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Charles Kenny: worst, most anti-American immigration editorial ever? (development economist, Businessweek, World Bank, apartheid)

I've read hundreds of immigration editorials and articles full of bad, anti-American ideas and even a couple of articles advocating for hiring illegal aliens, but an editorial by Charles Kenny (see the link) reaches a new low ("How to Be a Patriot: Hire an Illegal Immigrant/Laws against illegal immigration make little economic or moral sense. So why punish the brave citizens who break them?", link). It reads like a satire, but I assure you: he's actually serious.

I encourage you to read it to get a better idea of who the real culprit in illegal immigration is: those in our corrupt elites like Kenny. When opposing illegal immigration, too many people concentrate on the illegal aliens themselves and too few concentrate on our corrupt elites. Yet, there would be much less illegal immigration without the support of those corrupt elites.

1. As the title suggests, Kenny presents hiring illegal aliens as the patriotic choice, and he's not being satirical. The actual patriotic choice would be to hire and encourage others to hire unemployed American citizens, not a foreign citizen who's here illegally. He says:

What makes the political impasse over immigration particularly frustrating is that hiring an illegal alien is good for the illegal alien, good for the U.S. economy, and good for the country he or she comes from. So what’s not to like? In cases like this, there is only one moral course available for true patriots: Go find an illegal to hire. Huge numbers of people in border states are doing precisely that.

Actually, things aren't as good as Kenny suggests. Even the most skewed studies only find a small benefit to the U.S. economy (see immigration economics). Meanwhile, massive immigration to the U.S. from Mexico has hollowed out parts of that country and enriched their corrupt elites while reducing the chances of reform.

2. He says the DREAM Act is "a narrow but important piece of the immigration reform puzzle that would, at a minimum, give the children of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship". As stated many times, that bill is for those who are themselves illegal aliens, irrespective of their parent's status(es). And, as discussed at the link, the illegal aliens covered by the bill would end up depriving some U.S. citizens of college.

3. Like others, he uses the living in the shadows canard: "the millions of illegal immigrants already here must continue to live and work in the shadows".

4. He states: "And yet if forced to do without illegal labor, vast sectors of the U.S. economy, from agriculture to construction, would founder - not to mention the putting greens infested by crab grass and the children who would run riot without care." See crops rotting in the fields, and note the large number of unemployed construction workers who've been driven out of work by illegal aliens. The second part of that is reminiscent of Bloomberg's greenskeeper's comment and is an appeal to the "Nanny Employing Class": corrupt elites and sub-elites who want a ready supply of cheap domestic labor.

5. He states: 'Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports legalizing undocumented workers who are "already contributing to our economy," provided they don’t otherwise run afoul of the law.' See US Chamber of Commerce: they support illegal immigration as strongly as far-left groups like the American Civil Liberties Union. No "even" involved.

6. He states:

But don’t immigrants take jobs from and depress the wages of unskilled, native-born workers? Actually, immigrants tend to leave when there are fewer jobs available—that’s one reason why migration to the U.S. from Mexico is at an all-time low at the moment. As economists Gianmarco Ottaviano and Giovanni Peri argued in a paper in 2006 for the NBER, the impact of total immigration on the wages of unskilled, native-born workers was less than 2 percent, or roughly $8 per week. In a 2010 paper, Ottaviano, Peri, and Greg Wright looked across U.S. industries and found that the net effect of immigration has been to create more jobs for native workers - including low-skilled workers. That's in part because many immigrants take jobs that would otherwise be sent abroad.

That's, in a word, nuts. There are millions of unemployed Americans who could be doing jobs that illegal aliens are currently doing, and - after factoring in the cost of unemployment insurance, the cost of various welfare programs, and the social costs - could be doing those jobs with a net financial benefit to the U.S. Kenny would turn his back on those millions of unemployed Americans to support even more immigration. Regarding Peri, see my discussion with him here, as well as this, this, and this.

7. Promoting yet another highly questionable Peri study, Kenny says "Unskilled immigrants take on manual tasks such as construction, while unskilled natives move into communications tasks such as call centers. This is an efficient division of labor that increases overall productivity." That's also nuts. Very few former construction workers are probably now working at call centers. The U.S. will always have certain numbers of people who are adept at various occupations; somehow Kenny thinks that we're all cut out to work in an office (where we can look at the windows at foreigners working in the fields).

8. Kenny states:

There’s no question the U.S. can do more to improve the life chances of citizens at the bottom of the economic ladder. But Congress could better accomplish that through approaches such as expanding the earned income tax credit, or more generous and flexible payments to replace food stamps, than by rooting out illegal immigrants and sending them home. In the end, it makes almost no economic difference to low-income Americans whether or not business owners and households decide to hire illegal aliens.

By now, you've probably guessed it: that's nuts too. Kenny would increase benefits to unemployed low-skilled Americans, while bringing in more foreign labor to take the jobs they could be doing. And, obviously, it does make a great deal of difference to unemployed Americans who could be doing jobs that illegal aliens are able to get for one reason or other.

9. Kenny also promotes remittances (see the link) and increased immigration as the cure for global poverty, pointing to Haiti as an example:

Michael Clemens at the Center for Global Development has calculated that four out of five Haitians worldwide who are living on more than $10 a day are living in the U.S., not Haiti. The most plausible way to get to a decent income if you are Haitian - not an income that allows a big house or a taste for expensive wines, but one equivalent to three Happy Meals a day - is to move to the U.S. Lant Pritchett of Harvard University has calculated that if rich countries increased the size of their labor force by just 3 percent through increased migration, this would add $300 billion to the welfare of citizens of poor countries. Immigration is by far the most powerful tool at our disposal for making the global poor better off.

That too is nuts: one of the reasons why Haiti is in such shape it is is because their more able citizens have left the country. Kenny thinks it's acceptable to make countries like Haiti into in effect satellites of the U.S., dependent on the money that Haitians send home. The pro-Haitian policy would be to encourage the more-able Haitians to remain in their own country and build it up. That would also benefit the U.S. long-term; something like the Haitian earthquake wouldn't have had such a devastating impact, wouldn't have required as much assistance, and so much assistance wouldn't have been lost to fraud if more able Haitians were still in that country.

10. Kenny states: "So at this point it’s surely worth asking: How much do we value the negligible-to-nonexistent threat to the livelihoods of a few U.S. citizens against the immense, life-transforming benefits to people born on the wrong side of our borders, people who move here without waiting on an immigration process that pretty much won’t let them in legally unless they are already privileged by considerable education and experience?" I won't type out my response, but it's a little stronger than just "that's nuts". Reducing illegal immigration would help the U.S. in many ways, not the least of which would involve opening up jobs for my fellow citizens who are unemployed. It would also help those countries that Kenny claims to care about by forcing reforms and forcing them to take care of their own citizens rather than sending them to the U.S.

11. Kenny states: "The macroeconomic argument in favor of employing immigrants, even those without papers, is unassailable." No, it isn't. See above as well as immigration economics.

12. As if all that wasn't enough, Kenny then compares our immigration laws to apartheid:

But what about the problem that, absent reform, it’s breaking the law to do so? When a law itself prohibits doing the right thing, when it is immoral rather than just annoying or inconvenient, and when breaking that law does no great harm to any others, it is justifiable for people of conscience to choose to break that law. That is close to where we find ourselves with immigration legislation. It limits freedom of movement by immigrants and freedom of choice by employees. It does no good, but it causes considerable suffering. Current U.S. immigration laws have all the moral standing of pass laws in apartheid South Africa.

And, he ends with:

Perhaps the mass disregard of immigration laws in the state makes Texans the rightful heirs of a civil disobedience movement outlined in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” If so, in the spirit of American exceptionalism, let us praise the rank yet noble hypocrisy of the border states.

Here's what I need you to do: tweet @charlesjkenny with your thoughts, and if Kenny appears in your area to promote his book, use the question authority plan to help further discredit this despicable, anti-American hack.

Wed, 07/13/2011 - 16:24 · Importance: 5