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. Trumpâ’‘¬’“¢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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Ludovico Feoli

    Permanent Researcher and CEO, CIAPA, Executive Director - Center for Inter-American Policy and Research at Tulane University

BLOG AUTHORS & RECENT POSTS

LATEST SITE UPDATES

EVENTS

NEWS

All Events

Upcoming Events

Virtual Summer Teacher Institute: Central America People & Environment

View Full Event Description

The 2020 summer teacher institute is the second in a four-year series that will explore Central America with a focus on people and environment. Hosted online by the University of Georgia (UGA), the 2020 Virtual Summer Institute will highlight diverse topics related to Central America and provide teacher participants with training in Instructional Conversations (IC) pedagogy, pioneered by faculty in UGA‘€™s College of Education. Teachers will work together in virtual breakout groups to develop shared, subject-specific IC lessons based on institute content and corresponding to grade appropriate educational standards. Teachers and organizers will also explore ways of integrating digital tools and technologies to facilitate and improve education via online formats.

REGISTER HERE

The institute is ideal for educators of high school and community college, and pre-service students teaching History, World Geography, Science, and Environmental Science. This four-year series of institutes is sponsored by the Centers for Latin American Studies at The University of Georgia, Vanderbilt University, and Tulane University. Register Now.

Questions? Contact Derek Bentley [dbent@uga.edu].

Global Read Webinar Series 2020

View Full Event Description

Diverse Books for the K-12 Classroom
February – June 2020 – All webinars are 6 PM CST
Download Printable Flyer

Once a month, the World Area Book Awards (Américas Award, Africana Book Award, Freeman Book Award, Middle East Book Award, and the South Asia Book Award) will sponsor a 60-minute webinar on a book recognized by one of the awards. Each webinar features a presentation by an award-winning author with discussion on how to incorporate multicultural literature into the classroom. Please read along with us this spring as we explore the world through these award-winning books. We encourage all readers to join in on the conversations each month and ask the author your own questions live.

Be sure to join the conversation with our webinar hashtag #2020ReadingAcrossCultures. Visit www.internationalizingsocialstudies.blog for more information and to register for free.

  • AFRICAFEBRUARY 26, 2020 Africana Book Award
    Grandpa Cacao, A Tale of Chocolate from Farm to Family by Elizabeth Zunon
  • MIDDLE EASTMARCH 18, 2020 Middle East Book Award
    Darius the Great is Not OKAY by Adib Khorram
  • SOUTH ASIAAPRIL 14, 2020 – South Asia Book Award
    The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a Changing India, and a Hidden World of Art by Barb Rosenstock
  • LATIN AMERICAMAY 11, 2020 – Américas Award
    Auntie Luce‘€™s Talking Paintings by Francie Latour
  • ASIAJUNE 23, 2020 – Freeman Book Award
    Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman

All sessions are free and open to the public. Register by visiting internationalizingsocialstudies.org. Sponsored by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs, the South Asia National Outreach Consortium, the Middle East Outreach Council, the African Studies Outreach Council, and The National Consortium for Teaching about Asia.

Online Summer Book Group for K-12 Educators

View Full Event Description

For pre-service, early career and veteran teachers who love reading and learning through literature who want to explore award-winning books for the middle and early high school classrooms. Join us as we read four books that explore stories of coming-of-age from multiple perspectives. Participants will receive a copy of each book and participate in an open discussion with other K-12 educators. We will launch the book group with The Other Half of Happy. The group will meet online and explore the real story behind this award-winning book with the author Rebecca Balrcárcel. Join us this summer as we discover new stories and books for your classroom.

Register here for $15 (includes all 4 books).

All online Zoom meetings are at 7:00 PM CST.

SCHEDULE

Sponsored by the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and AfterCLASS at Tulane University. For more information, please email crcrts@tulane.edu.