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Observations on the Immigration Debate

(1) Cost Benefit Analysis
Surprisingly, no one has done a full cost benefit analysis weighing the welfare gains from the free trade of labor against the corresponding costs in government services and wealth transfers. I suspect the numbers favor something along Bush's plan.

(2) Free Trade
The populist Republican position is somewhat surprising given that Republicans are (supposedly) the party of free trade. Immigration is the free trade of human labor inputs. The economic argument for free trade is basically the same one for free flows of human labor.

(3) Rhetorical Hogwash
"We're a country of immigrants." This has to be the silliest rhetorical ploy I can remember. I'm not sure I understand this argument. I suspect it goes:

(a) immigration is part of our national identity
(b) protecting things part of our national identity is good
(c) we should continue allowing immigrants into our country

Even if both premises are true, the real issue concerns the appropriate rate of immigration, which this "argument" fails to address.

(4) Amnesty
There are two main arguments against amnesty:
(a) We're a nation of laws, and failing to enforce laws creates a slippery slip that ensues in lawlessness
(b) It's unfair to people who immigrated legallly

It blows me away that opponents of amnesty see (a) and (b) as some sort of miraculous trump cards in this debate. Amnesty is used in scores of situations to better the welfare of everyone.

The best example is tax evasion. The IRS gives amnesty to some tax evaders in hopes of securing future tax flows. Does it create lawlessness? Absolutely not, becasue the slippery slope never happens. Reason being: the amnesty occurs only under terms that necessarily better societal welfare, and nonenforcement, in 99% of all cases, simply does not accomplish that. Hence, properly interpreted, there are no similar positions to "slip to." Is it unfair? Of course its unfair, but fairness is only one consideration; others include meeting tax receipt goals.

A great example where a higher priority trumps fairness is plea bargaining. If Goldstein and I are both independnetly convicted for low level drug offenses, and I can give information about a higher up and Goldstein can't, then I get a lower (or no) sentence. Is that fair? No, but our criminal justice system prioritizes nailing higher level criminals than treating low level criminal equally.

(5) Fox News Hypocrisy and Republican Divisions
Maybe this is a problem across the MSM media as well, maybe not... but Fox consistently focuses on how Democrats are divided on the Iraq war, but the attention given to Republican divisions on immigration is sparse. One plausible reason is that the division is as much a House/Senate one, but how do you overlook the division between the Administration and the House? How do you overlook the divisions between the small business and populist arms of the party?

(6) Bipartisanship
The Administration and most Dems are in surprising harmony over the immigration issue.