The Trump administration has ranged from hysterical to frantic to horrified about undocumented immigrants.
The Trumpian belief is that virtually all immigration from the south is dangerous; the border with Mexico should be made impenetrable with a steel wall; and that anyone managing to sneak across immediately should be treated harshly, without benefit of any legal process.
They should be arrested and/or deported and punished by being separated from their children (who also should be punished). The byword is “zero tolerance.”
The danger from these brown-skinned or Muslim people is said to be so great that severe, even cruel and unconstitutional steps to prohibit entry, should be implemented.
According to this (and previous) administrations, what are these terrifying dangers? Supposedly, the immigrants:
- Are criminals.
- Bring drugs to America.
- Take jobs from American citizens
- Do not work, but take social benefits paid for by taxpayers
- Do not speak English.
- Are uneducated.
- Are different in that they do not follow U.S. mores.
Do current solutions work? Are these dangers real? What should be done?
We Americans have some experience with broad-scale prohibitions. During the 1920s and early 1930s, alcohol was a drug that was said to cause criminality, interfere with work, require social spending to treat, and is against our national mores.
So we banned alcohol and spent many millions of dollars to enforce that law. That didn’t work. It just caused even more criminality, and increased our jail population.
Later, we banned smoking by people under the age of 18-21 (depending on state). We spent many millions to facilitate the ban.
That didn’t work. Smoking by teens became common, and though few teens are legally punished for smoking, retailers have been punished for selling cigarettes to under-age people.
In addition to alcohol, we have banned the use of myriad other drugs, ranging from marijuana, through heroin, and even to more potent, mind-altering, man-made drugs. We spend billions to enforce our ban. That hasn’t worked. Instead, it too created criminals and served primarily to increase our jail population.
Car drivers are banned from speeding, a typical American amusement. We spend millions to enforce the ban. That hasn’t worked, though it has added to our court load and increased our jail population.
There is a pattern to all this: When we pass a law against something that a large number of people wish to do, the main effect will be to spend millions on enforcement and to create a large number of criminals.
And so it is with immigrants. When forced to choose between a miserable future for themselves and their children, versus a better life with the risk of jail or deportation, many people will choose the latter.
So we spend millions on border protection, laws, courts, jails, and deportations. And still the immigrants come.
Someone (Albert Einstein? Mark Twain? Benjamin Franklin? Your father?) said, in effect, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.”
Perhaps a bit of original thinking is in order.
What if . . . just what if . . . we opened our borders?
Now before you immediately assume disaster, let’s look at reality. The vast majority of people who want to enter, are the same kinds of people as the millions of immigrants for the past thousands of years: Good people just trying to make a better life.
And, in their efforts to make a better life, they also made America a better place for all of us. Immigration is exactly what has created America.
Since 1492, and even earlier, with Columbus and before, millions of people have come through our relatively open borders.
Some have been criminals; most were not. Some dealt drugs and other forms of “snake oil.” Most did not.
Rather than taking jobs and social benefits from those who preceded them, they created jobs by being consumers, builders, taxpayers, and dreamers. They were farmers, blacksmiths, poets, musicians.
They became the American melting pot.
Many were uneducated. Many did not speak English. And they were different, and that difference contributed to our unique “Americaness.”
Here we relish our differences — the hyperactives of the East, the slow, hospitable Southerners, the bible-belt mentality blending with the Midwest friendliness, the self-sufficient cowboys, the California trend starters, the rock-ribbed traditionalists of the Northeast.
The first immigrants came to North America from what currently is called Russia, between 10,000 and 30,000 years ago.
The first colony from Europe was begun in Jamestown (now Virginia), in 1607. The legal entity known as the United States of America began in 1776.
And still the people came, unrestricted for thousands of years. Between 1820 and 1880, political and economic conditions brought over 2.8 million Irish immigrants to the United States.
It is important to note that extensive federal legislation dealing with immigration was not enacted for some time.
At first it was unclear whether the federal government was given the authority by the Constitution to regulate immigration. Also, unrestricted immigration was desirable as a means for obtaining labor and achieving growth as a nation.
Discontent with an open immigration policy increased with the tremendous rate of immigration and with the change in the composition of immigrants. German Catholic immigrants came during the 1840s.
American society did not accept the Irish Catholics and Germans, and movements to limit immigration began to form.
Note the similarity to not accepting Muslims and Mexican Catholics.
After the Civil War, federal law began to reflect the growing desire to restrict immigration of certain groups. In 1875, Congress passed the first restrictive statute for immigration, barring convicts and prostitutes from admission.
The 1875 Act also attempted to deal with the problem of Chinese labor in the West. Imported Chinese labor had been used since 1850, and the tension between the Chinese workers and the settlers of European descent ran high.
The Chinese, like today’s South Americans, were thought to be taking jobs from “real” American citizens. It wasn’t true, of course. Their labor actually created jobs.
Congress adopted a law outlawing so-called “coolie- labor” contracts and immigration for lewd and immoral purposes. In 1882, Congress took even stronger action in the Chinese Exclusion Act, the nation’s first racist, restrictive immigration law.
America had an open-borders policy until 1875, and even then the policy remained quite limited and scarcely enforced. And all the while, we grew and became the magnificent nation we are, today.
Mounted watchmen of the U.S. Immigration Service patrolled the border in an effort to prevent illegal crossings as early as 1904, but their efforts were irregular and undertaken only when resources permitted.
The inspectors, usually called Mounted Guards, operated out of El Paso, Texas. Though they never totaled more than seventy-five, they patrolled as far west as California trying to restrict the flow of illegal Chinese immigration.
Although these inspectors had broader arrest authority, they still largely pursued Chinese immigrants trying to avoid the Chinese exclusion laws.
Customs violations and intercepting communications to “the enemy” seemed to be of a greater concern than enforcing immigration regulations in the early years of the twentieth century.
After 1917, a higher head tax and literacy requirement imposed for entry prompted more people to try to enter illegally.
By creating laws against immigration, we created lawbreakers. It is ever thus.
The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, prohibiting the importation, transport, manufacture or sale of alcoholic beverages went into effect at midnight on January 16, 1920.
With the passage of this constitutional amendment and the numerical limits placed on immigration to the United States by the Immigration Acts of 1921 and 1924, border enforcement received renewed attention from the government.
The numerical limitations resulted in people from around the world to try illegal entry if attempts to enter legally failed.
The history of U.S. immigration can be summarize by two statements:
Until only about 100 years ago, America had largely open borders, and with that loose immigration, we grew and prospered.
The act of passing a criminal law creates new criminals, non-productive people who must be dealt with by non-productive segments of our society: The police, the courts, the lawyers, and the jails.
All this is a drain upon society.
Now, having not learned from history, we devote ever more of our national assets to keeping out the very same kinds of people who built America.
The facts are that undocumented immigrants:
- Are proportionately less likely to commit crimes than are native born citizens.
- Are not an important source of drugs, the vast majority of which comes in via legal channels.
- Do not take jobs from American citizens but rather create jobs.
- Do work, do pay taxes, and do not take social benefits paid for by taxpayers
- Either know English or learn it, and their children learn it, in any event, are not a burden on the country.
- Want their children to be educated and productive members of society.
- Acclimate to U.S. mores.
In our misguided attempts to keep out the few worst, and those different from “us,” we bar the many thousands of the best. To purify to absolute whiteness, we exclude the multitude of colors that together make us beautiful.
My suggestion is not only to open the borders, but to help immigrants to become citizens and to contribute to our society. (See the “Ten Steps to Prosperity,” below.)
Yes, we should continue to bar those who are criminals or other state enemies. But our immigration policies, far from “making America great, again,” instead throw out the baby with the bathwater.
The iron curtain we’ve erected on our southern border does not protect us. It simply makes us cowards and deprives us of what has built America.
We must make the path to citizenship faster and easier. Bring in those valuable families and help them to contribute to our success.
Rather than assuming all immigrants are criminal, open the doors to those wonderful minds and hands, and simply prosecute the small minority of those who become criminal when here.
That is the approach that always has worked in the past. It has made America great. It will make America great, again.
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Twitter: @rodgermitchell; Search #monetarysovereignty
Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
The single most important problems in economics involve the excessive income/wealth/power Gaps between the have-mores and the have-less.
Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.
Implementation of The Ten Steps To Prosperity can narrow the Gaps:
Ten Steps To Prosperity:
1. ELIMINATE FICA
(Ten Reasons to Eliminate FICA )
Although the article lists 10 reasons to eliminate FICA, there are two fundamental reasons:
*FICA is the most regressive tax in American history, widening the Gap by punishing the low and middle-income groups, while leaving the rich untouched, and
*The federal government, being Monetarily Sovereign, neither needs nor uses FICA to support Social Security and Medicare.
2. FEDERALLY FUNDED MEDICARE — PARTS A, B & D, PLUS LONG TERM CARE — FOR EVERYONE
(H.R. 676, Medicare for All )
This article addresses the questions:
*Does the economy benefit when the rich can afford better health care than can the rest of Americans?
*Aside from improved health care, what are the other economic effects of “Medicare for everyone?”
*How much would it cost taxpayers?
*Who opposes it?”
3. PROVIDE A MONTHLY ECONOMIC BONUS TO EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD IN AMERICA (similar to Social Security for All)
(The JG (Jobs Guarantee) vs the GI (Guaranteed Income) vs the EB (Guaranteed Income)) Or institute a reverse income tax.
This article is the fifth in a series about direct financial assistance to Americans:
Why Modern Monetary Theory’s Employer of Last Resort is a bad idea. Sunday, Jan 1 2012
MMT’s Job Guarantee (JG) — “Another crazy, rightwing, Austrian nutjob?” Thursday, Jan 12 2012
Why Modern Monetary Theory’s Jobs Guarantee is like the EU’s euro: A beloved solution to the wrong problem. Tuesday, May 29 2012
“You can’t fire me. I’m on JG” Saturday, Jun 2 2012
Economic growth should include the “bottom” 99.9%, not just the .1%, the only question being, how best to accomplish that. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) favors giving everyone a job. Monetary Sovereignty (MS) favors giving everyone money. The five articles describe the pros and cons of each approach.
4. FREE EDUCATION (INCLUDING POST-GRAD) FOR EVERYONE
Five reasons why we should eliminate school loans
Monetarily non-sovereign State and local governments, despite their limited finances, support grades K-12. That level of education may have been sufficient for a largely agrarian economy, but not for our currently more technical economy that demands greater numbers of highly educated workers.
Because state and local funding is so limited, grades K-12 receive short shrift, especially those schools whose populations come from the lowest economic groups. And college is too costly for most families.
An educated populace benefits a nation, and benefitting the nation is the purpose of the federal government, which has the unlimited ability to pay for K-16 and beyond.
5. SALARY FOR ATTENDING SCHOOL
Salary for attending school. Even were schooling to be completely free, many young people cannot attend, because they and their families cannot afford to support non-workers. In a foundering boat, everyone needs to bail, and no one can take time off for study.
If a young person’s “job” is to learn and be productive, he/she should be paid to do that job, especially since that job is one of America’s most important.
6. ELIMINATE FEDERAL TAXES ON BUSINESS
Businesses are dollar-transferring machines. They transfer dollars from customers to employees, suppliers, shareholders and the federal government (the later having no use for those dollars). Any tax on businesses reduces the amount going to employees, suppliers and shareholders, which diminishes the economy. Ultimately, all business taxes reduce your personal income.
7. INCREASE THE STANDARD INCOME TAX DEDUCTION, ANNUALLY. (Refer to this.) Federal taxes punish taxpayers and harm the economy. The federal government has no need for those punishing and harmful tax dollars. There are several ways to reduce taxes, and we should evaluate and choose the most progressive approaches.
Cutting FICA and business taxes would be a good early step, as both dramatically affect the 99%. Annual increases in the standard income tax deduction, and a reverse income tax also would provide benefits from the bottom up. Both would narrow the Gap.
8. TAX THE VERY RICH (THE “.1%) MORE, WITH HIGHER PROGRESSIVE TAX RATES ON ALL FORMS OF INCOME.
There was a time when I argued against increasing anyone’s federal taxes. After all, the federal government has no need for tax dollars, and all taxes reduce Gross Domestic Product, thereby negatively affecting the entire economy, including the 99.9%.
But I have come to realize that narrowing the Gap requires trimming the top. It simply would not be possible to provide the 99.9% with enough benefits to narrow the Gap in any meaningful way. Bill Gates reportedly owns $70 billion. To get to that level, he must have been earning $10 billion a year. Pick any acceptable Gap (1000 to 1?), and the lowest paid American would have to receive $10 million a year. Unreasonable.
9. FEDERAL OWNERSHIP OF ALL BANKS
(Click The end of private banking and How should America decide “who-gets-money”?)
Banks have created all the dollars that exist. Even dollars created at the direction of the federal government, actually come into being when banks increase the numbers in checking accounts. This gives the banks enormous financial power, and as we all know, power corrupts — especially when multiplied by a profit motive.
Although the federal government also is powerful and corrupted, it does not suffer from a profit motive, the world’s most corrupting influence.
10. INCREASE FEDERAL SPENDING ON THE MYRIAD INITIATIVES THAT BENEFIT AMERICA’S 99.9% (Federal agencies)Browse the agencies. See how many agencies benefit the lower- and middle-income/wealth/ power groups, by adding dollars to the economy and/or by actions more beneficial to the 99.9% than to the .1%.
Save this reference as your primer to current economics. Sadly, much of the material is not being taught in American schools, which is all the more reason for you to use it.
The Ten Steps will grow the economy, and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and you.