At the foot of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from nineteenth-century France to nineteenth-century America, Emma Lazarus's poem The New Colossus sums up what the statue symbolised for the immigrants who helped build America:
. . . From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
That lamp is in the process of being snuffed out by people who today can find no two words to better describe those huddled masses yearning to breathe free than "illegal immigrant."
They seek to turn Lazarus's Colossus of Liberty into something else, something more evocatively described by Lou Reed than by Emma Lazarus:
Give me your hungry, your tired your poor I'll piss on 'em
That's what the Statue of Bigotry says
Your poor huddled masses, let's club 'em to death
and get it over with and just dump 'em on the boulevard...
Both in NZ and in the US immigration proposals now on the table look to snuff out that lamp uplifted beside the golden door, and to piss upon those poor huddled masses. But as former Fox commentator (and now President Bush's press secretary) Tony Snow says,
Immigration is not the pox neo-Know Nothings make it out to be
... Before someone razes Lady Liberty and decides to erect a wall to "protect" America from the world, shouldn't we at least spend a little time trying to get our facts straight?
Yes. We should. I suspect however that those of you more inclined to favour the Statue of Bigotry approach will already be putting on their eye-patches and heading for that comments button. Meanwhile, the rest of us can consider some of those facts, and begin trying to get them straight.
Fortunately, most of the facts and arguments thereon have been summarised in a series of articles in the [then] current Reason magazine (right) -- "Reason's guide to reality-based reform" -- and in the latest Free Radical magazine (left). The list of articles is at the foot of the age, with the main arguments summarised in this list of convenient myth-busters. I suggest you look at them with more than one eye:
- Immigrants aren't flocking to the States to mooch off the government.
- 'Illegals' are not milking the government; if anything it is the other way around. The National Research Council found for example that most immigrant families "contribute an average of $80,000 more to federal coffers than they consume over their lifetimes."
- Immigrants generally earn more than they receive.
- More than 60% of illegals -- illegals -- pay income tax, and two-thirds kick in to Social Security (even if they do often get nothing back).
- Immigrants help sustain economic growth and cultural dynamism.
- Even economists who favour restrictive immigration policies admit low-skilled immigrants are a net plus to the economy.
- "Government intervention into the economic system breeds later intervention. Here the application of his principle is, start with the Welfare State, end with the Police State. A police state is what is required effectively to stop substantial illegal immigration that has become a major burden because of the Welfare State." - George Reisman
- Immigrants "are generally less involved in crime than similarly situated groups," and crime rates in border towns "are lower than those of comparable non-border cities."
- Crime rates in the highest-immigration states have been trending significanty downward.
- There's no reason that the North American Free Trade Agreement (or NZ's own free trade agreements) shouldn't apply equally to people as they do to widgets.
- Unemployment is low and crime is down everywhere, especially in places teeming with immigrants.
- Google, Yahoo! and Sun Microsystems were all founded by immigrants.
- Immigrants are more likely than 'natives' to be self-employed.
- "Sometimes what looks like lousy conditions to us are the best option an employee has... But sometimes the only reason those conditions are the least bad choice is available is because the other possibilities have been cut off by legal fiat. I'm referring not just to illegal immigrants, who for obvious reasons have little recourse if defrauded or enslaved, but to guest workers, who come here under strict rules that prevent them from changing jobs, let alone striking out on their own." - Jesse Walker. [Take note Phillip Field bashers]
- Immigrants tend to create their own work -- when they're allowed to.
- The power and reach of Spanish-language media in L.A. for example shows supply of productive people creating its own demand.
- Immigrant labour makes work easier for all of us, and brings new skills to the table.
- Immigrants and low-skilled American workers fill very different roles in the economy.
- Immigrant labour makes all businesses easier to start, thus spurring 'native' creativity.
- "Some argue that we should employ a more restrictive policy that allows in only immigrants with 'needed' skills. But this assumes the government can read economic tea leaves." - Tyler Cowen and Daniel M. Rothschild
- New arrivals, by producing more goods and services, keep prices down across the economy -- the net gain to US from immigration is about $7 billion a year.
- Even in the halls of Congress, economic arguments against immigration are losing their aura of truthfulness, so pro-enforcement types are focussing on national security.
- "The only way to actually prevent terrorists from slipping in is to legalize as much 'illegal immigration' as possible. If one is looking for a needle in a haystack, as the saying goes, one has a hell of job. Finding that needle on a relatively clean floor, however, presents an achievable goal." - James Valliant
- Immigration is good for the immigrants themselves.
How about a little common sense on immigration - Tony Snow
Immigration plus Welfare State equals Police State - George Reisman
Immigration and the Welfare State - the real root of the problem - Brian Doherty
Who's milking who? - illegal aliens pay more in taxes than they impose in costs - Shikha Dalmia
Don't bad-mouth unskilled immigrants - Tyler Cowen & Daniel M. Rothschild
Exploitation or expulsion - illegal immigrants in a double bind - Jesse Walker
Fighting terrorism requires legalizing immigration - James Valliant
Worse than a wall - Kerry Howley
A legacy of the unforeseen - Carolyn Lochhead
Breathe free, huddled masses - Cathy Young
Open the borders - why should citizens of NAFTA countries need visas at all - Tim Cavanagh
Bush's border bravado - non-militarized solutions to a non-problem - Nick Gillespie
Open immigration, Si! Open borders, No! - Sixth Column
And of course there are the two classic Harry Binswanger articles which are 'must-reads' for the moral and practical case behind open immigration (note, open immigration, not open borders.):
The solution to 'illegal immigration' - Harry Binswanger
Immigration Quotas vs. Individual Rights: The Moral and Practical Case for Open Immigration - Harry Binswanger
There. That should give you plenty of weekend reading. And if you'd rather read all this in print form, then head here or to Borders to buy a single copy of Reason, and head to any good newsagent (or here for a single PDF copy) for The Free Radical.
LINKS: bThe New Colossus (1883) - US Department of State
Is the NZ Immigration review repressive - Katie Small, Scoop (May, 2006)
FOR MORE ON THESE SUBJECTS: Immigration, Politics-US, Economics, Politics-NZ