Thursday, October 20, 2011

Kevin Drum on Illegal Immigration

He gets it exactly right.

As I've said here and elsewhere, the only sensible option is the humane enforcement of just immigration laws. And, as Drum notes, many liberals who deny this are committed to positions that seem to entail an open borders policy--which is as close to a reductio as you can get in a policy debate.

I'm not sure what's up with so many liberals on this issue. Open borders are not an option. We need immigration laws. If we have such laws we need to enforce them. None of this comes anywhere near suggesting that the laws or the enforcement thereof should be draconian--in fact, it explicitly asserts that they must not be. IMHO, we need to do whatever we can to make sure, for example, that kids don't suffer unreasonably for decisions their parents made; passing the Dream act, for a more specific example, seems like a complete no-brainer to me.

Unfortunately, this seems to have become one of those symbolic, emotional issues that almost can't be discussed rationally. For making almost exactly the points that Drum makes on the other end of the link, I've basically been accused of being a racist. There are many people out there whose rational faculties just shut down when this issue comes up.


Anonymous Jimmy Doyle said...

See my colleague Chris Bertram's post on the Drum piece at Crooked Timber:

(Drum replies in comments)

9:03 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Wow, Jimmy, no offense to your colleague, but his response seems jaw-droppingly weak to me. Liberals go kind of batty when this issue arises--check out the comments on Drum's post for some confirmation. The straw men start flying pretty quickly. Drum's claim that we should seek to humanely enforce reasonable immigration laws is met with claims like "oh, so your people immigrated here and now you want to slam the door behind you!!111" and suchlike...

Bertram's pointing to laws that divide same-sex partners is quite a stretch as a criticism of Drum. Such laws are pretty peripheral to this debate, they're obviously not what Drum was talking about, and we have them because our laws are messed up in a way that has nothing to do with immigration.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Jim Bales said...


You may recall that a couple of years ago you and I discussed exactly what constitutes the "liberal" positon on immigration.

In that comment thread, I had posted:
My position is that those liberals who are can actually affect how we deal with illegal immigration generally have a pragmatic approach, trying to balance the concurrent needs to:
1) Enforce the laws and maintain respect for the law,
2) Recognize the economic role illegal immigrants play in the US, and
3) Maintain our nation's values of free movement and openness, and our opposition to the forced expatriation of millions of people.

I would also add that some (perhaps even most) of these liberals consider other problems that we face to be much more pressing than that of illegal immigration.

The primary sources I used to support my contention are either quoted or linked to in the comment thread.

WS replied that he agreed that
permissiveness about illegal immigration is NOT the liberal "orthodoxy" as I originally and falsely asserted.

I don't believe that the liberal "orthodoxy" has changed in the past two years on the subject of immigration, but I'm open to contrary evidence.

I'll note that, in the link cited in WS's post, Drum does not identify even one specific liberal taking the "open borders" position.

Finally, I'd like to address WS's words that:
"[Immigration] seems to have become one of those symbolic, emotional issues that almost can't be discussed rationally."

Given that
1) It was the (conservative) Republicans who torpedoed the DREAM act, and
2) The liberals whose positions I cited in 2009 were generally in agreement with what both WS and Kevin Drum propose in their respective posts;
I contend that our inability to resolve this problem has nothing to do with liberals and everything to do with conservatives.

Jim Bales

11:37 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

JB, bustin' on me again...

Long time, no hear from, man.

See comments to Drum's post to see some of the offending claims...but I remember our exchange well, and will think more about this...

4:00 PM  
Blogger C-Nihilist said...

best not to forget how reliant on immigrants agriculture and food processing are. the food supply! leads me to believe that illegal immigration is a feature not a bug.

if one is really so moved by respect for the rule of law, [rolls eyes,] the sensical approach to the "problem" would be to enforce labor regulations wrt minimum compensation, safety, and so on, so that they protect everyone in the workforce, illegal immigrants included. once employers no longer have the incentive to hire someone 'off the books,' who doesn't have the standing to file a complaint about labor abuses, Americans complaining about the availability of said jobs can compete for them on a level playing field. then it will become clear how much of a problem this thing really is.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Jim Bales said...


I'm guilty as charged! It was rude for me to say nothing for months and then come out swinging -- my apologies!

It has been a while since last I commented -- life has gotten busy (in a good way) lately. I got a couple papers out, got a new class spun up (and oversubscribed this term), etc.

However, the big change was my wife going back to work full-time.

This two-working-parent-household business is *exhausting*!

I read you blog regularly, but generally haven't had anything substantive to add, so I've kept quite. However, if an "amen" or two from the choir is helpful (particularly so you don't feel like you are talking to empty space) I'll happily chime in more often!

All my best,

1:23 PM  

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