IPFS Dave Gallagher

Necessary Evil

More About: Immigration

The Open Borders Cart Before the Welfare Horse

Well, I recently returned from a couple weeks of business and limited pleasure back east. While away I realized that the immigration issue had reached manic status. When local Philadelphians are talking more about the southern border than Terrell Owens being traded to the Dallas Cowboys, it is a hot issue.

Let me start off by stating that as an American of Irish and Italian ancestors, I realize that a relatively open immigration policy allowed my great-great-grand parents to come to America.

My ancestors labored at low wages and helped build this nation's infrastructure. They fought in her wars. In the case of my Italian forefathers, they learned our language and hoped for a better life for their children. In short, they provided needed services for what they considered fair wages and improved their standard of living over time.

To be sure they were not always welcomed with open arms. The “Mics” and “Degos” had to earn their place over time. But they traveled great distances rarely looking back. Upon arrival at Ellis Island they became “Americans”. In fact, our family has little time for our “heritage”. Aside from a weakness for good spaghetti and a mild fondness for St. Patrick's day, they consider themselves Americans. They did not support the IRA, nor did we sport the flag of our former homeland.

I also understand the anger of those who looked upon the protests last week and were disgusted by the waiving of Mexican flags. I personally have grown a bit tired of the incessant waiving of the flag of our own central state. Why would I not understand the disdain of Americans who sense the degradation of their country, knowing not whom to blame, as they watch “foreigners” on TV making demands and waiving the flag of the Mexican state?

Of course these “foreigners” are not primarily to blame for the downward trend economically and otherwise in America. But as often is the case, if I feel bad and you are the nearest person to me, I may conclude that it is your fault that I feel bad.

So it is with illegal aliens.

Now, in theory, I hold with the open borders libertarians and respect their position. In an anarcho/libertarian society or a free society served by a limited, constitutionally bound federal government, open borders would be proper. Unfortunately we are living in neither. Therefore I cannot embrace libertarian ideals which have the effect of producing anti-libertarian results for Americans.

The immoral welfare policies of America are a burden on the American people. The transfer of wealth from the producers to the non producers, virtually at gunpoint, is shameful. I know full well that many illegal aliens are hard working people who produce and contribute to the American economy. The fact also remains however that many illegals consume an enormous amount of public resources.

Most libertarians rightly argue against the welfare state. Some believe that open borders will bring about the collapse of the welfare state sooner rather than later... and so much the better.

I do not hold with this view. I have searched high and low for a libertarian principle that supports the idea of importing welfare recipients and I have not found it.

It is my view (as well as that of the libertarian party) that Americans should not be compelled to pay for welfare benefits to illegal aliens (nor to anyone else). I maintain that purposefully increasing the burden of public services on Americans for the benefit of non-Americans is not moving toward liberty, rather it is misplacement of the public trust. So it is here that I part with the stance of the LP.

I believe this issue is the single greatest perceived negative by many dissatisfied “southern democrats” and republicans exploring the LP in their search for a new political home.

I sympathize with those who want to come to America, embrace American life and make a better life for their children. Accordingly, I support a more open border policy... after the welfare state is rolled back ... not before.

Lastly, a suggestion for those planning to protest tomorrow. If you really want to make your case, wrap yourself in the American flag and leave the Mexican flag at home.

2 Comments in Response to

Comment by Ernest Hancock
Entered on:
(I was asked by Jim Peron to post his response to Dave's article)

Dave Gallagher assumes we are putting the immigration cart before the welfare horse. This argument is one that some, especially those who want to cater to the xenophobic Right, use with certain regularity. Th welfare state supposedly distorts the situation so that we can't allow people to immigrate to the US because..., because... Well actually they don't spell it out.

There is welfare and there is immigration and we are simply supposed to draw conclusions. But we are not provided with the evidence. At least Mr. Gallagher provided zero evidence in his essay. He merely says: "The fact remains however that many illegals consume an enormous amount of public resources."

I bet that proportionate to their numbers illegals consume less than native born Americans or legal aliens. Frederick Bastiat gave a lesson I thought most libertarians understood. There is the seen and the unseen. Now let us assume Gallagher's premise that illegals consume "an enormous amount of public resources". That is what is seen or at least what Mr. Gallagher wants to see.

What is unseen is the amount of money they pay toward those programs. A survey from the US Labor Department recently showed that immigrants have a lower rate of unemployment than native born citizens. If they have lower unemployment that means they have higher labor participation rates. That means they disproportionately pay taxes into the system.

Illegals are less likely to collect welfare than native born Americans because they are illegal. Many simply avoid welfare entirely because it can be used to track them down. They are worried about INS brownshirts knocking on their door. On the other hand they find it very difficult to avoid paying taxes. They pay taxes on the food they buy, the gasoline they use, the salaries they earn. But their illegal status makes it harder for them to collect the so-called benefits which they help fund. But Mr. Gallagher only looks at one side of the equation. He prefers to concentrate only on what they collect and pretend that they pay nothing in toward those costs.

Now let us investigate what appears to be his principle. Welfare is bad. Welfare makes Americans worse off. It makes us so much worse off that we ought to restrict the rights of would be immigrants so they can't add anything to the burden of welfare.

But there is another group that falls into this category which Mr. Gallagher is ignoring. In fact this insidious group of individuals have traits that are not at all good. Every single one of them is an economic burden and remains so for years. Not a one finds a job upon arrival. Many consume welfare benefits, they flood the hospitals and the schools spend billions on them. Everywhere we look they are consuming billions and billions in taxes in one form or another.

Next to the elderly they are probably the second largest burden on our health system. They are a major component of welfare beneficiaries and they consume the lion's share of our all funding of education. They are babies. And for years after their birth all they do is take, take, take.

Since immigrants are more likely to be employed than native born Americans we can assume that they, unlike babies, pay more in taxes than they consume in benefits. So if the welfare state somehow justifies preventing immigration to the US then the same logic ought to be mean that our anti-immigrant "libertarians" should be demanding that we stop women from having more children. Surely if there is a case for restricting the liberty to immigrate, due to the welfare state, there is an even stronger case to restrict the liberty to have children.

Of course there is a simpler solution. Instead of lobbying to stop immigrants why not lobby to welcome them with one proviso: Anyone who immigrates is not allowed to collect welfare benefits for so many years after their arrival.

Instead of blaming immigrants for the welfare mess Mr. Gallagher would better spend his time going after his fellow legal citizens. They are more likely to be unemployed and thus more likely to consume welfare.

I only have one side point to make. Mr. Gallagher expressed an odd sentiment for an alleged anarchist: "wrap yourself in the American flag and leave the Mexican flag at home." I'm not fond of anyone wrapping them self in any flag. It's so gauche. Now Mr. Gallagher spoke of his Irish heritage. I grew up in Chicago where the Irish ran the city. They had a tendency to march with Irish flags. The shamrock is not an American symbol and you can hardly find an Irish pub without one of them on display. They even dyed the Chicago River green every year.

I find myself rarely offended by someone with a Mexican flag. After all Mexico hasn't invaded other nations under that flag. It isn't a Mexican flag flying over off shore concentration camps. It isn't a Mexican flag flying outside while detainees are being tortured. These days I find the Mexican flag far less offensive but the mere idea of anyone wrapping them self in the American flag ---- well that's a different matter entirely. My suggestion is don't fly any flag. March as individuals.

Comment by Philly Dave
Entered on:
Curiously there were several other articles on the front page that implied or stated a connection between illegal immigration and increased welfare / public service consumption.

A short commentary on my part was not intended to be an all inclusive financial analysis of services received by illegal aliens. Nor would it serve any real purpose as I suspect the numbers would be disputed anyway. Rather this was a critique of what I consider a lack of priority recognition by the LP and some libertarians.

Interestingly you state "I bet that proportionate to their numbers illegals consume less than native born Americans or legal aliens." Proportionality could be debated, but is not relevant to the discussion. You admit as much when you offer your own solution.

"Of course there is a simpler solution. Instead of lobbying to stop immigrants why not lobby to welcome them with one proviso: Anyone who immigrates is not allowed to collect welfare benefits for so many years after their arrival."

I am not lobbying to stop immigration rather I am lobbying to address the transfer of wealth from producers to non-producers before re-opening the entire country lock stock and barrel to an impoverished southern neighbor. Nothing in my writing opposes your suggestion. In fact you, by offering such a solution, have put the "Welfare Horse" at least side by side with the "Open Borders Cart".

That is the kind of discussion that should be taking place among libertarians.

As for wrapping oneself in a flag, I thought I made it clear that I am not particularly fond of the practice, but if the immigrants making demands of their hosts *must* express a sense of nationalism it seems rather kindergarten that they might opt for the flag of the country they claim to want to seek citizenship. This was offered as simple unsolicited public relations advice.