore, racism or sexism.

The immature and unsuspecting (e.g., school children and naive college students) will, of course, swallow such "logic." Thus does political correctness take root.

But biologically identifiable groups do exhibit different distributions of personality, values, abilities, and interests (e.g., this article, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one). It is valid to differentiate on those dimensions (by discriminating in favor of highly skilled immigrants or more intelligent job applicants, for example), and to let the chips fall where they may -- even if they do not fall equally on all races or both sexes.

Those who do let the chips fall where they may -- or who advocate doing so -- are not racists or sexists. The racists and sexists are those who persist in focusing on race and gender to the exclusion of socially and economically relevant differences in personality, values, abilities, and interests.

Keith Burgess-Jackson (AnalPhilosopher) is tougher than I am when it comes to immigration. He offers a 6-point program:
(1) deport everyone who is here illegally; (2) confiscate the property of everyone who is here illegally; (3) build a wall between the United States and Mexico; (4) stop all immigration from all countries for 20 years; (5) require that only English be spoken in public schools and courts; and (6) punish anyone who employs an illegal immigrant.
I agree with #s 1, 2, 3 (taking "wall" to mean a physical-surveillance barrier), and 5. But as for #4, I wouldn't rule out all immigration. Instead, as I wrote above, I would
seal the borders and admit immigrants based strictly on their demonstrated ability to make an immediate, positive economic contribution.
That is, I would keep out low-wage workers who are likely to attach themselves to the welfare system, but admit scientists, engineers, and the like.
Number 6 is problematic only because it may be economically sound -- and humane -- to hire an illegal immigrant who already is in the country. But I understand KBJ's point. If employers aren't deterred from hiring illegals, illegals will have a greater incentive to find a way into the country.

May 2, 2006 -- LET 'EM LEAVE

During yesterday's "Day Without Immigrants" an estimated 1 million illegal immigrants and their supporters didn't shop (or so they say), go to work, or attend classes. Instead, they spent the day protesting legislation that would criminalize illegal immigration. The idea was to show Americans what life would be like without illegal immigrants.
An obvious effect of not having illegal immigrants in our midst would be fewer protest marches that result in street closings and detours. Less obviously:
  • The welfare system (and our taxes) would be much reduced.
  • Fewer schools would be needed, so that property owners would face lower tax bills.
  • The extra costs incurred by governments and businesses to operate in two languages could be avoided. (There is no need to cater to persons who learn English as a prerequisite of citizenship.)
  • Democrats -- with their big-spending ways -- wouldn't control as many local and State governments, and they would be less of a force at the national level. Republicans would be able to revert to something like fiscal conservatism.
I say, let's have a permanent "Day Without Illegal Immigrants" -- for real.


Steve Burton, writing at Right Reason, has much to say about a survey by the Pew Hispanic Center of the beliefs and attitudes of Hispanic Americans. Here's a sample:
Those surveyed overwhelmingly prefer "higher taxes to support a larger government that provides more services" - by contrast to American whites, who, by an equally overwhelming margin, prefer "lower taxes and...a smaller government that provides fewer services."
But I already knew that, as did most persons who are attuned to reality. As I wrote above,
It is stupid to let people enter the U.S. if the result of doing so is an expansion of the regulatory-welfare state, both directly -- for the benefit of immigrants -- and indirectly -- as a result of the votes those immigrants cast (eventually) for politicians who seek to expand the regulatory-welfare state. . . .
Immigration is an economic issue, but a far more complex issue than the one depicted by most economists, who omit the economic implications of the politics of immigration.
Most academic economists -- that is to say, "intellectuals" -- nevertheless ignore the economic implications of unfettered immigration. Over-educated idiots!

On March 31, I pointed to a post about immigration which includes these informative segments:
8) But, aren't these illegal aliens doing jobs Americans won't do? To begin with, in many of the industries most associated with illegal immigrant labor, you find that the majority of workers in those fields are not illegals. As Rich Lowry pointed out in National Review:
"According to a new survey by the Pew Hispanic Center, illegals make up 24 percent of workers in agriculture, 17 percent in cleaning, 14 percent in construction, and 12 percent in food production. So 86 percent of construction workers, for instance, are either legal immigrants or Americans, despite the fact that this is one of the alleged categories of untouchable jobs."
Moreover, it needs to be pointed out that there's no such thing as a job, "Americans won't do." There are only jobs Americans won't do at a certain price. Consider your job. Would you still do it if the pay were 50% less? For most people, the answer to that question is, "no."
Well, since illegal immigrants generally come from poor countries with mediocre economies, they're willing to work for much lower wages than the going market rate because they're still making substantially more than what they can make at home. So, if there's a large influx of illegal aliens into an America industry, it depresses wages so much that Americans simply won't do those jobs any more for the going pay rate.
This harms poor Americans the most, because they're the group that generally ends up competing with illegal aliens for jobs on the low end of the pay scale.
9) If these illegal aliens were to leave the United States, wouldn't there be a major impact on the American economy? There's disagreement about that, but it's highly doubtful. As Rich Lowry at National Review has pointed out:
"Phillip Martin, an economist at the University of California, Davis, has demolished the argument that a crackdown on illegals would ruin it, or be a hardship to consumers. Most farming — livestock, grains, etc. — doesn't heavily rely on hired workers. Only about 20 percent of the farm sector does, chiefly those areas involving fresh fruit and vegetables.
The average "consumer unit" in the U.S. spends $7 a week on fresh fruit and vegetables, less than is spent on alcohol, according to Martin. On a $1 head of lettuce, the farm worker gets about 6 or 7 cents, roughly 1/15th of the retail price. Even a big run-up in the cost of labor can't hit the consumer very hard.
Martin recalls that the end of the bracero guest-worker program in the mid-1960s caused a one-year 40 percent wage increase for the United Farm Workers Union. A similar wage increase for legal farm workers today would work out to about a 10-dollar-a-year increase in the average family's bill for fruit and vegetables. Another thing happened with the end of the bracero program: The processed-tomato industry, which was heavily dependent on guest workers and was supposed to be devastated by their absence, learned how to mechanize and became more productive."
If every illegal alien here today currently left America, the immediate economic impact would be insignificant and over the long haul, the impact would likely be negligible.
10) What about other costs to society? On the whole, are illegals a net benefit or net liability to the American economy?
The answer to this question can vary wildly depending on what's included as an asset and what's not included as a liability. For example, liberal economist and popular New York Times columnist Paul Krugman says that overall, illegals are an insignificant, positive asset to the economy, although their presence harms poor Americans:
"First, the net benefits to the U.S. economy from immigration, aside from the large gains to the immigrants themselves, are small. Realistic estimates suggest that immigration since 1980 has raised the total income of native-born Americans by no more than a fraction of 1 percent.
Second, while immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration - especially immigration from Mexico. Because Mexican immigrants have much less education than the average U.S. worker, they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst- paid Americans.
The most authoritative recent study of this effect, by George Borjas and Lawrence Katz of Harvard, estimates that U.S. high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren't for Mexican immigration."
On the other hand, according to a conservative group, the Center for Immigration Studies:
"Based on Census Bureau data, this study finds that, when all taxes paid (direct and indirect) and all costs are considered, illegal households created a net fiscal deficit at the federal level of more than $10 billion in 2002. We also estimate that, if there was an amnesty for illegal aliens, the net fiscal deficit would grow to nearly $29 billion."
Again, estimates vary on how much of an impact illegals have on the economy, but most of the credible ones show the benefits are insignificant or even in the negative range.
A few days ago, thanks to a post at Politics of Prudence, I found a study by two Columbia University economists, who find that factor (e.g., labor) immigration from less technologically advanced countries costs U.S. citizens about "$72 billion dollars per year or 0.8 percent of GDP." (That's $360 billion over five years, the relevance of which I explain below.) The same Politics of Prudence post also points to an article in The Washington Post, which conveys this bit of information:
A new study by a liberal Washington think tank puts the cost of forcibly removing most of the nation's estimated 10 million illegal immigrants at $41 billion a year, a sum that exceeds the annual budget of the Department of Homeland Security.
The study, "Deporting the Undocumented: A Cost Assessment," scheduled for release today by the Center for American Progress, is billed by its authors as the first-ever estimate of costs associated with arresting, detaining, prosecuting and removing immigrants who have entered the United States illegally or overstayed their visas. The total cost would be $206 billion to $230 billion over five years, depending on how many of the immigrants leave voluntarily, according to the study.
So, the net, five-year benefit to U.S. citizens of rounding up and deporting illegal aliens would be about $100 billion, even if the presence of illegal aliens were otherwise costless to U.S. citizens (an unlikely proposition). And after five years, it would be all gravy. That's not to mention the inestimable benefits that would accrue with the shrinkage of the potential pool of socialist-leaning voters.

Patri Friedman, who writes at Catallarchy, has two excellent posts about the consequences of unfettered immigration. He, like I, rejects the simplistic "open borders" rhetoric of most economists. He then goes on to discuss generally how the preservation of liberty sometimes requires the performance of acts that (superficially) seem anti-libertarian.

UPDATE (05/26/06 @ 7:30 pm): And a non-Catallarch (Steve Antler of EconoPundit) says it straighter:
Hey, these two experts [Brad DeLong and Greg Mankiw] are smarter than you. They agree that immigration's no problem, so you should just shut up.

Listen to the experts.

UPDATE: For anyone who's interested, I've finally come around to the position the symbolics of the issue are more important than the actual economics.

Two basic facts define a nation: contol of its currency and its borders. To me, those who loudly whine we simply can't hope to control the border are gloating over what they see as an implicit victory -- that of international liberal multiculturalism over a traditional and conventional American patriotism they privately despise. . . .
That sums it up, for a host of issues. If the "man in the street" is agin' it, they're for it, because they're Cosmopolitans, not Americans. I guess they expect the Cosmopolitan army to defend them.
June 20, 2006 -- CAN 500 ECONOMISTS ALL BE WRONG?

That's the question asked and answered in the negative by Greg Mankiw. He links to a letter signed by 500 economists -- many of them eminent in their profession and beyond -- in which they claim that "immigration has been a net gain for American citizens, though a modest one in proportion to the size of our 13 trillion-dollar economy."

One problem with the letter -- aside from the arrogance of economists who say that only "a small percentage of native-born Americans may be harmed by immigration" -- is that it says nothing about the propensity of immigrants from Latin America to draw on social services and, when they become citizens, to vote for the expansion of those services.

Yes, 500 economists can be wrong -- and are wrong -- when they fail to take into account all the costs of unfettered immigration (illegal and otherwise).

I've written many times about the high cost of low-skilled immigrants, but I haven't touched on this aspect of the issue (from Greg Mankiw):
Immigration and African-American Employment Opportunities: The Response of Wages, Employment, and Incarceration to Labor Supply Shocks by George J. Borjas, Jeffrey Grogger, Gordon H. Hanson
The employment rate of black men, and particularly of low-skill black men, fell precipitously from 1960 to 2000. At the same time, the incarceration rate of black men rose markedly. This paper examines the relation between immigration and these trends in black employment and incarceration. Using data drawn from the 1960-2000 U.S. Censuses, we find a strong correlation between immigration, black wages, black employment rates, and black incarceration rates. As immigrants disproportionately increased the supply of workers in a particular skill group, the wage of black workers in that group fell, the employment rate declined, and the incarceration rate rose. Our analysis suggests that a 10-percent immigrant-induced increase in the supply of a particular skill group reduced the black wage by 3.6 percent, lowered the employment rate of black men by 2.4 percentage points, and increased the incarceration rate of blacks by almost a full percentage point.
A reasonable inference is that the influx of low-skilled immigrants from Central America has pushed black Americans out of jobs and caused more of them to turn to crime. The higher incarceration rate of black males imposes a direct cost on society -- the cost of incarceration -- and indirect (but very real) costs: the breakup of more black families and the greater alienation of black males from the norms of civility.

Addendum: See this, by Roger Scruton at The New Criterion. Scruton, writing from a British perspective, observes that as a result of
[t]he liberal view of rights, as universal possessions which make no reference to history, community, or obedience, . . . [i]ndigenous people can claim no precedence, not even in this matter in which they have sacrificed a lifetime of income for the sake of their own future security. Immigrants are given welfare benefits as of right, and on the basis of their need, whether or not they have paid or ever will pay taxes. And since their need is invariably great—why else have they come here?—they take precedence over existing residents in the grant of housing and income support. . . .
It is not “racist” to draw attention to this kind of fact. Nor is it racist to argue that indigenous people must take precedence over newcomers, who have to earn their right of residence and cannot be allowed to appropriate the savings of their hosts.