Illegal aliens take our jobs, overwhelm the welfare rolls and drive up crime rates, right?
Those who trade in illegal immigration fear assert the statistics support their view. But if employment, welfare and crime statistics prove the causative effects of immigration, one would have to conclude the net impact is positive.
A Wall Street Journal editorial last week cites statistics that refute the conventional wisdom.
The growth of the United States population by 50 million since 1990 largely has been because of immigration, because birth rates are barely at replacement level. During the period between 1994 and 2005, the illegal immigration population is believed to have doubled to 12 million.
Yet during that time, the violent crime rate in the U.S. dropped by a third and property crime dropped by a fourth. Obviously, many factors unrelated to immigration contributed to the decline, but it's noteworthy crime fell even in cities with the highest number of immigrants - and presumably the highest number of illegal immigrants - where one might expect the opposite trend. San Diego, Los Angeles, El Paso, Miami, New York and Chicago all saw crime decreases during the period when illegal immigration surged.
The WSJ, quoting from Immigration Policy Center, said studies show immigrants are far less likely than native-born Americans to be behind bars.
Well, they might not be stealing from our homes, but they're stealing our jobs, aren't they? Actually no. The unemployment rate remained at 4.7 percent in December, according to the U.S. Labor Department. This was better than economists predicted, well below the 6.6 percent rate in December 1990. We are the envy of most other major industrialized nations, where unemployment is at or near double digits.
“Immigrants aren't stealing jobs but filling them,” states the editorial.
But aren't illegals providing cheap labor and driving down wages? They are undoubtedly working for low wages, but overall wages increased 3.8 percent in 2007, outpacing the increase in retail prices.
As for the complaint illegals drain public resources, the welfare rolls have declined by 60 percent since 1994, largely because of the 1996 welfare-reform legislation passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic president (Clinton).
This is not to say illegal immigration is not a serious problem. It is. The solution is long overdue. National security alone is sufficient reason for controlling the flow across our southern border through a border fence and strict enforcement of existing immigration laws. And this must be accomplished before - instead of after, as prescribed in the failed immigration reform bill of 2007 - creating a path to citizenship for illegals already here.
But it is to say illegal immigration, particularly from Mexico and Central America, does not bring the catastrophic consequences some say it does. If it did, the statistics would bear that out.
As we have said before, 19 legal immigrants did more damage to the U.S. in two hours on 9/11 than 12 million illegal immigrants have done in two decades. The 19 were here to do us harm. The 12 million, most of them anyway, are here to better their lives.
We have time, and should take time, for a calm, rational discussion, beginning with real facts and real statistics instead of hysteria.
- The Paducah (Ky.) Sun