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What is the Best Solution to Unauthorized Immigration

Original post made by stephen levy, University South, on May 10, 2009

People have strong feelings about the challenges posed by unauthorized immigration. In a recent thread "What Are Voters Telling Us", some posters suggested that California should stop providing public services to unauthorized immigrants and their American born children as a major step in addressing California's budget challenges.

I decided to start a separate Town Square thread to see if local residents were interested in debating the best public policy responses to the economic and budget implications of unauthorized immigration. My position is 1) the United States should expand legal immigration opportunities for low-skilled workers, 2) existing unauthorized immigrants should be given pathways to legal status that include tough requirements and 3) unauthorized immigrants and their American born children should be given access to education and health services and put in prison if convicted of a serious crime--a continuation of current practices regarding public services and unauthorized immigrants.

My view is that the unauthorized immigrants fill a demand for low-skilled labor and that this process would go more smoothly if existing and future low-skilled immigrants had the protection and met the requirements of legal immigration. My view about education is that educating our children is an important investment for our state and country, an investment where the costs are more than paid back over time.

One poster in the previous thread that only "supporters" of unauthorized immigrants used this term, while other people use the more frequent term of illegal immigrants or aliens. I think that is probably accurate. However, the term unauthorized immigrant is the name used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a practice started under President Bush. It is the official term of the U.S. government.

People who are concerned about the impact of unauthorized immigration and immigrants face two choices. They can argue for deportation of unauthorized immigrants or they can argue for withholding services from these immigrants and their American born children. Each choice was favored by one or more posters in the "What Are Voters Telling Us" thread.

I see serious problems with both positions. If you favor withholding services, what do you favor and what do you think will happen? The right of all children to a free K-12 education has been upheld in all court cases. But putting the legal argument aside, do you favor letting children not get an education but remain here? What do you think will happen? Should unauthorized immigrant criminals not be put in jail? Should people be denied emergency health care?

What about deportation? This is the usual �answer� from people concerned about the impact of unauthorized immigration. How exactly, are you going to do the deportation? What will the deportation cost in terms of manpower and tearing the nation apart? What do you think will happen to the economy?

But there is a large, mostly unspoken practical problem with deportation. More than half of all unauthorized immigrants and their American born children live in mixed families where most of the children and some of the adults are citizens. If you favor deportation of unauthorized immigrants, what do you propose to do with or for the citizen members of their households? Foster care for the 4 million citizen children? What will the impact on remaining family members when the principal earner is deported?

This is enough to see if there is any interest in pursuing this debate. There is some information and websites (both pro can con) in the other thread and I am happy, if possible, to answer factual questions. I have written on the economic and budget impact of unauthorized immigration on our website and my views are presented in these materials and summarized in Web Link.

Comments (19)

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2009 at 11:51 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I am a firm believer in reciprocal diplomacy. We should treat them as they treat us.

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Posted by Daughter of an Authorized Immigrant
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Make the border completely impermeable, so that we don't let any more "unauthorized immigrants" in, "authorize" over many years, behind those who have been patiently waiting already in line, those who are already here and have not broken any laws ( except for the obvious one of entering "unauthorized" in the first place) and have not taken public funds.Send all lawbreakers back to their home country. Do not allow any public funds to be taken by any of the "unauthorized" while they await their "authorization".

After 10-20 years, this current batch of "unauthorized" immigrants will be "authorized" or well on their way to "authorized", integrating ever more into our society, learning our language and our ways, learning our history and our Constitution ( it is my experience newly "authorized" citizens are more knowledgeable than those born and raised here!). Our economy will have caught up to the drain of the "unauthorized" as they become "authorized".

We will, of course, continue to open the door and invite in immigrants we deem good for our country, as we always have, my father on one side and grandfather on the other included, ..but given the energy needed to assimilate the 'unauthorized" we already have, this will have to not be broadened into less skilled labor until we have fully assimilated our current unskilled workforce.

A country, like a house, has a right to determine who enters, who stays, who leaves, and what "the rules" of the house are. Guests who choose not to abide by the rules are free to leave.

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Posted by Daughter of Authorized Immigrant
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Walter..if we treat them as they treat us, there will be riots in the street! I have a feeling most Americans have NO CLUE how countries south of our border treat "unauthorized" immigrants...

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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Open immigration is the correct policy. As a principle of individual freedom, I should be able to offer a foreigner a job in this country, and he should be able to accept it and move here. (However, because of previous restrictions, there is probably a pent-up demand which may require a temporary limit to the influx.)
Existing foreign workers should be should be given legal status.
All foreigners (as well as all non-foreigners) should pay for their own schooling, medical care and anything else.

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Posted by Legal Immigrant
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2009 at 10:02 pm

As a legal immigrant who waited many months and jumped through all the hoops to get a green card before I emigrated to the U.S; then finally after several more years of waiting became a citizen, I do not have too much sympathy for all those who jump the queue.

Opening up immigration to all would invite the whole world to come to the U.S. Do we have room for the many millions who would land on our shores?

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2009 at 5:32 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

There is a Gresham's law on unlimited immigration. If we value our culture we need to insist on emigrates accepting it - any other nation will demand that of you.

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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2009 at 9:10 am

By advocating open immigration I do not mean that every emigrate should become a citizen. Citizenship has "cultural" requirements.
Someone calculated that if the entire population of the world moved to Texas, the population density would equal that of Paris. (And they could be fed by farms in Oklahoma.)

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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on May 11, 2009 at 10:46 am

"the term unauthorized immigrant is the name used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security."

This is a pretty thin reed to hide behind. The head of the Department of Homeland Security also uses the term "man caused disaster" to describe terrorist acts.

The alteration of language in political discourse to disguise intent and fuzz up the facts is not new: Orwell described it in detail seventy years ago. Tis a pity that Levy uses the same linguistic subterfuge when pretending to offer an objective "economics" perspective on this and other topics.

Levy is doubtless correct that our economy benefits from the labor of new immigrants including low-skilled people, but he's less than honest about the cost of his proposals for facilitating immigration.

Levy admits (in another thread) the huge costs - $10 Billion or so - that immigrants burden the taxpayers of California with under the current system. He makes no attempt to balance these costs with any estimate of the economic benefit allegedly coming with them. Apparently he expects us to assume the economic benefits are greater - though this is highly contentious among economists who've analyzed the problem.

Levy's greater dishonesty lies in failing to point out that implementing his proposals to regularize the current millions of illegals in this country would increase their cost to taxpayers by several times. If current households headed by illegal immigrants were granted amnesty and full access to public benefits, their cost to taxpayers would rise from $2,200 per household to $7,900 per household according to some estimates. We can't afford this.

There is a much better, fairer, and less costly to taxpayers way for the economy of the US (and California) to reap the benefits of low skilled workers from other countries. We could allow productive workers into the country - perhaps for limited times - to work only. There is no need to grant them and their spouses, children and extended families access to the taxpayer benefits that are contributing to the bankruptcy of California. (And if you think the problem of "anchor babies" - US born children of illegals - is big, just wait until the millions of "legalized" residents Levy wants to make start to demand the same rights to bring in brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents under family unification policies that current legal residents have.)

As one poster above pointed out, we have no moral obligation to provide for everyone from anywhere in the world who manages to sneak across our boarders - and we cannot afford to support everyone who wants to come here.

Other countries, including Canada, pick and choose the kinds of people they want to allow in to work or to immigrate, and set policies that mean current citizens aren't supporting newcomers. We can have the benefits of the labor of low skilled immigrants from Latin America - which seems who Levy is talking about - without the unaffordable expenses Levy wishes to impose on unwilling taxpayers.

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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Extremely well said, Anna.

I used "authorized immigrants" and "unauthorized immigrants" repeatedly in my post on purpose to make the point through absurdity.
Thanks for taking up the mantle, Anna.

The changing of word definitions is pandemic at this point in history on our country; the first refuge of anyone trying to re-frame ( aka "HIDE" )an issue.

Our thoughts are framed in language, and if one succeeds in manipulating language changes, one succeeds in manipulating the thoughts of the population.

Be on the look-out folks. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and moves like a duck, it is still a duck, even if you call it an Anas.

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Posted by Jim
a resident of another community
on May 11, 2009 at 7:28 pm

The solution is to discourage people from coming here illegally instead of encouraging them. Make it pay. Fine them thousands of dollars and give rewards, to be paid by the perps, to those who turn them in. I do not believe that having our country flooded with poor people is helping our economy in any way. It is very unfair to me (an American citizen) and to those who come here legally, and I resent it.

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Posted by Jim
a resident of another community
on May 11, 2009 at 7:44 pm

And one more thing - about the question of what to do about mixed families, with American-born children. The completely obvious solution to that is to have them take their children with them when they leave. It makes me roll my eyes when I read about people saying "They're trying to break up our happy family", as if following their parents home is not an option.

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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on May 11, 2009 at 8:44 pm


100% on mark.


At some point soon, the Left will try to discredit Orwell. As you have shown, it's just becoming a little to clear how the left is manipulating words to service their agenda.

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on May 12, 2009 at 3:43 am

Jim, great comments.

I'll bring up two small things that bother me, among so many involving the monumental problem of illegal immigration.

Recently I received my ballot in the mail. It was written in England and Spanish. Why? Shouldn't all American citizens possess a firm grasp of English? Don't they need this to gain citizenship? Why must ballots be printed in Spanish and many other languages? It is an unnecessary expense.

Secondly, it used to be rare to hear employees in department and other stores speaking to one another in Spanish. Now it is very common. Why is this allowed? I can understand when customers are not present, but in front of customers? Presumably these employees are citizens or legal aliens, but this is still America, and, in public, English should be the first language.

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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2009 at 8:03 am

From family around the world, including Mexico, we are the ONLY place that prints its election materials in any language other than the "homeland" language.

Who was it that said that our very strengths, tolerance and acceptance, will be used against us to bring us down? I used to not believe that..but I am starting to wonder.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 12, 2009 at 8:58 am

One has to wonder about diseases brought in by illegal immigrants. Spread the disease. Illness. Becomes a public health issue. Costs. What about the modern situation whereby kids have to be tested for TB? I understand this is directly related to illegal immigrants bringing it in (from Asia, I think)
If you want to come to the U.S., come in legally and responsibly.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

We have to outlaw 3rd person Noblis Oblige. You wanna be Noblis, do your own Oblige, not mine. We do a disservice to other countries siphoning off their talent - better we help the other countries adopt those aspects of our society that made us prosper - while we still have them ourselves.

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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2009 at 3:11 pm

I call it "co-dependence"..we employ the hardest working, biggest risk takers of Mexico, so that 1/7th of its employable force is here..Mexico gets to keep on having horrible economic and corruption policies which keep its people dirt poor, since we are the outlet valve which prevents a revolution.

Agreed, Walter.

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Posted by bruce
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2009 at 11:16 am

Increasing immigration, and legalizing those who are here is a recipe for getting more of the same. More crime, more poor people, more demand for social services, more cheap labor, more talent from Mexico.

What we have now does not seem to be going in the right direction, so the people who support it, and want to increase it must be doing so for a reason. I think the reason is money. There are a lot of people who make a lot of money off of poor people.

The people who make a lot of money off poor people, and who do not care about or encounter the results of having a lot of these people in the country are just being selfish or greedy. Haven't we seen clearly where only thinking about profit for a few people and not looking at the big picture leads?

And of course if you make enough money off these people, and you outsource their other needs to the state, who cares if the state's ability to support a safety net for them collapses. I wonder how many people who make money off this situation actually expect to contribute more in taxes, or do they resent every penny they have to pay?

I think the border should be enforced more than it is now, to the maximum extent that is reasonable, and that employment credentials should be checked for any job, and that companies found to be hiring undocumented workers should be fined progressively higher amounts with each citation. Mexico has many problems and the US ought to do something to assist, but Mexico's problems are mostly not following the rule of law and freedom in its own country. Their telephone company will not allow American companies to come in and compete so they can maintain higher prices. How is that fair or equal to the US. We are enabling a corrupt country to continue its corruption, and I am sure it is the same reason some here support and try to frame the debate as one of freedom ... because they make money off the deal and do not care about anything else.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Stanford

on Jun 6, 2017 at 6:20 am

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