Fudging Differences between Legal and Illegal Immigrants

Big difference in educational attainment between legal and illegal immigrants.
The big difference in educational attainment between legal and illegal immigrants doesn’t come through in this graph. Credit: Commonwealth Institute

Immigrants residing in Virginia are better educated and more entrepreneurial than commonly perceived, says a new report by the Commonwealth Institute (CI), “Virginia Immigrants in  the Economy.”

That’s true.

Yet immigrants’ contributions to the U.S. economy are often minimized by “some state and federal lawmakers,” adds a press release accompanying the report. In truth, immigrants make our communities and economy stronger, says Laura Goren, CI research director and co-author. “Too many politicians are using scare tactics and divisive rhetoric about immigrants to advance their own agendas.”

Grrrr. I must take issue.

In attributing “scare tactics and divisive rhetoric” to shadowy others, Goren is guilty of the very behavior she decries. Whether due to simple naivete or deliberate obfuscation, I don’t know, she conflates legal immigrants with illegal immigrants. Thus, legal immigrants, who make a large positive contribution to Virginia’s economy, provide statistical cover for illegal immigrants, whose net contribution is problematic.

That’s an turn-off to readers who otherwise might find value in the report, which does contain some useful information. Foreign-born inhabitants now constitute 12.2% of the state’s population, for instance, with the heaviest concentration in Northern Virginia. More than half the foreign-born population has become naturalized.

…Neither does the difference in entrepreneurial vitality.

Virginia immigrants are more likely than native-born Americans to hold a college degree, the report informs us. They have slightly higher incomes, and they are more likely to be self-employed or own a business.

“In sum, Virginia immigrants are relatively young, well educated, fluent in English, and more likely to participate in the workforce,” says the study. “This powerful combination reflects the substantial capacity for immigrants to contribute to the state’s economy.”

But average numbers obscure important differences between different categories of immigrants. Forty percent of Virginia immigrants are well educated (college or graduate degrees) and wind up working in professional and technology fields. But, according to CI’s data, 20% lack a high school degree, a much higher percentage than for the native-born population. In other words, we are looking at two very different groups — one highly educated and affluent (mostly legal) and one ill-educated and poor (mostly illegal).

I know of no respectable voices in Virginia who say we should clamp down on all immigrants. (There might be a tiny percentage of white nationalists who advance that argument, but their numbers are insignificant.) The controversy over immigration focuses on poor, ill-educated immigrants, mostly though not exclusively from Latin American countries, who compete with similarly poor, ill-educated native-born Americans. These immigrants (mostly illegal) drive down wages of unskilled occupations, and put a burden on educational and social services.

I’ve never heard anyone hint that there’s too darn many Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese or Koreans in Virginia. That’s because Asian-Americans quickly learn English, rapidly assimilate to mainstream norms, become educated, launch job-creating businesses, and place minimal stress on the welfare state. Their presence is indisputably a net benefit to society.

By contrast, the Commonwealth Institute concedes that there are “challenges” associated with between 275,000 and 300,000 unauthorized immigrants. Nearly one in five live below the poverty line, and 58% lack health insurance. When one calculates the impact of illegal immigrants on the wage levels of unskilled workers, on schools, on the welfare state, and on the criminal justice system, this sub-set does not look like a net benefit to American society.

The study contends that illegals make a positive contribution, contributing $250 million in state and local taxes. If provided a path to citizenship, they could generate an estimated $100 million more. To the Commonwealth Institute, the problem isn’t foreigners illegally entering the U.S., but the mean people who treat illegals as second-class citizens. Says the report: “Lack of access to health care and threats of deportation and discrimination all make unauthorized immigrants and their families less able to contribute to the communities in which they live.”

I don’t believe in demonizing illegal immigrants for the sin of wanting to build better lives in Virginia. I don’t bear them any animus. I think it is wrong to abuse or mistreat them. But I also believe that a sovereign state has the inherent right to choose who can enter the country and upon what terms and conditions they do so. Foreigners have no right to live in the United States. One can make an argument that the U.S. should expand opportunities for foreigners to enter the country legally, but only on the purely utilitarian grounds that their presence benefits the rest of us. Accordingly, I think we should give preferential treatment, as many other countries do, to those who can contribute to the national wealth and well being over those who cannot.

Having a rational conversation requires that we draw distinctions between immigrants on the basis of education, skills, wealth, age, ability to assimilate, and proclivity to become a burden on the state. It is difficult to have that conversation when we lump all “immigrants” together.

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13 responses to “Fudging Differences between Legal and Illegal Immigrants”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’ll agree with Bacon’s premise about the two worlds and can confirm that my doctor is from the middle east and my dentist from North Africa.. and the Subway which I get hoagies is from India… and the two 7-11s are also run by folks with thick accents..

    but keep in mind that undocumented workers are taken advantage of by employers … who pay them less than they’d have to pay American workers and many undocumented pay into FICA tax for Social Security that they’ll never collect as well as having Fed and State tax withheld and they will not get earned income credits (like Americans at that salary level will) .. nor can they get health insurance.. and at the same time they do pay sales taxes and property taxes that fund the schools.

    I’m not arguing in favor on them, just pointing out as labor -they are far cheaper than Americans AND that many employers PREFER them to Americans.. or else there would be no benefit to coming to this country for a job.

    So we demonize them and yes it’s more than the White nationalists that do it – and Conservatives, in general, do NOT make it a priority to crack down on employers who hire these folks. If we did – like Canada does – we’d not have the problem. So there’s a whole lot of hypocrisy coming from the folks who argue out of both sides of their mouth.

    When I hear the folks who argue against the undocumented – DEMAND that Congress take a hard line with the employers- I’ll reconsider my view but right now the hypocrisy is so thick .. it’s a joke.

  2. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    Dear Jim,

    The drive for more non-White immigrants does not exist in a vacuum. The subsidization of anti-White “studies” courses, of various titles, exists in order to “soften up” the White population and rationalize their dispossession. Big Business and Big Institutions also are behind these efforts of abolishing America as a predominantly White nation and replacing it as a “grab-bag” of deracinated monads with no common bonds. In addition, non-Whites on the whole support the renegade Whites in this endeavor, which is what the Democrats’ rhetoric is about, creating resentment and envy. Unlimited immigration, whether “documented” or “undocumented” is inherently genocidal, and in part, it is designed to be so. Were there hordes of Eastern Europeans crowding into America, the National Council of La Raza and the NAACP would be calling for immigration enforcement, and deportation, because they are anti-White organizations, they are trying to reinforce their group numbers while denying us the ability to do the same. They want what we have and they are using device within their reach to do so. To try to think that one can “separate out” and “make rational” a topic that is inherently racially charged is extremely naive, if not disingenuous. Indians, Chinese, as well as Mexicans and others are unacceptable for these reasons. I am not a “White Nationalist,” but a patriotic American, unlike those who hate the historic American nation, which was overwhelmingly White. It is only if America can be “flipped” that these “civil rights” organizations and “Liberals” will become “pro-America.” They are purposely creating an “Anti-America,” both in population and ideology. Their strategy is brilliant from a semantics point of view, and they are assisting Big Business in reducing wages, driving up the price of real estate, and shutting down opposition to GROWTH per se, by saying that all opposition to growth is based on racial hatred. The growth that we are getting whether dubbed “smart” or “dumb,” is destructive of our country as a polity, our state, and indeed the infrastructure of municipalities. But some people derive wealth and others political power from this process of the “New Manifest Destiny,” and it will only end when Americans decide that they would rather be called ugly names and act to shut it down. There is no civil discourse because we have an elite alienated from its population. They have lost, or at least are losing, the consent of the governed, whom they so obviously despise. Such people are not protectors of our society, but its greatest threat.



    1. I agree with you to the extent that there are some on the Left who see a path to power in exacerbating ethnic/racial grievances, blaming whites, and using untrammeled immigration as a way to hasten the arrival of a majority-minority nation. In their view, a nation dominated by minorities will be a Leftist nation.

      If you believe in a nation of individual liberties, how does one respond? By creating an open society, encouraging assimilation, and demonstrating to ethnic/racial minorities that freedom works better for them than statism.

  3. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    Dear Jim,

    Individual liberties are good and they derive from our English common law background. We don’t need need endless numbers of outsiders to create what we have created ourselves. We can believe in our nation having an historic, ethnic founding, while acknowledging that others arrived after that founding, and respecting them, but we are not required to commit “social suicide” through continuation of existing policies. One of the major problems is that the “State”, Deep or “Shallow”, is actively AGAINST those whose ancestors created it, except those who collaborate with it and share its goals, ON BEHALF OF the newcomers, and Blacks, who are helpfully kept in a state of perpetual upset and suspicion. This began because the State declared itself at war with its own people and their ability to associate among themselves and to decide who can join the society. I am not an Anarchist, or even much of a Libertarian, but I do recognize that THIS State is at war, in a covert or “mean girl” kind of way, with its own population because “it” sees them 1) as holding retrograde attitudes that act as barriers to continued, i.e. unending, growth, or “NIMBYism” writ large, and 2) Because some are carrying out ethnic and racial vendettas using egalitarian rhetoric that is enacted in a very selective, i.e. inegaltarian fashion. There is no truth, no fellow feeling, but only a conviction that “they” must be defeated, and “assimilated,” or at least cowed and marginalized. This Establishment is violating the Anti-Genocide convention that it signed after World War II to advance its interests. “Ah, but times change, and strategies do, too, in order to meet enduring interests!” Regress mutates into Progress, depending on whose interest is served.



  4. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    It’s dishonest to fail to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants, just like it would be dishonest to distinguish between people who work for a living and make wages and people who break-in to dwellings and steal money and property.

    It’s equally dishonest to focus on the amounts of state and local taxes paid by illegal immigrants while ignoring the amount of government services received by those individuals and their dependents. It would be like my kids totaling what the cost of the presents they’ve given my wife and I over the years, while ignoring the cost of raising them.

    Being honest about these factors doesn’t make all people here illegally bad people. But it does contribute to a full, complete and honest discussion of the issues.

    I can see a path to lawful residence for many of these people who crossed the border illegally, but have otherwise, followed the laws and paid taxes. (Larry, by following the law, I don’t mean someone who has had a speeding ticket for going 10 mph over the posted limit. I’m talking about people convicted of felonies and misdemeanors.)

    First, deport those who have overstayed their visas; those who have had their day in court and are subject to deportation orders; deport those convicted of felonies/misdemeanors, with first emphasis on felonies and violent misdemeanors. Make E-Verify mandatory. Impose significant fines on those businesses that don’t comply or hire people despite finding out they are not authorized to work. Also, bar them from present and future government contracts. Secure the border. When wages start increasing at the bottom level for several years, we’ve likely secured the border.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    I agree with contrasting between “dishonest” and “honest” .. and would say that “dishonest” describes the positions of the anti-immigration folks also.

    The fact of the matter is that undocumented pay taxes that in turn pay for services at the same time they are ineligible for the earned income credit, the child tax credit, social security and medicare and Obamacare..

    The facts are that they are paid less and taken advantage of by employers who use their undocumented status to pay them less than they would American workers doing the same job.

    The fact is that employers CAN refuse to hire anyone who cannot demonstrate they are valid citizens and many employers CHOOSE to hire people they suspect are undocumented and they do so without fear that the govt will take action against them.

    Canada has a guest worker program that “works”and we could adopt that same program but we don’t. The employers won’t support it NOR will the same folks who demonize the undocumented.. either.

    If you REALLY want t fix this – you can but if your goal is to get on board with the White Nationalists hateful agenda.. then have at it but at least be honest that’s what you appear to be supporting …

    I do not support undocumented immigrants. and I do support them not getting benefits nor entitlements but let’s be honest.. they’d not be here if it were not for people who hire them.

    that’s honest – to admit that and to ask why we can’t do it like Canada does.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      If we cleared up the illegal status by first deporting those who should be deported based on my criteria, we should also make those who remain, under a new grant of statutory permission, under the protection of all U.S. labor laws.

      I agree with the need to nail the employers who don’t follow rules. Perhaps, there could be away for special taxpayer standing from a statute that allowed individuals to sue businesses for not following E-Verify or otherwise federal hiring laws and, if successful, receive attorney fees. Three-to-five years of lawsuits against bad employers would likely eliminate the problem.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        @TMT – you’ ll never fix this until you stop the jobs that attract them.

        you’re not only not attacking the real problem – you’re attacking those that are more victim than bad guys.

        My complaint is that almost none of the anti-immigrant people support going after the employers and instead demonize the people coming here for the jobs not the people offering those jobs.

        Can you name one politician who is against illegal immigration who says he will go after the employers? I know of not a single one.

        so what good does it do to go after the folks who come here for the jobs?

        If you get rid of them .. more will come.. as long as those jobs exist..

        it’s a dumb way to deal with the problem.

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          Larry – do you think most Democratic members of Congress would vote to make E-Verify mandatory? How about Senators Warner and Kaine? And if E-Verify is not mandatory, why do we all have to report all of our income to the IRS?

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            TMT – do you think the people who say they are opposed to undocumented would make that a mandatory proposal FIRST
            then see who would support it or not?

            You’re using excuses here guy. It’s not what you think the Dems might or might not do – it’s what the people who say they are opposed to undocumented say they want in addition to deportation.

            Why is E-Verify not mandatory to start with? If the GOP can have 50 repeal votes for Obamacare – where are the votes to make E-verify mandatory?

            It’s hypocrisy to blame undocumented for coming here but not to address the real reasons they come.. You’re never going to stop them from coming here as long as E-verify is not mandatory and we provide work for them.

            Don’t blame the Dems when the Conservatives won’t stand on their own principals. Where is Mr. Trump on E-verify? Does he insist on it like he does the border wall and the deportations?

            You gotta think these folks are not really serious about it if they
            are not willing to address the root cause..

            Canada has done exactly that and they do not have this problem.

            Why don’t we do what Canada did or at the least the people who say they are opposed to undocumented make it a prominent part of what they want done… put the bill up for a vote… just like the have done for Obamacare.

          2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

            Larry – the GOP doesn’t have 60 votes in the Senate. Legislation can be filibustered. Therefore, how Mark Warner and Tim Kaine would vote to make E-Verify mandatory through federal legislation is still material. I don’t think they would support this.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    TMT – this has not just suddenly become an issue.. and again you’re using excuses here … it’s not what the Dems would support or not – It’s what the GOP itself supports – openly and honestly as their approach and the truth is that
    the advocacy for mandatory E-verify is not where to be seen from the GOP even as the same GOP openly advocates other things that the dems oppose – like Obamacare… tax cuts, entitlements cuts.

    If the GOP does not lay out what it wants to do about immigration – and at the same time engages in demonization of those who come here for that work – it’s total hypocrisy.. they have no solution other than blame the poor folks who come here for work.. and they ally themselves with White Nationalist groups who oppose black and brown people who immigrate – even legally.

    You have to stand up for your position and not use excuses that you cannot because you don’t think the other side with support it… It does not stop the GOP on a wide range of other issues!

    What this PROVES is that the GOP itself does not agree with itself on what to do or not.. they cannot even agree as a group on a legislative approach. They’re simply not fit to govern.. if even among themselves they cannot reach a compromise path forward!

    Look at them right now in Congress.. what is their legislative approach to immigration and E-verify?

    it’s the same as ObamaCare.. they cannot agree among themselves even before the Dems involvement and their excuse for doing nothing?

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Larry – I’m interested in what both Republicans and Democrats alike do about E-Verify. Both Parties have interest groups opposed to the mandatory use of the system, albeit for different reasons. Mandatory E-Verify is something the nation needs – period.

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