Originally posted by zeeblebot
July 22, 2010 5:57 PM
By Mark Krikorian
There’s too much wrong-headed commentary about immigration to bother with most of it, but the op-ed in Thursday’s Washington Post by the last two heads of the INS is worth comment, both because of the venue and the particular myths its authors purvey.
But it’s the second half of the piece that includes two dubious claims that underlie much of the debate over illegal immigration. First this:
The most important fact driving the Arizona action is a question: Why are an estimated 11 million people in this country illegally? . . . The simple answer is that our immigration laws provide inadequate legal avenues to enter the United States for employment purposes at levels that our economy demands.
Well, I don’t doubt that’s the simple answer at the Migration Policy Institute, the high-immigration think tank where both Meissner and Ziglar are fellows. But the correct answer to why 11 million people came here illegally is that they can get away with it. It’s simply foolish to imagine that at any given time there’s a fixed demand for foreign labor, which would come here legally if only we’d permit it, thus eliminating virtually all illegal immigration. If we were to double or triple legal immigration tomorrow, within a couple of years (if that) the demand would again outstrip supply and open-borders people would again bemoan our “inadequate legal avenues” for the admission of peasant labor from abroad.
The second myth:
Tightening border controls, while essential, has exacerbated the problem. Today, our borders are more secure than ever — so those here illegally stay because re-entry is perilous.
The open-borders folks delight in making this point: Border controls increase illegal immigration! You obscurantist gun-clingers are making the problem worse! Here’s how I described it in congressional testimony a few years back:
The story line goes like this: Illegal aliens — Mexican illegals, in particular — had been happily coming and going across the border since time immemorial, never even entertaining the idea of remaining permanently in the United States. “Circular migration” is how such a process is described by scholars. Then, increased border enforcement — the additional agents and fencing authorized by Congress in 1996, as well as new tactics already being implemented by the Border Patrol — made it more difficult and expensive to cross the border, interrupting the “circularity” of the flow by forcing illegals to stay here, so they wouldn’t get caught up in the dragnet the next time they left and tried to return. In other words, the claim is that border enforcement causes illegal immigration.
But the data show no such thing. Noted Princeton sociologist Doug Massey is the originator of this line of argument, which he has spread quite widely (including for the Cato Institute, which is ironic since Massey is also author of Return of the “L” Word: A Liberal Vision for the New Century). But Massey’s findings simply don’t support his conclusions. Here is his testimony from the same congressional hearing, and Figure 7 on p. 20 is the foundation of this idea that enforcement is causing increased permanent illegal settlement by interrupting back-and-forth migration.