Life's Better Ideas

Occasional links to, and comments on, ideas that I think will make this a better world, and remarks about things that need fixing, too.

Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hard Choices, session 9

I'm taking a course at Denver University, Hard Choices in Public Policy. The instructor is former Colorado governor Richard Lamm.

Immigration was today's topic.

Conservative view - People, like goods, know no borders.
Liberal vies - We are the world.

Illogical fear of foreigners. Xenophobia.

Ben Franklin had a fear of Germans. Colorado had a KKK governor in the 1920's.

Is illegal immigration a problem?

Governor Lamm showed us his fake id with the name of "Bill Clinton" which he bought for about $25 or so. Also his Mexican fake id.

Immigration used to be primarily single males who would stay a while and work, then go home. Now it's mostly families.

Discussion on how the drive for low costs fuels the need for cheap labor. There's an unspoken agreement with the public - we want our low prices so we don't pay you very much. In none of these classes has there been any discussion of high taxes.

I brought up business conditions in Mexico and other South American nations. Some discussion on this point.

The World Bank published "Doing Business in 2005" which documents the hurdles to job creation and business formation in more than 140 nations. Here are some numbers for the US and Mexico:

Index                            US  Mexico
Starting a Business
Days 5 58
Cost (% of income per capita) 0.6 16.7
Difficulty of hiring index 0 67
Difficulty of firing index 10 90
Firing costs (weeks) 8 83
Registering property
Time (days) 12 74

Denver Health and Hospitals spends $1 million a year on translation services.
A tight labor market is the best friend of the poor.
Racism is a factor.
North High School - no English spoken in the halls.
Italian and Irish became part of society. Mexicans don't. Is this due to proximity (Italians and Irish couldn't go home again - too far, but Mexicans can), or does assimilation take several generations and it hasn't been long enough, or is it a cultural thing?

Language is the great divider. European immigrants seemed to learn it quickly. Mexicans not so much.

Lamm thinks that Illegal Immigration hurts taxpayers and the poor. Taxpayers because of the costs of education and social services to family members who come in through our Family Reunification policy and the poor because of depressed wages. Unintended consequences of illegal immigration is that national average for income is $45K; all immigrants is $37K; and Mexicans is $22K per year. Think I got those numbers right.

2/3 of immigrants come in through the Family Reunification policy - one worker comes in, then brings his spouse, kids, mom and dad, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters. Apparently one person from China brought in 69 relatives.

US is better at assimilation than other nations. There are serious culture problems in South America. Lots of corruption, etc.

Hispanic dropout rate is 50%. Hispanics unwilling to look at culture issues; more willing to play the race card. Latin America is 50 years behind in the treatment of women. Assimilation takes years, need role models.

Demographic Destiny - How many, Who, What are the rules.

Carrying capacity of US. I think it's more than Lamm does, but he's projecting 1 Billion in US by 2100.

Melting pot is somewhat coercive - you don't succeed if you don't assimilate.

Discussed dual nationality. Some uncomfortable with it. Question of patriotism and loyalty.

Deep cultural roots for Mexicans in southwest US. Irish/Italians didn't have any roots here when they came. Mexicans are very patriotic to US, many Medal of Honor recipients.


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