Immigration Advocates Don’t Define Immigration

Immigration is one of the great polarizing issues in American politics. . . . But overall, immigrants are good for the United States. . . . They embody the American Dream. . . . ITEP [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy] says that immigrants who entered the country illegally paid about $12 billion in state and local taxes in 2012. More significantly, ITEP found that if the estimated 11.4 million immigrants who entered the country illegally were granted legal status, the taxes they would play would increase by about $2.2 billion. Yes, that requires some kind of amnesty or forgiveness. — Immigrants Are Good for US, David Brunori,, 5/4/15.

Fact Check: “But overall, immigrants are good for the United States.” This is meaningless statement because it offers no definition in terms of numbers, make-up, or qualities. It’s like saying, “Overall, water is good.” But that depends on whether you’re talking about a full reservoir which provides drinking water for a community, or a rampaging Mississippi flood. Or it’s like saying, “Overall, fire is good.” That depends on whether you’re talking about a cozy blaze in your wood stove, or a raging forest fire.

Now let’s apply this principle to immigration. Suppose we had an immigration policy that admitted a reasonable number of immigrants a year, say around 250,000, and that we selected them primarily on the basis of cultural compatibility and needed skills. Would immigration, so described, be good? Probably so.

Next, let’s consider a different policy. It would be one that annually admits one million immigrants, year after year—creating the greatest sustained wave of immigration in our history. It would admit people primarily on the basis of their family ties, rather than cultural affinity or skills. Many would come from countries with values quite different from ours, or values even hostile to them. Also, many would be relatively poor, so much so that some would say that we were importing poverty. The great numbers of immigrants further would have the effect of suppressing wages, draining public assistance, and placing a burden on infrastructure and resources. Would immigration, so described, be good? Definitely not—but it’s precisely the kind of immigration we have today.

Individuals like Brunori prevent reasonable discussion of immigration by refusing to define what they mean by immigration. They aim to manipulate happy-face sentimentality by evoking the “American Dream” and other shibboleths of immigration advocacy. Sadly, they have little concern for the dreams of Americans who want to retain the America they have known and loved and not see it replaced by an alien land torn by hyper-diversity, economic distress, and a degraded infrastructure and environment.

As for the finding by ITEP that illegal aliens pay $12 billion per year in taxes, it may well be true. But that’s not the relevant issue. The real issue is whether what they pay is greater or less than what they cost in public services. The Heritage Foundation did an extensive study of this question and found that illegal aliens pay more in taxes that what ITEP estimates, a total of $17.6 billion. But it also found that they consume $54.5 billion more per year in tax-paid services.

The claim that they would paid pay higher taxes with amnesty is based on the assumption that they would have opportunities to get better jobs. The problem with this notion is that when they seek better jobs they will compete with citizens to get them, and thus limit the ability of those citizens to pay taxes. Also, the amnestied illegal aliens will have access to welfare programs now denied to them because of their unlawful status.

Finally, even if illegal aliens really did pay more than they take, it would hardly require “some kind of amnesty or forgiveness.” This is purely a statement that money matters more than the worth of our laws and citizenship.


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