A few years ago I was on a date with an open borders skeptic. While chatting my date complained that Hispanics were not assimilating quickly enough and refused to learn the language. I pointed out that her family was descended from Poles who had come over only a few generations ago. Today not one of them, including herself, could speak Polish. Why did she think Spanish would fare any better?
My date was not alone in her concern about language assimilation. One does not need to search far to find someone making the same basic argument: X group is not learning the language quickly enough. This will lead to the destruction of our nation! Or worse – the United States will become another Belgium.
I could write a few thousand words discussing why the United States doesn’t have to worry about becoming Belgium. Not that there is anything wrong with Belgium. Instead though I will present a question and a map.
Where are the Spanish tweets?
J.B. Post, Ken, and Peter Berlich have constructed a map showing the world by language use in twitter. North American is solidly grey (English). The only exception is the urban core of Quebec where French (in violet) has managed to persist. A few spots of pink (Spanish) can be seen in Mexico, but they fail to penetrate the US border. The full map can be shown here.
The beauty of the twitter map is that it shows us the language of choice among the millennial demographic, twitter’s core user base. First generation migrants may retain use of their native tongues but their millennial children certainly aren’t tweeting in Spanish, Chinese, or Tagalog. If migrants are not assimilating quickly enough we should see Spanish tweets dominating Texas, Florida, and California. Instead we see English continues to dominate the North American continent. Indeed, I suspect that the internet age has encouraged both English adoption among millennial children of migrants and by the world as a whole.
Earlier this year the Obama administration announced the expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, creation of the new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program, and several other executive changes to the US immigration system. In response twenty four states, led by Texas, have filed suit against the Obama administration.
Their alleged concern is that the policy change will cause them to extend benefits to illegal aliens. This claim is not without warrant. Deferred Action not only grants recipients work permits, but also ‘legal presence’ which might make DAPA recipients eligible for some welfare programs depending on the state in question. I sympathize greatly with open border critics whose concern is over the fiscal cost of migrants. Indeed, if the states involved in the lawsuit were acting solely with the goal of addressing the fiscal cost of illegal aliens I would wish them the best of luck.
However once you start looking at the data it becomes clear that the fiscal cost of illegal aliens is not the reason why these states have elected to file their lawsuit. If the fiscal cost was so great we would expect those states with the largest share of the illegal alien population to be leading the fight. Yet California, housing 22% of all illegal aliens in the US, is notably absent from the lawsuit.
Indeed most of the states involved in the lawsuit have a tiny portion of the nation’s illegal aliens. At time of writing the following states have joined the lawsuit: Alabama (1%), Arizona (4%), Arkansas (0%), Florida (7%), Georgia (4%), Idaho (0%), Indiana (1%), Kansas (1%), Louisiana (1%), Maine (0%), Michigan (1%), Mississippi (0%), Montana (0%), Nebraska (0%), North Carolina (3%), South Carolina (0%), North Dakota (0%), Ohio (1%), Oklahoma (1%), South Dakota (0%), Texas (14%), Utah (1%), West Virginia (0%), and Wisconsin (1%).
I have constructed and included below a linear probability model, and probit model, where I find the probability of a state having filed lawsuit given its illegal alien population as a percentage of its total state population. If fiscal cost is a significant motive then we should expect a positive correlation, with those states with a large illegal alien population being more likely to have signed onto the lawsuit.
My findings? There is negative, albeit very weak, correlation. That is to say that states with a larger portion of their population as illegal aliens are less likely to have filed the lawsuit.
None of this should be taken to mean that the fiscal cost of providing welfare to migrants should be ignored. Migrants are already disqualified from most federal welfare benefits, but several states could reform their local welfare benefits nonetheless. If excluding migrants from welfare benefits is not politically feasible then they should at least be made to pay state taxes in order to allow states and other local governments to recoup some of their loses.
Estimates of illegal alien counts come from the Pew Research Center (Table A3). Data set modified from John Lee’s earlier post on comparing US states by their illegal alien population.
We’ve reached that part of the year where most of the western world is simply resting. The exact traditions may vary, but chances are that your home currently houses a good portion of your extended family. Even those who might wish to return to work can only manage to escape for a few minutes before being dragged into a game of twister or having a plate of food placed in front of them.
In recognition of this allow me to offer the following family-friendly movie recommendations. Although these films center around migration they don’t attempt to shove political messages down your throat so don’t worry about getting into fights with relatives.
Summary: Follows the life of Cecil Gaines, a butler who served in the White House through the 20th century. Cecil was born in the south but migrates northward, eventually finding himself in DC, in search of better economic opportunity. The film is rare is being one of the few to address the Great Migration, the mass migration of blacks from the south to the north, midwest, and western US.
The later half of the film deals with Cecil’s struggle with his son. His son believes that blacks must confront institutional racism in the south through direct action. Cecil on the other hand seems to think that the best course of action is to migrate out of the south.
Summary: Dead-beat Valentin wakes up one day to find a baby on his porch along with a note stating that he is the father. The film follows Valentin and his daughter’s (Maggie) lives as they migrate to America in search of a better life.
The film breaks stereotypes at every turn and it pays off well.
Maggie might have entered the United States illegally but she has white skin, blue eyes, and blond hair. Her mother had been an American tourist.
Valentin spends well over a decade in the United States and can’t speak English, but the film goes out of its way to make it clear this is because Valentin is a dead beat. In an early scene Valentin is shocked when he tries to speak with others he assumes to be fellow Mexican migrants only to discover they aren’t fluent in Spanish.
Summary: A generational epic that follows the Corleone family beginning with the patriarch Vito’s migration from Sicily to the New York City, continuing with Micheal, and ending with the third generation.
The Godfather Trilogy is one of those films everyone knows about, but which few people have sat down long enough to fully enjoy. For example, one of the prevailing themes of the film is assimilation and I don’t think many people get that.
In the opening scene of the trilogy we are greeted by the ‘I believed in America‘ speech delivered by an Italian migrant. The migrant tells us how he put his trust in the American dream, raised his children as good Americans, and followed the American law but was still met with injustice. So to wrong that justice he went to Don Corleone on the day of his daughter’s wedding…
I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion…
Don Vito himself makes it clear that he knows he is looked down upon as a petty criminal, but he doesn’t feel the need to apologize for his actions since all he has done was with the hope that his children could be full Americans. He looked forward to the day when one of his descendants would be ‘Senator Corleone’.
Summary: Another generational epic in the same vein as the Godfather trilogy. My Family depicts the Sanchez, a Mexican-American family that settles down in East Los Angeles.
As readers must have noted by now, quite a bit of recent films depicting migrants focus on hispanics. This should be no surprise given that hispanics have dominated migration waves in the past decades. My Family is unique among Hispanic-migrant oriented films in that it doesn’t really deal with illegal immigration.
The film does deal with the Chicano movement, the Bracero program, the Mexican-American War, the Salvadoran Civil War, and other events crucial to understanding American Hispanic culture but its clear that its catering towards those American Hispanics who are already at the end of the assimilation cycle.
The film begins with the family patriach moving to Los Angeles to live with an uncle. The uncle, nicknamed El Californio, makes it clear that he isn’t a Mexican-American. He was born in California before it was lost to transferred over to the US following the Mexican-American War. El Californio was born in Mexico and as far as he’s concerned he still lives in Mexico.
His relatives on the other hand are less nationalistic and you note this by the language the characters speak in. Early on Spanish dominates the film but around midway the use of Spanish becomes less frequent. At the end of the film the use of Spanish is rare.
Ladies, gentlemen, and elves. I am here before you today in favor of prosecuting the individual known as Santa Claus for immigration crimes against our sovereign nation.
Every year on the eve of December 24th Santa Claus enters our nation for temporary employment. He enters without a valid visa or even entering through a designated port of entry. The defendant and his supporters do not contest any of these claims.
Santa Claus’ crimes are especially heinous when one considers the vast number of goods he transports into our nation without proper documentation or paying tariffs. Santa Claus hires large numbers of foreigners year round to produce toys and other goods. He pays these foreigners well below the prevailing wage in our nation and does not extend to them basic labor rights. Through unfair competition practices Santa Claus has put countless of our nation’s firms and their employees out of business. Every toy received from Santa Claus is a toy not bought from a native mom and pop store. Santa Claus is not merely an illegal alien, but a smuggler and a slave driver as well.
Some of you might have concerns about prosecuting Santa Claus as he is considered a religious figure in some circles. Our nation is not an unreasonable one and several visas exist for religious workers to enter lawfully. That Santa Claus has not bothered to apply for such a visa shows that he does not respect our nation’s sovereignty to control our borders. Furthermore our nation’s government, secular in nature, cannot afford to provide special exemption to individuals based on religion alone. To do so would be recognizing some religions over others and encourage social strife.
Others may object to prosecuting to Santa Claus on the basis of the limited resources that our nation has to prosecute immigration violators. Here I concede that our resources are limited and we must on occasion elect to prosecute with cost efficiency in mind. This is not however the situation with Santa Claus. Every year our defense establishment tracks his movement from the North Pole across the globe. This has been done for over six decades. It is difficult for me to believe that we do not have the resources to capture Santa Claus and bring him into justice for his flagrant violation of our laws.
Ladies, gentlemen and elves it brings me no pleasure to make the case for prosecuting Santa Claus. The man gave me several toys throughout my childhood. My heart wishes that Santa Claus could be forgiven, but the law is the law. I wish there were an alternative, truly I do, but there is not.
In a speech late yesterday President Obama spoke about the need to fix the United States’ immigration system and announced a series of executive actions his administration was taking. The full text of his speech can be found here, and the Department of Homeland Security’s fuller description of Obama’s executive actions can be found here. If you are wondering about the constitutionality of Obama’s actions I refer you to Law Prof. Ilya Somin’s post on the issue and his updated version.
I agreed with much of what President Obama said last night. Immigrants have shaped the United States. We are a nation of immigrants. Our national epic begins with a group of migrant Pilgrims fleeing religious prosecution in Europe and settling in the new world; we celebrate this event every year on Thanksgiving. I cannot think of a better time for immigration reform.
President Obama conceded in his speech that the bill passed last year by the Senate was imperfect, it was a compromise on both sides, but nonetheless it was an improvement over our current system. Here too I agreed with the President.
I diverge with the President however in thinking that one of the main issues of immigration reform is what to do with our nation’s illegal alien population. By all means I have a vested interest in seeing some sort of legal status conferred to this population. The life of an illegal alien in the United States is difficult, but it is infinitely better than the life of those who weren’t able to make the trip at all. What we should concentrate on is reforming the system so that everyone who wishes to come to the United States has the opportunity to do so.
President Obama spoke about the need to make it “… easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy…” but this is still missing the point. President Obama seems to believe that the United States need a specific type of migrant and that the government is capable of screening for them whilst simultaneously denying entrance to ‘undesirables’. One of the reasons I support Open Borders is precisely because we can’t know what type of migrant we need.
If I may lift a page from F.A. Hayek, the question is not whether immigration should be planned but who should plan it. Many people believe by default that it is the state that should plan for society. In this respect most mainstream pro-migrant and anti-migrant advocates are only marginally different. They may differ in how they believe the state should plan, but they nonetheless believe it should plan. The radicalness of Open Borders is the belief that the role of planner should go not to the state, but to the spontaneous order that is created through the actions of individuals.
Whether a migrant is employed by a firm should be a decision made by his potential employer. Whether a migrant finds housing should be a decision made by his potential landlord. Whether a migrant is accepted into a given church, club, association, or Jazz band should be up to these respective groups. Whether a potential migrant is able to succeed in his mission should depend on his ability to find employment, housing, and social ties through voluntary transactions with other individuals. There is neither need nor place for the state to become involved in these transactions.
The executive actions undertaken by the Obama administration yesterday have improved on the status quo, and to that extent I welcome them. These reforms are not enough though, we still have a long way to go before we reach Open Borders. The United States immigration system must be replaced with one led by the market process. Immigration systems elsewhere must also be reformed. The posts on Open Borders: The Case are US-centric because most of our writers are Americans, but this should not be confused to mean that only the United States needs to adopts Open Border policies. Israel, the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico, South Africa, and every other polity should adopt Open Borders. By all means let us celebrate the marginal improvements the Obama reform has brought, but let us not forget that our end goal is something far more radical.