Once again we find a journalist misconstruing the debate over illegal immigration in an effort to gain favor with the general public through sympathy. Jason Riley wrote at the Wall Street Journal today about “Immigrant Scapegoats“, and his opinion piece shows a complete lack of understanding as to where Americans contempt lies. He makes a feeble attempt to compare the immigrants of today with the Irish, the Italians and the Chinese of yesterday, arguing that they were made the scapegoats in times of economic crisis, as Latinos are today.
Mr. Riley is the author of “Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders” which will be released next month, and based on this opinion piece I have the feeling he will make an attempt to simplify the entire debate down the argument of labor. While the labor force is certainly a large part of the debate, it is after all why most immigrants come here, there is a much more pertinent part of the debate which must be dealt with first.
The Late Milton Friedman warned us years ago “It’s just obvious you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state,” and those words are even more true today than when he spoke them. While Mr. Riley will argue for open borders as a means of increasing the labor force, he ignores the government entitlements many of these people will receive simply for crossing the border. With poverty running rampant in Mexico, any loosening of immigration restrictions would only encourage more to come here, putting even further strain on our already overstressed social programs.
I had written about this previously with regards to the disasterous immigration bill President Bush was trying to push through Congress. At the time, I noted that for fiscal year 2004 low-skill immigrant households received $30,160 per household in immediate benefits and services. Also noting that spending for entitlement programs has increased from less than one-third of total federal spending in 1962 to more than one-half in recent years.
Our current entitlement programs are on course to bankrupt our country within the next 30 years, yet Mr. Riley believes adding more low skilled, non tax paying citizens into the mix will somehow be a good thing. Our current tax structure is set up in such a manner that those earning less than $40,000 pay little to no federal tax, while receiving thousands of dollars in benefits from the federal government. Services such as free public education, Medicaid, and food stamps, combined with the infamous earned income tax credit, cost American taxpayers almost $20,000 per year for each and every low skilled immigrant family.
This is why many conservatives advocate a merit based immigration policy as opposed to a first come first serve basis. By only accepting immigrants who offer skills beneficial to society, we remove the burden from American taxpayers, while offering employers a more skilled workforce.
If Mr. Riley and others wish for our government to open our borders, they must first convince our government to close its checkbook.