Immigration Reform: Response to Marc Clauson

Posted on April 16, 2013 by


I thank my esteemed colleague, Marc Clauson, for his timely response to yesterday’s post on immigration reform. I do look forward to the ongoing debate on this issue as Congress crafts immigration reform legislation. Immigration policy has been problematic for decades with major revisions in the law in 1996 and 1986. Unless our current law is substantially changed, we will be debating US immigration law for decades to come. I think I’ll respond to Marc’s points in the order in which he presented them.

First, I agree completely that our immigration law should screen for all criminals. No known felon should be able to immigrate to the United States. Given current law, legal criminal immigration should be no problem – criminals will be prohibited from immigrating. A criminal might immigrate illegally, but our policy is and will continue to be to prohibit criminal immigration whenever possible.

On Marc’s second point, while I agree that welfare states create perverse work incentives, you are wrong in saying “millions of immigrants wish to come to America with little capital, little skill and, in some cases, little desire to work”. Your statement is simply not factually accurate. Labor force participation rates are higher for foreign-born workers than native born-workers. Among men, labor force participation rates are approximately 80 percent for foreign-born workers and 70 percent for native-born workers. The labor force participation for illegal immigrants is even higher. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 makes it very difficult for legal permanent residents to utilize a wide range of welfare programs and “illegal immigrants are ineligible for almost all federal welfare programs” (Griswold, p. 160). While the United States may very well be headed to financial ruin, on net, immigrants are not a fiscal drag for the nation. Much of the information in this paragraph is from Daniel Griswold’s excellent article “Immigration and the Welfare State” from the Winter 2012 Cato Journal. The entire issue is dedicated to the immigration issue.

For the “elephant in the room” comment, whether we discuss culture or try to skirt the issue by discussing western civilization, United States’ culture is an amalgam of cultures from other parts of the world. While most of the cultures that formed US culture do have a Judeo-Christian foundation, they were unique cultures. US culture is resilient enough not to fragment from exposure to additional perspectives.

Very few, if anyone, want “literal” open immigration policy. There must be rules and guidelines. The question for immigration policy is do we encourage creative people created in the image of God to come to our nation to flourish, or do we strengthen current and build new “fences” both literal legal to “manage” and “protect” our current legal citizens?