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

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2019 CLASP Américas Award Ceremony & Workshop

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Friday, September 27, 2019
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A weekly hour of Portuguese conversation and tasty treats hosted by Prof. Megwen Loveless. All levels are welcome!

The theme for this semester will be Passion Fruit. So bring your sweet tooth to try this week’s homemade delicacy: Suco de maracujá.

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The Spanish and Portuguese Department is hosting this talk with two masters of the art of capoeria. Mestre Joao Grande is one of the last remaining Mestres from the Velha Guarda. He moved to New York in 1990 and, at 86 years old, he continues to hold capoeira classes at his academy in Harlem. He is a student of Mestre Pastinha, the father of capoeira Angola. Mestre Jelon is also from Bahia, and he was the first capoeirista to open up a school in the US back in the 70’s. He was also the choreographer and director of Viva Bahia, a dance group that toured the world showcasing folkloric dances of Northeastern Brazil.

Artful Teaching and Learning: Integrating the Arts into the Curriculum

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The full-day workshop, facilitated by Patricia Sobral, Senior Lecturer of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at Brown University, will lead participants through a series of activities combining the performing, visual, and literary arts. Particular attention will be paid to the performing arts as a means of teaching languages. Participants will be given materials and models that can be applied to a number of fields within the college curriculum for students of all levels and ages. Free and open to the public. For more information, contact Christopher Dunn.

Latin American Writers Series: Luis Negron

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Ecuadorian writer and Tulane Visiting Scholar Gabriela Aleman interviews Puerto Rican writer Luis Negron about his life, interests, and influences. Their discussion will be followed by an open Q&A and an informal reception. Note: This event will be held in Spanish.

About the Latin American Writers Series

This series brings together Latin America’s most representative creative voices and the editorial entrepreneurs that publish them. By way of interviews conducted by renowned Ecuadorian writer Gabriela Alemán and presentations of various editorial missions, the guests will shed light on a literary world shaped by the contemporary issues of the continent. Moving forward, their conversations will comprise the centerpiece of a digital archive that introduces their ideas to a global audience.

Este serie reúne a los autores más representativos de la escritura continental y los editores que los publican. A través de entrevistas con la reconocida escritora ecuatoriana Gabriela Alemán y presentaciones de proyectos editoriales, los invitados explorarán los vínculos entre el mundo literario y la realidad continental. Sus conversaciones se convertirán después en el eje de un archivo digital que busca llevar estas ideas a un público global.

About the author

Luis Negron was born in Puerto Rico and is a writer, film critic, and bookseller. The English translation of his short-story collection Mundo Cruel, a work originally published in Spanish in 2010, won the 2014 Lambda Literary Award. Negron has also written a brief collection of chronicles, Los tres golpes (2016), and served as the editor of Los otros cuerpos: Antología de temática gay, lésbica, y queer desde Puerto Rico y su diáspora (2007). His film reviews have appeared in periodicals like Boston’s La semana (Boston) and Puerto Rico’s Claridad and El poeta.

Bate papo!: Portuguese Conversation Hour

View Full Event Description

A weekly hour of Portuguese conversation and tasty treats hosted by Prof. Megwen Loveless. All levels are welcome!

The theme for this semester will be Passion Fruit. So bring your sweet tooth to try this week’s homemade delicacy: Bolo de maracujá.