Strawman: The Inconsistent Immigrant

There are several issues here.

  1. Nobody claims that all immigrants (or even just all illegal immigrants) are the same. There is no logical contradiction between believing that Jose, who is a much harder worker than I am, will “steal” my job and believing that Ramon will be too lazy to work and end up supported by the government one way or another.
  2. The meme says “immigrant”. This is another strawman, because the public policy argument is only about immigrants who are violating immigration law.

h/t Robert Boyer and David Burkhead


Unexamined Assumption: US Economy vs. Mexican Economy

This analogy assumes that the same people who are needed by the US economy are needed by the Mexican economy. In other words, that a country with 50k$ GDP per capita has the same needs as one with a 15k$ GDP per capita. It is very likely that Mexico has more talented people who couldn’t have afforded training in good job skills, and therefore higher-quality semi-skilled tradespeople.

Note that I am not saying that legalizing will make the US better off. I don’t know enough to have an opinion. I am saying that the argument in the meme is invalid because of the unexamined assumption.

Bad Comparison: Ideal vs. Existing

The contrast here is between two comparisons:

  1. The US vs. an ideal US that progressives would like to exist, which won’t have any racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.  The US is indeed inferior to an ideal that may or may not be possible.
  2. The US vs. the countries of origin for illegal immigrants (Mexico, El Salvador, etc.). The US can ace this comparison easily. Just ask Manuel Labor who prefers to live in the US under constant threat of deportation rather than in his poor village in Mexico.

It is no contradiction to say that the US is better than Mexico, but not as good as it could be.

I think that there is a contradiction between wanting to fix US culture on one hand, and encouraging immigration from places where the problem that needs to be fixed is even worse. If you really want a less sexist and homophobic US, having more immigrants from Mexico is probably counterproductive. But that is a separate matter than the meme.

Factually Wrong: The “Amnesty” that Isn’t

I think Obama would like to change the legal status on his own. But he can’t. All he can do is use his authority as the head of the executive branch of government to tell the USCIS (formerly called the INS) not to bother with certain cases.

Besides, look at this from the perspective of Manuel Labor who is here illegally. He knows that once he registers with the immigration authorities to take advantage of this offer, they can keep the record indefinitely. He also knows that in January 2017 Obama will be out of office and whoever replaces him will be able to order the USCIS to access these records, find him, and put him on a bus to Mexico.

Manuel Labor isn’t stupid, he’s been in the US for five years and he knows how to get by and work under the table. I don’t think he’ll take this deal. It isn’t a good one.

And This is a Bad Thing How?

This meme has three separate claims:

  1. Illegal immigrants send money home.
  2. Illegal immigrants’ kids get a free education at US tax payer expense.
  3. Illegal immigrants scam welfare to get free lunches, medical treatment, etc.

#3, if true, is a bad thing. However, the rest of the meme is much more misleading.

#2 assumes that the illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes. This may be true for income taxes (although if they work for a company, and that company cannot claim their wages as deductible expenses, it comes out a wash). It isn’t true for other taxes. Jose Labor might be going to my kids’ school, but he lives with his parents (Manuel and Sofia) in an apartment they rent. The apartment complex pays the property taxes on the apartment, and that is what funds Texas schools. When Sofia goes to the grocery store, she pays sales taxes that might also go to the school district.

Last, and worst, #1 may be true, but if so it means that the US got 56 billion dollars of labor for free. We don’t have to pay to create dollars. Our ability to create dollars is limited by inflation targets. If these 56 billion dollars went away and are no longer chasing goods and services in the US, that isn’t a problem.

h/t Melissa McDowell


Heather Mooney brought up a good point on Facebook. This labor changes the distribution of money within the US. For example, if Manual Labor builds houses for less it might make Homer Homebuyer and Cindy Contractor richer, for example, while making Bret Builder poorer.