How Are "They" So Different?

A look at the bias against undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., and looking at the real sources of the anger.

Myth: Undocumented immigrants don't pay their way.

A brief thought experiment: Take two people. They are both good human beings. They both want to live a decent, peaceful existence with their family and friends. They don't pay much attention to politics or current events. They don't "love their country" per se - they pop off fireworks on July 4th, but you don't see them signing up for military service or giving extra money at tax time.

Now I say that one is an undocumented immigrant and one is a natural born citizen. Tell me, what is the difference between the two?

Those who get angry at undocumented immigrants often say "illegals" don't pay their fair share of taxes for the services they use, like health care or schools.

If they have a documented job, they pay income taxes that fund the federal government. They pay property taxes through renting or owning, which pays for schools (in Texas). They pay sales tax that funds Texas and its municipal services. They pay state and federal fuel tax, which funds road maintenance. If they are paid "under the table", they may avoid income taxes - but that is not an immigrant problem - it's an employer and tracking problem.

As for "leeching healthcare" - If healthcare were taxpayer funded, they would be funding it! It's established they pay for taxes, therefore if we didn't have our broken funding model for uninsured emergency care, undocumented immigrants would be paying for their services. And, to be clear, the funding crisis in healthcare will be there whether "the poor" are citizens or not.

Myth: They're taking our Jobs

I'll make this quick: No. Labor arbitrage has taken manufacturing jobs. Unregulated free trade, where corporations can pay an Asian worker a dollar a day with no social safety net - that takes American jobs.

Automation is taking more and jobs. Anything that can be "automated away" is being done by algorithms and machines. It doesn't matter if you're Mexican, Chinese or American: If a machine can do it cheaper, the corporation will use the machine.

Employers willing to exploit undocumented immigrants "takes some jobs", but don't get mad at the worker trying to make a living and care for his family: Get angry at the employer willing to hire vulnerable residents who can't report labor and safety violations for fear of being deported.

Finally: Unemployment is at generational lows. The jobs may pay poorly, but most people who "want a job" have a job.

Myth: They vote

In short, there is no convincing evidence that there is widespread non-citizen voter fraud.

Consider the following: It is a federal crime for an undocumented alien to vote in a federal election. Consider also that most undocumented aliens who are in a stable living situation would not want to risk deportation by committing a federal crime of almost zero marginal utility, and of high political sensitivity. In the absence of proof and of logic, it is unreasonable to listen to conspiracy theories about swung elections due to the foreign hordes.

Opinion: Americans Aren't That Civic-minded, Either

Ask a friend (or yourself) a few basic questions.

  • What are the three branches of government?
  • Who are your municipal, state and federal representatives?
  • What House district do you live in?
  • How often do you vote in off-year elections?
  • Do you research ballot propositions to understand their real meaning to the community?

I ask what it means to be American. You may think it is blind nationalism. Perhaps it is knowing and doing all the things in that checklist. Perhaps it is a simple appreciation for the civic freedoms we have, like the right to free speech and to live life as we please in relative safety. Would you say most undocumented immigrants are less appreciative of this land of opportunity than the average American?

Sanctuary Cities and Driver Licenses

The rational argument for allowing undocumented immigrants to attend schools, to drive legally, etc. is the recognition of the fact that they are already here. Children and teenagers who don't get an education will be stupid, poor, and cause trouble in their community instead of having a chance at being educated and integrated. The millions of undocumented immigrants who work often need to drive - isn't it good to make sure they are capable of driving? They will be doing it one way or the other.

Municipal law enforcement should not enforce immigration laws. Again, this is the product of reality: We already have a large alien population. If those millions of people fear deportation by police, then they won't report crime. Criminals will target those who know they cannot be helped by the authorities. This problem is similar to the issue of employers abusing workers' rights and safety - what worker is going to complain about wage theft or safety violations if they will be taken from their family?

Race and Nostalgia

It is true too, I believe, that many people resent non-citizens because it represents a displacement of "the way things were". I don't have an easy answer for fear of non-Whites, or how to live with a changing culture. I do know that a hundred years ago, it was the Irish. Through the 20th century, it was the Blacks. In the 80s, it was the Cubans and the Vietnamese. Now, it is Central Americans.

This is not a "problem", but a bias to be overcome.
This verse was true 50 years ago, it is true now, and it will be true in 50 years.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'

Don't blame "the other people" for your daily plight, and don't believe that culture or society will freeze in time. There are fundamentals we should strive to preserve, but none that would isolate, insult or subjugate minorities.

They Are Us

You'll find articles about an illegal immigrant committing a crime. You'll find a post online about some asinine immigrant talking smack about this country, and it'll get you angry. Remember when you see outrageous things online of any kind, that it is often an outlier. Instead, consider the people mowing lawns, driving Ubers, cooking meals, babysitting children, and cleaning homes and businesses. Maybe, at work, you hear them talking with each other and laughing. You don't understand them, but they are human. They are our neighbors - and just like us, they are mostly good people. For those who have lived here for years or decades, they are just as patriotic and American in spirit as many citizens. A checkbox in a database doesn't change that.

The Real Fight

The citizens' fight against injustice, poor working conditions and a lack of healthcare is against corporations who take in billions of dollars in profit and pay poverty wages to warehouse workers. It is against It is against the ultra-rich and corporations who pay zero taxes. It is against those corporations whose employees are on food stamps, meaning the government is subsidizing rich, profitable companies that pay no taxes!

If you are concerned about government leeches, tax evasion and negative wage growth, don't look at the border. Look at the Walmart.

Postscript - This is not a defense of open borders.

To reiterate: Many of the discussions above are based on a central fact: Undocumented immigrants are here, now, in large numbers. In a world where America had zero undocumented residents, arguments could be made to be less tolerant of their presence, to discourage them from being here. It wouldn't be patently inhumane to deport someone if they have been here weeks, rather than years or decades.

A serious, ethical attempt to reduce illegal immigration would be to set a path to legal, documented residence for all current non-felon aliens, and begin "undocumented" enforcement with a clean slate.

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