Thursday, September 18, 2008

In the Glow of an Angry Public - Immigration Part Deux

A uniformly angry public outcry over my immigration post let me know I did a crappy job explaining my position. Here's try two, which could make things worse, but I'd rather have a constructive dialogue, have readers tell me how I'm wrong, and grow from those comments, than be afraid to speak for fear of being stoned in the public square. Here we go:

1. Wow. Never talk about flags. It's too touchy, and your point will be misconstrued. (I should have remembered this from the heated argument I had with a family member over how counter-intuitive an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to prohibit flag burning would be). My point on flags was a PR one. Had I been working with pro-amnesty groups as a political consultant, they would have been draped with American flags. It’s a heart-warming visual.

2. I don't have a problem with people flying other flags (except the Confederate) as long as the American flag is on the top of the pole. No other country, state, defeated secessionist faux country, or university flag (no matter how much you loooove Purdue) should be on top. But it's not like I'd pass a law to stop them. I just think that it's disrespectful.

3. I support one language for America. If you want to make it Spanish, cool. I started to learn Spanish myself, so I’ll hopefully be ready soon. But I do think a country that has ONE official language fares better, largely because we struggle to communicate with each other with ONE language. If you accept an "official" language, it seems easier to use the one that most Americans already know, no matter how imperfectly.

4. If you accept that immersion is best way to learn a language, we’ll get to one language quicker NOT giving information in multiple languages. The irony is that the larger the non-English speaking population in an area, the more likely government and business (including mass media) will provide product in other languages, thereby slowing the immersion process. If everything here was in Spanish, trust me, I’d learn it quicker.

5. I have no problem with people speaking other languages in America. I just do not believe government should make linguistic accommodations because the government imprimatur of having an official language will compel people to learn that chosen language quicker, both by practical necessity and civic persuasion. It is an irrefutable fact that the better a person speaks English in America, the more prosperous (s)he will be. Part of my issue with ESPN Desportes (and running replays in Spanish on Monday Night Football) is that it’s an effort to get us acclimated to Spanish so people won’t say things like, “I just do not believe government should have to make accommodations.” If someone can show me a study to convince me that being surrounded by your native language gets you to the new language you want to learn faster, then I obviously have to rethink my whole position on this. (Regardless, I still contend that it's hubris to go into another country and ask them to change government documents into a second language. I would never have the cajones to do it).

6. Wilson, you do great research. But who ULTIMATELY gave in? The Germans or the government? I haven’t seen any German publications at the BMV lately, have you?

7. It was suggested that Irish, Germans, and other European immigrants weren’t required to prove “fealty.” Sure, they were. Just like every other Latino who came here legally and became a citizen. They showed “fealty” by respecting America's immigration laws, even if they disagreed, and in addition, they all took the “citizenship oath,” which states:

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

8. If you favor an open border policy, please work to get the immigration laws changed. Don't just sit there. I'm bothered terribly that the Bush Administration has ignored immigration laws completely. If you favor amnesty or open borders, you might not not care about this, but George Bush has fined nobody for hiring illegal immigrants. Compare him to Clinton, who at least imposed fines of $4 million dollars (still a pittance if you want to deter the practice, of course). Also, Congress appropriated money for more border agents who George Bush never hired.

I guess as a lawyer, I'm too "rule bound" and caught up in little things like respecting our government structure. I'm terrified by the increasing ease with which a President can ignore a law passed by Congress just because he doesn't like it. Isn't this what the Bush Administration has done on domestic surveillance? On torture? How can we be upset at the non-compliance on those laws, but say, "Oh, you can go ahead and ignore immigration laws. We don't like them."

9. The “greater good” argument is tricky in the immigration debate. If I live in Mexico, and I can get a better life in America, and I’ll do work nobody else will perform with no negative consequence to American citizens, doesn’t that serve the greater moral good?

That's a fair point, but there is a cost for America. It's not in government benefits, which is what most opponents of illegal immigration say. There's no argument that the healthcare cost alone in illegal immigrant-heavy states, such as California, is astronomical. But illegal immigrants more than pay for themselves in taxes paid and lower consumer prices.

The federal government actually receives an estimated seven billion annually in Social Security and Medicare taxes from illegal immigrants who pay in under false social security numbers, but who will never collect it. And because the federal government knows that the four states with the highest illegal immigration populations also have the most employers who submit incorrect and mismatched social security numbers, it KNOWS where this money is coming from and turns a lady justice blind eye.

The costs I'm talking about are job shifts and wage depression. Bear Stearns issued a 2005 study showing millions of US jobs shifting, "as employers have systematically replaced American workers with lower wage illegal aliens." In other words, it's at least arguable that SOME jobs are moving from citizens to non-citizens.

But let's say the Bear Stearns report was entirely made up by Lou Dobbs. People who are comfortable with illegal immigration generally say things like, "They do jobs no Americans want." There's some disingenuousness in this claim. I wouldn't cut grass for $6 an hour presently because I make more as a lawyer. But I would cut grass in a heartbeat if I got $200/hour. The willingness to do most jobs is almost entirely wage dependent, which is why America will never lack for strippers. So, sure, there ARE jobs that American citizens won't work...for minimum wage.

But IF nobody will work a low-wage job, and you DON’T increase the workforce from which to fill that position, what happens? WAGES GO UP. If we actually enforced laws against hiring illegal immigrants, now instead of paying them to clean its American stores, Walmart might have to pay a custodial staff $8 per hour, and I promise you, somebody will jump at those jobs. But say they don’t. Now Walmart has to go $10/hour or higher. Yes, that cuts into the profits of America's largest corporation (don't cry for them - they can afford it), so they will never ask for immigration laws to be enforced.

I don't know how else to say it. Our government is getting a cut for pimping out illegal immigrants for corporate interests, and many highly-educated, white collar Americans will let them do it because they want cheap labor themselves and because they want to pay two dollars for a four-pack of socks and have low produce prices.

Sorry, but there is a tinge of elitism among some illegal immigration supporters. Some of them, including posters on this blog, have said they support illegal immigration because immigrants work menial, labor-intensive jobs. Putting aside the condescension in the notion that cleaning and lawncare is all that illegals can do, it seems from their emphasis on the job type that these enlightened people would have a different position if illegal immigrants were doing computer programming, web design, internet media, and competing for THEIR jobs for dimes on the dollar. If you are a lawyer, accountant, doctor, professor, or other professional, you can rest easy knowing that illegals CAN'T do what you do, which is why support is easy. These same people will sell out American custodial workers, construction workers, food preparation workers, and lawncare company workers in a heartbeat. I expect that from leisure-class Republicans, just not from allegedly labor-friendly Democrats.

If Congress passed a $10 minimum wage and gave amnesty to every illegal alien in the country, I'd say great because the influx of cheap labor would be negated and wages wouldn't be depressed below what someone can live on in America. (Sorry, Wilson, but I'm just amplifying some sentiments I heard Congressman Carson say about illegal immigration. He KNOWS it affects the working class voters who are in his district).

9. Some people won’t care about the competition or the personal financial loss associated with illegal immigration. Those people are heroes. Show me an American citizen janitor in California who isn’t asking for better border enforcement, and I’ll show you a guy I admire. He is willing to make his own family suffer or go hungry so some other guy who isn’t even an American citizen can feed his family. By the way, let me know when you find that guy.

10. Isn’t there a moral laziness that comes from this argument: “Illegal immigrants want a better life, so we’ll turn a blind eye because they were ambitious enough to get here?” If our immigration policy goal is moral, shouldn’t who gets to come to America be based on actual need, not on who won the geography lottery? Instead of ignoring border enforcement and having 20,000 new illegal immigrants enter the country next month, why don’t we enforce our borders and get a governmental allocation to fly planes into Africa and bring back 20,000 people who are verifiably dying from starvation or who are about to be executed in Darfur? I’d be for that. But I bet I’d be standing with only a handful of people at that rally because there would be a true cost. Support amnesty if you like, but before you get “moral” about not enforcing immigration laws, just realize that your contention about “giving people an opportunity for a better life” is arguably a pseudo-moral path of exploitatively advantageous and cost-free convenience.

Yes, white collar folks (including me) reap the rewards of illegal immigration exploitation even if we don’t do the exploitation individually, just like white folks reaped the rewards of exploitation with slavery, even when they didn’t do it individually. Sorry that the truth hurts.

(If you are actively lobbying to get Darfurians here, seeking an increase in the minumum wage, and asking for immediate amnesty for all illegal immigrants so they can get the social security and medicare they are paying for, pat yourself on the back. You're putting your money where your mouth is, and this post doesn't apply to you). For the rest of you....yeah, not so much.

Comience el ataque!



stAllio! said...

Part of my issue with ESPN Desportes (and running replays in Spanish on Monday Night Football) is that it's an effort to get us acclimated to Spanish

no it's not! it absolutely is not! ESPN deportes is a channel in spanish for spanish-speaking people to watch. that's it! is CNN international an effort to force the rest of the world to speak more english?

They showed "fealty" by respecting America's immigration laws

when those irish, germans, poles, and others came over here in the 19th century, there were no immigration laws blocking their way! brush up on your immigration history. back then, you just got on a boat and came on over. give latin-immigrants a chance to recite your loyalty oath and i guarantee they will jump at the chance.

Sorry, but there is a tinge of elitism among some illegal immigration supporters.

i cannot believe that you wrote this. in the midst of your "illegals get out of my country" rant, you have the audacity to call your opponents elitist? you're the one who's looking down on millions of immigrants because they're unable to learn english as rapidly as you might like them to. and we're the elitists? you have got to be kidding me.

Chris Worden said...


Out of curiosity, do you think we should stop border enforcement? If not, why not?

Re: your comments. If it's not about acclimation, why do they show clips from ESPN Desportes IN ENGLISH on regular ESPN? And why do they show replays IN SPANISH on regular Monday Night Football?

On the "fealty" comment, I wasn't restricting my remarks just to the early waves of European immigration. I should have not combined two ideas covering separate time frames.

I said immigrants should learn English. YOU decided that this idea was "looking down" on them. I think I should know more about world geography then I do. I don't think that makes me self-loathing.

Maybe you see paternalism in the idea that we should take whatever government action we can to get people to learn English faster so they can be prosperous quicker. Fair enough. But what if I'm right, and immersion is better? Aren't you handicapping people we want to help? Or are you saying cultural autonomy is better? I could see that as a very libertarian argument, and you could be right that the government has no role to play in TRYING to make people learn English, anymore than it has in REQUIRING us to wear seat belts or buy auto insurance. It's all paternalism, so I guess the government IS looking down on us all by embracing something it thinks might help us that we won't do voluntarily. (Man, I hope Sean Shepherd chimes in on this).

In either case, I'm not sure how I'm looking down on people while also saying they should get the social security and medicare they paid for, even if they are here illegally, and that they should get a higher minimum wage along with the American workforce.

Don't mask our real social security obligations on the backs of people you can exploit without consequence. And sorry to hurt anybody's feelings, but if you're not calling for this, yeah, you DO benefit from the exploitation.

stAllio! said...

I said immigrants should learn English.

you said much, much more than that. you said that latino immigrants don't want to be american, that they want to 'come to America to exploit its favorable wages (and send then out of the U.S.) and its free health care with no intent of "melting" into the melting pot'. in fact, you asserted that their alleged refusal to assimilate was the primary difference between latino immigrants and other immigrants. these are ugly, false racist stereotypes. you also said that the very existence of spanish-language tv programming and signage "irritated" you and made you "cringe".

I have no problem with people speaking other languages in America. I just do not believe government should make linguistic accommodations

newsflash: the government did not force ESPN to start a spanish-language channel. that was good old supply and demand. spanish-speaking sports fans (and soccer fans) were being underserved. it was not and is not a mexican conspiracy to contaminate your precious bodily fluids.

why do they show clips from ESPN Desportes IN ENGLISH on regular ESPN?

maybe because soccer is a sport, and sports fans might be interested in it? or maybe it's because a lot of spanish speakers are already watching ESPN in english?

I haven't seen any German publications at the BMV lately, have you?

this is exactly the point that many of us are trying to make. latin immigrants do want to become american and they are trying to learn english. but it's hard and it's a long process. first-generation german immigrants struggled to learn english, but their children became bilingual, and their grandchildren generally couldn't even speak german. give it time, and exactly the same thing will happen to latin-american immigrants.

Maybe you see paternalism in the idea that we should take whatever government action we can to get people to learn English faster so they can be prosperous quicker.

on the contrary, i don't believe that passing "english-only" laws or whatever govt action you're calling for would help people learn english in the slightest. now, if the government wants to start giving out discounts for rosetta stone software, i'd be all for it.

I'm not sure how I'm looking down on people while also saying they should get the social security and medicare they paid for

actually, you never said that they should get those benefits, only that they aren't claiming them. thanks for clarifying that. but that kind of clashes with your statement in the previous post that they should be deported and replaced with "a different kind of person" -- which sure sounds like you're looking down on people to me.

anyway, you're trying to conflate two separate issues. many people objected to your offensive, nativist statements about spanish speakers. but rather than defend those opinions, you're trying to make it all about illegal immigration. nobody here has made any attempt to "defend" illegal immigration.

Anonymous said...

IPOPA, I think you are way off base here in your attempt to protray the Hispanics as US haters. Remember they are Americans also since their countries are located in North American or Cental American also. The U.S. is not the only American country. I am with Stallio on this one.

Chris Worden said...


Where in the hell did you get that I said Hispanics are U.S. haters!!??!?! If anything, Hispanics love the American ideal and prosperity, which is why they come here. Where have I said ANYTHING different? I don't even think people from other countries who fly their native flags HATE America. In fact, show me somebody who has taken up residence IN America who HATES America (which is distinct from disagreeing with its policies), and I'll show you a VERY confused person.

Chris Worden said...


You're right, dude. I shouldn't have attributed motive to Latinos as a group. What I should have said was that a lot of them send money out of the United States. This is from Reuters:

Immigrants seen sending $45 bln from U.S. to LatAm
Wed Oct 18, 2006 8:56 PM ET

By Adriana Garcia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Latin American immigrants living in the United States are sending home more money more frequently, according to an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report released on Wednesday.

Some 12.6 million, or 73 percent of all adult Latin Americans living in the United States, will send a total of around $45 billion to their countries of origin this year, up from some $30 billion in 2004, the report said.

The percentage of immigrants sending money on a regular basis has increased from 61 percent in 2004 to 73 percent in 2006, said the bank, and the average amount of each remittance also grew, from $240 to $300.

Most of the immigrants said they did not have full-time jobs in their countries when they moved to the United States, but most of them found work within a month of arrival, and 38 percent found it in less than two weeks.

The average salary for their first job in the United States was $900, six times more than what they made at home, said


"If the U.S. labor market is going to continue to expand, more workers will have to come from outside of the United States", said Donald F. Terry, manager of IDB's Multilateral Investment Fund, which commissioned the report.

The survey also found that more than half of the immigrants were under 35 years of age and three out of every five were considered "working poor," making under $30.000 a year.

"We are talking about parking attendants, hotel maids, construction workers," said pollster Sergio Bendixen, whose company was commissioned to prepare the report.

I'll leave it for somebody more learned in economics to say whether this reduction in available U.S. dollars helps or hurts the U.S. economy. I do think as a general rule of thumb, the more times a dollar can circulate in the economy, the better off we are. If this isn't correct, Democrats probably need to quit ripping on people who invest their money overseas.

Anonymous said...

I think the tricky part of your case, Chris, is the whole "learning the language thing". As a graduate of an elite college like Wabash, I would hope that you would have been made aware of the factoid that the English language is one of the hardest languages for non-native speakers to pick up quickly (especially if you are past chilhood). English has a lot of very odd spelling quirks that don't overlap very neatly with, say, the Romance languages like Spanish. It touches a pretty sensitive area when people either say or imply that Latino immigrants to this country don't speak English because they REFUSE to.

Additionally, someone with a good Wabash education like yourself ought to have some grounding in immigration history that's more substantive than Ellis Island hagiography. Throughout the history of this country, immigrant groups in the US initially self-segregated from the native/English-speaking population. Given the hostility towards immigrants in the 19th and 20th Centuries, it's not an accident that immigrant groups preferred safety in numbers.

As a result, you had vast communities of non-English speakers that set up their own businesses, their own schools, and their own newspapers. Eventually, the most successful immigrant businesses had reached a plateau exclusively operating within their own communities, so they branched out (often buying out smaller competitive businesses within their own communities) into the more "American" marketplace. Hell, you are ALREADY seeing that beginning to happen with Latino businesses in Indianapolis.

With the financial integration the immigrant communities begin, you also see a cultural integration as well. Most importantly, you have intermarriage between ethnic groups. In terms of the language, generally within two or three generations non-native speaking immigrants sire kids who speak mostly English. My father spoke English when his own father spoke mostly German (having emigrated in 1929).

I could also point out that many common English words spoken today in the US have their origins from immigrant groups, but I don't have time to expound on that here.

Although I'm criticizing the tone of your original post, and this not entirely well thought out defense of yours, I am NOT calling you a Buchanan style xenophobe. So don't even go there with me. HOWEVER, I would suggest that you do a little research into the rhetoric and writings of the virulant nativist groups of the last two centuries, and then compare THEIR words about immigrants to YOUR words. I think you'll be surprised and eventually ashamed about what you find.

Wilson46201 said...

I quite agree with the facts and tone of the previous comment. Well said!

Additional factoid: 1920 was the previous census year of highest percentage of foreign-born workers. Oddly, Indianapolis was the largest Northern city with the lowest percentage of such foreign-born workers. We actually had more African-Americans living in Indianapolis than foreign-born workers!

Anonymous said...

Wilson, how much was that census finding in 1920 skewed by the "Northern migration" of African-Americans fleeing the South for the burgeoning Northern car industry?

There are many times I really hate arguing immigration politics on blogs, but I think Chris is smart enough to engage in a real intellectual debate based on facts and not just a visceral stance.

I do truly wish that people had more of an understanding of immigration history in this country. Then, they might grudgingly realize that the pattern we're seeing with the Latino influx really isn't that different than what we saw at the turn of the 20th Century. In fact, I would ask a staunch anti-immigrant person to point out what exactly is so different today that what we saw out of immigrant groups in, say, 1920.

Wilson46201 said...

One of Gary Welsh's few virtues is that he's an immigration lawyer amd has opposed the xenophobes online. That "virtue" may be greedy self-interest though. He comes from a family of wealthy farmers in Eastern Illinois - guess what economic group desires really cheap farm labor freely available?

Anonymous said...

I think that everyone should be able to speak a second language fluently, but because this is impossible with English, another solution must be found.

An interesting video can be seen at

Failing that http://www.lernu might help ?