Thursday, March 08, 2007

War on immigration and unintended consequences.

Someone recently sent me to a website about the evils of Republicans. Someone had combed various crime reports and then listed Republican office holders, or party officials, who had been arrested for the sexual abuse of children. It was impressive.

The conservative response was logical: there are millions of Republicans. With any large enough group you can find sufficient numbers to make up such a list.

Anti-immigrationists use the same process to make their case against illegals. With an estimated 12 million such immigrants in the United States it doesn’t take much effort. One example was an Arizona Republic column by Laurie Roberts entitled: “Blame our leaders for dead residents.”

Roberts lists cases where an illegal immigrant either accidentally killed someone or did so in a criminal act. She then says that officials who refuse to “allow the National Guard at the border to actually guard the border” “have blood on their hands.”

Her argument has a semblance of logic to it provided you don’t give it very much thought. The cases she provides show some of the problems with her argument. She mentions a woman driver who accidentally hit a bicyclist and fled the scene because her illegal status would mean deportation.

Did her illegal status contribute to the accident itself? No. Both native born and immigrants have accidents. One’s illegal status does not cause accidents though it may contribute to what happens afterwards.

The assumption the anti-immigrationist makes is that if we prevent people from entering the US illegally we will save lives. Strictly speaking that is true. Just as true as if we ended legal immigration and closed the borders entirely -- even tourists have accidents. The question is whether this is the best solution.

The crime issue is interesting since some of the responsibility for this problem belongs to the anti-immigrationists. They want the government to take more control and make daily living harder for illegals.

Will that stop illegals? No. People are driven by poverty and they simply have more opportunity in the US than in Mexico and these laws don’t change that reality. Given that reality illegals will continue to come to the US. But Roberts wants to make it harder for them to find legal work leaving only the black market or crime as options. She wants to close options and then condemn people who turn to the only ones she leaves them.

We do know there are problems associated with being illegal which we can solve immediately without creating fortress America. Jim Harper of the Cato Institute noted that “when the state of New Mexico de-linked driver licensing and immigration status, uninsured vehicles rates in the state dropped from 33 percent to 17 percent. Unlicensed driving, hit-and-run accidents, and insurance rates probably followed a similar course.”

Illegals will always find a way to improve their lives by coming to America. Once here we can either make things worse for everyone or we can solve these problems. The tactics suggested by Roberts makes the problems of illegal immigration worse.

Both the Maricopa County Sheriff and County Attorney want local police to enforce immigration laws. This threatens every illegal which is precisely what they want. But what are some of the results of this?

An illegal may witness a crime or be the victim of one. But they won’t report it. Fewer criminals are caught and that makes crime worse.

Illegals, if denied legal driving, will drive illegally to find employment. If denied legal insurance, they will drive without it. If required to have ID in order live they will forge identities or steal them.

Not long ago there was no major issue of identity theft by illegals. There was no necessity to do so and every reason to avoid it.

Now anti-immigrationists has pushed through laws requiring ID for numerous daily activities. Overnight these laws created a new demand for identity theft. Before the risk from ID theft was higher than the benefits. The new laws reversed that.

If you don’t want illegals fleeing a traffic ticket then don’t subject them to deportation over a traffic ticket.

If they can legally get licensed and insured they are less likely to drive without either.

If they can find employment they are not as likely to work in the black market or turn to crime.

The reality is that the war on immigration is helping create the very problems the anti-immigration lobby complains about.

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