Thursday, November 24, 2011

Xenophobia and Immigration

Americans have always had a nasty streak of xenophobia. Remember slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, internment of Japanese Americans during World War II? Republicans pander to that character flaw by blaming our problems on one out-group or another. Groups that many Americans love to hate. Got an unemployment problem or a crime problem? Blame it on illegal immigrants.

Xenophobia Leads to Bad Immigration Policy

Research by many sociologists refutes any claim of a link between immigrants and crime. For example, research by Ruben Rumbaut at the University of California, Irvine shows that, "Foreign-born Mexicans had an incarceration rate of only 0.7 percent in 2000, more than 8 times lower than the 5.9 percent rate of native-born males of Mexican descent." Also the border town of El Paso, Texas is considered by some measures to be the safest big city in the country and yet it has a sizable undocumented population and is in immediate proximity to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, known for drug cartel violence. The violent immigrant meme just doesn't hold water.

New state immigration laws have had disastrous effects. These laws have slowed the states' economies, because employers haven't been able replace the now missing undocumented workers. Farmers, in particular, complain that replacement workers they have hired do not work as fast or as long as the undocumented workers did and many quit after the first day. Xenophobia-inspired state immigration laws are misguided and economically harmful.

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  1. In Washington state the apple harvest was imperiled this year because there were not enough people pick the apples. Simple math... and we are culturally poorer for not welcoming the immigrants properly.

  2. Sounds nice to be welcoming undocumented Mexicans to pick fruits and vegetables, but the fact is that the undocumented Mexicans are being exploited. There are two options: hire the locals and exploit them the same way as the undocumented have been exploited all these years. The other option is to pay wages and benefits that are commensurate with their productivity and pass on the higher costs to the consumers who have been the ultimate beneficiaries of this exploitation. Let us have some fairness in the system. What is "good" for the economy in your sense is not necessarily good for the exploited pickers.

    1. Your point is well-taken and well-articulated. Thank you for your comment.

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