Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

On Immigration, Facts, and Chaos and Lawlessness

By Ludovico Feoli

In his 8/31/16 speech on immigration, Donald Trump suggested there is a direct, causal link between “illegal immigration” and violent crime, social security and Medicare abuse, unemployment and low wages, and outright “chaos and lawlessness”. As appealing as that might seem for those in need of a convenient scapegoat, the evidence is arrayed against it.

Start with Mr. Trump’s counterfactual: “Countless Americans who have died in recent years would be alive today if not for the open border policies of this administration.” His causal factor—the alleged open border policy—is problematic given the facts. The number of border agents has quintupled in the last eighteen years and, as a result, apprehensions at the border have plummeted to a mere fraction of what they were in 2000. Lower employment opportunities in a weaker U.S. economy have undoubtedly diminished the pull for migrants. But more stringent immigration enforcement has also been a factor. Deportations, the do-all and end-all of Mr. Trump’s proposal, are at an all-time high under President Obama, so much so that he is under fire from liberals for his deportation record.

The loss of lives to violent crime is a tragedy, and crimes are committed by individuals that are present in our communities. From the fact that some are immigrants we cannot infer that all immigrants are criminals. In fact, while it is notoriously difficult to obtain credible data, studies repeatedly show that immigrants have significantly lower crime rates than the native-born. Since immigrants who commit crimes are likely to be deported they have a greater incentive to be prudent: they have more to lose from breaking the law. Interestingly, second-generation migrants have crime rates that approximate those of the general population, which suggests that their criminal involvement rises with assimilation, an avowed goal of Mr. Trump’s policy.

People who emigrate tend to be motivated and ambitious, searching for better lives. Do they find them by reducing “jobs and wages for American workers”? The impact of low-skilled migration—legal or not—on wages is much more highly contested than Mr. Trump’s assertions would suggest. At the very least, no simple causal relation exists between immigration and wages. Much depends on whether migrants and local workers substitute or complement each other, the impact that new arrivals have on older migrants, and the context of the local economy. By most estimates the impact of migration on local wages is likely to be modest, with some studies even suggesting it might be positive.

Lost in Mr. Trump’s portrayal of immigrants is the fact that they are a boon to the receiving communities. A recent article in the Economist cites a study showing that a 2007 crackdown on illegal migrants in Arizona actually shrank its economy by 2%. Immigrants can, and in many cases do create jobs, help drive innovation, and make the locals more prosperous. They do not “draw much more out from the system than they will ever pay in”. “Illegal workers”, as Mr. Trump calls them, are generally ineligible for most federal public benefits programs, including the vilified Affordable Care Act. In point of fact, undocumented workers pay into the system by using false social security numbers, which means they will never collect the benefits—the opposite of what Mr. Trump asserts. Even lawful permanent residents must wait at least five years before they are eligible for benefits, and when they are eligible, studies show that they use benefits at lower rates and with a lower average value of benefits per recipient than the native-born.

Illegal migration is a symptom of a dysfunctional immigration regime which clearly requires comprehensive reform. But attributing our social and economic woes to it where the facts do not warrant it is disingenuous and, in the present context, demagogic.


  • Ludovico Feoli

    Executive Director - Center for Inter-American Policy & Research





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Dennis A. Georges Lecture in Hellenic Culture

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Join Dr. Emily Greenwood as she will be speaking about Greek language/literature, slavery, and the “politics of the human” when she delivers the Dennis A. Georges Lecture in Hellenic Culture.

Emily Greenwood is Professor and Chair of the Classics Department at Yale University where she also holds a joint appointment in African American Studies. She is one of the pre-eminent thinkers on Greek historiography of her generation as well as the leading figure in re-evaluating the legacy of Graeco-Roman culture in colonial and post-colonial contexts. In addition to her book Afro-Greeks: Dialogues Between Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Classics in the Twentieth Century (Oxford 2010) [Joint winner of the Runciman Prize], she has published over a dozen articles and book chapters that investigate the rich and nuanced reception of ancient Greek literature in the African Diaspora, especially in Caribbean literature.

Africana Studies Brown Bag Lecture with Prof. Dan Sharp

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“Naná Vasconcelos: Afro-Brazilian Percussion in Paris and New York City”

Dan Sharp is currently research for a book that revolves around the 1980 album Saudades by Afro-Brazilian Naná Vasconcelos. The book will situate Naná‘s reimagining of percussion and voice in the context of his itinerant life in New York, Europe and Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s. Snacks provided!

Why Marronage Still Matters: Lecture with Dr. Neil Roberts

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What is the opposite of freedom? Dr. Neil Roberts answers this question with definitive force: slavery, and from there he unveils powerful new insights on the human condition as it has been understood between these poles. Crucial to his investigation is the concept ofmarronage—a form of slave escape that was an important aspect of Caribbean and Latin American slave systems. Roberts examines the liminal and transitional space of slave escape to develop a theory of freedom as marronage, which contends that freedom is fundamentally located within this space.In this lecture, Roberts will explore how what he calls the “post-Western” concept and practice of marronage—of flight—bears on our world today.

This event is sponsored by the Kathryn B. Gore Chair in French Studies, Department of French and Italian.
For more information contact Ryan Joyce at or Fayçal Falaky at

Newcomb Art Museum to host María José de la Macorra and Eric Peréz for Gallery Talk

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Join us at the Newcomb Art Museum in welcoming Mexican artists María José de la Macorra and Eric Peréz for a noontime gallery talk as they discuss the current exhibition Clay in Transit: Contemporary Mexican Ceramics (which features works by María José de la Macorra) and the focus and process of their work. The talk is free and open to the public.

The Newcomb Art Museum is featuring two ceramic exhibitions entitled Clay in Transit featuring contemporary Mexican ceramics and Clay in Place featuring Newcomb pottery and guild plus other never-before-exhibited pieces from the permanent collection.The exhibit presents the work of seven Mexican-born sculptors who bridge the past and present by creating contemporary pieces using an ancient medium. The exhibit will feature works by Ana Gómez, Saúl Kaminer, Perla Krauze, María José Lavín, María José de la Macorra, Gustavo Pérez, Paloma Torres.

Exhibition curator and artist Paloma Torres explains, “In this contemporary moment, clay is a borderline. It is a material that has played a critical role in the development of civilization: early man used clay not only to represent spiritual concerns but also to hold food and construct homes.” While made of a primeval material, the exhibited works nonetheless reflect the artists’ twenty-first-century aesthetics and concerns as well as their fluency in diverse media—from painting and drawing to video, graphic design, and architecture.

The exhibit will run from January 18, 2018, through March 24, 2018. For more information on the exhibit and the artists, please visit the Newcomb Art Museum’s website.

Clay in Transit is presented in collaboration with the Consulate of Mexico.

The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Jennifer Wooster (NC ’91), Lora & Don Peters (A&S ’81), Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University, Andrew and Eva Martinez, and the Newcomb Art Museum advisory board

Bate Papo! Practice your Portuguese and enjoy some Brazilian treats: kibe

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Bate Papo! Try a bit of Brazil’s Middle Eastern flavor with these kibe treats. This event is sponsored by TULASO and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies. Admission is free. All levels welcome. For more information, please contact Megwen at

Bate Papo! Practice your Portuguese and enjoy some Brazilian treats: bolo de aipim

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Bate Papo! Drop by the LBC mezzanine floor for a slice of manioc sponge cake. We will be spread out across the green couches so come by to take a load off and chat for a bit. This event is sponsored by TULASO and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies. Admission is free. All levels welcome. For more information, please contact Megwen at