Sunday, April 28, 2013

Immigration “Reform” and Unintended Consequences

Congress is once again tackling the topic of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, this time attempting to pass the Gang of Eight proposal aka SR744.

In 1936 a Harvard professor by the name of Robert Merton wrote a paper about unintended consequences and how they come about when making public policy.  Based upon Merton’s outline, I shall explain why this bill is bad public policy and will produce negative unintended consequences.

First, identifying the wrong problem.  Merton says that sometimes we are so blinded by politics that we address the wrong problem altogether.  The problems Washington addresses are:
  • Our immigration system is “broken.” 
  • We have 11 million people “living in the shadows.” 
  • There are a million de facto citizens who came here as children and have no papers to advance in society. 
  • We are separating families.
In a moment of candor, they might even tell you that they would like to tap into this potential voter pool.  Surely the political analysts have crunched some numbers.

May I suggest than the real problems relative to having millions of illegal aliens are these:
  • Depressed wages and benefits.
  • Unemployment of low-skilled workers (mostly minorities and teens).
  • Unemployment of scientists, engineers and IT professionals.
  • Excess population.
  • Stressed school districts and social services.
  • Fraud and ID Theft.
  • Loss of tax revenue.

The real problem here is that we have failed to enforce the law for decades now.  We have not deported people whom we knew were here illegally.  They have not self-deported because we have made excuses for them and defended their presence at the highest levels.

This is an interesting phenomenon.  Traditionally when there is a rash of disobedience to a specific law the answer has been more enforcement.  For example, if there is a problem of people speeding in a school zone, they set up a speed trap to catch and/or deter speeders in the area.  If there is a gang problem in town, they bring in extra officers and form a gang task force. 

Second, bad data.  Good public policy requires solid numbers.  In this immigration debate, those solid numbers are hard to come by.  The assumption made by Washington is that there are 11 million illegal aliens.  It used to be 12 million but the poor economy has reduced it to 11 million.

But some sources tell us that there may be 20 million, or even 38 million.  This is not an easy number to come by.

It would appear that they don’t WANT to know the real number.  A few states and other groups have tried to determine the costs of illegal aliens in schools, social services, prisons and jails, local communities…only to be told by Washington that those numbers are “wrong.”  Well, let’s see the official number then.  They don’t exist.

Indeed, true numbers are nearly impossible because you are trying to measure people who don’t want to be counted.  Part of the enforcement problem is that we have not done a good job of following up on ID theft problems.

People can live for years with a fake social security number.  They can buy cars, even houses.  They can get jobs.  And at the government level (school districts, social service agencies, marriage license bureau…) they don’t bother to check.  Although databases such as E-Verify and SAVE exist, they are not mandatory.

Third, the imperious immediacy of interest.  This means a rush to do something; anything to meet the immediate political need.  The Gang of Eight had hoped to get this thing passed within 48 hours of its introduction.  And they would have succeeded if not for a few brave Congressmen who insisted on some review and debate.  Here they crafted this plan behind closed doors with input only from pro-amnesty people they had selected, pitched its unknown contents on the Sunday talk shows, and expected passage without peer review.

And this effort is a fulfillment of Obama’s promise to the Latino voters that he would deliver “Reform” within the first year of the new term.

But rushed policy is bad policy.  There is a far greater risk of unintended consequences when something is not fully reviewed, analyzed and debated.   “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,”…is not a way to run government.  (I might add that we are finding all sorts of unintended consequences in Obamacare.)

Fourth, creating the wrong solution.  We should know by now that any sort of legalization will only lead to another round of people sneaking into the country.  That’s the lesson from the 1986 amnesty plan.  You have to develop the political will to deport people simply because they are here illegally.  We’ve never been able to do that.

Government is far better at saying YES than telling people NO.  You don’t get many votes by cracking down on people. 

Even if they seal the border they haven’t fixed the visa problem.  US-VISIT is not an enforcement program.  All it does is give government credit for those who have left the country.  We would still need to find, process, detain and deport those people living here on expired visas.

Another red herring here is whether or not the plan offers citizenship.  The citizenship debate is meaningless.  These illegal aliens don’t want to naturalize.  Even their legal brothers and sisters don’t want to become citizens.  Fewer than 25% of Mexican green card holders become citizens.  They retain their Mexican citizenship and are content to have a green card so they can work and send money home.  Only the politicians want them to become citizens so they can vote.

Fifth, poor execution of the plan.  Surely if there is any area where enforcement implementation was not carried out it would be immigration laws.  Over 30% of all foreign-born people living in the United States are here illegally.  In fact, both Bush and Obama have chosen not to enforce significant parts of immigration law.  By fiat, Obama has called for new immigration hearings for 300,000 deportable aliens.  He also created his own DREAM Act without so much as a Congressional vote.

The Supreme Court has made it nearly impossible to prosecute someone for aggravated identity theft.

Just last week Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told a Congressional hearing that her agency sets the enforcement priorities regardless of what the law says.  In other words, since you cannot afford to do it all, you choose the laws you will enforce.

So, on all counts the proposed immigration reform bill is a disaster in public policy just waiting to happen.  It is fraught with errors and unintended consequences.

No comments:

Post a Comment