Monday, May 01, 2006

Good Enough To Die

Does anyone remember Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez? For those who have forgotten, he was one of the first fatalities in the current Iraq war. He also happens to have entered the country illegally:
He was one of the first U.S. soldiers killed in combat in Iraq, even though the United States wasn't quite his country.

Lance Cpl. Jose Antonio Gutierrez, 22, an orphan who grew up on the streets of Guatemala City, made the perilous border crossing through Mexico and entered the U.S. illegally when he was 14, his family said.

He was later granted legal resident status and went to high school and college in California before joining the Marines in March 2002. Only a year in the service, Gutierrez died March 21 in a firefight near the Iraqi port city of Umm Qasr.
He was a brave young man who died for United States despite the fact that he wasn't even a citizen--he was granted citizenship posthumously.

His is a story that I think deserves mention in any discussion of immigration. It's only fair that anti-immigration forces discuss the fact that many of these "illegals" sacrifice for this country as much as anyone else. Almost all come to work hard and provide for their family. They also are here to contribute to this country. No debate on the issue is fair that does not mention these facts.

Additionally, the anti-immigration forces attempt to suggest that immigrants come and "steal" resources from U.S. citizens and cause a lot of financial strain--a dramatically overstated assertion:
As Congress debates an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, several economists and news media pundits have sounded the alarm, contending that illegal immigrants are causing harm to Americans in the competition for jobs.

Yet a more careful examination of the economic data suggests that the argument is, at the very least, overstated. There is scant evidence that illegal immigrants have caused any significant damage to the wages of American workers.

The number that has been getting the most attention lately was produced by George J. Borjas and Lawrence F. Katz, two Harvard economists, in a paper published last year. They estimated that the wave of illegal Mexican immigrants who arrived from 1980 to 2000 had reduced the wages of high school dropouts in the United States by 8.2 percent. But the economists acknowledge that the number does not consider other economic forces, such as the fact that certain businesses would not exist in the United States without cheap immigrant labor. If it had accounted for such things, immigration's impact would be likely to look less than half as big. (Emphasis added.)
Note that this is the effect on high school dropouts, not average Americans (almost 90% have completed high school, or equivalency). There is also a slight benefit to the overall economy from immigration. So, as Kevin says,
If this is the best we can come up with after 20 years and 8 million illegal immigrants, there really isn't a serious economic argument to make against immigration from Mexico. Cultural backlash is pretty much all that's left.


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