I was reading an article about Obama's plan for immigration and the controversy over the issue. I started thinking and feeling some of the same things that I think and feel each time I hear the issue discussed on the news or by others: simple indifference. This may strike some people as odd. For many, the issue of immigration is strongly emotional and frustrating. But as far as I am concerned, I am not personally affected by "illegal" immigration. Let me give some reasoning as to why this is such a non-issue for me.
Those who oppose illegal immigration often claim that the immigrants are taking jobs that could be filled by Americans. Thus, immigration is bad for the economy. First off all, this is a simple non-sequitur. Someone "taking" someone else's job does not make the economy weaker. Economic growth happens because of the division of labor and the law of comparative advantage. Producers continually seek ways to cut their costs so that they can make profits. Profits are invested as capital in future production of goods so that more can be produced. The effect is that we get lower prices--a good thing, because we can buy more stuff with the same money. Part of lowering costs means that a producer seeks employees that give the highest marginal benefit/cost ratio. Immigrants will often work for lower wages or benefits, thus increasing the benefit/cost ratio of the producer and increasing profit. This will result in cheaper goods in the end.
Now, immigrants sometimes work for wages below the minimum wage limit. This makes it more difficult for "Americans" to get the same job because of tax laws. However, this is not a problem of immigration, but a problem of the government's regulation of wages. It is a simple economic law that price floors create surpluses. That is, a minimum wage will create unemployment since some workers have a benefit/cost ratio that is below the minimum wage. If this seems too confusing, I am sorry. Feel free to comment/ask questions.
There is another economic factor related to immigration though that I think is more influential but almost totally ignored. Immigrants come here almost exclusively for economic reasons: they can earn more money. But as I explained above, immigrants who are willing to work for lower wages is good for the economy. They don't object (or else they wouldn't come) and we shouldn't either. However, there is another economic incentive that draws immigrants to the US. It is our welfare state.
I don't have any statistics, but anyone who cares to can find them without too much difficulty. The fact is that many immigrants come here because we give free healthcare, food stamps, education, and other forms of welfare. Emergency rooms are often overwhelmed by illegal immigrants. Hospitals are required by law to give free emergency care to immigrants and there are even Federal programs for people who are not US citizens. A large percentage of people who receive food stamps are illegal immigrants and public schools are loaded with their children.
So why don't I care about all these outrages? Well, I do care, but I don't see why these problems are the immigrants' fault. First of all, if we don't want them to come here for the free stuff, we should stop offering it. It acts as an effective subsidy on illegal immigration, while at the same time we are taxing our people to prevent it.
Secondly, I don't see any difference between a US citizen who participates in welfare and an illegal immigrant who does. Either way, the money they receive was taken from another by force or the threat of force. Thus, I don't care so much where you come from. I consider an illegal immigrant just as entitled to welfare as a US citizen, i.e. NOT AT ALL!
Other common points of opposition are issues of security and national sovereignty. I can understand these objections, but I feel they are not based on solid Constitutional principles or principles of liberty. The issue of security is best handled by the states, or, even better, by the land owners themselves who have an incentive to protect their property from trespassing. Should a threat of invasion occur, there is authority within the states and even Federal government to deal with it. Immigration, however, is not an issue of invasion because it is a matter of individuals or very small groups who are acting independently in their own economic self-interest. They do not constitute a security or military threat anymore than the criminals who already reside or were born in the US (such as those in Washington D.C.).
Besides that fact is the reality that stopping "illegal" immigration is hardly something that can be realized by force. Patrols and fences have done little to really prevent the majority of immigration that happens illegally. See John Stossel's recent piece on this issue here.