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Are Mexicans the Problem?

May 6, 2016

All aspiring fascist demagogues pick an ethnic minority to blame for all of their country’s problems. It looks like Mexican immigrants are the scape goat du jour, although Syrians are a close second.

To some degree this article is useless. The likelihood that a substantial number of people will read it and change their minds is about 0. But the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. If you were living in Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials you had a moral duty to speak out and say that witches aren’t real and these trials are just murdering innocent people. If you were living in Germany during the Holocaust, you had a moral duty to point out that Jews do not poison wells, and are not to blame for Germany’s loss in WW1. If you were living during the Red Scare in America, you had a moral duty to say that Communists are the worst human beings who have ever lived and no one should rest until they are wiped from the face of the earth.

Jobs
The relationship between immigrants and employment is positive. That is to say, empirically, the more immigrants you have, the less unemployment you have. This could mean that immigrants follow jobs, but the lump of labor based “immigrants take jobs” approach is completely false.

Wages
Wages are not negatively affected by immigration, although some studies show a small negative effect on high school dropouts. Generally speaking, admitting higher skilled immigrants is going to have a better positive effect on wages than low skilled, since low skilled workers are substitutes for one another, whereas high skilled workers are complements. Economically speaking, there is no difference between immigration and fertility, except fertility has higher governmental costs, since you have to school children born in your own country. As wages go up in more population dense areas, it makes sense that adding more people would have a net positive effect on wages.

Welfare
Illegal immigrants don’t get welfare, except their children get schooling and they can get emergency health care. They might not pay income taxes, but they still pay sales and some other miscellaneous taxes. Furthermore, granting amnesty would likely increase the amount of taxes they pay.

Note: Legal immigrants get more welfare than natives, but that’s because they are poor, not because of their ethnicity. The amount of welfare they get is determined by Congress. If you don’t like it, elect someone who changes the law.

Trade – Nafta
The way trade works is that each side gives up something and gets something of equal nominal value in return. If you buy $50 of groceries, you give up $50, and you get that much in food. The value of imports equals the value of exports, overall. Since there are many countries in the world, it is exceedingly unlikely that the payments will balance exactly between any two countries, but there is nothing wrong with this. If Mexicans buy American corn, and Americans use the money to buy German cars, and Germans use the money to buy Mexican gasoline, each country runs a deficit with the next country, but overall the payments still balance.

America actually has a manufacturing surplus with Mexico, and NAFTA has been beneficial to the U.S. automobile sector. This article isn’t trying to be a primer on international trade theory, but the trade related woes about NAFTA are overblown. It was a great deal for the U.S. and ending it would hurt our economy.

Crime
Immigrants are incarcerated at lower rates than natives. It makes sense that if you are an illegal immigrant, you’re going to want to keep your head down so you don’t attract police attention. Perhaps you could argue that by immigrating, they are all criminals by definition. But that seems a circular argument for making immigration illegal to begin with. We could make having blue eyes illegal by noting that if that were the law, the only people hurt would be those evil blue eyed criminals. As Augustine said, an unjust law is no law at all.

Learning English
The vast majority of immigrants learn English. Yes, temporary immigrants on work visas aren’t going to bother, but permanent residents will and their children certainly will. I guess if even hearing a bit of Spanish is painfully grating to you, the fact that the speaker will one day learn English is cold comfort.

Further reading
10 Myths about immigration
Immigration Facts

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2016 2:41 pm

    I do not think that you really wanted to say:

    If you were living during the Red Scare in America, you had a moral duty to say that Communists are the worst human beings who have ever lived and no one should rest until they are wiped from the face of the earth.

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