Illegal Driving vs. Illegal Immigration

The more I think about it the more trouble I’m having understanding what people mean when they say they’re against [Edit: illegal] immigration. Analogies are never perfect, but consider driving. I speed on a semi-regular basis. And virtually everyone else on the road seems to do so as well. It’s not only excused but almost expected: someone who drives exactly the speed limit when everyone else is going 15 over is more likely to get dirty looks than to be admired for his respect for the law.

Speeding is illegal. You can get fined for it, and if you do it fast enough and often enough you can lose your license and even go to jail. Moreover, speeding kills.

Yet we don’t have a national debate about “illegal driving.” No one frets that peoples tendency to drive over the speed limit threatens the rule of law. People would think you were crazy if you said: “I don’t have a problem with driving, but it needs to be done legally.” Nobody complains that tolerating people who go 65 in a 55 zone is unfair to other drivers who are driving exactly 55. Bill O’Reilly and Lou Dobbs doesn’t do segments about “illegals” (that is, people who engage in “illegal driving”) and what a menace to society they are.

Rather, people have the sensible view that it’s not a big deal if people break the law when doing so makes sense in context. As I’ve pointed out before, there’s a long list of laws that people we would otherwise regard as law-abiding flout on a regular basis. Nobody thinks the rule of law is imperiled because people jaywalk or fail to pay their use taxes.

Being in the United States without the proper documentation strikes me as being in this same class of offenses. It’s a classic paperwork violation; by itself it harms no one. Yet for reasons that aren’t clear to me, millions of people who don’t think twice about driving 70 in a 55 zone go absolutely berserk when it’s suggested that maybe we should forgive a smart, hard-working kid whose parents didn’t have the right paperwork 15 years ago.

Of course, some illegal immigrants do things that impose costs on others: the commit crimes, go on welfare, demand free medical care, and so forth. But if that’s the concern, then that’s what we should be cracking down on. More to the point, if that’s what you’re concerned with, you certainly should support creating a path to citizenship for kids like Balderas who’s done everything right and will almost certainly be a law-abiding citizen and a net taxpayer.

So what’s going on here? Why are people who casually engage in “illegal driving,” “illegal Internet shopping,” “illegal street crossing,” and so forth so obsessed with stopping “illegal immigration?” Would be interested to read peoples’ thoughts in the comments.

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33 Responses to Illegal Driving vs. Illegal Immigration

  1. Mike says:

    I think you’re feigning ignorance here. To you and me, illegal immigration is comparable to illegal speeding. But you know full well that most people who are opposed conflate it with either crime (gang violence, drugs, theft) or unfair competition for low-skilled work. Obviously, anyone who has looked at the situation closely can tell that none of these are actually statistically or economically valid, but it does seem incredible that you would not notice the root feelings behind the arguments.

  2. Mike: I might be feigning ignorance a little bit. But not entirely. You make some good points but neither of those concerns is a good reason to oppose something like the DREAM Act, which is specifically designed to give green cards to kids who are likely to pay taxes and follow the law.

  3. Rhayader says:

    You won’t get much out of my thoughts, because I completely agree.

    I think Mike is onto something though — people associate it with “crime” in general. Illegal immigrants, to them, are active criminals in the classic sense. In my experience, this is something that cannot be combated with the reams of data that contradict it. Combine this with a desperate “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile” mentality, and you get stubborn opposition to even basic no-brainer stuff.

    To me, the test is pretty simple: you’re not really in favor of upholding the “rule of law” if you unquestioningly refuse to consider changes to that law that might actually make it workable. Ineffective, unenforceable laws work directly against the goal of “upholding the rule of law.”

  4. supagold says:

    I’m trying to understand the point you’re trying to make. If I follow you correctly, I think Mike is right. The error you’re making is assuming that everyone agrees that Illegal Immigration is as harmless as doing 10 over the speed limit. So I can understand how you’d be confused that people who believe the same things as you somehow believe something different.

    I don’t see the point of this line of reasoning. It’s applicable to every policy question, and just as useless. “How can people be against the Obamacare, when it’ll reduce our spending?” “Why would anyone oppose the War on Terror when it makes us safer?” “Why wouldn’t you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, when the alternative is eternal damnation?”

    Pointing out how obviously right your position since everything you believe is true is not that convincing to anyone who doesn’t already agree with you.

    I’m new to the blog (added you to my RSS after I saw you guest posting at Megan Mccardle), but I don’t understand your underlying position, either. I have no problem with immigration, but I don’t like illegal immigration. What’s the burden of documenting and controlling immigration? It especially seems more efficient than trying to enforce policies in scores of individual settings (ie Hospitals, Schools, Banks). My suspicion is that you believe that documentation will lead to reduced immigration, and that burdens of distributed enforcement will likely mean little or no enforcement in practice.

    PS, I don’t see how to subscribe to comments here, but if you respond, would you send me an email?

  5. Rhayader says:

    Pointing out how obviously right your position since everything you believe is true is not that convincing to anyone who doesn’t already agree with you.

    Except that there is plenty of readily available data to show that illegal immigration cannot be correlated with other types of crime. This isn’t a question of opinion or belief, but one of fact. This is actually another major problem with this (and any) debate: the tendency to treat scientific questions as political questions.

    Also, I don’t suspect you’ll find anybody objecting to “documenting and controlling immigration.” The problem, as I see it, is that our centrally planned, quota-based byzantine immigration system is a terrible approach if the goal is in fact documentation and control. Being restrictive and being comprehensive are not the same thing.

  6. supagold: Thanks for reading and for leaving such a thoughtful comment! This is precisely the kind of feedback I was hoping for. Let me see if I can explain my puzzlement more clearly.

    The error you’re making is assuming that everyone agrees that Illegal Immigration is as harmless as doing 10 over the speed limit.

    I’m not assuming that everyone agrees, I’m saying I know people disagree but I don’t understand why. I understand people who think that increased immigration (or low-skilled immigration) in general is bad for the country because low skilled immigrants commit crimes, go on welfare, steal our jobs, etc. If you think there are too many immigrants here, then obviously you’re going to want to crack down on illegal immigrants as a way to reduce the total number of immigrants who are here. I think that’s wrong but it’s a coherent position.

    What I don’t understand are folks who claim to be pro-immigrant in general but incensed about illegal immigration in particular. There seems to be a perception that someone who would sneak into the country without permission is likely to be a bad person–the kind of person who will commit violent crimes, go on welfare, etc. And this doesn’t make sense to me. I think it’s completely understandable that, faced with an impossibly complex and burdensome set of immigration laws, some potential immigrants decide to cut corners.

    Here’s another example: when I lived in DC I took my car in for an inspection. I’d been in an accident a couple of years previously and had decided not to replace the airbags, because doing so would have cost more than I paid for the car in the first place. The inspectors told me I needed to get the airbags replaced before I could pass inspection. And I couldn’t register my car until I passed the inspection. So I drove my car around illegally for several months, because the costs of getting an occasional ticket were much less than paying for an airbag I didn’t want and couldn’t really afford.

    Now I’m not exactly proud of this behavior. But I’m not embarrassed about it in the same way I would be if I’d engaged in shoplifting or drunk driving. I was perfectly prepared to pay the applicable registration fees and fill out the required paperwork. The requirement that I replace the airbag was (IMHO) unreasonable, and failing to do so hurt no one other than myself, and so I decided to disobey the law.

    Almost everyone does this: we ignore laws if obeying them is burdensome, failing obey them doesn’t hurt anyone, and we think we’re unlikely to get caught. Again, even the most hard-core conservative buys stuff from Amazon without paying his use tax.

    To put the point another way: I understand the policy position that there’s too much immigration and we need to do a better job of enforcing the law, just as I understand the position that driving too fast is dangerous and we need to better enforce speeding laws. What I don’t understand is why people personalize illegal immigration in a way that they don’t personalize speeding. People don’t just think the law needs to be enforced, they seem to relish the idea of sticking it to people like Balderas who it seems to me is obviously caught in a screwed-up system and doing the best he can. Why the vitriol?

  7. Mike says:

    Tim: your last comment I think gets more clearly at what the real question is. There seem to be two major anti-immigration arguments (discounting plain old racism):

    1. Illegal immigrants cause problems, therefore we should be tougher.
    2. Illegal immigration is illegal, therefore we should be tougher.

    The first is purely a misunderstanding of the facts: illegal immigrants don’t cause problems. The second is a legitimate stance on justice which you rightly point out is contradicted by Americans’ overall willingness to break the law when they feel it’s appropriate.

    So clearly, appealing to the fact that illegal immigrants are otherwise lawful, taxpaying, productive contributors to society does very little to convince someone who is actually arguing the second point. To argue against that, I think, you need to point to something like Reason’s immigration flowchart and show that in practice, simply enforcing the law amounts to making immigration impossible for most unskilled workers.

  8. Brian Moore says:

    I think it’s actually a sign that people trust their government a lot more than they let on. Everyone knows that “illegal drivers” who speed aren’t necessarily horrible people, because they know people who do, and consider them friends, family and co-workers. So the fact that it is technically illegal doesn’t override their first hand knowledge, they conclude they are right, and the government is wrong. I assume it’s also a function of why Will Wilkinson wanted upstanding citizens to admit their pot use — because if you know a fine, hard-working individual who smokes pot it becomes harder to assume they are all useless potheads sitting in their mother’s basement.

    But with “illegal immigrants,” it’s a crime most people know nothing about. If you don’t know any illegal immigrants, I think most people default to the standard “if it is illegal, there must be a good reason for it.” I mean, I’m a pretty libertarian person, but if the only thing I knew about someone was that they were doing something illegal, I admit I would have biases against that, because even though I know lots of crimes are victimless, some aren’t — and if I didn’t have any familiarity with crime X, I wouldn’t take any chances. It might not seem like “taking chances” for say a Clevelander to allow someone from Mexico into California, but given people’s obsession with the artifice of lines drawn along rivers, I think most Americans have internalized our national borders as their limit of their tribe’s territory.

    So I think there truly are people who are racist or xenophobic, but I think a lot of people really are just stupidly pedantic about illegality and paperwork and The Proper Channels, for things they don’t particularly know anything about. There are enough people who work in corporate or government bureaucracies to make that a pretty prevalent viewpoint. If you told them immigrants couldn’t be legal unless they could accurately sing the national anthem, they would happily kick out all the tone-deaf immigrants — and that rule isn’t any crazier than some that we have.

  9. Brian Moore says:

    Mike said:

    “To argue against that, I think, you need to point to something like Reason’s immigration flowchart and show that in practice, simply enforcing the law amounts to making immigration impossible for most unskilled workers.”

    Yeah, that’s extremely useful. I really do think most people find it hard to imagine that it’s that difficult to complete the paperwork, because I mean, look at that damn chart. Why on earth would it take that long to do any of that? It seems insane, even for slow bureaucracies, that it would take that long. I mean, even though the process is slow, we accept people to actually work in highly top secret military installations faster than that. We accept millions of tourists every year, each of whom could be at least as much a threat to commit crimes or terrorism as any immigrant (more so, because why would a terrorist go through the paperwork to stay?) and somehow get them in the country in time to catch their flights home.

    For a relatively large segment of the population, “But those are The Rules” really is a trump card. That’s why whatever immigration reform that will be suggested will have to at least make it seem like The Rules are being followed, even as it changes them.

  10. grog says:

    Not everyone, but certainly a large number of people, clearly oppose immigration only of a certain type of people.

    If you wish to deny this, please point to the loud, angry protests and populist politicians and sheriffs decrying the Canadian Menace on our northern border.

  11. supagold says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I think I understand your point much better now. My personal response would be almost the same: It’s simply that different people have different premises about the issue.

    I think Rhayader’s response to my post is a good illustration. For him, the key proposition about the problem is that illegal immigrants cause crime, so if the fact is that they don’t, then there’s no logical reason to be against illegal immigration. The interesting thing is that neither I nor the OP mentioned the specific issue of “crime”, except that OP used general, low-level criminality as the context of the post. This is just an assumption, but I’m going to go with it to illustrate my reasoning here- for him, the issue is dispositive. For me, while I’m for controlling immigration, I’ve never much cared whether illegal immigrants commit more crime.

    I would also point out to Rhayander that the opposite proposition is also true: it’s just as common for people to treat political questions as scientific questions. Knowing that illegal immigrants don’t commit disproportional amounts of crime doesn’t tell us what to do about illegal immigration any more than the fact that global warming is real tells us what the correct policy for reducing carbon emissions is.

    For instance, people worry about the character of their country changing. That’s not the kind of thing that can be addressed by a study because it’s irrational, but I don’t think it’s productive to call it racism and dismiss it. First, because I think ethnicity is secondary to the “fear of the other”, and second because this irrational fear isn’t going anywhere soon.

    The interesting thing is that this reminds me of the first post I read on your site “Treacherous Data and Large Organizations” (which I greatly enjoyed, by the way). People who are highly-rational look at this issue and say well, that’s irrational, and besides look at all this data. In that case, you had people with a fully-formed process that discarded information that couldn’t be integrated, it worked fine some contexts but not others. I’m not implying that your view is wrong in this situation, just that there are a variety of contexts, all of which matter in the real world.

    That’s the closest I can come to engaging your question, I guess. I realize it doesn’t answer “why others don’t see it” so much as address the issue of why it’s hard to understand other people.

    For what it’s worth, I’m pretty persuaded by the data that illegal immigration is not a large problem. I agree that it’s too difficult to immigrate legally, though I also think one of the reasons immigrants are such a boon to our country is that we’ve always been relatively hard to get to – thereby selecting for determined and resourceful immigrants. However, I agree with the fundamental idea that our countries borders should be secured (vs. open), and that it’s a good idea to have a handle on who’s coming and going, if only to take the guesswork out of some of these issues.

  12. Rhayader says:

    For him, the key proposition about the problem is that illegal immigrants cause crime, so if the fact is that they don’t, then there’s no logical reason to be against illegal immigration.

    Not exactly; I was simply responding to your assertion that Tim was essentially stating a belief as fact. My only point was that there is significant data available to reinforce the premises on which Tim’s argument is based.

    For the record, I would describe myself as “against illegal immigration;” I just don’t see stricter enforcement of existing policy as a rational or productive response to said illegal immigration.

    I would also point out to Rhayander that the opposite proposition is also true: it’s just as common for people to treat political questions as scientific questions.

    Very true. These problems are really one in the same actually: a conflation of questions of fact with opinions on policy. I’m sure I slip up on this one pretty often myself.

  13. Ridge Runner says:

    @grog
    “If you wish to deny this, please point to the loud, angry protests and populist politicians and sheriffs decrying the Canadian Menace on our northern border.”

    Perhaps if we were getting weekly reports about the “shooting gallery” and murder/kidnap/extortion/drug cartels civil war incidents along our northern border with a failing state, we might have as many populist politicians and sheriffs in the northern border states raising a stink as we now see along the southern borders:

    June 7

    * Police arrested 13 people in the Ampliacion Granada neighborhood of Mexico City for allegedly attempting to steal oil from a pipeline belonging to Mexican state-owned oil company Pemex.
    * Gunmen in a car shot and killed an unidentified person in Tlaltenango, Morelos state.

    June 8

    * The police chief of Atizapan, Mexico state, identified as Pedro Gonzalez Mendoza, survived an attack on his vehicle by unidentified gunmen. Gonzalez Mendoza was not injured in the incident.
    * One policeman was killed and another was injured during a firefight between police and unidentified gunmen at a shopping plaza in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. At least one gunman was injured in the incident.
    * Police discovered two bodies bearing signs of torture in an abandoned car in Ecatepec, Mexico state. The two victims were reportedly suffocated.

    June 9

    * Police in Toluca, Mexico state, arrested three suspected kidnappers allegedly linked to 12 kidnappings.
    * Police rescued a kidnapping victim and arrested two of her suspected kidnappers in Ecatepec, Mexico state
    * Soldiers killed eight gunmen, including two Colombian citizens, allegedly linked to the Beltran Leyva Organization during a firefight near Colima, Colima state. Five soldiers were injured during the incident.

    June 10

    * Suspected members of drug-trafficking cartels set up at least four roadblocks by parking vehicles across roads at separate points in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.
    * Police arrested three suspects in the municipality of Garcia, Nuevo Leon, allegedly linked to the murders of two police officers.
    * The body of a woman was discovered wrapped in a blanket in the municipality of Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state. The victim had been tortured and strangled.

    June 11

    * Police arrested five suspected kidnappers in the municipality of Zihuatanejo, Guerrero state.
    * Unidentified gunmen killed three policemen in Gomez Palacio, Durango state.

    June 12

    * Unidentified attackers threw a grenade at a hotel in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, where policemen were staying. The grenade failed to explode.
    * Police arrested four suspected kidnappers, including two former policemen, in the municipality of Comonfort, Guanajuato state.
    * Eight suspected criminals and one policeman were killed during a firefight at a shopping center in Tepic, Nayarit state.

    June 13

    * Approximately 13 journalists were kidnapped by armed men at an undisclosed location between the municipalities of Lazaro Cardenas and Aquila, Michoacan state.
    * Seven people were killed in two separate firefights between soldiers and unidentified gunmen in the municipality of Los Aldamas, Nuevo Leon state.

    June 14

    * The bodies of three people, including the son of a former police commander, were discovered in a field in Guasave, Sinaloa state.
    * Three federal policemen were killed after a firefight between unidentified gunmen and police in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state.
    * Soldiers seized eight tons of marijuana from a warehouse in the municipality of Vallecillo, Nuevo Leon state. One person was arrested in connection with the incident and two vehicles were seized by authorities.

    June 15

    * The bodies of an unidentified man and woman were discovered by residents of the municipality of Jaltenco, Mexico state. The victims had messages on their backs indicating they had been killed by a drug cartel.
    * Fourteen suspected members of a drug-trafficking cartel were killed in Taxco, Guerrero state, in a firefight with soldiers.
    * A decapitated body was discovered in a canal in a water treatment plant located in Atapaneo, Michoacan state.

    June 16

    * The bodies of three men and two women were discovered in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state. One body was decapitated and three of the bodies had messages from suspected drug-trafficking cartels attached to them with ice picks.
    * Unidentified gunmen killed six people at a rehabilitation clinic in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
    * Mexican authorities confirmed the seizure of 16,000 liters of phenyl acetate in Veracruz, Veracruz state.

    June 17

    * Two suspected La Familia Michoacana members were arrested in connection with a June 14 ambush against police in Zitacuaro, Michoacan state, that left 12 policemen dead.
    * Unidentified attackers tortured and killed two members of the same family in their house in Cuernavaca, Morelos state. The suspects later set fire to the residence.
    * Eight kidnappers were arrested and two kidnapping victims were freed by federal agents in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.

    June 18

    * Soldiers seized more than $1 million and approximately 65 kilograms of cocaine and marijuana from a residence in Culiacan, Sinaloa state.
    * One person was killed and eight were injured during a firefight in which several gunmen attacked a group of about 100 people in Veracruz, Veracruz state.
    * Soldiers in Leon, Guanajuato state, destroyed a laboratory allegedly used to make methamphetamines.

    June 19

    * Unidentified gunmen killed a former police officer in Santiago, Nuevo Leon state, after breaking into his house as he slept.
    * Unidentified gunmen killed the mayor of Guadalupe Distrito Bravos, Chihuahua state.

    June 20

    * An explosive device injured a university security guard in Atizapan, Mexico state. A taxi driver allegedly delivered the package containing the device to the university guardhouse.
    * The decapitated bodies of a regional police commander and a police officer were discovered in the municipality of Villa Azueta, Veracruz state.
    * Soldiers in the municipality of Tlajomulco de Zuniga, Jalisco state, destroyed a drug lab and arrested five men transporting drugs in a vehicle. The suspects allegedly tried to bribe the soldiers by offering them $20,000.

  14. Ridge Runner says:

    In addition to the concern about Islamist jihadis using the highly permeable southern border as convenient entry points,
    http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/pdf-files/TerrOrgCrime_TBA.pdf
    vs. the relatively “tight” control of entry from the north, developments like this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mara_Salvatrucha
    do not seem to have many comparable groups from the immigrant populations from Canada (though even this one has branches in Canada – see below).

    Admittedly, there are enough internal versions of these turbulent subcultures to give one pause, e.g.,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Covenant,_The_Sword,_and_the_Arm_of_the_Lord
    and
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crips
    and as noted above, both the Latin criminal tribes and their counterparts from other ethnicities have branches to the north:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Gangs_in_Toronto
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Gangs_in_Vancouver

    but the failing states of Mexico and Central America provide a far more fertile environment for the flourishing of these emerging tribally organized predator subcultures, and transplanted groups from other continents,
    http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/pdf-files/TerrOrgCrime_TBA.pdf
    than the relatively stable state to our north.

  15. Brian Moore says:

    Ridge Runner, I totally agree that your stats show that we should legalize drugs, so as to minimize the violence and death from their prohibition. But we’re talking about illegal immigration here! :)

    I know, I know what you’re trying to say. But saying that the US can’t allow people to emigrate here from the horrible, violent, drug crime-fueled disaster that is Mexico is a claim made of only the most pure and refined irony.

  16. Bob Hawkins says:

    Your attention has been thoroughly misdirected.

    Instead of asking, why do Tea Party types oppose unrestricted illegal immigration, ask: why do both party elites support it, and refuse to enforce existing laws against it?

    It’s because both parties want to use it to shape the electorate, the way the UK Labour Party tried. You know that line about “the government will dissolve the people and elect a new one”? Not actually a joke.

    Once enough illegals are in place, there will be a race to legalize them and give them the vote. If history is any guide, whoever gets the credit will have those votes for at least a generation. This is most acute for the Democrats, since the votes they bought with Social Security are dying off and need to be replaced. But it was also W’s plan. W opposed Prop 187 in California, and supported “comprehensive immigration reform,” for this reason.

    Those eternally grateful automatic votes are so much better that fickle election-by-election, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately votes. So now you know why Tea Party types are against unrestricted illegal immigration. The purpose of the exercise is to minimize the need for their votes.

  17. Bijan Parsia says:

    Isn’t the simplest sufficient condition for the asymmetry the fact that speeding (etc.) is something “we all do” and illegal immigration is something that US citizens cannot, in principle, do? (And further, that many/most US citizens — certainly many/most of the loudest complainers — are not personally significantly engaged with people who could be illegal immigrants.) So, “things I and all my friends do, even though technically illegal” are ok; “things that I and all my friends not only *would* never do but *could* never do AND illegal”, well, horrors.

    Race, class, xenophobia, etc. ratchet things up.

  18. Philadelphian says:

    What I don’t understand are folks who claim to be pro-immigrant in general but incensed about illegal immigration in particular.

    I have had hundreds of conversations with people about immigration. In my experience, there are two things going on:

    1. People genuinely don’t know what the immigration options are. If you think that (as someone said recently) “When I was back in Mexico City in 1970, people lined up at the embassy to get visas — why can’t they do that today?” or if you have a friend or family member from Germany or Vietnam who had to wait two or three years to get a visa, it’s much more easy to get huffy about “Well, why can’t everybody just wait their turn?!”

    Many, many people have no idea that for millions of would-be immigrants, *there is no path.*

    Similarly, many Americans believe that getting status after you are here is easy, either by “just marrying an American” or by “having an ‘anchor baby’.” Hollywood has done a lot to reinforce this idea. Remember how in “Knocked Up,” the main character’s status as an undocumented immigrant from Canada is all cleared up in a five-second voiceover at the end of the movie? Yeah, like that happens in real life.

    2. Many people, when you sit down and talk quietly with them one on one, are in fact anti-foreigner. They’re not necessary anti-immigrant, because they don’t really hate Swedish newcomers, and they often have harsh words for Puerto Ricans (who are US citizens *by birth*). They just really, really feel scared and upset by people with brown skin, accents, different religions, etc.

    Most of these folks are white Americans, but by no means all of them. I have been doing this work for a long time, and I wanted to think that it wasn’t racism and xenophobia that underlies so much anti-immigrant sentiment. But especially where I live, when you have the Puerto Rican community as the perfect comparison case, it’s very clear. Some people just hate outsiders, and they’re happy for their hatred to be codified as policy.

  19. Philadelphian says:

    Bijan: illegal immigration is something that US citizens cannot, in principle, do?

    They can’t immigrate to the U.S., it’s true. But you might be surprised at how gleefully some Americans will recount stories of how they circumvented laws in Canada or Spain requiring them to have certain visas to be permitted to work, to pay taxes, etc. It’s a pretty repulsive example of “The rules are for others, not me” kind of thinking.

  20. Bijan Parsia says:

    Philadephian, actually, I wouldn’t be surprised at all :)

    But surely that’s rather a minority? It’s also, I’d imagine, predicated on the power of an American passport to secure entry. So it’s easy to distinguish “I’ve a right to be here and am just avoiding some paperwork” and “They have no right to even be here!”.

    I have no idea what the intersection is of people who do “illegal immigranty” things and yet virulently oppose “illegal immigration” on the part of others, but I wouldn’t be surprised at the hypocrisy.

  21. Calming Influence says:

    Unfortunately the whole “illegal immigrant” brouhaha is a classic red herring – the scapegoat for why Joe Sixpack’s paycheck is so small or why Jill Twelvepack can’t find a job: them damn “illegals”. Focus on the guy picking lettuce or mowing lawns for 5 bucks an hour illegally, and you miss the 15 others that have taken $20/hr jobs from Americans legally.

    The real issue is that U.S. companies have been employing more and more virtual “illegals” for 20+ years in India (customer service, etc.), Mexico and Canada (automobile assembly, etc.), China (everything sold at WalMart, etc.), and dozens of other countries around the world, and the uberpatriotic douchebags who are now suddenly getting so worked up about “illegals” taking our jobs never said shit about that.

  22. Glaivester says:

    The issue comes down to this:

    People believe that the U.S. should limit the amount of immigration that happens per year. This is done by having an immigration process, and allowing only so many in a year. In excess of that number, we don’t allow more in. If you can get here legally as one of these, fine. If you can’t, you will have to wait until an opening exists.

    When people say “I’m not anti-immigrant, I’m anti-illegal immigrant,” they’re not saying “I’m against people not having the correct paperwork.” What they are saying is that they are against people trying to come in in excess of the number allotted that year.

    Your argument boils down to “if a person wants to come to the U.S., the U.S. owes it to them to provide them a way to get in.”

    If you have a party, and invite 30 guests to it, and 60 more uninvited guests show up and ask to come to your party, does it make you anti-guest to say “I’m sorry, I planned for 30 people and only have room for thiry people?” If you were accused of such, and said “I’m not anti-guest, I’m anti-uninvited guest,” how would you respond to someone saying “then invite us! It’s your fault that we are uninvited guests because you didn’t invite us!”

    Not wanting infinite immigration does not make one anti-immigrant.

  23. Philadelphian says:

    It’s also, I’d imagine, predicated on the power of an American passport to secure entry. So it’s easy to distinguish “I’ve a right to be here and am just avoiding some paperwork” and “They have no right to even be here!”.

    I think we’re agreeing, but just want clarify: About 40% of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. did the same thing. That is, they had a legitimate passport and visa to secure entry, and then they fell out of status after they got here. And yet somehow when this is brought forth to an American who is bragging about his/her own ability to evade another country’s laws, it is unpersuasive. Imagine that.

    (On a personal note, I see from your website that you grew up near the Hedgerow Theatre, where I saw many delightful productions as a child. Small world!)

  24. Calming Influence says:

    The “guest” analogy implies that the guests consume more than they provide, yet illegal aliens pay taxes (payroll w/ fake ssn., sales taxes) without getting the full benefit of those taxes (tax refunds, voting rights, legal protection). Sure, a percentage scam the system, as do a percentage of 3rd generation Americans do.

    A more apt analogy would be guests at a potluck. Most of those guests bring way more food than they could eat themselves; a small percentage bring a bag of chips. If 60 show up when 30 were invited ( assuming that you have adequate space to hold them, not currently a problem in the U.S.), there’s still going to be plenty of food to go around, it’s going to be a much more interesting party, You’ll make some new friends that you can call on to help you move, and it’s confirmation that you still know how to throw a party.

  25. Jarchie says:

    Now I’m not exactly proud of this behavior. But I’m not embarrassed about it in the same way I would be if I’d engaged in shoplifting or drunk driving. I was perfectly prepared to pay the applicable registration fees and fill out the required paperwork. The requirement that I replace the airbag was (IMHO) unreasonable, and failing to do so hurt no one other than myself, and so I decided to disobey the law.

    Not true. If you were to be killed or injured in the accedent and the air bags could have prevented that, then the cost of the lawsuits that “could” be generated costs the insurence companies thousands of dollars and that cost is then passed of as higher rates to the rest of us. Let’s just call it the “reaction theory”. Evey action, no mater how small, has a reaction.

  26. history says:

    The problem with the analogies to parties, uninvited guests, etc. is that this assumes there’s some rational basis behind the immigration quotas in place. If you read the legislative history, the quotas that came out of the Hart-Cellar Act (1964) were basically arbitrary — literally numbers picked out of thin air — and in the Mexican case, wildly unrealistic — simply too low given economic realities and the agricultural labor market, etc., and today they remain unrealistic. Unlike Europeans who had quotas, Mexicans had never had a quota before the 1964 legislation (although their immigration had been regulated in other ways). The border had always been pretty fluid.

    The notion that there’s really any rational basis to the immigration quotas is also completely belied by the fact that then once you’re here you can invite family members, have kids, etc. Family immigration is how the Asian population in the Western U.S. grew so fast in the second half of the 20th century. If you really thought that there needed to be some strict limit on immigration and that limit was based in something other than sheer arbitrariness, you couldn’t then load on all these loopholes.

    A good book to read on the history of all this is Mae Ngai’s Impossible Subjects. I don’t think most Americans know much about the history of immigration regulation other than in the vague sense that they think their ancestors came “legally” and nowadays the Mexicans don’t. The reality is the very idea of limiting immigration numbers at all was a late 19th/early 20th century invention rooted in racism and nativism. The so-called “liberal reform” of this racist system, the 1964 Hart-Cellar Act, wasn’t really that liberal as it still perpetuates the basic framework that we need to have stricter limits on certain nationalities than others.

  27. Harvey Mastersen says:

    Good point, some laws are vital to national security, others are less consequential. Unfortunately your argument on speed limits fails in that the incremental cost to society of the “buffer” of non-enforcement above actual speed limits (what seems like 5 – 15 MPH on average) is very small compared to the incremental cost of the gaping hole in the border (no speed limit at all, to relate it to the analogy).

    Again, imagine no speed limit at all – would you endorse such a system? But that is what we have at the border, and also inside the country after they illegally enter: no enforcement.

    The cost of “no speed limit” on illegal immigration is massive in terms of national security but also in terms of a loss of our unifying culture – our national identity. The term “balkanize” is a good one – it originates from the strife witnessed among Balkan countries/ethnicities (Serbia, Croatia, Albania, etc) in which different ethnic communities clashed and devolved into a bloody mess.

    Assimilation in the USA is the great defense against balkanization, and illegal Mexican immigrants are guilty of non-assimilation, which I believe is as serious a “crime” as illegally entering in the first place.

    So no, illegal immigration is not “low cost” in the way the non-enforcement of the speed limit buffer is. It is profoundly costly and should be stopped and reversed as soon as possible for the preservation of our sovereignty. We should no sooner tolerate it than we should rip out Customs & Immigration at LAX and JFK. You wouldn’t do that, would you? Let people from who knows where step off planes and disappear into New York and Los Angeles without showing ID and explaining where they’ve been and why they’re here? Uhhh….no.

  28. Charles P says:

    @Harvey – Sorry but your concerns about “national identity” have been raised during EVERY discussion of immigration since the founding of this nation. It was said when we had mass German and Irish immigrants and lead to several laws/acts that have since been invalidated or repealed. So your argument is nothing new but is still incorrect.

    Modern immigrants are actually assimilating at higher rates than in the past. This is documented in fact and not just stated as a generalization such as you have done. Assimilation isn’t instantaneous. Its takes generations not years. Have a look at the children and grand children of the mexican immigrants from the 1980s and tell me these kids aren’t assimilated? They speak English. Are educated. Own businesses. Even hold public offices.

    Immigrants come to America for a better life. If not for themselves. For their children. They know and their kids know that in order to succeed they must assimilate as quickly as possible.

  29. lulu233 says:

    @Rahul It just goes to show that honestly, unless youre hooked into the Big Dogs network, there really is no shortcut at all. Be unique, be magnificent, and sing your own song. And be prepared to function your earlobes off for it!

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