Saturday, July 11, 2009

Illegal immigrants a net loss or gain?

That's something the Los Angeles Times explores in this article

It's a hotly debated issue, especially nowadays with the budget crises facing so many states, with cries that illegals are ruining hospital, police, and educational services. Others point out that illegals pay billions of dollars in sales tax and gasoline taxes that should be going to cover those things. And from the article, I did not realize that illegals are paying a net $12 billion per year to Social Security, largely through numbers co-opted for identity theft, apparently.

A fuzzier number to work into the picture, though, is how the existence of a cheap supply of labor helps to lubricate the economy (assuming it is a net benefit). Were all services to be paid by at least minimum wage, would they get done? How would this affect the economy? Of course, I'm not an economist, so I won't presume that my line of thinking is necessarily accurate, but it is something the numbers don't always work in. 

Then there is the issue of crime. While there certainly are illegals engaged in crime — much of it serious and violent — there are studies that show that illegals in California, like "other immigrants," have a significantly lower crime rate than California-born residents. 

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17 comments:

  1. All of those numbers and figures and considerations are just pillars supporting two opposite ideas: Tolerance and intolerance.

    I think that even if the immigrants came through legal means, there would still be a certain group dissatisfied with, "all them foreigners stealing our jobs and making crime." These days, the PC trend masks the true thoughts of individuals.

    What I've noticed these days in the States is that people are willing to sacrifice their ideals for their own greed, bias, or security. It's been a long time since anyone has seriously considered the U.S. to be a true "shining beacon in the world."

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  2. "What I've noticed these days in the States is that people are willing to sacrifice their ideals for their own greed, bias, or security. It's been a long time since anyone has seriously considered the U.S. to be a true "shining beacon in the world.""

    This makes no sense whatsoever in the context of this post. In 1965 immigration law in the US was altered to allow more immigrants from "non-traditional" source nations, meaning from Asia, Latin America, Africa, etc. So up until the 70s or so, whites were around 90% of the population with a minority of blacks at 10%.

    since the law was altered the ethnic balance of the country has changed dramatically, with blacks at around 13%, hispanics at 15%, and asians at around 4.4%, leaving whites at around 66% or so. by 2040 or so, the demographic projections indicate that hispanics will become the majority in the US.

    so how does it make sense to say that people in the US today are compromising their ideals (i presume you mean pro-immigration ideals) when the dominant population group (whites) has allowed itself to become around a third less in the span of 30 years through immigration, and is projected to become a minority in another 30 years.

    it seems that people around the world "seriously considered the US to be a true shining beacon in the world" when the US had a strict immigration policy in place. the US has had for around 40 years a very open immigration policy, so open in fact that the dominant population of whites who were around 90% will in about 30 years become a minority.

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  3. Alex said, "It's been a long time since anyone has seriously considered the U.S. to be a true "shining beacon in the world.""

    Is there any other country on the planet that takes in as many legal immigrants each and every year (well over 1,000,000 per year), much less the 12-20 million who currently reside within its borders who arrived without going through legal channels? Did you know that 10% of the population of Mexico now resides in the U.S., nearly 10% of Cuba's, and almost 16% of El Salvador's population also call the U.S. home.

    To be absolutely fair, kushibo should also report on the swamping of shores that are occurring all over the world by those seeking a better life while not waiting in line patiently like what is currently going on in Europe. The BBC reported this a couple a days ago, “Sink immigrants' boats--The EU should sink boats carrying illegal immigrants to prevent them entering Europe, British National Party leader Nick Griffin has told the BBC.” So, exactly which country is that “shining beacon?” The U.S. is doing its best, it just can’t keep up with the demand while other countries aren’t doing enough to provide for their own and then expect the U.S. to support their economies as well via remittances.

    Life is far from fair, but without rules there will be anarchy, and the illegal presence in the U.S. is causing just that in a county not far from my own where more than half the homicides this year have been caused by undocumented workers thanks to both the illicit human trafficking and drug trades. A video detailing it is available here: http://www.krgv.com/mediacenter/local.aspx?videoid=59961@krgv.dayport.com It is titled “Showdown in Zapata County.”

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  4. "there are studies that show that illegals in California, like "other immigrants," have a significantly lower crime rate than California-born residents."

    I read through that linked study. It does not SHOW that undocumented residents have significantly lower crime rates because the study acknowledged that its statistics did not distinguish foreign-born legal residents from illegal residents. It used some facts and assumptions to make that leap, basically treating the undocumented as statisically indistinguishable from landed immigrants. This is wrong thinking as the undocumented are much more likely to have characteristics associated with criminal activity. I don't know that the undocumented are more likely to commit crimes, but this study does NOT prove that they are less likely.

    Balancing economic contributions against costs is tricky. The undocumented do pay taxes but do their taxes pay for benefits they consume? Even workers using false SS numbers may get both a tax-deductec check and a cash envelope. They also tend to live in multiple-family dwellings with low net tax money per head. Their low wages keep down the costs of food, construction, landscaping, and travel lodging. Undocumented moms, like citizens and residents, contribute by raising children. It is my observation that our Hispanic students, most of whom have at least one undocumented parent, are generally happy and healthy. They look loved and well-cared for. They do not exhibit the extreme behavioral problems seen among some children of parents with no immigrant background. Undocumented parents are, by and large, fit parents despite the difficulties of their legal and socioeconomic status.

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  5. Sonagi wrote:
    I read through that linked study. It does not SHOW that undocumented residents have significantly lower crime rates because the study acknowledged that its statistics did not distinguish foreign-born legal residents from illegal residents.

    To be honest, the study I cited was one that I read through around the time it first came out, and though I've seen others with similar conclusions, I chose this one without reading it through again.

    In fact, since I'm usually someone a little more careful with how I couch things, it was rather sloppy of me to have chosen such a conclusive word as "show" instead of "indicate" or "suggest." In fact, I think I'll change that right now.

    It used some facts and assumptions to make that leap, basically treating the undocumented as statisically indistinguishable from landed immigrants. This is wrong thinking as the undocumented are much more likely to have characteristics associated with criminal activity.

    True, but I think that assumption is based on related research that indicated such. If I recall correctly, the undocumented — though their continued stay in the US is illegal — are generally a group that is occupied with work and is also seeking to avoid the authorities, two factors which make individuals less likely to commit crimes their "legal" or unemployed counterparts in an otherwise similar demographic. This also serves to make them underreport being victims of crime as well.

    Balancing economic contributions against costs is tricky. The undocumented do pay taxes but do their taxes pay for benefits they consume? Even workers using false SS numbers may get both a tax-deductec check and a cash envelope.

    Actually, I believe that would have been figured in when they referred to illegals' "net" contribution. If they're receiving the checks at all (might not always be the case since they're using fake SS numbers).

    They also tend to live in multiple-family dwellings with low net tax money per head.

    Yes, but often with a disproportionately higher number of adults in such housing (at least where I've encountered such housing; for several months I had a part-time job paid under the table to help fix up homes that were occupied by illegals in Santa Ana, such as one in that had thirteen people in a three-bedroom condo, all of them adults).

    Their low wages keep down the costs of food, construction, landscaping, and travel lodging. Undocumented moms, like citizens and residents, contribute by raising children.

    And here, I think, is the crux of the matter in terms of contribution and burden. There are real economic benefits to this cheaper labor source, but those benefiting from it are not exactly paying for the costs associated with their choice to hire undocumented labor, and the government (local, state, or Federal) does not devise a system where this can be done because, among other things, doing so would appear to be condoning the continued existence of the illegals.

    It is my observation that our Hispanic students, most of whom have at least one undocumented parent, are generally happy and healthy. They look loved and well-cared for. They do not exhibit the extreme behavioral problems seen among some children of parents with no immigrant background. Undocumented parents are, by and large, fit parents despite the difficulties of their legal and socioeconomic status.

    That's good to hear. I think a lot of people need to hear that kind of thing from someone who is objective but also concerned about the people involved.

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  6. "the undocumented — though their continued stay in the US is illegal — are generally a group that is occupied with work and is also seeking to avoid the authorities, two factors which make individuals less likely to commit crimes their "legal" or unemployed counterparts in an otherwise similar demographic. "

    It is true that those employed, especially if their paychecks are supporting family here or back home, are very careful. However, those unemployed or underemployed may engage in crime. I observe a distinction between older immigrants who came several years ago, who are employed, supporting families, and live stable lives and younger immigrants who cannot find full-time work, especially in the present economy, and who are recruited by gangs.

    "Actually, I believe that would have been figured in when they referred to illegals' "net" contribution. "

    How on earth does an organization accurately figure how much undocumented workers are paying in taxes? The government can figure out the SSI surplus pretty easily but calculating taxes paid would require figuring out which workers are using fake SS numbers and then adding up the taxes paid by those workers. Not even the government has the resources to do this, nevermind a private organization. Undocumented workers pay taxes, but figuring out how much is an impossible task.

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  7. And besides federal income and SS taxes, there are, of course, other state and local taxes, but again, an accurate calculation would be difficult precisely because the undocumented are just that.

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  8. @Nomar: "so how does it make sense to say that people in the US today are compromising their ideals (i presume you mean pro-immigration ideals) when the dominant population group (whites) has allowed itself to become around a third less in the span of 30 years through immigration, and is projected to become a minority in another 30 years."

    You assume White people are supposed to be the ones in control who make all of these decisions; that it's such a noble act for them to "allow" immigrants into the country.

    Yet the demographics in DC don't nearly match national population demographics despite historical changes. I think that says a lot.

    Definitely the country has come a long way in its 233 years, but we've still got a long way to go.

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  9. Sonagi, the tax calculations are no doubt estimations. They can never be precise, but they can be ballpark-accurate even without counting up each and every person's contribution. The Social Security Administration, it would seem, has no real agenda behind making it look like there's a high net contribution, so I don't feel all that inclined to suggest that $12 billion is too terribly far off.

    At any rate, my point — if I actually had one in the first place — is that there are real tax contributions by illegals such that the popular notion that they are just sucking up resources and doing little else is bogus.

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  10. I guess I didn't really answer how they came up with those estimations. I would imagine (but don't know for sure) that they might have taken some smaller locations and looked more intensively at contributions from stolen numbers and what not, determining it the best they could, and then extrapolated it to the nation at large.

    Something similar goes on when the Census Bureau tries to get a more accurate sampling than the door-to-door method of how many people live in a certain area, so that they can more appropriately dish out benefits and other services (a contentious issue, to be sure).

    What I'm saying is probably an oversimplification, but I imagine they know what they're doing.

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  11. "What I'm saying is probably an oversimplification, but I imagine they know what they're doing."

    I'm from the government, and I'm here to help. Kushibo, I'm surprised that someone with an advanced education and a science background would simply trust someone else's numbers. People who "know what they're doing" have been proven wrong on matters large and small. Trust and doubt balance each other.

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  12. As soon as there are 257 hours in a day, I'll start taking the time to dive into the numbers of everything I read so as to determine their veracity.

    But until then, I'll remain satisfied that, even if "net $12 billion" is not the exact accurate figure, undocumented workers contribute hella large sums of money to the Social Security system, which was the point.

    I'm skeptical of just about anything anybody ever says. But some days, like today, I'm too tired to be skeptical.

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  13. @Alex

    "You assume White people are supposed to be the ones in control who make all of these decisions; that it's such a noble act for them to "allow" immigrants into the country."

    I never said that white people are "supposed to be the ones in control." I'm merely pointing out that they were. White people were overwhelmingly the majority population at around 90% when immigration restrictions were lifted starting around 1965. So they were technically "the ones in control." Also, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1965_Immigration_Act) was proposed by white politicians, such as Ted Kennedy, and passed by an overwhelmingly white Congress. I never said that it's a "noble act for them to allow immigrants into the country", I merely said that that is what they did.


    "Yet the demographics in DC don't nearly match national population demographics despite historical changes. I think that says a lot."

    I presume you mean that despite these demographic changes, the politicians and those with power in DC are majority white. That is, with the current white population at around 67%, more than 67% of political/power positions in DC are held by whites, so whites are overrepresented.

    That's a good point and you are correct. One part of the answer is that political/power positions in DC are generally held by older individuals, and the older population is much more white than the younger population. The 67% reflects the overall white population. Among the older population, whites make up more than 67%, and among the young it's less. For example, close to half the population currently under the age of 5 is non-white.

    So I think this has to be factored in when considering the demographics in DC. Since the younger population is much more non-white, as it ages and gets old enough for political/power positions, you should expect to see the demographics in DC reflect that more and more.


    One recent political event that did reflect the historic changes in demographics was the election in 2008. McCain won the majority of the white vote by 12 points, while Obama won blacks by 91 points, Hispanics by 36 points, and Asians by 27 points. So Obama was able to win without winning the majority of the white vote, so in this sense the Obama Administration's victory reflects the historic changes in demographics.


    Another area of power and influence besides politics that reflects the demographic changes would be elite universities. For example, in the Ivy League Asian Americans average around 20% of the student body, while comprising around 4% of the overall US population. And Jewish Americans average around a quarter to a third of Ivy League students while comprising around 3% of the overall US population. So these two groups are overrepresented at the elite universities.

    Blacks and Hispanics each currently make up around 15% of the population for a total of around 30%. At the Ivy League and other elite universities blacks and Hispanics average around 8% and 7% of the student body respectively. And the traditional white Christian population which comprises around 67% of the overall US population, averages around a quarter of the Ivy League student body. So these three groups are underrepresented. Since the issue is that blacks and Hispanics aren't adequately represented at elite universities (and other elite sectors/power/political positions), this has to be remedied. But considering that currently Asian Americans and Jewish Americans are doing well and are represented, and the white Christian population is underrepresented, it seems to be a start towards having more non-white representation increased in general.

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  14. Nomar wrote:
    McCain won the majority of the white vote by 12 points, while Obama won blacks by 91 points, Hispanics by 36 points, and Asians by 27 points. So Obama was able to win without winning the majority of the white vote, so in this sense the Obama Administration's victory reflects the historic changes in demographics.

    Offhand, do you have a link to that. Off the top of my head the +12 McCain for Whites would seem to be offset by the near shutout of Blacks for Obama, but with Hispanics still voting in lower numbers than their counterparts (and true for some Asian groups, too), I'm not sure if that would give Obama the six-point edge that led to victory.

    But considering that currently Asian Americans and Jewish Americans are doing well and are represented, and the white Christian population is underrepresented, it seems to be a start towards having more non-white representation increased in general.

    Careful there: It almost like your saying that Jews aren't White. ;)

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  15. kushibo,

    "Offhand, do you have a link to that."

    http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/results/president/exit-polls.html


    "Careful there: It almost like your saying that Jews aren't White."

    Perhaps I should have been more specific with something like "...it seems to be a start towards having more non-traditional American white Christian representation..." or something to that effect. But the point remains the same.

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  16. Mahalo for that great interactive link, Nomar.

    The scroll-over function revealed further data that demonstrated one of my comments: Hispanic voters were only 9% of the total and Asian voters were only 2% (while they're 15% and 4.4% of the populace, according to what you wrote earlier).

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  17. kushibo,

    That's a good point. Whites made up a larger share of voters (~74%) than their share of the population (~67%). Blacks at around 13% of voters roughly matched their share of the population. And like you mentioned Hispanics and Asians as voters were below their shares of the population. So even though whites were overrepresented as voters and the majority of whites went for McCain, they were overcome by the other groups.

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