Why Jeff Jacoby has it wrong on immigration (Boston Globe)

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe offers "Where conservatives have it wrong" (link) in which he tries and fails to present an argument for supporting amnesty:

There are few things about contemporary politics you deplore more than the demonizing or scapegoating of entire groups (“white males,’’ “the rich,’’ “the Christian right,’’ “gun owners’’), as though every member of the group is interchangeable and indistinguishable, wholly defined by a single disparaging label... But let someone mention “illegal immigrants,’’ and your principles fly out the window.

What Jacoby fails to note is that most of those he's talking about will fall under the sway of or at least form a power base for far-left racial power groups such as the National Council of La Raza and the League of United Latin American Citizens. He's decrying identity politics, but what he proposes would give even more power to groups whose only meaning is derived from identity politics.

He then mentions Deval Patrick pushing a state version of the DREAM Act and comes out in favor of that, asking "Why would we want to punish them? Why would we want to punish their kids?"

1. What Jacoby promotes would take college resources from U.S. citizens in order to give them to foreign citizens. While he offhandedly mentions that some would be opposed to giving a "valuable tuition break that Massachusetts wouldn’t give to a kid from Maine or New Hampshire" he doesn't acknowledge the bottom line: some U.S. citizens won't be able to go to college if what Jacoby supports were made law. Jacoby supports taking something highly valuable from his fellow citizens in order to give it to foreign citizens, but he won't address that point.
2. Most people who oppose similar laws don't want to "punish" others, they simply don't want to punish their own fellow citizens. If Jacoby were intellectually honest, he'd propose some form of repatriation.
3. It's horrible public policy to give foreign citizens the idea that they can bring their children here illegally and we'll then take something from U.S. citizens in order to give it to them. That will encourage others to bring their children here illegally.
4. He says "How is Massachusetts improved by making it impossible for an accomplished high-school graduate", falsely implying that all those who would be covered by a DREAM Act-style bill would be top students. The academic restrictions in the latest federal version aren't that difficult. And, due to affirmative action-related issues, some illegal aliens who are less qualified could take college slots or discounts from more qualified U.S. citizens.
5. He tries to present an economic argument, referring to the "higher earning potential" of those covered and the fact that the state has already paid for their high school education. The solution in that case is to prevent others from bringing their children here illegally; Jacoby's proposal would lead to the opposite.


It is even more dispiriting to see conservatives assail immigrants instead of the insane immigration system that gave most of them no legal way to enter the United States. On the whole, illegal immigrants are just the sort of newcomers Americans should embrace: self-motivated risk-takers, strivers determined to improve themselves, hard-working men and women willing to take the meanest jobs if it will give them a shot at building their own American dream.

1. Our current system isn't "insane"; we've set limits based on our national priorities and the interests of voters. Jacoby would in effect put control over who comes here in the hands of corrupt growers and other businesses and in the hands of foreign citizens rather than U.S. voters.
2. He's supporting a Darwinistic immigration system where those fit enough to cross the desert get to stay; see false compassion.

He then refers to illegal aliens paying taxes, without acknowledging (and probably without realizing) that the federal government in effect profiting from illegal activity is an extremely dangerous moral hazard, leading to political corruption.

He then engages in hysterics:

If Republicans really believe, as Baker says, that “it doesn’t make any sense’’ to allow illegal immigrants to enjoy the same benefits as other state residents, why stop with in-state tuition? Why not bar them from driving on state highways? From camping in state parks? From using libraries?

Regarding the DREAM Act-style legislation, what Jacoby is proposing is more like a limited-use road that can only accept so many cars. Jacoby would make use of that road available to illegal aliens, meaning that some U.S. citizens wouldn't be able to use it.


Of course illegal immigration is a problem. But it can only be solved by overhauling our dysfunctional immigration laws, not by demonizing or scapegoating illegal immigrants. Those immigrants didn’t come here in order to be lawbreakers; they broke a law in order to come here. That’s a distinction with a crucial difference - one that sensible and principled conservatives should be able to understand.

He's, of course, smearing those who support our laws as wanting to "demonize" illegal aliens. More importantly, what Jacoby proposes would make illegal immigration worse long term: he'd give more power to the far-left racial power groups that support illegal immigration, and he'd send the message to millions upon millions of potential illegal aliens around the world that our immigration laws are more than a bit lax. A fair number of those will try to come here illegally in order to take advantage of the next amnesty, and that next amnesty would be made more likely due to the increased power that far-left illegal immigration supporters would have.

If you still trust Jeff Jacoby after reading this, tell me why in comments.

UPDATE: In response to the first comment, as detailed at the DREAM Act link above, college resources and discounts are a finite resource: just like in a game of musical chairs, there are only so many to go around. Any illegal alien who gets a "chair" (education slot or discount) means that a U.S. citizen will have to "stand" (not be able to go to college or not be able to afford it). If any of "400-600 additional students" that Mass can admit are illegal aliens, that means that U.S. citizens could have gotten those slots/discounts but lost out. Mass voters are in effect valuing foreign citizens higher than their fellow U.S. citizens, turning their back on U.S. citizens in order to help foreign citizens. U.S. citizens should return the favor to the extent necessary to send a message.

UPDATE 2: OK, let me try this another way. Let's say that out of the 600 "excess" slots (which still have to be paid for, at least incrementally) all but one of the students is a U.S. citizen. That is, out of that number, 599 are U.S. citizens and 1 is an illegal alien. All you have to do is find one (1) other U.S. citizen who was qualified but financially unable to attend that college, and an illegal alien will have taken that U.S. citizen's chance at college. If anyone has a better way to describe what happens when too many applicants chase too few resources, please leave it in comments.


You present a mishmash of arguments that would take a lot of time to untangle. But at bottom--explicitly mentioned in the first four points you make--is your assertion that permitting illegal immigrants who have grown up in Massachusetts to attend college at in-state rates would necessarily deprive others of the opportunity to go go college. That's simply incorrect. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation estimates that adopting such a policy might result in some 400-600 additional students being able to attend state schools, a number that should be easy to absorb without depriving others of an education. That is particularly so given that, according to the Board of Higher Education, such a policy "would likely result in extra revenue to the schools and the commonwealth." So the schools would have more money to admit others. Let's face it, these young people who have been in Massachusetts since childhood are going to remain here for the rest of their forseeable lives. The only question is whether we are better off if they are educated or not. You tell me, which of them may be the next Einstein, or Bill Gates, or which might be the great teacher that gives my children a better chance in this world? Pricing them out of college is a dumb thing to do.

One place I think the original article (in Boston.com) goes wrong is in comparing false, blanket statements based on race, religion, income, etc. with the one blanket statement about illegal aliens that is true by definition: that they are all here illegally and thus are all lawbreakers. Next, the author is wrong for implying that there is some sort of right of immigration. There isn't. Under international law, no country has the right to prevent people from leaving (emigrants), but no country has any obligation to let people in, either (immigrants). Thus, his heartbraking story about the Brazilian couple who "just couldn't find a legal way to come here" completley misses the point. Too bad if they couldn't. As an American, I don't have the "right" to emigrate to Brazil; it is up to Brazil to make that decision. And this is not merely an abstract point; there are plenty of countries worldwide that do not automatically let Americans become citizens or even legal residents, merely because they wnat to. Thirdly, the author gets it totally wrong about the "kind" of people we "should" want to come here. Me, personally, I want no "kind." As in, let us absorb the recent immigrants we have and wait a while before accepting more. But, be that as it may, the "kind" of immigrant that the country does not want is the illegal "kind." That's why we have the laws we have. If you want to come here, follow those laws. If that means you can't come here, too bad. We have more than enough people in general, and certainly more than enough lawbreakers, of our own. We don't need or want you.

the end is coming the next move of the evil obama political hate race party will be to get 100 million monkeys here for his army of evil.

To quickly respond to your update... your analogy would be accurate if there there were no excess capacity in the schools (in your game of musical chairs, if all of the seats were filled, and no additional ones could be brought in to accomodate newcomers), but that's simply not the case. The fact is that there are more than 263,000 students in the Massachusetts Higher Education System today. Adding an additional 600 or fewer qualified students would not require anyone to leave or be denied entrance. If you really care about providing access to school to students at the margin, I strongly suggest that you advocate for more education funding to help them in high school and to increase college capacity. Holding back willing and able students is a singularly ineffective way to help others.

'the insane immigration system that gave most of them no legal way to enter the United States' For obvious reasons, I've heard people say that UNlimited immigration is insane. How coud anyone think that allowing every person in the world into the U.S. on is the sane policy? P.S. This guy is not related to Tamar Jacoby (but might as well be).

to the above over 1 million each year come here by total legal ways in fact the system is insane by allowing so many mokeys into the USA. 150,000 each year are muslims many from terrorits states. 550,000 each years from third world counties like mexico and all over south america. 200,000 from china most are old people and have family already here and get right on SS Alomst at once 200,000 from other place's maybe 30,000 of that number are whites. so above are you happy for your people?

Jacoby has gone off another of the Libertarian cliffs of no laws worth enforcing and all illegal immigration is good while actually dismissing the rights of legal immigrants and citizens. Why do so many US Citizens hate their fellow Citizens? As for the Economics, the forgotten concept of opportunity cost has a lot of relevence to this analysis. BTW, how long before the idiots in MassHole start cannibilizing each other?