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National Journal: The Politics of Immigration

Author: Clive Crook
May 15, 2007



"If I ever meet the stringent requirements for citizenship—and did I mention I will do whatever it takes?—I want Dobbs to pin my flag on, too. Anyone can dream, can't he?

Democrats are split on immigration, Republicans are split, the unions are split, and the pro-business types are split. Are unskilled immigrants pushing down wages, taking American jobs, overburdening the schools, straining the public purse, slowing traffic on the freeways, and driving up crime? Yes, all of that and worse, say Dobbs and the other get-tough people. Are they indispensable to the American economy, doing jobs that no American would want, holding down prices, and generally paying their way? Yes, all of that and more, says the other side. The disagreement cuts through every ideological alignment, setting brother against brother, activist against activist, corporate spokesman against corporate spokesman.

The Heritage Foundation, for instance, a think tank that usually stands for freedom and enterprise (and which publishes each year the indispensable Index of Economic Freedom), is part of the get-tough crowd. One of its economists has just published a detailed analysis concluding that unskilled workers in general and immigrants in particular impose a heavy fiscal burden on the American taxpayer. If only unskilled workers could be entirely eliminated, and illegal immigrants shipped home, it seems to argue, we wouldn't need taxes and we'd all be tens of thousands of dollars a year better off. On the other hand, think what it would cost to get your house cleaned. It took the bleeding hearts at the Immigration Policy Center ("Mi casa, su casa") not only to point out that illegal immigrants have no entitlement to the benefits discussed in the Heritage paper but also to teach the free-market think tank a bit of classical-liberal economics—starting with the proposition that a person's value to society is not confined to his net position in the public-sector accounts."

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