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Missing Pieces in Immigration Stories

In my latest media column, I point out how the Denver Post falsely portrayed Georgia State Senator Sam Zamarripa, who is that state's leading advocate for illegal aliens. Also, how the Post missed the research showing the complexity of the issue of illegal aliens and Medicaid. Plus a suggestion that the Rocky Mountain News drop the mean-spirited cartoons of Dan Asmussen of the S.F. Chronicle.

frankcross (mail):
Didn't you leave out a little complexity? Like if only 17% of illegal immigrants are receiving Medicaid payments, their taxes are probably a net contribution to the health of the system.
7.15.2006 2:34pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
he is a founder and director of Banco Unido, a bank that has been criticized for making mortgage loans to illegal aliens.
Though presumably not by you, Dave.

The one thing that I can't believe in the 'illegal alien' debate is the bank issue.

The US is one of the few countries that has never had exchange controls. This is a *good* thing. There is nothing wrong with foreign investment in the US or foreigners opening US bank accounts. We're a bank haven for a lot of people.

Financial accounts for non-residents should be a non-issue for even the most conservative commentator much less a libertarian one.


[DK: I agree with you about free banking in general; there's nothing wrong with a Mexican citizen who lives in Mexico--or who is a legal resident of the U.S.--opening a U.S. bank account. I don't think it's ethical for banks for seek out illegal alien customers, but obviously a lot of bankers disagree with me. In any case, the point about SamZam was relevant for my media analysis article, since it shows he's a businessman who caters to illegal aliens, which helps show that the Denver Post story pained a very incomplete picture of him..]
7.15.2006 2:53pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Ohh c'mon the article you criticize is no worse than some of yours. You just object because it supports the other side.

When you start writing articles complaining about how immigration articles/pro-crackdown don't interview immigration advocates/anti-crackdown people then it might be worth taking your complaints seriously. Until then it seems safe to assume they are partisan pieces designed more to fire up people who already agree with you than seriously contribute to the debate.

Link me to a single piece where you complain about the anti-crackdown forces not being properly represented or enough evidence for their side not being collected.
7.15.2006 3:21pm
corneille1640 (mail):
I'm a frequent reader of Mr. Kopel's Rocky Mountain News column and even though I disagree with almost all of his political views, I find that most of the time he is more than willing to give people their due, even when he disagrees with what they believe.

However, I should say that it is essentially irrelevant if Mr. Kopel points out fallacies/biases only in articles he disagrees with. The fallacies/biases are present (or not) regardless of his political preferences or any ulterior motives he might have.

[DK: Thanks! As you know, Jason Salzman, who is a committed leftie activist, and a nice guy, alternates in the column every other week. Each of us write about things that happen to interest us; I rarely agree with Jason's political viewpoint, but I find that his criticisms of particular media stories are usually pretty persuasive, even if I wouldn't have chosen to write about the particular topic that interested him. I think Jason sets a great example of well-reasoned, non-hysterical media criticsm from a left perspective.]
7.15.2006 3:35pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
When you start writing articles complaining about how immigration articles/pro-crackdown don't interview immigration advocates/anti-crackdown people then it might be worth taking your complaints seriously. Until then it seems safe to assume they are partisan pieces designed more to fire up people who already agree with you than seriously contribute to the debate.

Link me to a single piece where you complain about the anti-crackdown forces not being properly represented or enough evidence for their side not being collected.
Maybe there aren't any. Until you present some, "it seems safe to assume" that it's not "worth taking your complaints seriously."
7.15.2006 4:32pm
TRG:
No comments on the Denver Post article--but calling out Bad Reporter? Is that some sort of personal vendetta? Are you afraid people are taking you too seriously? Oy...


[DK: I just think BR is a poor use of a lot of print space. Nothing personal.]
7.15.2006 6:20pm
Hans Gruber (www):
"Like if only 17% of illegal immigrants are receiving Medicaid payments, their taxes are probably a net contribution to the health of the system."

First: A lot of the cost of illegal aliens is indirect in that illegals receive health care and never pay for it, shifting the cost onto the consumer.

Another problem with this trite insight is that their children are often not illegal immigrants. Nor will they always be illegal if Bush and McCain get their way. Legal status means eligibility for all of Uncle Sam's potential dollars. The CIS has estimated that amnesty will increase the already net negative drain on federal revenue. The long term cost is of course much greater in that social security and medicare are looming costs, increasingly large costs if trends continue.

Finally and generally: OF COURSE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS ARE A NET DRAIN ON GOVERNMENT REVENUE. We have a highly progressive taxation scheme in the United States. Importing poverty will increase the proportion of net liabilities. It is really that simple. More poverty equals more tax burden. Duh.


[DK: The whole cost issue of illegal immigration, regarding federal spending, is discussed in very sophisticted detail in the CIS report I cited.]
7.15.2006 7:51pm
Bob Loblaw (www):


[DK: I just think BR is a poor use of a lot of print space. Nothing personal.]
And "hate speech". please.

Nice censoring.
7.15.2006 9:43pm
Frank Howland (mail):
Which Bad Reporter cartoon are you referring to and what exactly qualifies it as hate speech? I couldn't find anything particularly hateful, but I only saw the cartoons through July 7 on the web. The cartoons I did read were I thought pretty good, though I am very likely more liberal than you.
7.15.2006 11:50pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Add me to the list of people who don't get the problem with Bad Reporter. I am very surprised to see it running in Colorado, because as we see it in the SF Chron (twice weekly), there is a lot of local SF politics in there that pretty much precludes wider distribution. But I don't find the strip particularly left-wing; Asmussen skewers anybody and everybody, rather like The Simpsons or The Onion. He certainly can be tasteless, but I don't know of anything that I'd call "hate speech." We are definitely not in Ted Rall territory here (which is more than I can say for some of the cartoons that run on the Chron's Op-Ed page).
7.16.2006 12:35am
The Divagator (mail) (www):

[DK: The whole cost issue of illegal immigration, regarding federal spending, is discussed in very sophisticted detail in the CIS report I cited.]

Indeed it is. In the exec summary...1st paragraph:
Based on Census Bureau data, this study finds that, when all taxes paid (direct and indirect) and all costs are considered, illegal households created a net fiscal deficit at the federal level of more than $10 billion in 2002. We also estimate that, if there was an amnesty for illegal aliens, the net fiscal deficit would grow to nearly $29 billion.

I think Hans got it right, ultimately. But I see your point, David, regarding the policy angle...shaping smart policies that zero in on non-problems doesn't solve anything.

Also, I realize that the CIS only deals with government incomes and outlays. One must consider, too, the domestic economic activity created due to the presence of the migrants.

Hans, suppose, Mr. Fat-Cat Taxpayer can't sustain his business without migrant labor...there goes the hefty tax receipts the govt was banking on. I don't believe this kind of calculation was figured into the CIS tally of 'indirect' taxation. The conglomerate that owns the Kansas meat-packing plant, the huge family business that owns acres upon acres of citrus groves in California...these are the people who would suffer due to stricter controls, and their taxes in sum are quite a lot. Does it offset the $10B deficit? I don't know, but it begins to get close.

Ultimately, I think the philosophical argument against illegal immigration is far more persuasive than the economic one. It's illegal...enough said. What does it say about a body politic that refuses to enforce the laws it creates? It makes a mockery of justice, and ironically, it's fat-cat Republican donors who are at the front of the pack in their systematic refusal to abide by the law in this regard. They want the cheap labor, but not the obligations that would accrue toward the laborers...I prefer to do without either. Enforce the freakin' law. Or change it.
7.16.2006 12:38am
Steve in CA (mail):
Well, you've succeeded in using the word "aliens" more often that I've ever read in any piece that isn't about Roswell. Congrats.

But more to the point -- isn't it odd for a professed libertarian to be so concerned about the difference between legal and illegal immigration? Are legal guns good, and illegal ones bad? Legal drugs OK, illegal ones not?
7.16.2006 3:45am
Daryl Herbert (www):
Asmussen is a lefty, but he's genuinely funny.

Who here doesn't remember his cartoon about Jack Davis and the Satanic Muni Logo?
7.16.2006 6:44am
Mark F. (mail):
Ultimately, I think the philosophical argument against illegal immigration is far more persuasive than the economic one. It's illegal...enough said.

It was illegal to help slaves escape from their owners in 1850. Enough said?

How do people feel about illegal residents who are not receiving welfare/government benefits?

And the $29 billion figure, even if correct, is not really a very significant part of total government expenditures.

BTW, I favor cutting off government welfare to everyone --citizen and non-citizen.
7.16.2006 4:24pm
Mark F. (mail):
I have a friend who lives in a small Arizona town where a big industry is stone quarries. This is backbreaking, hellish work, but it is possible to earn $1000 a week. Of course, almost of the employees are Mexicans who are in the country illegally. The wages one would have to pay Americans to do this sort of work would be so high that you couldn't operate a business like this profitably. Most of the employees are young men, and they are not utilizing many government services. If these quarries were shut down, the local economy would collapse. Everyone knows this and the local authorities just turn a blind eye to the situation.

Illegal immigration exists because of a market demand.
7.16.2006 4:33pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
David

I do find some irony in your headline, calling for more and better debate, and your column's advocacy of censoring the Bad Reporter cartoon, apparently because you disagree with the author's views (saying that it is a "waste of space" and in "poor taste" amounts to the same thing).
7.16.2006 4:38pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):

It was illegal to help slaves escape from their owners in 1850. Enough said?

Mark, Perhaps the the real lesson concerning crappy law comes a decade after the date you cited. Still, one should obey the law in the first instance. If the law compels you to acts that you find morally unconscionable, you have a duty to attempt to change it via the democratic process. Unless that process is perverted (i.e. via undemocratic means), civil disobedience is not called for. But let's be sure, what's going on re: immigration by employers is not exactly Thoreau spending time in jail for refusing to pay his taxes. And let's remember Thoreau's disobedience resulted in jail time, just as he fully expected. At the very least c.d. must be punished, or it merely promotes anarchy.

Finally, I would have to agree to disagree with you regarding $29B. It is a large sum of money, as large as several cabinet departments' annual budgets. But like I said in my original post, I just don't find the economic argument against immigration to be very persuasive precisely because it is so very hard to know, exactly, what the cost/benefit is.
7.16.2006 8:27pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Yes it is relevant if Mr. Kopel only calls out articles for failing to present evidence for his side of the debate. In effect this means that Mr. Kopel is only presenting evidence that he thinks supports his position. Thus when I read one of his articles even if what he says sounds compelling I shouldn't give it too much weight as it may be leaving out contrary evidence.

Given almost any issue if one cherry picks the evidence and points one presents one can support any position you want no matter how absurd. A good example is intelligent design. If you only listen to what the ID people say and ignore all the additional evidence showing how these features could have evolved it sounds like they have a good case.

In short if I know an author isn't going to point out and grapple with the points against their position I don't give them much weight. Besides this makes him no better than the articles he critisizes.
7.16.2006 9:14pm
Colin (mail):
What is the "national hate speech" comment about? Was there a particularly hateful cartoon, or is this just bluster? I honestly don't understand what you meant; it seems pretty unlikely that you meant "hate speech" to be taken literally or seriously.

[DK: See, e.g., how he portrays Christians, as a group. Then consider those portrayals under the standards of sections 319 of the Canadian Criminal Code, relating to hate propaganda. http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/C-46/267514.html. I realize that there is an endless amount of pro/con discussion about whether any given utterance by anyone qualifies as "hate speech." The Canadian law has various exemptions, pursuant to which utterances which would be classified ab initio as hate propaganda are exempt from prosecution, and there would appear to be plausible arguments by which Asmussen's hate propaganda would qualify for some of these exemptions. To be clear, I strongly oppose the enactment of Canadian-style speech restrictions in the U.S., and I believe that Canada should repeal or drastically revise section 319. But you asked why I characterized Asmussen's work as hate speech, so in response I've pointed to a widely used definition of hate speech, and suggested that, at least in my opinion, his cartoons about a religious group fit the definition. BTW, as a media critic for the Rocky Mountain News, whenever I suggest that newsprint space should be re-allocated from "a" and given to "b", that's not "censorship." It's simply a critic's analysis; if a critic says "the newspaper should drop George Will's column and use the space for coverage of high school football," nobody is censoring George Will -- even if the editors eventually follow the critic's suggestion. Censorship is using the force of law to suppress speech, and I would oppose any effort to use the law to suppress Asmussen.]
7.17.2006 3:45am
Hans Gruber (www):
"The wages one would have to pay Americans to do this sort of work would be so high that you couldn't operate a business like this profitably."

Wild speculation, which ignores the benefits of automation and the willingness of many Americans to do "hellish" work if paid properly. And, if we can't maintain certain industries without massive third world immigration, SO WHAT? Is it really a terrible thing we're not a mover in textiles anymore? If only illegal immigration could have saved that symbol of economic power! If we can't produce lettuce efficiently enough to compete, we can import the lettuce. Your answer, on the other hand, is to import Mexico to produce the lettuce, even when the former gets us cheap lettuce while not having to pay for the workers' health care, children's educations, and retirement. In the era of the welfare state, "cheap" labor isn't so cheap.
7.17.2006 11:34am
IllegalImmigrationIntroduction (mail) (www):
It was illegal to help slaves escape from their owners in 1850. Enough said?

Obviously, there's a huge difference between working to end slavery and working to allow corrupt forces to import cheap labor and/or votes.

This is backbreaking, hellish work... The wages one would have to pay Americans to do this sort of work would be so high that you couldn't operate a business like this profitably. Most of the employees are young men, and they are not utilizing many government services... the local authorities just turn a blind eye to the situation.

Perhaps the lack of profitability should be a clue that this isn't a viable business? And, of course those workers will use services, and a lot of them. As you say, it's backbreaking work. Meaning that they'll require plenty of medical care, and most likely they'll be in the U.S. at that time. The quarry is receiving a huge subsidy, even if it might be getting that down the line.

So, we have someone who appears to be a "libertarian" supporting an inefficient company that can't compete without government subsidies. Throw in a little local corruption for good measure. Speaking of which:

There is nothing wrong with foreign investment in the US or foreigners opening US bank accounts.

Obviously, it's extremely dangerous to allow banks to profit off illegal activity.

If you actually think about this, you'll see that illegal immigration is corrupting our entire system.
7.17.2006 1:39pm
sbron:
Prof. Kopel is exactly right that the mainstream
media selectively reports on immigration issues that
reflects its open-borders bias.

From the latest Heather MacDonald column in City Journal,
here are a whole slew of reasons why "conservatives"
should question the "benefits" of massive immigration
from Mexico and Central America.
7.17.2006 6:37pm