Thoughts on the Immigration Debate

I am both bemused and dismayed whenever I hear allegedly free-market conservatives try to repeal the law of supply and demand when it comes to labor. How do they do this? By seeking to shut off part of the labor supply — workers entering the country illegally — without addressing from where an alternative labor supply will arise to fill the unmet labor demand — the jobs the illegal border crossers would have come to fill.

Naturally, I expected to hear this kind of thing at last night’s America’s Future Foundation roundtable post-mortem discussion on the failed immigration bill. We got some of that, but the discussion turned into a contest of my numbers can beat up your numbers between the Heritage Foundation’s Brian Darling and the Cato Institute’s Dan Griswold, specifically over a paper by Heritage’s Robert Rector that allegedly demonstrated that illegal immigrants impose a net cost on the nation through their consumption of public services. Griswold disputed Rector’s methodology, which he argued inflated the numbers.

However, rather than continue along this line of argument, I’d like to propose a radical possibility: Suppose Rector’s numbers are not only as high as he says, but much higher — so high that they stretch the welfare state to the breaking point. What then? It might be worth considering that the one sure-fire way to get rid of the welfare state is to stretch it to its breaking point.

So, in addition to trying to repeal a basic law of economics, now we get something even more disturbing: conservatives turned defenders of the welfare state.