Frequent commenter Otto vanished from the wars for many weeks, and then nailed a Comment of the Day on his first day back. Boy I hate that: it’s as if he can register a sharp, thought-provoking analysis at will, like he’s toying with us. This time, his topic was illegal immigration, as he responded to the item about Nancy Pelosi thanking the parents of “Dreamers” for breaking our immigration laws.
Here is Otto’s Comment of the Day on the illegal immigration item in the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/8/2018: Tolstoy And The News :
…The only reason persons would immigrate to the U.S., legally or illegally, is hope for a higher quality of life than they could have in their home countries. Any positive differential between what they would achieve in their home country and what they would achieve in the U.S. with the same output of effort can only be attributed to living off the fat (wealth, capital, productiveness) of the American people (past, present, and possibly future). If their effort would achieve the same results (or better) in their home country, they would not immigrate. It is that simple.
While this is true, I don’t believe we should even consider the economic benefit to the U.S. when determining who should and should not enter the U.S. or become citizens – it sounds too much like using a person as means to our own ends. However, if we do consider economic benefit, Humble Talent is correct that we must include opportunity cost in our calculation. If admitting a farmer from Guatemala as a citizen precludes us from admitting a physician from Germany as a citizen, we must include any differential in productivity (economic benefit) between the two persons as a cost (or benefit) of admitting the farmer.
Of course, the myriad avenues of opportunity cost are not the only costs of illegal immigration. Assuming illegal immigrants purchase food, clothing, housing, and other commodities, their demand for these commodities puts upward pressure on prices that must be paid by all U.S. citizens. Assuming illegal immigrants seek employment, their supply of labor puts downward pressure on wages, a cost suffered by all U.S. citizens. If illegal immigrants seek an education, they contribute to classroom crowding and greater expense of education, which is a cost to all U.S. citizens. If illegal immigrants drive vehicles anywhere, they contribute to wear and tear on infrastructure, a cost to all U.S. citizens. If illegal immigrants receive any type of governmental benefit, it is a cost to U.S. citizens. If illegal immigrants receive any type of pseudo-private benefit (such as reduced rates on utilities), it is a cost to U.S. citizens.
With the exception of opportunity cost, I concede that the same economic costs noted in the previous paragraph would be suffered by the U.S. citizenry if similar demand for commodities and services and similar supply of labor were provided by legal immigrants or even natural population growth of the U.S. citizenry. This is no reason to ignore the costs or pretend that they do not exist. The costs do exist – they exist far in excess of what any illegal immigrant contributes to the country – and opportunity cost is the key.
The greatest cost, which was not material to the previous two paragraphs, is illegal behavior. The costs of illegal behavior, which is, in most cases, also unethical behavior, are enormous. The loss of the benefit of legal and ethical behavior is what we suffer when we glorify, condone, or otherwise reward illegal behavior (a condition not encountered with legal immigration or natural population growth of the U.S. citizenry, thus the opportunity lost). When our federal, state, or city governments partake in the glorifying, condoning, and rewarding of illegal behavior, we are in deep peril. This is our opportunity cost. This is the only relevant factor in considering whether or not we should allow Dreamers (and possibly their parents) to become legal citizens of the U.S.
There is no place in the universe in which tolerating, protecting, condoning, glorifying, or rewarding any type of behavior contributes to a reduction in exhibition of that behavior. On the contrary, when federal, state, or city governments partake in tolerating, protecting, condoning, glorifying, or rewarding a behavior, there will be more of the behavior. Sanctuary cities and states not only condone illegal immigration, they also promote continued illegal immigration. They also promote illegal behavior generally. “What the hell, if California can ignore the laws, why shouldn’t I?” The costs of illegal behavior are astronomical, economic and otherwise.
In short, it is silly, perhaps even asinine, to believe that illegal immigrants are a benefit to our country. They are certainly not a boon. If we allow Dreamers (and possibly their parents) to become legal residents or citizens, it will be an act of compassion and good will.
If you want to argue this issue, you must show how illegal behavior and the promotion of illegal behavior are good. And, the analogy of U.S. citizens eating lunch at a “whites only” counter will not do. Any economic argument will certainly fail. You will be left with arguing for the benevolence, compassion, and good will. Argue it well.