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Comments on Saturday 12 February 2011:
An Arizona senator or something was on TV. She said something approximately like this: "Illegal immigration is costing us a billion dollars a year. That's how much it costs just to keep it at the level it is now."

I'm pretty sure what she means by that is "Trying to stop illegal immigration is costing us a billion dollars a year."

My question on this subject is this: would it, in fact, be more cost effective to simply stop spending that much? Maybe only spend ten million, so you can still keep out the low hanging fruit of illegal immigration. Would the illegal immigrants who would become able to slip in because of this lower expenditure really cost (or cause damage to the value of) 990 million dollars a year? [00:15]

maxor
Raven she doesn't mean simply the cost of trying to stop illegal immigration though that is a part of the costs. She also means the huge costs to the social infrastructure of the society as a whole by keeping wages artificially deflated, the lost tax revenue of paying those people off the books, the cost of healthcare for the undocumented people which is extremely inefficient and expensive due to their trying to remain hidden from general society and mainly only seeking emergency care not preventative medicine. The fact that this care if billed to the person is often not collected on because the people in question don't have legitimate identities to bill and they tend to be very low income. Their children which may or not be legitimate residents also are a huge cost to society both in terms of education expenses which are far more expensive due to a different primary language of the home, limited means of the parents and the simple fact that the parents being on the edges of the society causes huge stresses on the children ability to integrate into society when the parents are attempting to hide from authorities.

RavenBlack
So you're saying she's just totally pulling a number out of her ass, because all those things are completely unmeasurable costs?

maxor
To some extent she is indeed pulling a number out of her ass, however there is some reasonable estimates involved in these numbers, by based on the difference in costs between areas where we are reasonably sure there are large numbers of illegal aliens versus areas where we are fairly sure there are few. The numbers also vary wildly based simply on the estimates of the numbers of illegal aliens. For example, in Orange County CA we know that it cost the emergency room at hospital X $7000 to treat appendicitis with an appendectomy, the patient was unable to pay and all communication at the hospital was in Spanish with the patient. Now when the hospital files their annual or quarterly fiscal paperwork the person may or may not have been an illegal alien but there is a strong reason to believe they may be. Like with most social figures to call any data hard or exact data is nearly impossible but to come up with an estimate that is reasonable to extrapolate based on measurable data isn't that hard. I don't know the exact comment in question to know if it was an out of her ass number or something reasonably estimated based on known data but California studies have estimated that the cost to social programs in that state to be about 10.5 billion dollars gross. http://www.fairus.org/site/PageServer?pagename=iic_immigrationissuecentersffec

Is a site referencing it and the attached pdf provides more information about how those figures were derived. It seems like a fairly reasonable estimate based on data that can't be practically measured exactly.

maxor
wow ok raven I paused halfway through writing that then came back and didn't proofread I apologize about the topic jumping. In the example given we assume that in orange county the person is likely to be an illegal alien, where as if that same poor person is speaking English in Tennessee they would be assumed to be a legal resident though likely a net drain on the social coffers.

RavenBlack
You're also ignoring the tangible *benefits* of illegal aliens - the really shitty jobs that nobody actually wants to do are done at below minimum wage, meaning probably a majority of the food we eat costs half what it would cost if minimum wage workers were doing the work. Sure, that's a cost to *government* coffers, but for the people, saving 50% is better than someone else paying maybe 10% (if that) of that same amount in taxes!

That's the only halfway reasonable argument I've seen, in fact, for not just letting more people immigrate. All the things you say add up are things that would be eliminated by just making the immigrants legal - they could be billed, taxed, insured, and paid minimum wage so they'd no longer "artificially deflate" wages. But if that happened, there'd be nobody to do the shitty below-minimum-wage-paying jobs (except, to be fair, legal migrant workers who get a temporary pass *just* to do the shitty jobs).

Squander Two
Firstly, sorry for making this comment a year after the original post. That's probably a bit antisocial.

What i want to say, Raven, is that you've got your causality backwards there. The "shitty jobs that no-one wants to do" thing is a myth. What they really are is shitty employers who don't want to pay people enough to make them want to do the job. It sounds likely when applied to people who do dirty dangerous back-breaking labour, but bear in mind that this exact same logic is used, for instance, to say that Britain has a shortage of qualified chemists. Britain doesn't have a shortage of qualified chemists; Britain has a large number of chemistry graduates who are not working in the field of chemistry -- a lot of them are accountants. This doesn't tell us that no-one is willing to do chemistry for a living; it tells us that the employers of chemists aren't willing to pay well enough. The same is true of the "shitty" jobs: plenty of people would be willing to do them if you offered them enough money.

So the causality is backwards. It's not that we let immigrants into the country and they're willing to do the jobs that the natives aren't. It's that BECAUSE we let in immigrants who are willing to work for lower wages than the natives, employers aren't forced to raise wages in order to get job applicants. Without the immigration, the wages would increase.

This is borne out by statistics: the period since the UK's immigration rate massively expanded in 1997 is the first period in the country's history where total wealth has increased while average wages have decreased.

RavenBlack
I kind of agree, but on the other hand (the point I half-made in the comment above), if you were to pay non-immigrants enough that they'd be willing to do shitty farm labor, other people wouldn't be able to afford the necessarily inflated cost of food. If you then increase everyone else's wages to compensate for that, you basically get massive inflation and the shitty job wages are shitty again.

But a nice argument in favor of denying immigrants is that the absence of a cheap human option would encourage technological innovation to cover shitty jobs rather than just having cheap slave-labor do it. I'm certainly in favor of techno-unemployment (though that too inevitably leads to some sort of systemic change being necessary - when there are no more jobs that have to be done by humans, why are we still requiring people to work to live?)

But back on point, "shitty jobs that no-one wants to do" isn't totally a myth - if you could get the same wage for backbreaking hot field labor or for typing on computers in bed, very few people would pick the backbreaking job. You're right that paying more would change the balance, if paying more was possible, but that doesn't mean it's not a job that nobody wants to do, that just makes it a job that people still hate but some can be persuaded to do it.
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