Controlling the Flow

June 21st, 2013 at 4:04 pm

The marginal bang-for-the-buck in terms of securing the border is probably vanishingly small at this point, but the fact remains that if we are unable (or unwilling) to control immigrant flows, then reform is impossible.  Over at the NYT’s Economix blog.

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10 comments in reply to "Controlling the Flow"

  1. piddlesworth says:

    In that piece — to my eye — you don’t actually state why reform is impossible without controlling immigrant flows. I see the short-term problem, which exists because we’ve restricted immigration so stringently for so long that there would now be a massive rush of immigrants were we to suddenly stop restricting immigration so, but why couldn’t we do something like quadruple the rate at which we allow immigrants and then, once that backlog has mostly cleared, switch to allowing anyone who passes background checks/etc. to immigrate? Worldwide surveys have repeatedly shown that, were people allowed to move here freely, that people equal to only about 50% of our current population would even want to move here. Not only is that a population that our relatively empty country could accommodate over a 20-year period of time, I’d argue it’s a population that our country needs in order to stay competitive with China and, eventually, India as a world power.

    There are numerous reasons to try to get as close to an open-borders policy as soon as practically possible — among them non-selfish reasons, such as to stop being complicit in the virtual enslavement of those who find no opportunity in their home countries and must work for mere cents an hour because other countries demand they remain there — and before reading your piece I conceived of the hinderance being solely political. After reading it, I have to admit that my conception hasn’t changed.

  2. piddlesworth says:

    To clarify what I’m saying above, the border security that we have now would be more than adequate if we just allowed people to quickly, safely, and reliably enter the country through checkpoints… it’s only because we don’t let people through those checkpoints that we even have to worry about people trying to get around them for immigration purposes. (Also relevant and not mentioned in your piece: At least 40% of “illegal immigrants” immigrate to the US legally, and a significant chunk of those who immigrate illegally do so via other means than crossing the southern border by land, so at best you’re dealing with half the “problem” by dealing with “border security”.)

  3. Walter Wm. Hofheinz says:

    “Controlling the flow” should not be the goal. Freedom of labor flows should match freedom of capital flows. We should welcome those with enough initiative to get up and come here, subject only to background check. With such an influx, we will be able to support continued growth and increases in standard of living; without it we won’t. It’s just that simply as our population ages. Open borders is the solution, not the vast waste of resources implicit in the border control proposal, estimated at $40 billion. That money should be spend on education and infrastructure. We are a nation of immigrants and in large part that diversity is what has allowed us to flourish.

    • Kevin Rica says:


      We’ve been trying that experiment for the last 40+ years and in spite of all this technological progress and immigration, wages are lower than when we started.

      As the French say “”Si ma tante en avait elle s’appelerait mon oncle. Roughly, but not crudely translated (moderation) as, “If my aunt were anatomically different, she’d be my uncle.”

  4. Kevin Rica says:


    Take solace. As someone who worries about the effects of “premature contraculation,”

    you should just think of this as stimulus.

    Yes, I admit that this is not the best way to spend the money. The best way would be on internal enforcement.

    The supporters of open borders are not just trying to allow in the 11 million already here, they want to obstruct the enforcement of immigration restrictions afterwards. (The way they did after the 1986 Amnesty.) Otherwise they would not have offered “blue cards” to the Chamber of Commerce and others who claim there is a shortage of below-market wage labor (especially indentured agricultural workers).

    What should happen if the proponents of Amnesty-by-another-euphemism (you can’t use the word amnesty, people know what that means) — is that the 20,000 slots are used to go after everyone who enters after the deadline. If you then fix the employment documentation programs and have them immediately respond to every documentary mismatch, they could then apprehend whoever makes it past the border or overstays their visa. You would then have a tipping point where would-be illegals decide it is not worth the effort and are deterred. Hopefully, their numbers will then decrease and allow effective enforcement at lower cost.

    Above all, no one should be allowed to use Social Security numbers and other identifiers, which are erroneous or fraudulent. Better than the borders controls would be a requirement that all such occurrences be investigated or corrected in 90 days or less. All federal agencies, including the IRS, should be required to investigate and report all unresolved incidents (then come 20,000 new ICE agents). If it were not the INTENT to evade enforcement of the current immigration laws, this would be the practice. As a matter of good governance and sound public administration, the Social Security Administration and other agencies should want to protect the integrity and accuracy of their records. They fact that they are not allowed to (think SSA no-match letters) and are even compelled to aid identity theft is a testament to the power and unscrupulousness of the open-borders lobby.

  5. Not My Real Fake Name says:

    The good thing about drones, as opposed to a fence, is that once operational they can quickly be moved about the country to suppress the participants in any mass protests over the lack of jobs, like the occupy movement. I know that there are protections to prevent the use of the drones too far north of the border in CA, but these could easily be overridden by using in the existing secret court system.

  6. smith says:

    Not to bury the lead, the labor market and flow for STEM workers affects the labor market for everyone, because it’s big, fluid, and open. It’s 200,000/yr compared to 2 million openings/yr needing greater than high school. Also for example 50% with IT degrees take non-IT jobs, 60% IT jobs are filled with non IT degrees. Elasticities of substitution apply to both the employment market (choosing a job) and labor market (getting hired) but downwardly nominal wage rigidities hide substitution and give appearance of separate labor market.

    Since you brought it up, writing:

    “And smart parts of the Senate legislation have built in flow controls for low-wage workers, though less so for higher-wage workers.”

    Actually, whatever the flow for low-wage workers, the high-wage worker inflow control is just a subterfuge. It’s not smart and there is no intent to control the flow of higher-wage workers. Data indicates the bill’s 4.5% unemployment rate trigger is relatively close to peak STEM unemployment rate of 5% compared to a normal STEM rate of 2%. Wouldn’t it make sense to curtail flow when unemployment rises above normal? Instead of near it’s peak (in which case no one’s hiring anyone anyway) Any justification to start off by doubling the 65,000/year flow in one great initial shock?

    Promote immigration without employment restriction, free labor, free men.

    Table B

    • Not my Real Fake Name says:

      Bringing in 600,000 high skilled workers per year, to be added to the 2,500,000 US college graduates per year, who are all going to be applying for the expected 2,000,000 job openings per year that require a college degree, leaves 1,100,000 surplus high skilled unemployed, or more likely underemployed young Americans. Note that those on the work visas have jobs by definition so it will be the Americans who are the unemployed.

      Since they will most likely not be paying back their student loans out of their Barrista salary from Starbucks they will be ineligible for any type of credit such as a mortgage and perhaps even a credit card. This will eventually create a permanent underclass of highly educated underemployed young people, many of whom will be enrolled in the SNAP program, who are detached from the legitimate economy. After 10 years there will be about 11,000,000 of these, the oldest of whom will be in their early 30s.

      As they have no access to credit they will be living outside the consumer based economy we have now. They will be operating in an un-tracked under the table cash-based one. “Living in the shadows” you might say.

      What shall we call this group? The Post-Millennials? Generation-X-FICO? The “Not-Very-Silent Generation”?

      Perhaps we can call these angry unemployed and underemployed 11 million young Americans who operate outside the mainstream economy “The Illegals”.

  7. Not My Real Fake Name says:

    The whole “Tech Worker Shortage” meme is nonsense that has been pushed for years by firms looking to get a lower cost and more supplicant workforce.

    The only surprise to me is how effortlessly those in the Democratic Party sold out the American IT workforce.

    If this bill passes it will be interesting to see what the US is like 15 years from now. I expect it to be like one of those bad futures in the “Back to the Future” movie series. One where there are suburban slums and legalized gambling. Why not legalize prostitution and narcotics too? I’ll bet the CBO will score it as reducing the deficit. You can bet that the dollars we save by turning our daughters into whores will be spent by the defense lobby faster than Blackwater can change its name.

    Seeing your own government knowingly destroy your IT career to curry favor with citizens from another country, while only recently having moved heaven and earth to dead save last-century firms like General Motors, makes you question your reason for being here at all.

    I would certainly consider this Canadian option long before becoming a greeter at WallMart …

    “The American mechanic used to earn around $100,000 per year, but he had recently experienced economic difficulties because business had slowed down where he worked. He was making only about $40,000 annually, his house was in foreclosure and he was forced to file for bankruptcy. Paul had posted his resume online and, needless to say, he and his wife were pleasantly surprised when the auto dealership in British Columbia contacted him and offered to pay for him to travel up to scenic Prince George (population 71,974) to visit the Canadian business there. Paul Thomas accepted the Canadian job offer with the Prince George auto dealership in which they agreed to pay him a starting salary of approximately $100,000 per year, and in March 2012, he and his family were approved for immigration to Canada!”

    Oh, and in addition to the 100K job, he and his family get free healthcare from the government of Canada – for life!

    • Kevin Rica says:

      Not My Real Fake Name,

      You shouldn’t be surprised by “how effortlessly those in the Democratic Party sold out the American IT workforce.”

      They had all that experience selling out the American blue-collar work force, not to mention the agricultural workforce.

      It get’s a lot easier after the first time.