David Brooks' latest NYT column, Two Steps Toward a Sensible Immigration Policy, confirms his reputation as a good sociological journalist of the Tom Wolfe Lite school and a poor policy pundit. He starts off well by vividly describing one aspect of the immigration problem:
What do you say to the working-class guy from the south side of San Antonio? He feels [sic -- he knows -- it's called the Law of Supply and Demand] his wages are stagnating because he has to compete against illegal immigrants. He watches thousands [sic -- millions] of people streaming across the border, bankrupting his schools and health care system, while he plays by the rules.
He's no racist. Many of his favorite neighbors are kind, neat and hard-working Latinos. But his neighborhood now has homes with five cars rotting in the front yard and 12 single men living in one house. Now there are loud parties until 2 a.m. and gang graffiti on the walls. He read in the local paper last week that Anglos are now a minority in Texas and wonders if anybody is in charge of this social experiment.
What do you tell him about the immigration system?
Uh, that we have to get serious about cracking down on immigration? That his and his children's futures are being sold down the river by the President of the United States?
No. Of course not. According to David:
Here's what you tell him: You're right. The system is out of control. But we can't just act like lunkheads and think we can solve this problem with brute force.
No, Dave, you go tell Mr. Blue Collar American that. Let me know how he takes it.
(By the way, David, did you ever tell the Israeli government than in dealing with their problem of illegal intruders from the West Bank, that they "can't just act like lunkheads and think we can solve this problem with brute force"? I didn't think so.)
Brooks goes on:
Tough enforcement laws make us feel good but they don't do the job.
Why don't we try enforcing the laws against employing illegal aliens?
Since 1986, we've tripled the number of Border Patrol agents and increased the enforcement budget 10 times over, but we haven't made a dent in the number of illegals who make it here.
And we're spending an order of magnitude more annually on your war in Iraq, Dave, and notice how much we are getting for that! Look, I've driven along the border in Arizona and it's a joke. We have a four foot high fence that is broken down every 200 yards where illegal aliens come under it or over it nightly.
We've got agents chasing busboys while who knows what kind of terrorists are trying to sneak into this country.
No, we don't have agents chasing busboys. Internal enforcement of illegal immigrations laws is almost nonexistent these days. The de facto policy of the Bush Administration is Ollie, Ollie, Home Free. If illegals make it past about 50 miles north of the border, they are in for good.
The problem is that we make it nearly impossible for the immigrants to come here legally. We issue about 5,000 visas for unskilled year-round labor annually, but the economy requires hundreds of thousands of new workers to clean hotel rooms and process food. We need these workers --
Maybe you need these workers, David, but that blue collar guy from San Antonio doesn't need them. His life would be better off without them. And he sure doesn't need any more of them.
-- but we force them underground with our self-delusional immigration policies. As Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute says, "It's very hard to enforce unrealistic rules." So it doesn't matter how many beer-swilling good old boys appoint themselves citizen border guards, we're not going to get this situation under control until we understand this paradox: The more we simply crack down, the more disorder we get. The only way to re-establish order is to open up legal, controllable channels through which labor can flow in an aboveground, orderly way. We can't build a wall to stop this flood;
we need sluice gates to regulate the flow.
Brooks doesn't seem to care much about the welfare of our fellow citizens who happen to be "beer-swilling good old boys" like, say, that "working class guy from the south side of San Antonio," but in case he wants to pretend he does, he should reread his own paragraphs about what problems that blue collar citizen is confronting. Let's see how many of the problems stemming from the flood of illegal immigrants stem from the immigrants being illegal per se versus there simply being a flood of them, illegal or legal.
He feels his wages are stagnating because he has to compete against illegal immigrants.
This working class guy might not have gone to the U. of Chicago like you did, David, but he has a surer understanding of Econ 101. According to the Law of Supply and Demand, his wages are stagnating because he's facing a larger supply of competitors. Karl Marx would have called them the "reserve army of the unemployed." Legalizing the illegals would have only the most marginal of impacts on the supply and demand equation.
He watches thousands of people streaming across the border, bankrupting his schools
Once again, the problem is too many immigrants. Indeed, many of the immigrants' kids who are swamping his kids' schools are American citizens because they were born here. But the fact that a lot of them are legal under the current 14th Amendment interpretation doesn't solve any of the problems caused by having too many Spanish-speaking kids from an anti-education culture in the public schools.
and health care system, while he plays by the rules.
Legalizing them won't fix the this problem either. The central problem is too many poor people who aren't productive enough to pay for health insurance. So, when they need medical care, they just go to the local Emergency Room and the cost gets added to the bills of everybody with insurance..
But his neighborhood now has homes with five cars rotting in the front yard
Issuing documents to the undocumented won't make them better neighbors.
and 12 single men living in one house.
Legalizing them won't do anything to make them able to afford anymore. Their wages are low because the supply of them is so high.
Now there are loud parties until 2 a.m. and gang graffiti on the walls.
Ditto. An awful lot of the teenage members of Hispanic gangs were born here and thus are legal. Many gang-bangers are third or fourth generation citizens.
He read in the local paper last week that Anglos are now a minority in Texas and wonders if anybody is in charge of this social experiment.
Look, numbers count.
So, what do we do? The initial step is obvious. As Norman Tebbit said in Britain after the London terrorist attacks:
“If you are in a hole, then stop digging. First we have to stop admitting people ..."
A friend writes:
The Open Borders lobby loudly proclaims that the border can't be enforced at any plausible cost. As can easily be shown, that is entirely untrue. My challenge to the Tamar Jacobys of this country is direct: "We know that the border can be easily secured with a fence, are you willing to support a fence or just admit that you don't want the border enforced even if it could be done for free?"
Another reader writes:
This afternoon, while driving from my parents' house in New Jersey to my apartment in Philadelphia, I saw something remarkable along I-95. There was a construction project along a large section of the highway. Work crews were building a 20 foot high sound-barrier that appeared to be made out of reinforced concrete. I thought to myself, "wow...I have seen these walls everywhere...I wonder how good they are at keeping the sound down."
Five miles down the road it hit me: "Wait a minute! How many miles of highway are there in the U.S.? How many miles have soundproofing barriers? How much does that cost per mile? Is this more expensive than building a wall along the border with Mexico?????"