PolySciFi Blog

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Balancing Principles and Illegal Immigration

A Review of the Illegal Discussion to Date
In the comments to this post, I said I have the following issues with illegal immigration:
1) Illegals inflate tax rates by being a part of the black economy while consuming government services like right there in L.A. (Of course, with a consumption tax, this wouldn't be as much of a problem, no?)

2) It encourages workplace abuses. (Can't complain about your conditions or we'll deport you)

3) It harms security by facilitating the entry of undesirable elements (like al Qaeda).

4) It hurts the assimilation process as the illegals, by necessity, get cut off from the rest of society.

5) It fosters lawlessness (as does any unenforced law).
Matt has responded to these points with the following points (though I am unclear as to whether Matt is advocating maintaining the status quo or open borders - I agree with neither position):
1) Illegals provide cheap labor vital to the economy.

2) Illegals are helping keep social security afloat by paying social security taxes without drawing payments. 1

3) Illegals could provide useful work in the intellectual economy.

Competing Neolibertarian Principles
Now for a conservative libertarian there's conflicting principles in the issue of illegal immigration.

On the plus side of the ledger of illegal immigration, more people working in a market economy always helps.

On the negative side, as I highlighted above, there's the law and order problems, increased taxes, assimilation problems, security problems, and the potential for workplace abuses.

So from my ideological position, the negatives outweigh the positives. So I come down against illegal immigration. This judgement is reinforced by the fact that all the benefits I care about and two of the benefits Matt discusses2 can be achieved through legal immigration and all the problems I've identified go away with legal immigration.

Beyond ideology, illegal immigration also violates my sense of fairness in the same way (but magnified) that someone cutting in line does. Legal immigrants have to go through a process (a process I agree with) and have all sorts of restrictions, but illegals skip the whole thing. It just doesn't sit right in my stomach.

1. In the linked post, Matt appears to making the assertion that an open borders policy would further strengthen social security: "If we really want to "fix" social security, maybe we should open the borders." However, if we open the borders, then the immigrants won't need fake SSNs and we would no longer be unintentionally stealing money from immigrants. So opening the border under the discussed scenario wouldn't help.

If instead, we had enough legal immigration to get us back to the 4-5:1 worker ratio where social security "works," then this would help with short term solvency. However, I don't believe this is the argument Matt was making and it wouldn't change the fact that social security would still be a Ponzi scheme.

2. Matt's social security argument is a net negative for me. One, I don't like the idea of wealth redistribution and taking the illegals' money with no possibility of repayment is not a good thing in my opinion (redistribution is government sanctioned theft and this is a pretty egregious example). Two, illegals using fake SSN contributes to lawlessness and particularly to the identity theft problem which last I checked was a pretty big problem.

And then the one benefit - $6-7 billion extra added annually to social security "coffers" - is like spitting in the ocean (a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money) as social security pays out $400-500 billion annually. Further what little benefit is there is still towards a program that I'm not too fond of to begin with.


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