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December 17, 2005

Latest Immigration Figures

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Some highlights from the Center For Immigration Studies' latest report:

  • 35.2 million immigrants (legal and illegal) now live in the U.S. That's the highest number ever recorded.

  • Between 2000 and 2005, eight million new immigrants settled in the U.S., the highest five-year total in American history. Illegals accounted for about half of that total.

  • Immigrants and their U.S.-born children account for almost three-fourths of the increase since 1989 of the population that has no health insurance.

  • Immigration accounts for virtually all of the last couple of decades' increase in public school enrollment.

  • Of adult immigrants, 31 percent haven't completed high school. Since 1990, immigration has increased the number of such workers by 25 percent.

  • Immigrants now account for 12.1 percent of the country's total population, the highest percentage in eight decades.

Thanks to current immigration policies, we have a poorer, more crowded, more welfare-dependent, and less-well-educated country than we'd have otherwise. Good work, lawmakers!

The CIS study is summarized here. Randall Parker brings additional perspective here. Don't neglect to explore Randall's links.



UPDATE: And here's an eye-opener from the National Center for Education Statistics. 11 million U.S. adults are incapable of reading a newspaper; many of them can't even converse in English. Yet over the last decade literacy levels among Asian-Ams, Cauco-Ams, and African-Ams have either stayed even or gone up. Meanwhile, literacy among Hispanic-Americans has declined 18 percent ...

UPDATE 2: Please remember that no one around here is anti-Hispanic, anti-Mexican, or anti-immigrant. Bless 'em all, a few psychopaths and sociopaths excepted. The target here isn't people. It's destructive immigration policies.

posted by Michael at December 17, 2005


At some point, this country is going to have to reconsider the policy of granting U.S. citizenship to anyone born on American soil.

Posted by: Peter on December 17, 2005 4:05 PM

"Cauco-Ams"? My brain immediately read that into that old Cocoa-Puffs jingle. Koo-koo for Cauco-Ams!

All right, I'll go now.

Posted by: Moira Breen on December 17, 2005 4:15 PM

This is a great Anne Fadiman book about the Hmong immigrant experience:

Donald would enjoy her EX LIBRIS, about bibliophilia:

Posted by: winifer skattebol on December 17, 2005 4:26 PM

Michael – I found these immigration statistics very sobering. On the other hand, I found the IQ focused comments from the Parapundit site to be laughably inane. And some of the economy focused comments missed some important points. For example, one poster mentioned the economic impact of the earned income tax credit going to low wage immigrants, but since we don’t know how many working illegal immigrants either do not file tax returns or attempt to claim this credit, it is hard to accurately measure the significance of this. On the other hand, if large numbers of illegal immigrants were granted any form of amnesty and still stayed mired in low wage jobs, then the government cost of the earned income credit would indeed increase dramatically.

On the other hand, all of the blather about trying to attract “high quality” immigrants ignores the hard fact that Bush Administration policy, strongly lobbied by conservative think tanks, the Wall Street Journal, and myopic business interests, is fully focused on a guest worker program that would pull in people who would be willing to work for low wages and who might continue to depend on public programs to supplement their income.

By the way, I tend to think that a guest worker program which lowered the already weak barriers to illegal immigration presently in place might also see an increase in the number of immigrants with higher education displacing some of those with low education. For example, people who are currently on a waiting list for a green card might instead simply opt for a low wage job to gain faster entry into the country. Then, if the various guest worker proposals lack any real enforcement provisions, these people might then simply take their chances in the finding other jobs.

Also, by the way, the notion that high IQ folks will always find high IQ jobs is a quaint delusion. For example, over the past 15 years, I’ve seen laid off aerospace engineers take lower paying jobs in software companies, only to get laid off again as these jobs have been outsourced or moved to low wage states and countries, even if the corporations involved find that they have trouble finding equally proficient replacement workers. More recently, I have seen accountants lose their jobs as auditing and tax preparation functions have moved overseas (Indian chartered accountants are cheaper than American CPAs and perform at about the same level). The same technological innovations that rendered many “lower class” and middle class jobs obsolete is now increasingly impacting so-called “brain power” professions, resulting in surplus labor at all education levels.

Posted by: Alec on December 17, 2005 11:14 PM

Alec said, "For example, over the past 15 years, I’ve seen laid off aerospace engineers take lower paying jobs in software companies, only to get laid off again as these jobs have been outsourced or moved to low wage states and countries, even if the corporations involved find that they have trouble finding equally proficient replacement workers." Guess who, fifteen years ago, married an aerospace design engineer? With each layoff it's getting harder and harder for him to find a new job. Now, I've decided to close or pare down my home picture framing business and we'll both be looking for jobs, just on the off chance we wouldn't both be laid off at the same time and we could keep a reasonable income coming steadily in when we retire in 20 years at the age of 78. If we can.

Posted by: susan on December 18, 2005 2:07 PM

high IQ folks will always find high IQ jobs

Who ever said this? Certainly not Charles Murray or Steve Sailer or anyone who knows anything about the real world. Straw men are for burning.

Posted by: Robert Speirs on December 19, 2005 11:39 AM

The heart of the immigration issue is in under what rules individuals can cross borders to work. This is directly tied to issues like the outsourcing of manufacturing and service divisions within corporations we continue to think of as "American" businesses, but which are truly global enterprises. Capital flows freely around the world.

At a certain point of education and wealth someone can get their Visa stamped, regardless of their country of birth or citizenship, and spend three years working as a "consultant" in Paris. This worker will be paid through a complex accounting network, and head home with a very comfortable balance sheet at the end. The French client and the London office of the L.A. company for whom the consultant legally works will be happy, too.

The same company needs their L.A. offices cleaned. That gets built into a contract with the building management company. After a half dozen or so subcontracts (each one siphoning an income stream from the cash flow) we find ourselves at the guy who gets handed $500 and told to get a crew of eight guys over to wipe down the crappers. He pockets a C-note, hops in his Ranger and rides, trolling for "day laborers."

The eight guys who are going to get $10 an hour for four hours work in the middle of the night are probably going to be illegal Mexican immigrants. As it stands, they can live in overcrowded apartments, swap off sleeping in a "hot bunk", send home enough cash each month to keep their extended families going back home in Oxaca and, after three years return to their village with enough to pay off the house, buy a new roof, and have enough still left over to start a little cantina. That was probably their dream when they decided to come north to work. But, since they couldn't come in legally, they spent all their savings to get in illegally. Because of that, they live on the edge of legality in nearly everything they do. Maybe now, they want to stay here and continue to build a better life.

So. We can, with echoes of Reagan, demand "Mr. President, Build Up That Wall!" and put a twenty-foot high physical barrier, topped with razor wire, from the Gulf coast to Baja. We can seek to assure that those unpleasant, unsafe, benefit free jobs go, say, to former residents from the Ninth Ward in New Orleans to help pay the upkeep on the F.E.M.A. trailer they've got parked in a compound between the industrial park and the freeway.

Or we can question exactly whose interests are being served through the policies negotiated and promoted by our politicians and global free market advocates through the World Bank, WTO, NAFTA, CAFTA, et al. Do we really believe that our long term health, wealth and security are served by policies that allow companies to move dangerous and polluting manufacturing operations to China, customer service to India, banking to the Cayman islands while overseen from a headquarters in Delaware makes sense for the country as a whole? Or has the notion of nation and national borders become a polite fiction useful for political purposes to keep the have-nots squabbling amongst themselves while the haves see their portfolio values climb?

In short, if every other aspect of modern capitalism has become global, why does it surprise, upset, or offend us that low level workers should want and deserve the same cross border freedoms and access as their "betters"?

Posted by: Chris White on December 19, 2005 11:53 AM

May I be of help to Chris White and recommend some reading material re: globalization/outsourcing/dynamics of human resources? So we don't spin out wheels inventing them (the wheels,I mean)
I can point out to some flaws in your argument, some obvious, some more complex, but it would be better to point to people with better English and more compelling writing: Samizdata (on globalization/economics), (check out the Immigration rubric there); you'll find some related articles on Adam Smith Institute blog

One obvious flaw, before more fundamental ones: did your third country' consultant in Paris entered France illegally? Did he - or his employers on his behalf - paid taxes to French economy? From personal experience: even working in American state while living in another you have to pay taxes to both states' governments (some of which will come back to you as return, but only some)
How illegal immigrants pay back to society for all the "free" care they received?

Posted by: Tatyana on December 19, 2005 2:21 PM

Sorry for screwed up link.
Globalization Institute is here

Posted by: Tatyana on December 19, 2005 2:25 PM

My globe-trotting consultant is perfectly legal in every respect and paying appropriate taxes, aided by canny tax advisors who keep it as low as loopholes allow of course.

I did, by the way, read through some of the material on the sites referenced. One thing about differing worldviews is that one may see as flaws what the other sees as their best points.

Our philosophical/political differences arise over belief in whether or not tight borders and the free market (as unregulated, untaxed, and unrestrained as possible, of course,) are the best ways to achieve the goals set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948. {}

Some of the more salient Articles include:

Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

If the unrestrained free market were successfully raising people out of poverty around the world, if it were achieving the goals and ideals set forth in the UDHR, there would be far, far, less illegal immigration and legal immigration would be available to nearly all who might wish to avail themselves of it. Contrary to espousals that it is not the case, however, the interests of global capital include maintaining an underclass large enough, hungry enough and disenfranchised enough to keep the wheels greased.

I suspect this strikes many who have achieved a comfortable middle class life through dint of hard work, education, and luck (such as being born in reasonably free countries of parents already on the road to such condition) as foolish, idealistic, socialistic twaddle. And, at this time of the year, let us paraphrase Mr. Scrooge who suggested that the sooner those who cannot seem to escape hunger and poverty die, the better; thus allowing more space for the deserving. Not exactly the question of how they " back to society for all the 'free' care they received?" but then Dickens lived in a coarser age.

Posted by: Chris White on December 20, 2005 7:52 AM

Michael: Please stop saying that immigration makes us a "poorer" nation unless you're going to offer evidence for that assertion. The immigrant is richer by virtue of coming here or he wouldn't come. We're richer for the immigrant's presence or our private sector wouldn't be offering the opportunities (jobs, housing, food...) that prompt the immigrant to come. If we (not including the immigrant) are richer due to his presence and the immigrant is also richer, then "we" (including the immigrant) are actually a richer nation due to immigration, even if the "average wage" of the group decreases.

Almost anything an immigrant does as work makes us richer REGARDLESS of whether or how much it is taxed. If an immigrant gets paid $500 under-the-table to do a job, a decent rough estimate of how much "we" benefit from the work is: $500. Not the taxes paid. To focus on the tax payments versus government subsidies received is to confuse society with government. (A common confusion, but still wrong.) Even net consumers of tax dollars could easily be an asset to the country as a whole so long as their productive powers dwarf the value of the subsidy - which seems likely.

Not that I believe they /are/ net consumers of tax dollars. It would take quite a lot of deadbeats to make up for a few people like Intel's Andy Grove.

Come to think of it, let's consider Andy for a minute. Figure that without Andy there'd be no Intel and the computer industry would have grown at a slower rate. How would we then calculate how much benefit Andy is to the US government? Is it sufficient to compare his personal tax payments to what he collects from social security and other programs? Nope! You'd also have to add in the taxes paid by Intel and the marginal increase in taxes paid by Intel's employees and suppliers and customers, to the extent that the customers were more productive/profitable, the suppliers more solvent and the employees more gainfully employed. Andy's personal income taxes are tiny compared to all that.

Andy Grove's benefit to the US government's balance sheet is obviously more than an order of magnitude larger than the taxes he pays. (His benefit to the rest of us is of course larger still!) And he pays a lot of taxes. But just suppose Andy found a particularly skilled tax accountant and managed never to pay a dime in personal income taxes. Would you then consider him a liability? Would you then think we would be better off kicking him out of the country?

Posted by: Glen Raphael on December 21, 2005 5:32 AM


I think you have offered a fair picture of the state of play for illegal immigration.

There's no use debating any of this with people who believe more population density is better, that corporations should be able to profit by paying substandard wages while sticking the taxpayer with the social welfare costs, and that the economy will hit the rocks without a huge permanent underclass.

Posted by: Rick Darby on December 21, 2005 2:41 PM

"...found the IQ focused comments from the Parapundit site to be laughably inane."-Alec
Please explain.

Glen Raphael's pinning of his pro-immigration position on a very atypical Hungarian Jew like Andy Grove is bizarre. In what way does he have anything in common with the typical immigrant, a Latin American with an eighth-grade education? If you to maximize the number of "Andy Groves" the odds would favor a policy of open immigration for Hungarians and Jews and a moratorium on immigration from Mexico and Central America. A possible alternative would be immigration based on those "inane" IQ tests.

Posted by: steve risher on December 21, 2005 10:40 PM

The same principle I applied to Andy Grove applies at the other end of the economic scale too. People primarily contribute to society by working and participating in the economy, not by paying taxes. If a latin-american immigrant with an eight-grade education builds a wall, we're richer by one wall regardless of whether the payment for the work was taxed. Even if some class of immigrants were net tax recipients, that doesn't make them a drain on the economy as a whole. Just as Andy Grove would be a net benefit to the economy even if he paid no taxes, so is Juan down at the burrito place -- the difference is of degree, not of kind.

Posted by: Glen Raphael on December 22, 2005 11:36 PM

Susan: My best wishes on your family’s efforts to prosper in this rough-and-tumble economy.

Robert Speirs: RE: high IQ folks will always find high IQ jobs - Who ever said this? Certainly not Charles Murray or Steve Sailer or anyone who knows anything about the real world. Straw men are for burning.

The comments made by posters in one of the links Michael referenced stand on their own. Murray and Sailer are interesting and useful, but whether they are “masters of the real world” is debatable. They certainly have little to no influence on public policy. I see your straw man and raise you one false appeal to authority.

Chris White: RE: Capital flows freely around the world.
Capital does not always flow so freely, and labor is far less mobile. Mexico sends surplus labor to the US, which drives down wages and living standards for a wide range of US workers. Meanwhile, that country erects barriers to investment and worker migration from the US and other countries.

Steve Risher – RE: ...found the IQ focused comments from the Parapundit site to be laughably inane."-Alec
Please explain.

Steve: Business interests don’t care, will never care, and probably should not care about IQ. In the current environment, the call is for as many non-US workers at low wages as possible, and as quickly as possible, and with as few restrictions and filters as possible. Any thing that smacks of a consideration of long term interests is irrelevant. That’s just the way business often works.

Also, the fetish for high IQ Hungarians and Jews, as opposed to any and all higher IQ people from everywhere, is odd and distasteful. But even here, the notion that you would possibly admit a person with an acceptable IQ but deny entrance to his or her spouse, children or family if they fail to measure up, is detestable. And Glen Raphael has a point that the person with an 8th grade education who works productively contributes to the economy.

Posted by: Alec on December 23, 2005 12:02 PM

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