On December 15, 2013, the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed by Jagdish Bhagwati from the Council on Foreign Relations and Francisco Rivera-Batiz, an emeritus professor at Teachers College of Columbia University, titled, “On immigration, look to the states.” In the piece, the authors argue that “States and communities that are hostile to immigrants will not thrive; those that welcome them will, and that will shift the political equilibrium toward support for policies that integrate, attract and retain immigrants no matter their legal status.” Read the full piece here. Below is Don Rosenberg’s response to the authors.
Dear Mr. Bhagwati and Mr. Rivera-Batiz:
I’ve just read your article, “On immigration, look to the states.” Like so many articles and reports I have read, there is always the fatal error of combining legal immigration with illegal immigration. While it might be a reality that the issue is always combined for political reasons, the actuality is that the two issues are totally unrelated. It is comparable to telling me that I am rich because when you average my net worth (way less than $1 billion) with Bill Gates ($60 billion or so) I’m worth $30 billion. What the legal immigrants offer this country vs. what those who entered illegally offer is as different as night and day.
You start by creating a straw man that the millions of illegal aliens (no disrespect, but the legal term) cannot be wished away. That of course is true, but there are other alternatives that would certainly have a much more successful outcome. As you mention later in your article, the “draconian laws” passed in Alabama were successful in “chasing many illegal aliens out of Alabama.” I’m not advocating that policy, but it did what Alabama intended. The fact that you could go to another state is why those people did not leave the country. But we’ll come back to Alabama later.
These people should be treated humanely. As a Jew, the last thing that I could endorse would be a round-up of people. Treating them humanely does befit American values. What does not befit American values is to reward people for breaking the law (unless you are a banker). Allowing them all to stay by “declaring” them legal is what most of them really want. While the “dreamers” may want to become citizens, history has shown us that more than a majority of those given amnesty in 1986 and those allowed legally into the country since have not become citizens.
You are correct that building longer and taller walls won’t end illegal immigration. Your article doesn’t say what you think will, so should I assume that legalizing those here now is the solution to the problem?
The solution is quite simple. Take away the attraction. No one tries to sneak into an amusement park after the rides are closed. Granting legalization and offering a “pathway to citizenship” is like throwing chum in the water and then wondering why the sharks have arrived.
I fully understand and sympathize with the majority who come for better lives for themselves and their children, but there are literally billions more that would do the same if they could and millions who try to come legally, and had it not been for these people “butting in line” would now be here. If you want to stop illegal immigration, you have to cut off the jobs. These people are hired because they are cheap and exploitable labor. Raise the price to the people who hire them and the problem will be solved. Pour the resources into that enforcement, and severely punish those who hire these people regardless of whether it’s a small businessman or a CEO of a major company. No fines, but jail.
Again you mix legal and illegal immigration when you address deportations that “have caused havoc in the lives of immigrants.” No, deportations cause havoc in the lives of illegal aliens. You then state that deportations have separated families, which is true. What you fail to mention is the havoc illegal aliens have caused for law-abiding citizens and all of the families that illegal aliens have not just separated, but destroyed.
My 25-year-old son Drew who was a law student in San Francisco was just one of more than 3,500 people killed in 2010 by illegal aliens’ driving. There were approximately 2,500 more people killed and murdered by illegal aliens that year. Those numbers have been pretty consistent for at least the past 15 years. Excuse me if I have little sympathy for the “more than 2,000 people who have died from heat exposure” trying to “break into” this country. While I certainly don’t wish death upon anyone, their demise was self-inflicted. If you want to know havoc and destroyed families, I think you should speak to the real victims of illegal immigration, not the illegal aliens.
Back to Alabama. What they did was stupid. They essentially fired all the illegal workers and then were surprised that Americans wouldn’t do the same job for lousy pay and no benefits under the worst of conditions. Their problem was poor implementation, poor planning and an unwillingness to pay the wages necessary to hire workers to pick their crops. There is a price that would get people to do the work.
For such a conservative state like Alabama which professes unbridled capitalism, why should I have to subsidize their agriculture business? How much would the state’s economy have grown if they had to hire thousands of unemployed who were getting government benefits at decent wages? How much would the state save if they didn’t have to pay for schooling for thousands of kids whose parents paid very little to cover their education? How much would the state save in medical costs? You’re probably thinking how can I be so cruel, but I fully support our government providing aid to many of the countries these people come from. What I don’t support is rewarding the few who have illegally entered the country while virtually ignoring all others. Remember that parable, “Feed a man a fish”…well, that is exactly what we are doing and with your solution we will be doing it forever.
I wonder how many professors at Columbia would show up for work at the start of next semester if pay was cut to $7.25 an hour, benefits were cut off and you only got paid for the classes you taught, not the research you did.
Finally, using California as a model for immigration reform is comparable to using Chicago as a model for a gun-safe city. I’ve lived here for 25 years. I’ve seen first-hand the devastation illegal immigration has done to the once “Golden State.” What a great model and example for law-abiding citizens when you pass a bill that tells local law enforcement not to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
The law applies to everyone, except those who have broken the law by entering the country illegally. I can’t tell you how many of those “minor” crimes by illegal aliens are then followed by fatal crimes. But I can tell you how many people I’ve spoken to whose child, spouse, parent, relative or friend was killed by someone who had committed a “minor” crime before they killed.
After my son was killed, I testified in Sacramento against a bill that would stop impounding cars of unlicensed drivers. At that time, July 2011, I supported allowing all to apply for driving licenses. However, as I continued my advocacy work to get all of these people, regardless of immigration status, off the roads, I learned how as a group these people are horrible drivers. I learned where this was tried in New Mexico the results were disastrous. I testified against this bill because the author could not present any evidence that this bill would make the roads safer. Brown then exclaimed, “We’re the state of opportunity.” No, we are the state of massive debt. We’re the state of crumbling infrastructure. We’re the state of high unemployment. We’re the state that ends up on the wrong end of every list.
Yes, Brown balanced the budget by cutting benefits to the poor and slashing school spending. He then tricked everyone into voting for a tax increase with Proposition 30 to restore funding to the schools. However, his new formula didn’t give all the schools back the funds they had lost. Those schools with a certain percentage of low-income families and those schools with a high percentage of non-English speaking students got significantly more money than other schools.
Our prisons are so overcrowded that we are releasing violent criminals back onto the street way before they’ve served their time. California is possibly the only state where crime is on the rise. I don’t blame that all on illegal aliens, but considering approximately 19% of inmates are illegal (none are in jail for just being here illegally), if they weren’t here we wouldn’t be releasing other prisoners. What does that cost us?
In the 10 years between 2001 and 2011, the population of California increased by 10 million people. The number of tax returns increased by 100,000. The middle class and many rich have been leaving the state in droves for years. Yes, immigrants like Sergey Brin have been wonderful for the state, but no matter how nice they are, no matter how hard they work, the 2.5 to 3 million (probably more) illegal immigrants have not had a positive impact on the state.
Los Angeles clearly has more illegal aliens than any other city in the country. The school system is a disaster. Less than half the kids graduate, and to get to that number of graduates, the school system counts a “D” as a passing acceptable grade. It is estimated that almost 75% of LAUSD students are either illegal or the citizen children of illegals, and more than half cannot speak English. Illegal aliens represent 14% of the drivers in LA, but hit and run 51% of the time. Almost half of all collisions in the city are hit and run. When the city stopped impounding cars, fatalities and serious injuries increased 7%. Just today the city forecast a budget deficit of $250 million for next year. The city has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
Again, you make the fatal mistake of combining legal and illegal immigration when you state that “States and communities that are hostile to immigrants will not thrive; those that welcome them will…” That may or may not apply to legal immigration, but I challenge you to show me a community thriving because of illegal immigration.
If you want to learn more about my case or read my testimony about issuing licenses to illegal aliens, go to www.unlicensedtokill.org.
Oh, and by the way, I am a lifelong extremely liberal Democrat and have been my whole life. I still am, but I’ve dropped my allegiance to the Democratic Party.