Having fumbled his reintroduction of Confederate History Month, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has just fumbled the immigration issue—not a good start for someone widely touted as the leader of the Republican Party's conservative wing.
When asked about Arizona's heroic SB 1070, McDonnell tried to avoid giving a solid answer by suggesting that Arizona's law is a reaction to their unique status as a border state and is not particularly relevant to Virginians:
"I think most of these things are a balance. Arizona's got its own challenges that they're dealing with. Right now, I'm worrying about creating jobs." [McDonnell says legal immigration fuels economy, Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 26, 2010]
Of course, this is nonsense. The impact of illegal immigration on Virginia, especially in the northern suburbs of Washington, is huge.
But notwithstanding that, one of the easiest ways of "creating jobs" would be to impose a moratorium on legal immigration.
Of course, as governor, McDonnell has no direct hand in influencing legal immigration policy. But this did not keep him from opining
"We need to be able to expand lawful immigration here in America for those areas, in particular, where we can contribute to the economy, but we also need to be able to enforce the rule of law for those that are here illegally."
McDonnell's explicit call for increasing legal immigration is especially troublesome. But it is not surprising given the complete failure of anyone outside of VDARE.COM and a few other groups and individuals to make the case for cutting back on legal immigration.
This silence makes possible the argument that increasing legal immigration will solve our illegal immigration problem—basically, that rape is inevitable and we should relax and enjoy it. Apparently this is a talking point being circulated by the cheap labor wing of the Treason Lobby, as I've seen it being repeated among various libertarian propagandists.
Thus in a recent op-ed, the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Alex Nowrasteh argued that "Illegal immigration exists because legal immigration is practically impossible".
Nowrasteh claims that the problem of illegal immigration was caused by the 1921 Emergency Quota Act. He goes on to assert that that
"Past amnesties worked as intended. They brought millions of illegal immigrants out of the shadows and into the mainstream of American life. Yet politicians dropped the ball in 1986 by failing to create more ways to legally immigrate to the United States."
Taking the argument to its logical conclusion, he argues "There should be no numerical cap on the numbers of work visas issued." [Amnesty isn't the problem, it's our immigration limits, by Alex Nowrasteh, Silicon Valley Mercury News, April 11, 2010]
Similarly, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, professional immigration enthusiast Daniel Griswold makes the same argument about amnesties failing because we did not increase legal immigration, and contrasts it with the supposed success of the Bracero Program in reducing illegal immigration:
"We know from experience that expanding opportunities for legal immigration can sharply reduce illegal immigration. In the 1950s, Congress dramatically expanded the number of temporary-worker visas through the Bracero Program. The result was a 95 percent drop in arrests at the border. If Mexican and Central American workers know they can enter the country legally to fill jobs, they will be far less likely to enter illegally." [U.S. needs to let more workers in, by Daniel Griswold, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 27, 2010]
But Griswold and Nowrasteh's version of history exists only in the Bizarro world of immigration enthusiasts.
During the Great Depression, legal immigration numbers were at the lowest numbers since the 1830s—averaging only 68,000 people a year. During this time period, America enacted a formal policy of Mexican Repatriation where hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, as well as a disputed number of legal immigrants and US born Hispanics, were deported or left due to fear of deportation. Additionally many European legal immigrants went home when they could not get work.
The Bracero program, which began in 1942 as a temporary wartime measure of a few thousand people a year. The number of workers increased from 44,600 at the end of the war, to over 300,000 in 1954.
But during this time illegal immigration skyrocketed, to levels more than three times the number of foreign workers let in. This led Dwight Eisenhower, at the suggestion of Senator William Fulbright, to enact Operation Wetback in cooperation with the then-friendly Mexican government. [How Eisenhower solved illegal border crossings from Mexico, by John Dillin, Christian Science Monitor, July 6, 2006]
Upon instituting the policy, Eisenhower quoted a New York Times article describing the extent of illegal immigration:
"The rise in illegal border-crossing by Mexican 'wetbacks' to a current rate of more than 1,000,000 cases a year has been accompanied by a curious relaxation in ethical standards extending all the way from the farmer-exploiters of this contraband labor to the highest levels of the Federal Government." [SOUTHWEST WINKS AT 'WETBACK' JOBS | Ethics Cast Aside as Growers Accept Peonage Idea and Bridle at Interference, By Gladwin Hill, New York Times, March 28, 1951
This reduction in illegal border crossing was caused by enforcement—not by increased legal immigration.
On a side note, both Operation Wetback and the Depression-era Mexican Repatriation involved relatively few numbers of deportations. Most illegals left knowing that they would get deported if they stayed—one reason the whole "we can't deport 12 million people" claim is nonsense. Under Operation Wetback, over a million illegal aliens were forced out, but only a fraction were actually deported.
After the Bracero Program ended in 1964, illegal immigration from Mexico was virtually non-existent. But the next year brought the disastrous 1965 Immigration Act and both legal and illegal immigration skyrocketed in tandem, until we ended up with over 3 million illegal aliens who received amnesty in 1986.
Contra Griswold and Nowrasteh, we dramatically increased legal immigration after the 1986 amnesty.
In the ten years prior to the last amnesty, 1977 to 1986, we issued an average of 570,000 green cards a year. In the next ten years we issued an average of 700,000 green (technically, we averaged a million, but I'm excluding the illegal aliens who received amnesty and got green cards from this figure.) This was largely due to the Immigration Act of 1990 that increased legal immigration by 200,00 people a year in addition literally dozens of pieces of legislation and free trade agreements that added hundreds of thousands more temporary and permanent workers. In 2009, we accepted over 1.1 million legal immigrants, nearly double the number prior to the 1986 amnesty.
Of course if we had absolutely no numerical limitation on immigration, then by definition there would not be any illegal immigration. But few outside the most fanatical globalists and libertarians will admit they want this.
Nowrasteh was willing to take this argument to its conclusion, but as one of the two or three leading cheap-labor advocates in DC, Griswold knows that no one would take him seriously if he advocated such an insane policy.
A writer I know once had the chance to ask Griswold just how many visas we should give out. He replied that we should give the same number of additional visas to the total number of illegal aliens and that would satisfy demand.
But this would not stop illegal immigration—in fact. it would increase it
Why? One reason is "Say's Law" , one of the classic economic doctrines. It states that supply creates its own demand. With an unlimited supply of cheap labor, many jobs that would not exist in an advanced economy exist anyway. For example, in Third World countries, someone making what would be considered a middle class income in America can afford several servants. Because labor is more expensive in the U.Ss, servants only work for the very wealthy. But if labor prices went down, more people would hire servants. For the same reason, cheap labor undercuts the development of labor-saving technological innovations.
Legal immigration also makes it easier for illegal aliens to live in America without detection. In 1960, 99% of the population outside of the Southwest was White or African American. Were it not for the fact that we admitted legal Braceros, then a farmer with hundreds of Mexican laborers would obviously be hiring illegal aliens. But the legal Braceros allowed for the illegal alien Mexican workers to blend in.
Most illegal aliens would not even think of coming here to begin with were it not for legal immigration. When a Third World peasant sees that a friend or family member who came here legally can live a relatively extravagant lifestyle, they are going to want to come too—regardless of whether they can get a legal visa.
Finally, there are a lot of people who have no intention of coming into this country illegally, either because they come from law-abiding societies and respect our laws too and/or they are falsely concerned that they might be deported or be unable to get a job.
Of course, even if increasing legal immigration reduced illegal immigration, the economic and social costs would remain. Millions of immigrants do not stop displacing American workers, depressing wages, and straining government services just because they are legal.
The choice for Americans is not between illegal or legal immigration. It is between preserving our country or letting it be overwhelmed.
"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.