Don't Fix Immigration, Fix the Welfare State

Brian Doherty of Reason observes:

The solution to the legal crisis immigration represents won't come through
immigration law itself, which again and again has proven itself useless at
fully stemming the irresistible tides of human desire for a better life. No
matter how much money is spent or how the law is jiggered, it is not immigration
policy that has created unnecessary tears and strains in America's social
order. Rather, the welfare state is at the root of any legitimate claim that
immigration (legal or illegal) is an assault on the American nation. (There
are plenty of illegitimate complaints, based merely on distaste for
the often-imaginary hell of running into Spanish-speaking people in
day-to-day life or seeing some flag not of your nation, but such complaints
are not worthy of consideration.)...

The free market, as it usually does, has created a system of mutually
satisfactory interdependence, all of us serving each other and helping each
other get what we want. The welfare state, in all its manifestations from
medical care to schooling to pure giveaways, creates a negative sum game in
which resources are forcibly redistributed making some a problem, or a
perceived potential problem, to others, and allowing demagogues to obsess
over precious "public" resources scarfed up by the invading Other.

As long as that system is around to breed resentment and anger"”as well
as counter-resentment and counter-anger such as that seen in the streets of
L.A. of late"”immigration will continue as a political crisis, no matter
how many repeat cycles of jiggering with immigration law, or protesting it,
we go through.

Proposition 187,
attempting to limit the provision of government services to illegal
immigrants, was indeed, whatever the motives of its supporters, in spirit on
the right track to a world where any immigrant ought to be, and can be,
welcome; one where they are pure contributors at the same time to their own
well-being and to everyone else's as well. It's the only permanent and just
solution to the immigration conundrum. But it involves a significant
reduction in federal power, money, and authority, rather than an expansion
of it. Strangely, it's a no-go in today's Washington.

I wrote a similar essay on how the New Deal changed our views on immigration.


  1. Matthew Brown:

    I think there's a good point you're making that the New Deal / welfare provisions turned immigrants from a net positive to a net loss, in national thinking. Before, immigrants were mostly upside - new workers, new consumers. After, they're a downside - new welfare recipients, new leeches.

    I do wonder how much support a well-worded bill/campaign to change things would get. Explained right, it might.

  2. JohnDewey:

    Matthew Brown,

    I'm not sure I agree that illegal immigrants are net consumers. But we can save that discussion.

    Can legislation eliminate all publuic costs for immigrants? In Plyler vs Doe (1982) the Supreme Court ruled that children of undocumented residents, even if not citizens themselves, must be provided schooling.

    Would U.S. voters support taking away emergency medical care from any resident in the United States? That support would be shaky after immigrants start dying in the street outside the emergency room door.

    Beyond schooling and medical care, what costs are being incurred by illegal immigrants?