Acton Institute Powerblog

Clear Thinking on Immigration

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Andrew Yuengert, the author of Inhabiting the Land – The Case for the Right to Migrate, the Acton study on immigration, looks at the current debate and debunks some common misconceptions. “The biggest burdens from immigration are not economic – they are the turmoil caused by the large numbers of illegal immigrants,” Yuengert writes.

Read the complete commentary here.

Jonathan Spalink


  • Realistic Human

    If they are not here legally they should be sent home. (That is home to the country of their citizenship.) Or even better yet; if they want to be a part of the US and they want to live by our laws then put them in jail.

    I, personally, don’t care what it does to our economy. I live by the laws of this country (right or wrong), and so should the illegals.

    I would not hire anyone who is not legally a resident of this country.

    Sorry if this offends you, but that is life!

  • Duggan Flanakin

    One thing we tend to forget is that many Mexicans and many from other nations as well who have come to the USA to work would have to pay huge bribes or perform other "services" for patrons before they could obtain paperwork in their home country to file for legal immigration into the USA. Moreover, the fact that they are already "extralegal" in their own country makes them more likely to want to leave there for a place that treats extralegals better than their native countries treat their own presumed citizens. Thus a major key to "solving" the immigration problem is demanding a higher standard of freedom for people in our neighboring countries to the south. [We rarely get illegal immigrants from Canada, for example – though it is difficult even for a person who is Canadian (or European or Asian or whatever) and married to an American to gain legal access to the USA if they are not here already.

  • Mountain Man

    Dear Caring Human,

    It is clear that you didn’t read the above article. First, it is a fact that immigrants do not contribute significantly to our economy and second, it isn’t about having an immigrant workforce willing to work for minimum wage so you can make a profit and be competitive; it is about illegal immigration. I’ll say it again for the slower among us – ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION.

    I work with executives every day in major corporations setting strategy for their firms and I know that the United States needs to focus on innovation and technology in order to preserve our way of life. High standards of living are derived from competitive excellence in the area of innovative solutions to life’s problems not trying to compete with China on menial labor. That form of work is not going to keep our wages high nor make the minimum wage sustainable even for immigrants. If our value-add is solely based on agribusiness or construction, we should sell our homes and move west, far west over the big waters, because our children are going to have a tough time making ends meet in the future. Most American worth their salt knows this, which is why they do not work for minimum wage.

    If you want to focus on what has changed in the last decade in the United States, you need to take more of a social view of life because you have evidently spent most of your time at work. If you haven’t noticed, we are a society that barely, I repeat barely, holds itself together by the rule of law. We are a fractious, bi-polar, mess politically and the discourse between the opposing parties could hardly get worse. I was reading through a research project that compared the confrontational language in the press prior to the American Civil War and by that standard the language today is more adversarial. All we need is to have the rule of law become optional and the last vestiges of civility will vanish.

    In summary, cheapening the rule of law in order to pay minimum wage is not an intelligent response to our problems. We need to enforce the law without reservation and be prepared for it to take a long time. Read Newt Gingrich’s working papers on this subject and get an education in what is really needed to solve a bigger problem than minimum wage.

  • Bob

    "My question is simple, Show me an American willing to work for minimum wage? "
    I have a better question for you: Show me an American able to LIVE on minimum wage. There is a reason it’s called the "minimum wage". Is that what we have to do? Work for the minimum? Do you see where that leads and what that will do to our standard of living?
    "First We the People must be willing to roll up our sleeves and do what’s needed to bring back our Nation on track, which might include, , learning the skills for today’s job requirements, Learning skills that employers look for when they bring in one million Professionals every year."
    Don’t patronize me!! I worked damn hard for 7 years to get my degrees in Software engineering. I was told that the future was bright for me. Then what? They discovered that people in India would do those same jobs for 1/10 of what I could afford to do it for because they live in a different economy, an economy where the per capita GDP is $3,600 per year!! The textiles and manufacturing jobs were lost because Americans living in a $40,000 per capita GDP economy were FORCED to compete with the Chinese who live in a $1,600 per capita GDP economy. It doesn’t take an economist to know that the Americans are going to get screwed in that deal. It’s like putting Gary Coleman in the ring with Mike Tyson.
    Capital, labor and Entreprenuership are the 3 ingredients of business. The fat cats have the capital and they have the entreprenuership. But labor is the one ingredient that has limited their profits because it is something that has to be negotiated. They have found friends in Washington willing to help them undercut our labor standards by destroying our ability to negotiate. They have done this by exploiting the cheap labor of workers living in lower economies of scale.
    It’s simple supply and demand. As long as there was limited supplies of labor (ie- domestic American labor), we were able to demand wages that allowed us to achieve the highest standard of living in the world. Once they were given access to a MUCH larger supply of labor (1.2 billion Chinese, another billion Indian’s and 150 million Mexicans), the American standard of living began it’s decline. And it will continue to do so unless the gov’t places penalties on companies trying to have their cake and eat it too, and places tarrifs on goods produced in smaller economies.
    Tarrifs and levees are the great equalizer, creating a level playing field domestically so American companies are able to compete with smaller economies while allowing American workers to maintain their standard of living. Once neither domestic nor foreign produced goods have a price advantage, they can compete on quality. And isn’t that what we want? The BEST products? If domestic companies develop technical innovations that lower their costs, give them a slight price advantage for a number of years to allow them to recoup their R&D costs. This would spur innovations from foreign producers so they could once again compete. Again, competition in this manner is good, and everyone benefits from increased productivity and higher efficiencies.
    Tarrifs also have the added benefit of generating revenue for the gov’t, which also helps Americans by offsetting the need for income taxes. If the goal is to harmonize wage standards, tarrifs can be adjusted S-L-O-W-L-Y over time. As wages rise in the smaller economies of the world, the tarrifs can be tempered here which would reflect the competition of wage parity, and wages here could be adjusted downward to help control inflation.
    But the fat cats would rather make a killing in the short run, taking advantage of wage desparities between world economies and damn the American workers. Do they care if our economy get’s destroyed and we aren’t able to afford to purchase products anymore? No, they have 1.2 BILLION Chinese and 1 BILLION Indians waiting to take our place as the world consumers. And they know the end result will be 300 million Americans willing to work for minimum wage, because desperate people will do just about anything to provide for their families.
    Wake up America. These fat cats are trying to steal your homes and livelyhood. And they can’t wait to enslave your children too. If Ford wants to move their manufacturing to Mexico, let them. Just don’t buy their products anymore. Buy a Toyota made in America instead. The profits might not be staying here, but at least you helped an American worker support his family.

  • SteveD

    I think Mr. Yuengert is trying to have it both ways.
    If illegals make up 1/25 of people in the US, and that is probably a low estimate, they MUST have a significant impact on the economy — both positive (sub-standard labor costs and collected but not paid out social(ist) (in)security and medicare) and negative (demand for free schooling, medicaid, and indigent medical care; driving down wages legal workers can ask/expect in food service, agribusiness, and other sectors, etc.

    A country is, above all, required to protect its sovereignty. The US must control its borders, coasts, and ports to protect against contraband, and illegal entrants as well as terrorists and WMD-components. I strongly favor liberalizing legal immigration rules AFTER putting up a double-tier fence with unattended ground sensors and persistent manned/unmanned aerial surveillance, backed up by the National Guard with authorization to use deadly force against anyone trying to breach/scale/tunnel under the inner fence line.

  • Corey Brenner


    Americans are not reproducing themselves at a rate to sustain their economy, because they see NO POINT IN DOING SO. We are assaulted daily by lies and distortions from our so-called leaders, be it untruths about immigration, fraud about foreign wars, or gentle wheedling and cajoling us to not be so hard on those oil barons who, after all, are just regular guys like you and me.

    We’ve been lied to, taxed, stepped on, dragged down, raped and spit on by these cretins inside the beltway and inside the legislatures of each and every one of the fifty states, districts, and protectorates. We won’t rise to the challenge, because we all know something none of us are willing to admit — WE’VE ALREADY LOST.

    Our nation, once a nation of laws, has become nothing but a patchwork of special interests, graft, and corruption at every level. We’re assured that the way forward, to make the "city on the hill" shine again, is to give more of our time, money, blood, sweat and tears to these imbeciles at every level of government. Socialism will save us! Yeah, right. It hasn’t worked so far, neither here nor in places like France, which are even sicker with The Disease than we.

    We have no leadership. We have no purpose. We have no reason to work, live, love, or even screw like rabbits. Why should we? The fruits of our labors, including our children, will just be stolen from us, anyway! Why bother?

    America is DONE. Stick a fork in her.

  • Corey, Steve, Bob, Mountain, Dugan, and Realistic;

    Can I encourage you to please cheer up? Didn’t Jesus have something to say about those that go about with open sores and wearing rags begging for pity and alms?

    Unemployment and inflation are at all time lows. The economy is booming. Oil prices have gone through the roof, and the country has chugged right through it. There is a level of efficiency and execution never before seen on this earth within the United States.

    I just don’t see the doom.


  • Leland Saunders

    When left unfettered, supply and demand always wins because it is self-correcting. This applies equally to labor as well as oil. If Mexican illegals in the U.S. cease to have a better life here compared to Mexico, illegal immigration would also cease. The fact that they come, find jobs, procreate, send money home testifies to the fact that the supply of labor has not yet exceeded the demand. The U.S. economy has unbelievable resilence. If immigration stopped tomorrow, hundreds of entrepreneurs would find hundreds of solutions to the problems caused by a “labor shortage.”

    Globalization is the extension of the forces of “supply and demand” to all parts of the world with less and less regard for political and cultural barriers. The “good” part of globalization is that it enables more of the world’s population to attain a “better” life. The “bad” part of globalization is that it blurs the distinctions between us which the human race has developed over millenia. Mexican illegals are simply responding to supply and demand or globalization, if you will. Their “illegality” only manifests itself based our response to it. If we provide no response, it really is not illegal.

    That is the globalization side of the argument. But there are other geo-political forces unleashed in the world … and these forces are looking only at the “bad” side of globalization and doing every thing in their power to stop it. These are of course the Islamic fascists.

    And therein lies our real dilemma. Our unresticted borders which permit the free flow of labor based on supply and demand also permits the free flow of those who want to destroy us.

    Our leaders are struggling with this issue … sometimes it seems clarity gives way to political expediency. But remember … political expediency is at the core of our democracy … we’ve been dealing with it a long time. Real leadership … in our population and in our leaders … is to find the balance between opposing issues. Yuengert’s understanding is refreshing.

  • Really not so realistic

    "Or even better yet; if they want to be a part of the US and they want to live by our laws then put them in jail."

    Their presence here has been fueled by US businesses hiring them. It’s a two way transaction and now we want the lesser powered party to pay the price? Reminds me a lot of the Pharisees about to stone the adulteress, rather than the man who apparently was let off scot-free.

    It’s been a long implicit arrangement that Mexican illegals can work here under the table. The US and US businesses have benefited from that for years. Punishing one side for having agreed to that implicit arrangement is pure hypocrisy.