Sunday, June 9, 2013

Abstract Immigrants

Thomas Sowell

One of the many sad signs of our times is the way current immigration issues are discussed. A hundred years ago, the immigration controversies of that era were discussed in the context of innumerable facts about particular immigrant groups. Many of those facts were published in a huge, multi-volume 1911 study by a commission headed by Senator William P. Dillingham.

That and other studies of the time presented hard data on such things as which groups' children were doing well in school and which were not; which groups had high crime rates or high rates of alcoholism, and which groups were over-represented among people living on the dole.

Such data and such differences still exist today. Immigrants from some countries are seldom on welfare but immigrants from other countries often are. Immigrants from some countries are typically people with high levels of education and skills, while immigrants from other countries seldom have much schooling or skills.

Nevertheless, many of our current discussions of immigration issues talk about immigrants in general, as if they were abstract people in an abstract world. But the concrete differences between immigrants from different countries affect whether their coming here is good or bad for the American people.

The very thought of formulating immigration laws from the standpoint of what is best for the American people seems to have been forgotten by many who focus on how to solve the problems of illegal immigrants, "living in the shadows."

A recent column in the Wall Street Journal titled "What Would Milton Friedman Say?" tried to derive what the late Professor Friedman "would no doubt regard as the ideal outcome" as far as immigration laws were concerned.

Although I was once a student of Professor Friedman, I would never presume to speak for him. However, he was a man with the rare combination of genius and common sense, and he published much empirical work as well as the analytical work that won him a Nobel Prize. In short, concrete facts mattered to him.

It is hard to imagine Milton Friedman looking for "the ideal outcome" on immigration in the abstract. More than once he said, "the best is the enemy of the good," which to me meant that attempts to achieve an unattainable ideal can prevent us from reaching good outcomes that are possible in practice.

Too much of our current immigration controversy is conducted in terms of abstract ideals, such as "We are a nation of immigrants." Of course we are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of people who wear shoes. Does it follow that we should admit anybody who wears shoes?

The immigrants of today are very different in many ways from those who arrived here a hundred years ago. Moreover, the society in which they arrive is different. The Wall Street Journal column ends by quoting another economist who said, "Better to build a wall around the welfare state than the country."

But the welfare state is already here-- and, far from having a wall built around it, the welfare state is expanding in all directions by leaps and bounds. We do not have a choice between the welfare state and open borders. Anything we try to do as regards immigration laws has to be done in the context of a huge welfare state that is already a major, inescapable fact of life.

Among other facts of life utterly ignored by many advocates of de facto amnesty is that the free international movement of people is different from free international trade in goods.

Buying cars or cameras from other countries is not the same as admitting people from those countries or any other countries. Unlike inanimate objects, people have cultures and not all cultures are compatible with the culture in this country that has produced such benefits for the American people for so long.

Not only the United States, but the Western world in general, has been discovering the hard way that admitting people with incompatible cultures is an irreversible decision with incalculable consequences. If we do not see that after recent terrorist attacks on the streets of Boston and London, when will we see it?

"Comprehensive immigration reform" means doing everything all together in a rush, without time to look before we leap, and basing ourselves on abstract notions about abstract people.


Beggars and thieves from across Europe are flocking to the streets of Britain, Theresa May warns the EU

Migrants are travelling from across the EU to ‘beg and steal’ on the streets of Britain, Theresa May will warn Europe’s leaders.

The Home Secretary will demand action to end abuse of the EU’s free movement directive by people who have no intention of finding work.

At a meeting of European home affairs ministers in Luxembourg on Friday, she will highlight how gangs of beggars are setting up camps in London to launch raids on the unsuspecting public.

She will also outline a case in which Romanian fraudsters fleeced the British taxpayer of almost £3million.

Home Office officials say it is a huge achievement for the issue to even be discussed.

EU leaders have been reluctant to even contemplate any changes to the rules – it has taken three years for Mrs May to get it on the agenda,

According to Whitehall sources, the Home Secretary will say that abuse of free movement rights by some EU migrants is placing an ‘unacceptable burden on our schools, our hospitals, our social security systems and our local communities’.

She will stress that it is unacceptable that some EU nationals are able to come to countries such as the UK with no intention of working, but simply to access our state benefits and take advantage of our public services.

Mrs May will then tell the rest of Europe that it cannot be right that national governments are unable to act to stop this abuse.

In a significant move, she will present the council with examples of how EU nationals are fleecing the British taxpayer.

They will include the case of a Lavinia Olmazu, who helped more than 170 Romanians illegally claim £2.9m in benefits has been jailed for two years and three months.  Olmazu, a leading campaigner for the rights of Roma gypsies, helped mastermind the scam involving 172 Romanians.

After gaining access to the Romanians through her outreach work with Haringey and Waltham Forest councils and the Big Issue charity, she set up companies with her boyfriend to help facilitate widescale fraudulent benefit claims.

Mrs May will also say there is a ‘recurring problem’ with groups of EU nationals who set up camps in public areas in London, and beg and steal from tourists.

She will say they arrive under the free movement rules but have no intention of working, studying or setting up a business.

In 2012, over 70 per cent of individuals arrested for begging in one London borough – Westminster – were EU citizens.

Police have warned of aggressive begging by people from some Eastern European states, including Romania.

In April Mrs May secured the backing of Germany, Holland and Austria to campaign for tighter restrictions on migrants’ access to hand-outs and other State services.

The four countries wrote to the President of the EU  arguing that the free movement directive – a founding principle of the EU – must not be ‘unconditional’.

They want to make to persuade the Eurocrats to make it harder for citizens of other member states to access benefits within days or weeks of arriving in another member state.

The letter has led to the discussion at Friday’s meeting. Britain has long been seeking changes to the rules on entitlement to welfare.

However, the chances of success were limited while the UK government was a lone voice in Brussels.

The fact that Germany, in particular, has joined the campaign will place huge new pressure on the other member states to agree to tighten the rules.

Speaking last night, Mrs May said: ‘We are already taking tough action in this country to stamp out the abuse of free movement, to protect our benefits system and public services.

‘We will not allow this country to be a soft touch but this isn't just a UK problem - it will take the joint efforts of all our EU partners to tackle it.’

It comes at a time of heightened tensions between the British government and the EU.

Last week, the European Commission announced it was taking Britain to court for insisting migrants pass a ‘right to reside’ test before they can access some State handouts.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is planning to defy the EC and make existing restrictions even tougher.


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