OPEN LETTER TO BARACK OBAMA ON HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY “A PROMISED LAND” Part 129 IMMIGRATION Dan Mitchell noted, “I believe in the rule of law and I’m a bit uncomfortable rewarding those who jumped the line at the expense of those who followed the rules”

Milton Friedman in 2004

Portrait of Milton Friedman.jpg

Power of the Market – Immigration

MILTON FRIEDMAN ON IMMIGRATION

MILTON FRIEDMAN ON IMMIGRATION PART 2

March 30, 2021

Office of Barack and Michelle Obama
P.O. Box 91000
Washington, DC 20066

Dear President Obama,

I wrote you over 700 letters while you were President and I mailed them to the White House and also published them on my blog http://www.thedailyhatch.org .I received several letters back from your staff and I wanted to thank you for those letters. 

There are several issues raised in your book that I would like to discuss with you such as the minimum wage law, the liberal press, the cause of 2007 financial meltdown, and especially your pro-choice (what I call pro-abortion) view which I strongly object to on both religious and scientific grounds, Two of the most impressive things in your book were your dedication to both the National Prayer Breakfast (which spoke at 8 times and your many visits to the sides of wounded warriors!!

I have been reading your autobiography A PROMISED LAND and I have been enjoying it. 

Let me make a few comments on it, and here is the first quote of yours I want to comment on:

WHEN IT CAME to immigration, everyone agreed that the system was broken. The process of immigrating legally to the United States could take a decade or longer, often depending on what country you were coming from and how much money you had.Meanwhile, the economic gulf between us and our southern neighbors drove hundreds of thousands of people to illegally cross the 1,933-mile U.S.-Mexico border each year, searching for work and a better life. Congress had spent billions to harden the border, with fencing, cameras, drones, and an expanded and increasingly militarized border patrol. But rather than stop the flow of immigrants, these steps had spurred an industry of smugglers—coyotes—who made big money transporting human cargo in barbaric and sometimes deadly fashion. And although border crossings by poor Mexican and Central American migrants received most of the attention from politicians and the press, about 40 percent of America’s unauthorized immigrants arrived through airports or other legal ports of entry and then overstayed their visas.
By 2010, an estimated eleven million undocumented persons were living in the United States, in large part thoroughly woven into the fabric of American life.Many were longtime residents, with children who either were U.S. citizens by virtue of having been born on American soil or had been brought to the United States at such an early age that they were American in every respect except for a piece of paper. Entire sectors of the U.S. economy relied on their labor, as undocumented immigrants were often willing to do the toughest, dirtiest work for meager pay—picking the fruits and vegetables that stocked our grocery stores, mopping the floors of offices, washing dishes at restaurants, and providing care to the elderly. But although American consumers benefited from this invisible workforce, many feared that immigrants were taking jobs from citizens, burdening social services programs, and changing the nation’s racial and cultural makeup, which led to demands for the government to crack down on illegal immigration. This sentiment was strongest among Republican constituencies, egged on by an increasingly nativist right-wing press. However, the politics didn’t fall neatly along partisan lines: The traditionally Democratic trade union rank and file, for example, saw the growing presence of undocumented workers on co
    nstruction sites as threatening their livelihoods, while Republican-leaning business groups interested in maintaining a steady supply of cheap labor (or, in the case of Silicon Valley, foreign-born computer programmers and engineers) often took pro-immigration positions.

     Back in 2007, the maverick version of John McCain, along with his sidekick Lindsey Graham, had actually joined Ted Kennedy to put together a comprehensive reform bill that offered citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants while more tightly securing our borders. Despite strong support from President Bush, it had failed to clear the Senate. The bill did, however, receive twelve Republican votes, indicating the real possibility of a future bipartisan accord. I’d pledged during the campaign to resurrect similar legislation once elected, and I’d appointed former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano as head of the Department of Homeland Security—the agency that oversaw U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection—partly because of her knowledge of border issues and her reputation for having previously managed immigration in a way that was both compassionate and tough.
My hopes for a bill had thus far been dashed. With the economy in crisis and Americans losing jobs,few in Congress had any appetite to take on a hot-button issue like immigration. Kennedy was gone. McCain, having been criticized by the right flank for his relatively moderate immigration stance, showed little interest in taking up the banner again. Worse yet, my administration was deporting undocumented workers at an accelerating rate. This wasn’t a result of any directive from me, but rather it stemmed from a 2008 congressional mandate that both expanded ICE’s budget and increased collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement departments in an effort to deport more undocumented immigrants with criminal records. My team and I had made a strategic choice not to immediately try to reverse the policies we’d inherited in large part because we didn’t want to provide ammunition to critics who claimed that Democrats weren’t willing to enforce existing immigration laws—a perception that we thought could torpedo our chances of passing a future reform bill. But by 2010, immigrant-rights and Latino advocacy groups were criticizing our lack of progress..And although I continued to urge Congress to pass immigration reform, I had no realistic path for delivering a new comprehensive law before the midterms.

Milton Friedman wisely noted,  “It’s just obvious you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state,” 
Is it prudent to allow illegal immigrants (60 percent of whom are high-school dropouts) access to Social Security, Medicare, and, over time, to 60 federal means-tested welfare programs? I don’t think so either!

Question of the Week: What’s Your Take on the Immigration Debate?

A reader from overseas wonders about my views on immigration, particularly amnesty.

I confess that this is one of those issues where I’m conflicted.

On the general topic of immigration, I think the United States has benefited in the past – and can benefit in the future – from newcomers. And I express that position in this interview for Fox Business News.


But the real issue, which isn’t addressed in the interview, is magnitude. I assume almost nobody wants zero immigration. On the other hand, I also assume that very few people favor totally open borders.

So where do we draw the line? I think we should welcome lots of immigration, particularly people with skills, education, and money. This is the approach that is used to varying degrees by nations such as Australia, Canada, and Switzerland, and I wrote favorably about a similar proposal by Congressman Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado.

And I think substantial numbers of low-skilled people who want to work also should be welcome, but I don’t think everybody in the world who wants to come to America should have that right. I haven’t met more than a tiny handful of folks who disagree with Walter Williams’ assertion that, “not…everyone on the planet had a right to live in the U.S.”

Particularly since politicians have redistribution systems that can lure people into a life of dependency. Which is presumably why Milton Friedman warned, to the dismay of some other libertarians, “You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state.”

Even the Wall Street Journal, which is a leading voice for both increased immigration and amnesty for existing illegals, also is concerned that a growing welfare state could attract immigrants for the wrong reasons.

Speaking of amnesty, I suppose I should answer the question of how I would deal with people who are in the country illegally? And my response probably depends whether I answer with my heart or my head.

My heart tells me to give these people the benefit of the doubt. Every illegal I’ve met seems to be a good person. And I know if I lived someplace like Mexico, Somalia, or Honduras, I almost certainly would want to improve my family’s position by getting to America, legally or illegally.

On the other hand, I believe in the rule of law and I’m a bit uncomfortable rewarding those who jumped the line at the expense of those who followed the rules.

And to be perfectly honest, I also worry about the political implications of any policy that increases the number of people who – on net – will vote for redistribution. I could do without the partisan implications, but this Chuck Asay cartoon captures my concerns.

Immigration Cartoon

I also think that people respond to incentives. Another round of amnesty almost surely will encourage further illegal immigration. Putting myself in the position of a poor person in the developing world, I would logically conclude that it would just be a matter of time, so I would sneak across the border in order to take advantage of that future amnesty.

That doesn’t strike me as a good approach. Far better to figure out how to genuinely reform the system.

By the way, a senior staffer on Capitol Hill floated to me the idea of a new status that enables illegals to stay in the country, but bars them from citizenship unless they get in line and follow the rules. I’m definitely not familiar with the fault lines on these issues, but perhaps that could be a good compromise.

And it goes without saying that I want the strictest possible limits on access to welfare programs and other government handouts for immigrants, regardless of their status.

So, like everybody else, I want border security and some form of legalization as part of a new system that brings people to America for the right reason. See, I’m the epitome of reasonableness.

P.S. If you want to enjoy some immigration-related humor, we have a video about Americans migrating to Peru and a story about American leftists escaping to Canada.

P.P.S. On the issue of birthright citizenship, I’ve shared some interesting analysis from Will Wilkinson and George Wi

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733 everettehatcher@gmail.com

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