The Debate Over Restricting Immigration

We’ve generally steered clear of debates over immigration and the so-called wall (as in better cordoning the US southern border) because they typically have a high noise-and-invective to signal ratio, and are often are not great on facts either.

We want to kick around a very narrow question, could a “wall” as in some form of barriers and other means of physically blocking entry, be made to work? And are there less corrosive approaches (including multi-pronged approaches) that would be pretty effective, less costly, and less punitive?

It is telling to see what the action in Congress says about the apparent stakes. It is the Republicans who are surprisingly sticking to their guns and even in the Senate refusing to cut a deal on Ukraine and Israel funding unless they get their apparently very keenly desired “wall” buckeroos. Since politically-perceived-as-important Israel dough is being held hostage, this move can’t be explained as a clever gambit to throw Ukraine under the bus, the better to save the money for China and other fading empire bright shiny objects. Key sections from a Wall Street Journal update:

President Biden’s push to pass tens of billions in new aid for Ukraine stalled in the Senate on Wednesday, but the setback could inject new urgency into bipartisan talks over border-security measures that Republicans have demanded as a condition for their support….

The funds earmarked for Ukraine include nearly $12 billion to keep Kyiv’s government afloat, $15 billion in military-support activities and $2.3 billion for benefits for Ukrainian refugees. The bill also includes more than $14 billion for Israel, including for missile-defense systems, and money to bolster the Indo-Pacific, which the U.S. sees as critical to providing a safeguard for Taiwan against any potential threat from China. It omitted elements of Biden’s original request, such as money for child care, one reason that Sanders voted no.

Republicans said they opposed the national-security package because it omits strict new changes related to asylum and other policies they see as essential to cutting down on illegal border crossings.

Republicans and Democrats have been discussing a change to tighten the initial asylum screening standard, but GOP lawmakers have said that change alone isn’t enough. They have broadened their demands to include a massive expansion of immigration detention for asylum seekers, the ability to send asylum seekers to other countries the U.S. deems are safe and limits on an immigration status known as humanitarian parole. The Biden administration has used parole expansively to let in hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Ukraine war and asylum seekers at the border who sign up in advance….

Late Wednesday, Sens. Rick Scott (R., Fla.), Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) and Mike Lee (R., Utah) proposed that aid to Ukraine be conditioned on meeting metrics for reducing illegal crossings, with money released at a rate of $5 billion a month provided that the number of illegal crossings was reduced by about 20,000 from the prior month’s levels. “We’ve been told that that’s part of the conversation,” Scott said.

Of course, it might be nice if we stopped sowing chaos in countries south of the border so that their citizens didn’t find so hard to earn a living there, or even have adequate personal safety.

It is noteworthy that Republicans, who would be assumed to be all on board with new arrivals so as better to have an easily-exploited pool of labor so as to suppress hourly worker wages, want to cut immigration. Is it because they believe that the Democrats intend to, and will succeed, in increasing their voter base, since the Democrats assume these new arrivals, like all good-thinking people of color, will vote Democrat? Or could there be an element of employer recognizing that many of these immigrants will have very limited employment opportunities? As Aurelien pointed out in a must-read post on why it is verboten in polite company in Europe to question immigration:

Perhaps it helps if we consider the principal explanation put forward for the willingness, even eagerness, of western governments to adopt a policy of mass immigration over the last generation or so in the first place. We don’t need to dwell on all the stuff about aging populations: high unemployment among working-age people means that there are already plenty of workers, and there will be for the foreseeable future. It’s true, of course, that Europeans have historically demanded things like decent wages and working conditions, protection of employment and so forth, and immigrants, who have no choice, can usually be coerced into accepting worse. But the idea that mass immigration was only the search for a pliant and exploitable workforce doesn’t really hold up.

For a start, even if you were a typical greedy, grasping employer trying to save money on staff costs, wouldn’t you at least want a workforce that was capable of doing its job? Let’s say you run a chain of cut-price supermarkets, and you employ a lot of immigrant labour in menial roles. Well, according to French government statistics last month, only about 50% of 14-year olds in French schools can read and write to an acceptable standard. (About 20% are functionally illiterate and this has been true for some years.) Inevitably, these figures are much worse in the poorer areas, and among the immigrant population. Well, perhaps it doesn’t matter if you’re going to be a YouTube influenceur or a rap artist. But what if you are not? If you can’t read and write properly, you can’t work as a cashier, you can’t pass a test to drive a lorry, you can’t even stack goods on the right shelves. Likewise, increasing numbers of immigrants arrive as unaccompanied minors and never learn to speak French properly, because the resources have never been put into language teaching. After which your job prospects are, let’s say, not great. The result is that in many lower middle-class areas, a quarter to a third of a class cannot speak French well enough to follow the lessons properly, which ruins things for everybody. But let’s not talk about that.

Now, no matter how dumb your average employer or right-wing politician is, it must have occurred to them that having a cheap, flexible workforce is of no value if the workers can’t actually do the job. And indeed, it’s common to meet employers who privately deplore the fact that they can’t find staff qualified for the job, no matter how much they pay. Likewise, it’s notorious that most hotels in major European cities employ chambermaids from Eastern Europe who don’t speak the local language and try to get by on a few words of English. (It would have been nice if someone had anticipated such problems a generation ago and put money into resolving them, or even stopping them happening.) So I don’t think economic explanations are sufficient, the more so because there are now more potential cheap and desperate employees than there are jobs, and more are arriving all the time.

Now of course the US has a nominally tight job market so the current conditions are not the same as in Europe.

But how much unmet demand is there for not very skilled day labor on construction crews, or as restaurant busboys, or as cleaning staff or as meatpacking house workers? Recall that when RFK, Jr. spent a few days at the border, he found a surprisingly high number of people waiting to cross had been brought by coyotes from Africa. How many would have adequate English? Keep in mind that mothers hiring nannies generally prefer English proficiency and better yet some level of education, before getting to the issues like a nanny that owed a lot to a coyote might be tempted to steal. Put it another way, the immigrants that have the skills that would enable them to assist in the capitalist labor exploitation project might be a smaller proportion of southern border entrants than most assume.

One condition similar to what Aurelien describes in Europe is too many cases of insufficient assimilation. During the big US immigration waves, we had a lot of land and other resources to exploit, and hence plenty of vaunted opportunity for new migrants. Even so, while some of the first generation might have gotten by by sticking to actual ghettos or support from communities of immigrants from their home country, they also felt it was important that their kids become fluent and even better, educated. In the early 1900s, there was a backlash over immigrants representing a perceived threat to American culture. The National Association of Manufacturers sponsored both a propaganda campaign but also pressed for more formal and informal efforts to assist immigrants in integrating…as well as sponsoring mass “naturalization” celebrations to showcase the idea that immigrants wanted to and were becoming good Americans.

In other words, tightening up entry seems so much easier that more systemic approaches. But how to achieve that?

Gaza demonstrates a border can be secured. Even with lots of military training and planning, only a comparatively small number of Hamas fighters got out. But the total Gaza land border is 37 miles, versus over 1,900 miles for the US and Mexico, The cost of military-level containment would likely be prohibitive. Perhaps it could be supplemented with drones and rapid-response/capture methods. But that seems a big and untested ask. And Lamber argues that this level of policing would be societally corrosive (not that the US is very healthy to begin with).

Reducing demand, as in the attractiveness of getting to the US, could help (or course, that does not mean that coyotes would not say otherwise to the desperate, so changed conditions could take a while to reach the man-on-the-street level in key countries).

One might be to crack down on remittances, as in require an ID card that only citizens or those with a valid visa could obtain. At least in Asia, many immigrants go to a foreign country with a major motive being to send money home. Restricting that could have an impact.

Another is to crack down on employers. The IRS knows both that many people have multiple SSNs and perhaps more important, many SSNs are used multiple times, the latter presumably to pay not-kosher workers, likely immigrants. If the Republican were serious, as opposed to posturing it would be comparatively cheap to authorize the IRS to automatically issue big fines to employers caught submitting W-2s or 1099s with SSNs in use at other employers, as well as contacting people with multiple SSNs issued to them and notifying them that all but one were going to be cancelled (presumably the one with the most wages and hours reported would be preserved).

A third way might be to pay for whistleblower to report employers of illegal immigrants. You could have a minimum reward of say $1000 for a report that proved out (say of a member of the PMC using an illegal nanny) with much bigger rewards for actionable information against bigger employers, like the afore-mentioned meatpacking plants. Remember that even though the idea of causing the loss of immigrant jobs may seem punitive, these relationships are often highly exploitative, with in extreme cases families who brought in immigrants as household workers being convicted of slavery, and industrial employers subjecting illegal workers to dangerous workplace conditions and sub-minimum wages.

Mind you, there are plenty of other ideas that I’m not wild about but readers might want to toss out and debate. For instance, in Thailand, you have to show either a Thailand ID or a passport to get a SIM card. While some Mexican cell phone plans work in the US, I assume most migrants are using prepaid phones so this requirement could create a lot of friction. It might not be much of a deterrent in and of itself, but could raise the specter of much more effective surveillance and ease of removal.

This is a thorny problem and there clearly are no magic bullets. As with Covid, the best answer is likely to be a layered approach.

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  1. ambrit

    Another point to consider is that America is no longer an expanding physical economy to any reasonable extent. Previous waves of immigrants could enter the workforce, even as “scabs” etc. at the bottom and have opportunities to work themselves up somewhat. This was general for most immigrants when ‘times were good.’ Today, when times are not so good, many of the immigrants face hardships that steer them towards “less honourable careers,” such as in petty crime and organized crime. When not served by the legal economy, hungry people will turn to the ‘illegal’ economy. As the backlog of un and under employed immigrants grows, so does the potential army of social disruptors.
    FDR and AH both came to power during the Great Depression on the promise of putting the country “back to work.” The Orange Haired Satan did a low key version of that strategy with his MAGA campaign strategy. As “things” continue to worsen for the ‘lower half’ of the country, that strategy becomes stronger and stronger. Don’t forget that, even in the depths of the Great Depression, unemployment never ‘officially’ exceeded 25%. Yet that was enough to spark fears of real revolution breaking out in nations worldwide. The case can be made that both the election of the ‘New Deal’ Democrat Party in America, and the National Socialist Party in Germany were stealth revolutions, for the ultimate effects of both events were revolutionary to the Western Powers.
    As the sign in Bill Clinton’s desk stated, “It’s The Economy Stupid,” still holds true today.

    1. Altandmain

      There’s a strong argument then if the US economy stops growing or even declines, to reduce both legal and illegal immigration then.

      I’m not blaming immigrants for their situation – in many cases they were the victims of their situation, both due to US foreign policy, but also due to the declining state of the US economy. However, increasing the population in a stagnant or declining economy means potential to worsen the unemployment and underemployment rate for both immigrants and existing citizens.

      Whether or not this can change due to political changes, such as a second New Deal, remains to be seen. Certainly Bernie Sanders was pushing for the idea during his Primary attempts. I think though that the rich would resist it, as Michal Kalecki wrote ( and would rig any New Deal to be less of a gain for the working classes and poor, but rather a giveaway for the rich, along with upper middle class.

      Given this economic and political climate, I think that there’s a case to be made for reductions in legal immigration except in a handful of specific industries (only where there’s wage growth, because employers like to lie about worker shortages when in reality, the shortage is of employers willing to pay a good wage), and increasing illegal immigrant enforcement.

    2. TimD

      If we look at the value of real economic growth and compare it to the federal fiscal deficit. We would find that since 2009 the growth of the national debt has been higher than the dollar value of economic growth. When liabilities are growing faster than revenues – I wouldn’t really call it growth. No wonder the people at the bottom, are having a tough time of it.

    3. Carolinian

      no longer an expanding physical economy

      Construction? If anything in that line happens in my neighborhood the odds are 75 percent that the crew will be speaking Spanish. And there was a period when all the local McDonald’s had Hispanic workers but during Trump time this changed to mostly African American. The political environment does seem to make a big difference as to how acceptable foreign workers are and there are lots and lots of jobs that don’t require literacy or fluency.

      Perhaps it’s not so much the “great replacement” as the great giving up by much of the traditional working class–many of whom were indeed those European immigrants and their offspring.

      1. JBird4049

        Hello? My (White) family and classmates worked in construction, often in unionized jobs. While it is true that many people, including my family, very happily went to college (when they were affordable or even free, that is.), plenty of people went into the trades, which were destroyed. They went from well paying, often unionized jobs, to not well paying or unionized.

        I do not think that the importation of cheap labor from the countries south of the Rio Grande that were economically destroyed, while having each country’s wealthy, oligarchic families with their private armies (including the “national” one) plus the death squads put in power by the United States at the request of corporations with the concurrent destruction of American labor happenstance. You can, if you want, but then I will have a bridge to sell you.

        1. steppenwolf fetchit

          Is that the Bridge to the Twenty First Century that President Clinton gave a speech about building?

          How many people are sleeping under it? More and more all the time.

  2. The Rev Kev

    I could add that any country – whether it be America, Germany, the UK or wherever – as a must should have a clear definition of where it’s borders are, the ability & duty to defend those borders, and the final say on who emigrates into that country based on current needs and capability to support an increased population. When emigrants were flooding through Ellis Island by the millions in the late 19th/early 20th century there was an actual individual inspection process though emigrants at the time described it as sheer chaos. None of that appears to be happening on the southern borders. And in the past year alone something like 2.4 million people have crossed into the United States. This is not sustainable and if there was a vote on this issue next November, most people I suspect would vote to stop this happening. And with America’s homeless situation, I can only see a lot of those refugees adding to those numbers.

    1. Vicky Cookies

      It may be important to note that, while the numbers of immigrants may be eye-popping, they do no correspond directly to increased population, where we would have concerns about carrying capacity. The U.S. has operated according to the Bracero model with regard to immigrants for decades, at least: bring in seasonal or ‘guest’ workers with no rights, and, when convenient, deport them. Actually, this was done with Chinese immigrant labor before Latin America was sufficiently destabilized to supply employers here with cheap, exploitable labor from those countries. Chomsky’s daughter Aviva has some good work on this.
      So, we’d need to see, and be able to trust, data on deportations before drawing conclusions from the number of crossings.

  3. Vicky Cookies

    This is a very clear treatment, with the seriousness that the issue deserves.
    Are we presupposing here that the U S. will not stop “sowing chaos”, as you put it, in the global South? And that no reparative action will be taken to alleviate the conditions which lead to immigration, for which the U.S. is uniquely responsible? If so, of the measures you mention, empowering the IRS to hit employers for fraudulent practices seems to me to be the most just, as it follows the cui bono approach.

    Aurelian may have a point if we assume an urban, service-industry workforce, but concerns about functional literacy are probably not shared by employers in, for example, agriculture. Here in Wisconsin, ‘small farmers’ with less than, I believe, 11 employees, are not subject to some key OSHA requirements. Many workers on small dairy farms are immigrants, and live in ’employer-owned housing’, a charming euphemism for latifundia.

    One more systemic approach might be to relieve the pressure smaller employers feel from rentiers, banks and monopolists, which incentivizes the super-exploitation of immigrant labor. Here, aggressive anti-trust enforcement would be needed. Beyond these thoughts, my only suggestion is that we in the U.S. learn Spanish.

    1. John

      Learn Spanish? An excellent idea. Being multi-lingual expands your personal boundaries. Learn Spanish as a response to uncontrolled immigration equals surrendering to uncontrolled immigration. To me that means a refusal to address the situation.

      Perhaps were the US to divert a few hundred billion from the pockets of the MIC … cut the damn useless ‘defense’ spending … there would be ample funds to attack the problem from multiple angles. The article suggests a number of them, but you must notice that all of them smash a rice bowl or two.

      1. Nikkikat

        The US govt. knows full well, how many people are working and for whom. I am personally okay with immigration. There are jobs in agriculture that no citizen would
        Take. But the IRS runs reports every year that shows the many immigrants using either a fake social security number, a child’s social security number or numerous people working under a fake number. These reports show the employer and their tax ID number. They typically have taxes taken and social security and Medicare deducted from pay. The reports are worked to expose under reported income. The only interest the fed government has in these reports is for unreported income for welfare programs. The reports are known as IEVS. I used to work these reports to compare reported income to the income reported on IEvS system. So it’s laughable that the GOP carries on with the lie that they are getting something that citizens do not. This system was put in place by Reagan. They’ve known for years the companies that exploit cheap labor. But, it’s more fun for them to play the race card or claim that terrorist are sneaking into the country. Most of the people coming here for years can be traced to whatever country the CIA has overthrown the latest government in central and S. America. Or whatever country is being used to run drugs into the US. There is also a refugee program that works the same way. Mean while all my relatives in the South watch Fox News and Believe that these immigrants take their jobs. The largest industry for hiring illegal immigrants are fast food chains. They wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for immigrants.

    2. chris

      Given that many in the US have never heard of the Monroe doctrine, and the people who are most likely to consider border security an important issue are also the same people who are opposed to any kind of foreign aid like reparations, I think the odds of the US reducing the pressures on the global south are slim. But from recent documentation, it appears we’re not talking about the Caribbean and Mexico anymore. Africans, Asians, South Americans, are all rushing the southern border. I don’t know what to do about that without resorting to draconian tactics. A mine field maybe? Automated self targeting machine guns? Extremely invasive internal security measures so if you’re not a citizen you can’t buy anything?

      1. Vicky Cookies

        A refusal to come to terms with realities such as ones country’s pillaging of foreign lands is a recipe for events like the protests in France earlier this year. Rather than by the gruesome and dystopian methods you mention, I think a key aspect of a rational approach to this issue would be to build an awareness of things like the Monroe Doctrine. We cannot afford more NYT articles on Nicaraguan and Venezuelan immigrants sleeping on the sidewalks of NYC without even the most dismissive allusion to why countries which have been the victims of U.S. foreign policy are major sources of immigration.

        1. chris

          I agree, but “bomb and forget” is the American Way(TM)! I can’t wait to see the latest version of the Lockheed Automatic Border Monitoring system, coming soon to a gated community near you! I kid…kinda.

          We want those people to stay where they are. They will refuse to do that because they can earn multiples of their wages just coming north. They will also refuse to do that because in some cases we’ve ruined their countries. If not by instigating a coup, then by climate effects making agriculture and life untenable. How do we stop migration when the control is lax and the rewards are plentiful? Our elite class will refuse the kind of capital controls necessary to curb remittances. So that’s a non-starter. In near term dystopia fiction authors posit the existence of internal US borders. If this keeps up, we might get there!

          If you made me king of the world today, and I could control everything about this situation, I’d work to make a refugee camp in Mexico that was large, well supplied, and with humane conditions, available to collect these people until their claims were adjudicated. I’d also create a surge of lawyers to process their cases so we don’t have this kind of backlog anymore. And we’d take biometrics on all the asylum seekers so that the decision about their status could be easily enforced. I’d also staff up to do an e-verify audit of every business in the US. That might be a start to controlling the problem. But since a lot of this is still climate driven, we won’t be able to stop it.

        2. Michael Fiorillo

          I don’t know, it seems like a pretty good racket for all concerned: the Empire of Chaos gets to do its thing, contractors and vendors get over, enforcement budgets rise, employers get cheap labor, safety net budgets are threatened if not reduced, and liberals and conservatives alike get to pose for themselves and each other.

          What’s not to like?

    3. DJG, Reality Czar

      Vicky Cookies: Agreed. Your first paragraph mentions the biggest problem, which is sowing the wind and pretending no whirlwind results.

      Other problems should all be placed directly on employers, largely because U.S. labor law is bad, the Democrats regularly pretend that they are going to make unionization easier, and both parties now advocate various Ponzi schemes like Amazon, Uber, the delivery services (you know, Exploitoroo), and Moderna as economic modernization.

      –Enforce the law, and make sure that the law is enforced equitably across the middle and upper-middle classes. I note Vicky Cookies’s comment about OSHA and Wisconsin side effects. I’m shocked, shocked, I tell you.
      –Major U.S. labor reform. Get rid of Taft Hartley. Repeal all right-to-work laws. I worked with a restaurant association, and food joints are designed to exploit and abuse labor. This business of “jobs Americans don’t want to do” often brings to mind how in Chicago there once were black waitstaff and busboys–replaced almost overnight and totally by Mexicans from the 1980s / 1990s on. Stop work for tips. Period.
      –In short, place the burden on the employer.
      –Also, pass decent legislation to eliminate homelessness. Many people would then pass into the workforce. Many others might get the social services that they deserve.
      –End at-will employment and other fantasies of the managerial class.
      –More trade schools, greater variety of obtainable certification, more training courses. The idea that the U S of A has to import Mexican plumbers and Romanian electricians (and I’ve seen them) is absurd.
      –Culturally: Stop pretending there is such a thing as multiculturalism in the U S of A, when it is all about résumé-building. The U S of A is the only country where the word “bilingual” is defined as speaking U.S. English and Mexican Spanish. Oh. How cosmopolitan!
      –Be prepared for both political parties to wet their pants. Each wing of the Property Party has been enhancing the problem for years and years. (Which is why the name Ron Johnson, Immigration Reformer, mainly just makes me laugh.)

      1. Vicky Cookies

        Comprehensive, thank you.
        The reforms you bring up are, I suspect, only possible with a redistribution of political power from capital to labor. Within the current electoral atmosphere – you mention the two wings of the property party – this would require a mass-based party representing the interests of labor, explicitly and exclusively. One of the constraints such a party’s organizers would face would be the old money-in-politics problem: you have to pay to play, spend huge sums of money to access the system at all. Given this limitation, it seems that, for the changes needed, like those you mention, we would need a revolution, or for the powerful to feel threatened enough by the prospect that concessions are made.

      2. Felix_47

        As an ex card carrying Teamster and Laborer one thing that I did not see mentioned is the disastrous effects open borders for manufactured goods have had. One way to level the playing field would be to revisit the trade agreements that focused on IP and Disney and lawyer fees and think about an obvious one. US cars are built in Mexico with 2 dollar per hour labor with a phoney Union in control of the government and the manufacturers. Audis are built there. Many Asian cars are built there all using imported parts and domestic Mexican parts. Part of any trade agreement should demand that the UAW or the Teamsters or the ILGWU (the I stands for international) have the right to organize and strike with workers producing for the US market. That means the wages in these countries in these industries would rapidly reach the US level. And it would supercharge their economies as well through the carry on effects because all wages would rise.

    4. Adam Eran

      To me, the “sowing chaos” item is the big deal. Between 1798 and 1994 the US is responsible for 41 changes of government south of its borders, creating a constant stream of military and political refugees…and there has been plenty of meddling since 1994 (Bolivia, Peru, etc.).

      If that weren’t bad enough the neoliberal “free” trade — e.g. NAFTA — crushes nascent economies in the south. One might figure sending Mexico lots of subsidized Iowa corn would impair their corn farmers’ businesses–and the treaty acknowledges this, bailing out the big farmers. But the little farmers, you know, the ones growing the unusual varieties of corn that keep its disease resistance and genomic diversity alive, they were bankrupted, and streamed north. Apparently not making any money for Monsanto meant they deserved our economic attack.

      In the wake of NAFTA, Mexican median real income declined 34%, a figure not seen in the US since the Great Depression.

      Anyway, all the talk about doing things in the US to manage immigrants is a distraction from this ginormous issue, IMHO. I’d settle for cutting back on the attacks.

  4. Socal Rhino

    I would start with more focus on elite motivations- putting aside questions about how to restrict entry, why is there any question about the desirability of doing so? Do we think there is a mass of elites who favor open immigration out of altruism?

    Or as Charlie Munger has said: show me the incentives and I’ll tell you the outcome.

    1. Adam Eran

      JFYI, my plumber – Ukrainian. My electrician – Syrian. Interior renovations – Ukrainian. Garage door opener repair – Ukrainian. Appliance repair – Ukrainian. Cabinets – Ukrainian.

  5. chris

    I think it is odd we’re helping allies like Ukraine and Israel fight over their borders, while disregarding our own. I also think it’s odd that when we have an easy tool to use, such as e-verify, we refuse to use it en masse. We also refuse to crack down on problems like SSN fraud. But then again, we’re ignoring borders in places like Syria with our occupation, and Cuba with Guantanamo Bay, so perhaps it all evens out?

    I would suggest we have the ability to solve our problems even if we don’t decide that destroying the global south is a bad thing to do. We’re just choosing not to do it. I don’t know why.

    A wall could be one element of a border security strategy. But without manpower and other components a wall isn’t going to do much.

    1. DavidZ

      Helping Ukraine – is more about bringing Russia down.
      Helping Israel – is a combination of political/money pressure by Jewish lobbies. Maybe a tinge of regret about not doing more during the holocaust (it’s more in Europe). Of course that tinge of regret doesn’t extend to the Roma, gay, socialists, communists etc who also suffered.

      Helping their borders is simply tangential.

    2. ChrisFromGA

      E-verify is pretty widely adopted for most white-collar type jobs, it’s the lower tier jobs that it would need to be enforced (waitresses, busboys, day laborers.) I think it is feasible but would require more enforcement and raids on those businesses that pay on a cash basis, which I am pretty sure some small business owners still do and just hope they don’t get caught. For a restaurant server, getting paid cash under the table is a decent perk in that they don’t have to report the income.

      Taxing remittances would be easier or making everyone show a green card to send money from places like Western Union. As you say it is really a matter of will and something doesn’t add up.

    3. MSH

      Treating migration as a military issue to be solved with walls and weapons is unfortunate. These migrants are not soldiers or terrorists but people looking for better opportunities and generally fleeing poverty and violence. Instead of punching down and taking away their rights as human beings, we should develop strategies to help them without harming current citizens and residents. Creating legal paths to entry and work are the more humane solutions to migration.
      Reducing the flow of migration will only be possible by changing our foreign policy. Just lifting illegal economic sanctions we have on multiple Latin American countries would be the first step that would have a huge effect. Changing neocolonial policies that impoverish our neighbors would go a long way in reducing influx of population to the heart of the empire.

      1. You're soaking in it!

        “Creating legal paths to entry and work are the more humane solutions to migration.”

        A key point in getting any of the integrative benefits has to start with this. You want people who want to stay and be stable? You want people committed to some aspects of the normative culture? There are millions of people working in the US right now with no possibility to legally stay. People who can be counted on to work and pay taxes (that’s what all those multiple SSN’s are for) by definition should be permitted to stay, and with a reasonable probability of citizenship and to accrue the benefits they are getting charged for. If you discover someone working under phony circumstances, get them in the system on the spot. If they are already good enough to work, then they should be good enough to live as a neighbor without fear of being deported.

        1. JBird4049

          >>>If they are already good enough to work, then they should be good enough to live as a neighbor without fear of being deported.

          We should ignore the already high hidden unemployment rate, the destruction of unions and and American labor, which includes driving down wages across the country, because…?

          If American businesses need workers, perhaps they should pay for them with a livable wage, maybe with some benefits? People should be able to afford housing and food on a single job.

          1. Jeremy

            > employers leveraging the precarious status of undocumented workers to drive down wages

            > so you deport a few more workers, not enough to stop the flow of course (or i have a bridge to sell you), but just enough to increase the precariousness and thus employer leverage over remaining undocumented workers

            > wait for wages to definitely rise

          2. You're soaking in it!

            Once people can be secure from being deported, they are allies in the struggle. I’m not talking about bringing in more people, I’m talking about the people who have been here working and paying taxes already. People in the US seem just fine with the people who pick their crops, watch their children, make and serve their meals, and work in their industries forced to support the same government that will keep them living in poverty, ignorance and fear. I’d say that this redounds right back on the working people who know about it and tolerate it.

            Taxation without representation is tyranny, I’ve heard it said. Why not stand up for the rights of the people who are logically brothers and sisters together and show them the meaning of solidarity? Unemployment, destruction of unions, low wages; are these really the fault of people working without the right to live here?

            As for your last paragraph, I strongly disagree with “perhaps”. How about, “or else”?

  6. DavidZ

    Is it because they believe that the Democrats intend to, and will succeed, in increasing their voter base, since the Democrats assume these new arrivals, like all good-thinking people of color, will vote Democrat?

    This section is a bit of democrat-baiting by the republicans. They are fusing together 2 things -> illegal immigration + voting fraud aka democrats will have illegal immigrants vote for them that’s why they are weak on the wall.

    The party that gets an amnesty through congress will be the one that gets the vote and that’s why GW Bush tried hard in his first term to get another amnesty law into place and was rebuffed by Republicans. If Republicans had managed to get that through, they would have had a solid base of voters who would have voted for Republicans for helping them out.

    GW & the republican leadership saw that, the rank and file didn’t find it palatable.

    PS: there was a previous amnesty bill 1986 and almost everyone who settled into the US via that, almost always voted Republican – anecdata.

    1. JonnyJames

      Sorry, but I don’t believe that the D/R dictatorship represents any meaningful choice. No matter which emotionally-charged distraction is used, or if Ds or Rs control Congress or the WH, conditions will continue to worsen, as they have in recent decades. Call me cynical, but there is no way to vote against the interests of the ruling kletpocratic oligarchy. In my usual crude way I liken Democracy and Elections Inc. as a PR stunt to create an illusion of choice, placate, divide and distract the public.

      Meanwhile, the rampant institutional corruption continues, infrastructure crumbles, living standards decline, Debt Peonage increases, likelihood of nuclear war increases, environmental destruction increases…

  7. Fazal Majid

    Ironically those US citizens whose SSN is, ahem, “borrowed” by undocumented immigrants find this actually improves their credit score, as the said immigrants are terrified of being found out and make strenuous efforts not to make waves by defaulting.

    Climate change is starting to replace political instability as the main driver of migration from the global South. Not that the two are distinct, the genocide in Darfur was driven by global warming-induced drought, and the conflict in Syria is caused by Turkey diverting water from the Tigris for its own benefits, causing drought in Syria.

  8. Wukchumni

    One might be to crack down on remittances, as in require an ID card that only citizens or those with a valid visa could obtain. At least in Asia, many immigrants go to a foreign country with a major motive being to send money home. Restricting that could have an impact.

    This is the key move, in that we want immigrants that are willing to put down roots, but not the kind that are here only to support a family back home.

    Like any proposed prohibition-there would be every kind of attempt to get around it, but its damned easier than building our version of the Great Wall, by cutting off their reason to be here for a good many of them.

    Allow only physical cash to be transported across the border in terms of remittances, and watch immigration numbers plunge.

  9. Alan Roxdale

    coyotes from Africa

    Unless this is a typo, this is a very unfamiliar term to me for one. It’s used a few times. Spellcheck error or something new?

    But how much unmet demand is there for not very skilled day labor on construction crews, or as restaurant busboys, or as cleaning staff or as meatpacking house workers?

    Don’t forget the other demand, the demand for tenants. The property industrial complex is all too pleased with the squeeze on housing all new immigration generates.

    1. Reply

      Coyotes are part of a human supply chain.
      They extract payments in cash and in kind.
      In the olden times a few decades ago, those coyotes were primarily in Mexico and Central America.

      Now they are found in Africa, east and central Asia and wherever payments can be extracted. There are horrible costs paid by immigrants crossing the Darien Gap, as one of several places with rape tents. People travel for many reasons, from political suppression and gross human rights violations to pure economic opportunism. The American Dream is tarnished for many, but glows for others by comparison to hovels, starvation, suppression and indignities not generally perceived here. Flee one situation, pursue another one if you can.

      There is a supply of and a demand for immigrants. That exists somewhat independently of action or inaction in Washington and on Wall Street, and at some remove in place and time. The US policy, as perceived rightly or wrongly by millions, is that the borders are essentially open and that there is much help from official, NGO and other sources. How else to explain the provision of the following in South America, Central America, or on either side of the Mexican border?
      Resource sheets showing available government and other assistance
      Debit cards loaded with $5,000, as discussed by Arizona sheriffs recently

      The days of water jugs in the desert for thirsty people seem quaint by comparison. Discussion of immigration in the media too often sensationalizes or minimizes without addressing objectively the humans and costs involved all along the chain.

      1. marym

        “…as discussed by Arizona sheriffs recently”

        There’s video of one sheriff in saying this. Any links to further info?

  10. Valiant Johnson

    Two quick points from here on the wall. I wish I had more time to write but a lot of mediots are coming this morning.
    First I disagree with the nomenclature of “Coyotes or Human Trafficker” a least for the situation here in Jacumba. The people who transport the migrants here to the breaks in the wall are not breaking any laws in Mexico or the USA. These guides and travel agents do have to pay varying amounts to the gangs that control the egress sites. The Cartels make so much money off of the drugs trade that this is a total side light, they do take a cut, but not a big one. I know this from speaking with hundreds of migrants and from speaking with the men who control the area where the breaks are.
    My personal take on why this is happening the way that it is:
    The oligarchs that control or nation/culture want this to happen for some reasons. I speculate that it has something to do with keeping wage inflation under control, but I don’t know. One things not commonly understood about the migrants passing through our area here in Jacumba is that 60 to 70 % are middle class educated members of their respective societies. Including engineers, medical professionals and many other people with university educations.
    Gotta go

    1. Partyless poster

      What your saying goes against the whole “they’re desperate to escape poverty” line thats always used.
      But it lines up with footage I’ve seen lately where the migrants look a lot less poor and desperate than many people living here.
      This suggests the solution has to be aimed more at stabilizing those countries of origin, after all those countries will need those types and having them leave en masse only makes things worse.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Spare me this nonsense.

      RFK, Jr.was shown a rape tree on the Mexico side of the border where your oh so kindly guides rape the non-ancient women one last time before they go into the US.

  11. Rip Van Winkle

    “Another is to crack down on employers.”

    Lip service since at least 1980. Can easily find 3 minute primary debate video between St Ronny and Poppy. Looking back, neither had any intention nor did they answer the actual question from an audience member-citizen posed in that debate.

  12. EMC

    Addressing immigration in any meaningful way means addressing foreign policy, ie., exploitation and resource extraction. And they all know it. It’s not on the table.

    1. flora

      A very large proportion of the south border-crossers look like fit, military age young men. Now comes Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durban’s proposal to allow them into the US military – after they’ve lived in the US for 5 years – in exchange for citizenship. Several weeks ago I commented in jest B’s open border policy was going to be the Dems effort to increase US military recruitment, which is now falling short of required enlistee numbers. Turns out, a couple Dem senators think its a good idea. who knew. / ;)

  13. ChrisFromGA

    Throwing another angle out there, if true believers in mitigating climate change want to see policymaking make a difference, restricting immigration from poorer to richer places makes sense.

    It’s harsh but the reality is that every third-world immigrant, by coming to our consumerist society and adopting higher energy consumption habits, increases their carbon footprint and the overall resource depleting trajectory of America.

    That’s not to say nobody should be allowed to come, but there ought to be a “freeze” for a while to allow existing migrants to assimilate and stop US population growth. Due to aging demographics, it is probably not that hard to envision the US losing population without some immigration, so just achieving a static population around 330-340M would likely be a climate win.

    The other angle that is going to be a third rail of politics is that encouraging illegals to take up underground economy gigs like nannies and lawn care just enables the PMC to continue their high-falutin’ lifestyles, which aren’t exactly carbon-neutral.

  14. Joe

    Rome, Russia, England, Visigoths, etc all depend (ed) on having at its core a homogeneous base and the massive increase in immigration is now threatening it with dissolution. Once the Lopez and Hernandez encroaches too much on the Smith and Joneses then it comes time to dial things back a bit

    1. Polar Socialist

      …Russia, […] Visigoths…

      Not that it makes much of a difference, but Russia has 190 different ethnic groups. Biggest one is Russians at around 3/4 of the population. When Russia was an empire, the ratio was, of course, even smaller. Since the 16th century there has been separate words for Russian (ethnic group) and Russian (subject of state) in Russian language. Also, Russia currently has one of the most lenient migration policies in the world, says Wikipedia.

      Also, not that it makes much of a difference, but Visigoths lived in the times when nobody was thinking in terms of where people were allowed to live and who got to decide that. Migration was a the thing – and had been at least since Homo heidelbergensis emerged from a genetic bottleneck 900,000 years ago. Everybody and their dog packed up once a decade and left for good. Until many places came up with the concept of serfdom and people were not allowed to migrate at all about a thousand years ago.

      The ethnically pure nation state was kinda invented only during the 19th century and naturally the Europeans went totally overboard with that novelty. Fittingly, we are at the moment witnessing two wars stemming from that sad era of humanity’s “progress”.

      I must admit I once had hope that EU could restore that old patchwork of cultures Europe used to be before by lessening the influence of nation states, but it looks like I’m going to die a bitter, disappointed man. Probably of a stroke after rolling my eyes too much.

      1. JonnyJames

        Good points. Many think that the modern nation-state, and accompanying ideologies, existed in antiquity and medieval times. However, as you say, it is a 19th century invention. Germany, for example, did not become a nation-state until 1871. (Also, one could argue that the Germanic peoples originally came from farther east, and are relative newcomers to what is now Germany, so the “blood and soil” concept is silly.)

    2. Jeremy

      Cultural “dissolution” is when i see the name Hernandez too much! Aren’t you quite the victim; someone call the ICC.

      America First types who skimmed a Wikipedia article once love to bandy about this explanation for Rome’s fall; historians don’t.

      1. flora

        This is becoming a real thing in Ireland, the UK, and other EU countries. Social reasons are not de facto r*csit reasons.

  15. Gully Foyle

    “It’s harsh but the reality is that every third-world immigrant, by coming to our consumerist society and adopting higher energy consumption habits, increases their carbon footprint and the overall resource depleting trajectory of America.”

    That was funny.
    Guess you missed how rich people have like a thousand times greater “:CARBON FOOTPRINT”.
    Open all borders eventually everything evens out.
    “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
    ― Frederick Douglass

    1. flora

      “open all border eventually everything evens out” except the power relations between the economic classes in a country and except the democracy thingy about accountability and stuff. But other than that, if people are just migrating birds instead of citizens, well sure… / oy

      1. flora

        Next you’ll see a strong push for digital id as the solution to know who is entering what country. Create a problem. Have a solution that happens to increases unelected oligarchic power and reduces citizen privacy. What could go wrong? / ;)

        1. Gully Foyle


          “Usually when you ask somebody in college why they are there, they’ll tell you it’s to get an education. The truth of it is, they are there to get the degree so that they can get ahead in the rat race. Too many college radicals are two-timing punks. The only reason you should be in college is to destroy it.”
          ― Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Book

          Superfly 1972

          Militant : Dig it, dope peddler. We’re out here building a new nation for black people. It’s time for you to start payin some dues, nigga!

          Youngblood Priest : I ain’t givin’ you shit! I’ll tell you what you do, you go get you a gun and all those black folks you keep doin’ so much talkin’ about get guns, and come back ready to go down, then I’ll be right down front killin’ whitey. But until you can do that, you go sing your marching songs some place else. Now we’re through talkin’.

          Black Dynamite 2009
          [Black Dynamite walks into the militant group’s hideout]
          Black Dynamite: Excuse me, brothers.
          Militant #3: [Gets up] The militants turn, startled. This is private. How’d you get in here?
          Black Dynamite: I walked in.
          Militant 2: So you one of them sneaky brothers, huh? Or maybe you an undercover pig. Or maybe you just a federal hitman.
          Black Dynamite: If I was, you cats would already be dead. Now let me speak to the man in charge.
          Militant #3: Sarcastically, I’m in charge.
          [Exchanges hi-fives with the other militant]
          Black Dynamite: If you were in charge, the people might as well surrender to whitey right now, because your survival skills ain’t worth a damn.
          Saheed: Black Dynamite.
          [Walks into the room]
          Saheed: It’s been a long time, my brother.
          Black Dynamite: [Exchanging hi-fives with Saheed] What it is, Saheed?
          Militant 2: You know this Uncle Tom?
          Black Dynamite: Listen sucka, I’m blacker than the ace of spades and more militant than you and your whole damn army put together. While you out there, chanting at rallies and brow-beating politicians, I’m taking out any money-fronting sucka on a humble that gets in my way. So I tell you what, when your so called revolution starts, you call me, and I’ll be right down front showing you how it’s done. But until then, you need to SHUT the FUCK UP when grown folks is talking.
          Militant 2: I’m sorry.
          Saheed: Yeah, we heard about what went down at the Hip Pocket. That was righteous.
          Black Dynamite: That was personal, brother.
          Saheed: Personal or not, you saved a lot of brothers and sisters. You need our help,
          [pounds chest with right fist]
          Saheed: we’re here.
          Black Dynamite: I can dig it.
          [Black Dynamite pulls the bullet casing from his pocket]
          Black Dynamite: What can you tell me about this?
          [Saheed takes the casing, sniffs the inside for gunpowder and licks the outer casing]
          Saheed: I ain’t seen one of these in a while.
          [Black Dynamite and Saheed walk out of the room]
          Militant 2: [Whispers] I was gonna fuck him up.

          1. flora

            re: Abbie Hoffman quote,
            “Usually when you ask somebody in college why they are there, they’ll tell you it’s to get an education. The truth of it is, they are there to get the degree so that they can get ahead in the rat race. ”

            And in the last 20-25 years uni admins have taken up this idea; students are customers who are there to buy a credential. Oh boy, have uni admins taken up this idea. It’s the current economics of higher education that drives this. Less and less state support for higher education means restructuring uni economics toward “private market place values.” / sigh

            1. flora

              adding: back when Abbie wrote that, truth was, students were there to get an education in chemistry, engineering, architecture, business, classics, music, law, medicine, teaching, etc. in order to know how approach the tasks and problems in their future careers. The credential opened the door to a job with a deeper study in the field by assuming a student had already mastered the rudiments of the discipline.

        2. Gully Foyle

          December 7, 2023 at 1:02 pm

          Next you’ll see a strong push for digital id as the solution to know who is entering what country. Create a problem. Have a solution that happens to increases unelected oligarchic power and reduces citizen privacy. What could go wrong? / ;)”

          Ever read Neal Asher?
          Quiet War: This is often how the AI takeover is described, and even using ‘war’ seems overly dramatic. It was more a slow usurpation of human political and military power, while humans were busy using that power against each other. It wasn’t even very stealthy. Analogies have been drawn with someone moving a gun out of the reach of a lunatic while that person is ranting and bellowing at someone else. And so it was. AIs, long used in the many corporate, national and religious conflicts, took over all communication networks and the computer control of weapons systems. Most importantly, they already controlled the enclosed human environments scattered throughout the solar system. Also establishing themselves as corporate entities, they soon accrued vast wealth with which to employ human mercenary armies. National leaders in the solar system, ordering this launch or that attack, found their orders either just did not arrive, or caused nil response. Those same people ordering the destruction of the AIs, found themselves weaponless, in environments utterly out of their control, and up against superior forces and, on the whole, public opinion. It had not taken the general population, for whom it was a long-established tradition to look upon their human leaders with contempt, very long to realise that the AIs were better at running everything. And it is very difficult to motivate people to revolution, when they are extremely comfortable and well off.

          – From ‘Quince Guide,’ compiled by humans.

          1. flora

            I haven’t heard of Neal Asher before. That’s an interesting quote. Someone said the current tech/intel bros read dark sci-fi novels and watched dark sci-fi movies in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s and took them for roadmaps instead of warnings. It’s a clever quip.

  16. MT_Wild

    Being a realist, I’d just look abroad to other Western countries that have put forth what appears to be a good faith effort to deal with immigration and assimilation.

    What I see is that regardless of how good your system to handle immigration and assimilation may be there’s an upper limit to how many and how fast you can deal with in the best case scenario.

    Then I’d posit that a good faith immigration system in the U.S. at this point is impossible either thru design or incompetence. I’d assume anything we try to come up with in the U.S. will produce worse outcomes than something the Germans, Dutch, or Swedish put together.

    This almost guarantees that the U.S. system will maximize the negative aspects of immigration (negative social-cohesion, strain on public services, rise of nationalist/reactionist authoritarian politics, whatever) without maximizing the positive aspects (innovation, economic growth, whatever). And these impacts and benefits will not be distributed equally or equitably.

    At the same time political, economic and ecological factors almost guarantee increasing migration pressure on the U.S., while we’ve likely already exceeded the upper limit to what we can handle.

    In a nutshell, we’re doomed.

  17. JonnyJames

    But we need a constant “border crisis” to foment hatred of the external “Other”. It’s a great political tool to mobilize internal support, while distracting the plebs from the lack of democracy/freedom/, declining living standards, crumbling infrastructure, environmental destruction, lack of health care, rampant corruption, etc.

    The old scapegoat the immigrants trick has been around for centuries. All of our problems can be blamed on the desperate and powerless. Be afraid of the “invasion”, “flood” and “tsunami” of criminals, rapists, and disease-ridden people from shithole countries – they are coming to rape your women and enslave your children! OMG!

    Regime change, illegal siege warfare, gun and drug running in Latin America, supporting cartels and political death squads, creating thousands of refugees, what would the CIA do if that sort of thing wasn’t allowed?

    It’s a win-win, we can have plenty of cheap labor to exploit and cheat, and a scapegoat to blame all of our problems on. That’s part of American political culture.

    The “border crisis” has been around since 1848 – the phrase “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us” is one to ponder.

    However, when the SHTF in the USA, how will “merkans escape if there is a wall?

  18. Sub-Boreal

    It’s interesting to look in on this discussion from Canada where immigration rates have reached levels not seen since the settlement era more than a century ago.

    Targets for the next 3 years are averaging ~ 500,000 per year, which is added to an existing population that passed ~ 40,000,000 in July. Immigration accounts for virtually all of the population growth.

    Additional details on the various immigration categories are here.

    Setting aside Quebec, which always frets about letting in too many non-Francophones, for decades there has been a pretty durable national cross-party consensus among the PMC and elites that immigration is a Good Thing. Both of the national duopoly parties (Liberal, Conservative) are publicly supportive of high levels of immigration. The Libs are more enthusiastic because they’ve traditionally been more adept at bringing new ethnic groups into political life, plus there’s the expectation that these new Canadians will remember who was in power when they got into the country and will show their gratitude at election time. Racist elements among the Conservatives are usually kept on a pretty short leash, and apart from occasional stray bits of dog-whistling, any official statements on immigration follow the elite consensus pretty closely. Plus, the Cons realized eventually that they could find openings in new ethnic communities by seeking out socially conservative elements to make common cause with.

    But despite this robust elite consensus, broader public opinion is becoming more skeptical, with recent polling showing a clear majority favouring a lower intake. This is linked pretty clearly to understandable concerns that housing and public services (esp. healthcare, education) just can’t keep up with the influx. Personally, it seems nuts to me to be opening the doors so wide when the existing population is having trouble getting basic needs met. Such concerns tend to be met by a lot of hand-waving about labour supply, which ignores the persistent difficulties that skilled immigrants still experience in getting foreign credentials and experience recognized. And even if those barriers are lowered, why should we be poaching healthcare workers from other countries which need them even more desperately?

    I’d be curious to hear from Aussie commenters about how these things are going down in their patch. It has always seemed to me that Canada and Australia represent a kind of twins-separated-at-birth experiment, with the resulting differences (and similarities) being quite fascinating.

    1. eg

      My favourite (possibly apocryphal) story of Canada vs Australia is that the latter was chosen as the British Empire’s penal colony because to use the former for this purpose was deemed to be cruel and unusual punishment.

  19. Pookah Harvey

    Three points
    1] The majority of people in the US illegally have overstayed their visas. They outnumber people illegally crossing the border, by most estimates, by a 2 to 1 margin. So increased border security would, at most, solve only 1/3 of the problem.
    2) The E-Verify program where US employers can check if employees are here legally is available to any employer that wants to use it, but of course is only voluntary.
    3) 2 of Frank Luntz’s rules for political rhetoric are simplicity and brevity. There is no way you can beat the bumper sticker “BUILD THE WALL”

    1. Old Ghost

      If Republicans really want a “wall” to keep out immigrants, shouldn’t they be the ones to specify how it would work? Where it needs building, And how it will be funded? Instead they demand that the Dems fix it for them.

      1. JonnyJames

        The Israelis are really good at building Walls, let’s give them some no-bid contracts to build more walls on the borders of our “homeland”. Da gubment is “broke” but plenty money for nuclear weapons “modernization”, Israeli genocide of Palestine, Ukrainian Nazis etc. The Israel Lobby will be happy too. The bribe money will be great for the Congress Crooks.

    2. Paris

      I could bet with you that overstayed visa people are way more qualified than the ones that cross the border.

    3. Adam Eran

      “Build the Wall” bumper stickers make the case for Brandolini’s law: It takes orders of magnitude more energy to debunk the BS than to create it in the first place.

  20. David in Friday Harbor

    All this pearl-clutching and not a single mention of the Elephant in the Room: Since my birth in the mid-1950’s the world population has grown from 2.8 billion people to 8 billion people. Our economic, social, and political institutions have not kept up with this existential planetary transformation. They could not.

    The paternalistic attitude toward the immigration of little brown/skin-tone-of-choice people wrapped in serapés/shawl-of-choice shuffling along in their huaraches/sandals-of-choice yearning for a better life are long past. Most immigrants today are (like our world), urban, educated, and young.

    As America’s growing swarms of miserable Urban Outdoorsmen attest for us daily, there are no jobs for these people. Since NAFTA (1994) and the accession of India (1995) and China (2001) to the WTO, industrial manufacturing jobs hardly exist in the U.S. any more, while “open borders” are required to obtain the necessities of life now made elsewhere. The young educated urbanite immigrant of today has no interest in tending to crops. They probably make excellent soldiers, but the history of other empires makes one question their utility long term.

    As a materialist, I see the politics of our era focused on the hoarding and rationing of resources. The Democrats think that the PMC caste has this all worked-out, but today’s Republicans tend to represent less wealthy constituencies who are concerned about being left out of their fair share of the rations. They see the ruins of Raqqa, Mariupol, and Gaza, and the crumbling high-rise squats of Saõ Paulo, Mumbai, and Johannesburg with an unconscious empathy — and don’t want to be the next Urban Outdoorsmen.

    This entire discussion is 30 years behind the curve. Immigration isn’t a matter of choice for most people, it’s a matter of having some sort of decent life. Good luck discouraging that.

    1. cute little greta

      Interesting comment. You end with this:

      “Immigration isn’t a matter of choice for most people, it’s a matter of having some sort of decent life. Good luck discouraging that.”

      You began with this:

      “The paternalistic attitude toward the immigration of little brown/skin-tone-of-choice people wrapped in serapés/shawl-of-choice shuffling along in their huaraches/sandals-of-choice yearning for a better life are long past.”

      I would argue that your comment is itself a tad “paternalistic” and all-knowing.

      1. David in Friday Harbor

        After nearly 70 years on this orb, half of them in high level government service in a well-known jurisdiction of 2 million, half of whom reside with someone who speaks a language other than English, I actually spent time looking at current demographic data before launching my comment above. If I sound paternalistic and all-knowing, I promise I come by it honestly.

        My point being, in 2023 the U.S. has no need for the demographic currently seeking entry and no ability to absorb them — yet they keep coming. This reality is not lost on a significant group of U.S. voters and is driving the political impasse discussed in the post.

    2. JBird4049

      >>>This entire discussion is 30 years behind the curve. Immigration isn’t a matter of choice for most people, it’s a matter of having some sort of decent life. Good luck discouraging that.

      True, but I worry about the American population’s probably violent, even lethal, retribution. It is not fair, but telling someone that they will just have to endure being ever poorer, while losing more of their identity, is likely to cause that.

      1. David in Friday Harbor

        Do you mean to say that mass participation in the ongoing conflicts in “Ukraine” and Gaza are not being driven by ideology, but rather by the personal experience of material inequality with others living in close proximity who were telling them You can’t have nice things?

        Will a citizenry enabled by the Second Amendment have a similar reaction when they realize that their country can no longer produce many daily necessities? Have their leaders already decided, Let’s go kick their ass and take their gas! to avoid societal collapse? Do current immigrants just want “in” on the rations?

        Rules-Based Order = Law of the Jungle

    3. Felix_47

      I wonder if anyone has thought of a world population policy, Certainly the Chinese one child policy brought the most people out of poverty ever. When I spent some time a few decades ago in Honduras the birth rate was destructively high. Even then the only pathway to a better life was to come to the US. Contrary to what I often read the problems in Honduras with United Fruit and government were minimal in contrast to the astronomical birth rate. The women wanted tubal ligations (this was in the early 1980s) but it was hard to get politcal authorization and financing from the US. Of course the church was violently opposed. The women would pay plenty of money for pills but the men did not want BC because they thought it would encourage the women to sleep around. Taking BC pills could be a death sentence. Instead the men slept around all the time with anything that had two legs. And due to the huge population growth the area which used to be relatively self sufficient in food is now filled shacks with largely cheap Chinese tarps for roofs and no screens. The number of people headed to the US has surged. I look at US population policy and the population policy of the Catholic and Muslim religions as that of a worldwide dead beat daddy.

      1. flora

        China’s one-child policy was a draconian, authoritarian nightmare that saw several Chinese officials assassinated. I put it in the same category as the “great leap forward,” but that’s just me.

        1. Felix_47

          Without it Shanghai would look like New Delhi or Bombay or worse and I do not mean the tony parts. Maybe we need authoritarianism to break down rampant patriarchy.

          1. flora

            No, we don’t need authoritarianism to break down patriarchy. (Who do you suppose the authoritarian authorities would be? heh) / ;)

      2. David in Friday Harbor

        This tragic picture of the economic and sexual exploitation of women and girls accomplished by male violence and malevolent religion is a microcosm of the population bomb that is overwhelming the carrying capacity of our planet.

        However it isn’t just Hondurans or Daesh. Jeffrey Epstein and his upstanding pals Bill C, Bill G, and Leon B come to mind as well.

  21. cute little greta

    I’m not sure what your comment ultimately says. You end with this:

    “Immigration isn’t a matter of choice for most people, it’s a matter of having some sort of decent life. Good luck discouraging that.”

    You began with this:

    “The paternalistic attitude toward the immigration of little brown/skin-tone-of-choice people wrapped in serapés/shawl-of-choice shuffling along in their huaraches/sandals-of-choice yearning for a better life are long past.

    I would argue that your comment is itself a little “paternalistic” and all-knowing.

  22. Societal Illusions

    That this issue remains so divisive AND untethered leads me to conclude this is the desired outcome.

    At a macro level, we must want what we have. If we didn’t; we would behave differently. It’s clearly not important to have different results.

    It also seems required to address immigration from the perspective of legal (is following the rules) and illegal (not following rules). The ease or difficulty and quantity of those permitted to be legal impacts the illegal number.

    Walls, surely may make a difference, but it seems when there is a will, there is a way to enter, wall or no. Same could be said about restricting illegal crossings. There is clearly little will, so we have what we have.

    We allow criminality and more due to how we organize ourselves. We could prioritize differently, but that would require leadership and a solid (read realistic) lab.

  23. Jeremy

    It is baffling that this article treats as “noteworthy” the fact that Republicans want to curb illegal immigration. Then twists in knots to avoid mentioning a seemingly obvious explanation for this consistent position of theirs: ie. the GOP is playing to American chauvinism and xenophobia. For parties that want to avoid touching the really salient issues it’s a venerable tradition going back to the Know Nothings.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Wowsers, make shit up much? From the hardly Republican-touting NPR”

      For decades, leading figures in the GOP went out of their way to sound a compassionate note when it came to immigration policy. In recent years that rhetoric fell out of line with where the Republican base was, giving Trump the opportunity of a lifetime in 2016.

      Reagan opposed “putting up a fence”

      Even in the age of Trump, Ronald Reagan remains the iconic conservative standard bearer for many in the party.

      At a 1980 GOP presidential debate in Houston, Texas, Reagan spoke of Mexico as “our neighbor to the south.” He added, “We should have a better understanding and better relationship than we’ve ever had.” And as he continued, Reagan sounded a lot like he was weighing in on today’s immigration debate.
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      “Rather than talking about putting up a fence,” the future president said. “Why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems?” It’s the kind of line you might hear from just about any Democratic senator in 2018.

      On the stage debating him that day was another 1980 GOP presidential hopeful and future president, George H.W. Bush. He was asked by an audience member if children in the country illegally should be allowed to attend U.S. public schools.

      Bush didn’t hesitate, saying he doesn’t want to see 6- or 8-year-olds being uneducated or “made to feel that they’re living outside the law.”

  24. Matthew G. Saroff

    I think that the basic assumption here, that both sides care about immigration, is largely false.

    On both sides, it is largely virtue signaling, with Republicans wanting to appear tough on immigration while allowing for low wage labor for the big business, and Democrats are attempting to appease labor and social justice activists, while also supplying cheap labor to big business.

    Expecting a solution where no one involved in the debate is acting in good faith, is a pipe dream.

    1. Glen

      That’s what I tend to think too. I finally ended up working with an H-1B visa holder and came to the conclusion that it was indentured servitude to a corporation at best. I cannot imagine what type of chicanery could be pulled by an employer with illegal aliens.

      That said, I can certainly understand why people in worst circumstances want to come to America, but the fact that we never hear about employers going to jail for illegally hiring people pretty much tells you why the uniparty is not going to make any big changes.

  25. Not Moses

    According to Gallup “ Nearly 900 Million Worldwide Wanted to Migrate in 2021.” Jan, 24, 2023.

    *Decade-high 16% of adults wanted to migrate permanently in 2021
    *U.S. still most desired destination, but less attractive now than before 2017

    “Desire to migrate rose to decade-high levels in regions that are already well-known for sending migrants, such as Latin America and the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Commonwealth of Independent States”

    While the conversation in the comments above is geared for short-term solutions, the problem is gargantuan. Neoliberal deregulation, monopolies and climate change are making it very difficult for people around the world. In addition, we have the case of overpopulation, having reached the 8B mark. Apparently close to half million Cubans have immigrated to the US, coupled with another half a million Venezuelans. The latter have been also immigrating to other countries in the region. Chile closed its borders, as have other nations with problems of their own. South Africa regularly deports illegal immigrants. It’s a global problem and the US is exacerbating the issue. What if it lifted the sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela, for instance. What if the Biden Administration had worked for a diplomatic solution to prevent the Ukrainian debacle. Or, the Palestinian genocide in Gaza? But, thanks to AIPAC, the White House, State Department and Congress are more interested in shutting down free speech in higher education institutions.

    Steven Ratner, a former NYT business writer and Obama Administration political appointee, who now moonlights as strategic investment adviser at Michael Bloomberg’s family investment company, was praising this AM on MSNBC the joys of low unemployment and declining greedflation. Isn’t it the case that over 60% of workers are contract/ gig workers who make minimum or close to minimum wage? Who have no health insurance and the rest. We need to return to New Deal capitalism with rules. Last observation: in 2021, the President of the Dallas Fed, Robert Kaplan and the President of the Boston Fed, Eric Rosengreen were removed because they had been trading on insider information, under Janet Yellen and later Jerome Powell, yet compliance regulations haven’t been modified. Ditto, the SCOTUS.

    How can there be immigration reform, when the US Chamber of Commerce has been mute on the topic. Maybe the goal is to flood the country with immigrants to repress wages.

  26. Karl

    Legal net immigration exceeds illegal by several multiples. A higher percentage of the latter return home perioically. I suspect all of the partisan sniping over “breaking the law” is a distraction from the reality that annual net legal immigration is rather shockingly large as a percentage of the U.S. population (to me at least). Then add illegals and refugees on top of that….

    Interestingly, according to Pew, 45% of all legal immigrants into this country end up in three States: Florida, Texas and California. California gets more than Florida and Texas combined. Something like one out of 7 residents of California are not U.S. born. Californians seem to like the diversity. It helps explain California’s economic growth but also its serious housing affordability problem. A growing population raises all rentiers’ boats.

    1. Felix_47

      One thing that may help California attract more migrants is the fact that children including illegals are automatically enrolled in MediCal and get full dentistry as well. The dentists are making bank on MediCal. Since there is a subjective element in diagnosing a cavity many dentists who specialize in the newly arrived tend to find more cavities than dentists who have more middle class patients. And very often the children of the migrants are afraid of western style dental care so they need a general anesthetic which is a good source of easy money for the clinic. Of course the older refugees often get quite a few dental implants which are quite profitable. There is no question that open immigration is very profitable for doctors, dentists, therapists, hospitals, surgicenters etc. Some will argue that the compensation rates from the government are low but it is nothing a little creative billing and upcoding cannot fix.

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