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August 03, 2010

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Worse than appalling.

There are damned good reasons for the 14th and its continuance even after those reasons have fallen by the wayside. This is jackassery to the extreme.

Well, while I'm generally in favor of an open door policy for various reasons, your link contained an interesting point right up near the top:

"Acquisition of German citizenship by the fact of being born in Germany
Children who are born in Germany to foreign nationals will receive German citizenship when
one of the respective child's parents has resided lawfully in Germany for at least eight years
and holds entitlement to residence or has had an unlimited residence permit for at least three
years
. Under the new law, such children acquire German citizenship at birth."

Emphasis mine. It would appear to me that a requirement that this is not dissimilar to the position a lot of these folks are pushing for the US to adopt. i.e. at least one member of the family being "right with the law", so to speak. Take it FWIW; I'm not in a union, I don't do minimum wage jobs and I do maintain a yard in TX, so the current situation suits me just fine.

"I'm not in a union, I don't do minimum wage jobs and I do maintain a yard in TX, so the current situation suits me just fine."

Why are the last two relevant?

Rhetorical question, but seriously, you made a category error that isn't unlike the one made by anti-Latino nativists. I'll explain if needed.

As for the point about German law, I'm lost. Or perhaps I was unclear. Let me clarify. Previous German law was a recipe for an underclass and eventual civil strife. They moved away from tha towards pure jus soli. That's a good thing, because an underclass is bad. But German law still retains an element of exclusion that will create the same problems, if less of them.

Was that really unclear? Of course, I don't think I to belabor the point: it's clear that you're devil-advocating. But do reconsider the implicit assumptions behind your last sentence: they're very important.

"it's clear that you're devil-advocating"

True enough, but let's go on.

"Why are the last two relevant?"

Well, let me unpack my assumptions/beliefs.

#1-I assume that the nativist impulse is an organic one

#2-I assume that there is a clearing price for the un- or low-skilled labor market

#3-I assume that recent immigrants with low human capital (primarily poor Mexicans at the moment, though this is merely historical accident) bring down the equilibrium price in #2

#4-I calculate that given the above, the nativist movement generally wants to impose costs (whether real, opportunity or even psychological) on said immigrants in order to restrict competition

#5-I calculate that the rumblings you mention are intended (to the extent that they're anything other than theater) to accomplish #4 by making their status here less secure and less attractive.

Now, I think you could accuse me of an implicit "lump of labor" fallacy in #3, though I'd deny it. Recent immigrants could drive down the equilibrium price of one sort of labor (unskilled) even as they generate demand for other sorts, I think. Is that what you have in mind? You might also question my inclusion of "TX" in the original; immigrants will presumably go wherever they can get the best price, so there's no necessity for them to stick around here. I'd claim that they're a bit more likely to stay near border states for various reasons we can go through.

"As for the point about German law, I'm lost." My misunderstanding, surely. It looked like you were citing the German law as something close to what the Founders set up. I'd argue it's closer, given the restriction I cited, to what the nativists want to set up. Step towards openness for Germany, but it would be quite the opposite for us if adopted here.

No, not at all. The error in the devil's argument is an outside-the-box mistake. The mistaken assumption is that the children of immigrants have the same human capital as their parents.

There is an overwhelming amount of data indicating that is not true. Mexican-Americans are the only immigrant group that fails to converge to native norms (or surpass them) with two generations, and there are some problems with the Mexican-American data that may in fact make that pattern a statistical artifact. (I should blog about that someday.)

Unless you believe that substantial numbers of immigrants come to the United States solely because their children will be citizens, the economic effect of current immigration on native labor market outcomes simply is not relevant. There is no upside to repealing the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment.

I should add that there is no evidence that substantial numbers of immigrants come solely because their children will become citizens.

Like I said, it's an outside-the-box error, and not at all immediately obvious. But it does show that the amend-the-14th people are not driven by economics.

On the one hand, plenty of other democracies don't have absolute birthright citizenship (i.e., the strong form of ius soli) -- which seems to be almost entirely a western hemisphere thing, with Pakistan and Fiji as odd outliers.

On the other hand, Wong Kim Ark has really served this country well.

"Unless you believe that substantial numbers of immigrants come to the United States solely because their children will be citizens, the economic effect of current immigration on native labor market outcomes simply is not relevant."

It occurred to me afterward that something like this is what you were talking about, so I thought up a response ahead of time.

It seems to me that you're making a very absolute argument and run the risk of Fallacy of the Excluded Middle. That is, while citizenship for their kids can't be the sole draw for a current immigrant, surely it makes up part of what draws them? It is therefore another way you can impose a cost on them if you're interested in pushing them out. Granted, the fact that the immigrant can make multiples of what they would back home dominates in most cases, but there would have to be some effect on the margins. (You'd probably end up excluding a bunch that are the opposite of hyperbolic discounters, so it seems extra counter-productive from that angle.)

On further review, the following seems to undercut the rest of your position:

"Mexican-Americans are the only immigrant group that fails to converge to native norms (or surpass them) with two generations, and there are some problems with the Mexican-American data that may in fact make that pattern a statistical artifact. (I should blog about that someday.)"

You might want to spell out what those issues in the data are, as it seems germane.

I'm going to post on the Mexican-American data soon enough, so I'll leave you in suspense. But here are the reasons why the counterarguments don't hold.

(1) "It seems to me that you're making a very absolute argument and run the risk of Fallacy of the Excluded Middle."

Actually, the counterargument makes the excluded-middle error, by confusing statistical significance (what you called an "effect on the margins") with economic significance. You admit that yourself. ("The fact that the immigrant can make multiples of what they would back home dominates in most cases.") Changing the 14th Amendment would have no appreciable effect on the size of net migration to the United States.

There are an infinite number of ways in which very low costs can be imposed on immigrants at a remarkably high cost to society; altering the 14th Amendment is only one of them.

In short, as I'm sure you'll admit, this argument is a red herring.

(2) "The [data on Mexican-American educational convergence] seems to undercut the rest of your position."

No! Here I'll be a little more adamant than I was regarding the previous counter-argument, because the data are much clearer. "Failure to convergence on the native born" is very far from "Having the same education profile as ma and grandma."

To put it in a headline number (and ignoring the data issues that I'll talk about later), U.S.-born Mexican-Americans make it to 12 years of schooling, as opposed to 14 for the native born. Mexican-Americans from Mexico average about six ... of even less quality than in United States.

In short, Mexican-Americans are far from labor-market substitutes for Mexican immigrants.

"Changing the 14th Amendment would have no appreciable effect on the size of net migration to the United States."

I agree. That said, it depends a great deal on just how important that "citizenship for the kids" card is, and I know of no poll of illegals that would put the question to rest. At the moment it's just a guess that cash-in-hand is by far the largest motivator.

Considering it further from a nativist's POV, I came up with another argument in favor, PR-based:

While public sentiment is such that deporting illegals is not a hard sell, deporting their citizen children presents political difficulties, and that makes it more difficult to deport the parents. From a PR standpoint, deporting an entire family would be a lot easier.

"There are an infinite number of ways in which very low costs can be imposed on immigrants at a remarkably high cost to society; altering the 14th Amendment is only one of them."

LOL! Well put.

Odd thought: have you considered this as part of a conversion narrative?

Consider the following scenario: you are a conservative-side-of-moderate independent, Democrat, or loosely attached Republican, but very uncomfortable with how society is currently evolving. Some conservative acquaintances, radio talk show hosts, and maybe a Web site or two say that

1. The Others are cheating.

2. There is no way to stop them using the current rule book.

3. The relevant rules were written over a hundred years ago in a very different society; there is no reason why they shouldn't be updated.

4. This is a new and radical idea, but the only alternative is More Of The Same, and that's not acceptable.

As time goes on, things don't change, and the people in Washinbgton seem to be trying to make things worse, you eventually decide they may be right.

Where does this leave you? There are now a lot of pundits that you will pay less attention to because their thinking is part of the old system, and others that you will pay more attention to because they do seem to have answers. There are also friends that you will talk politics with less and less because they are offended at your radical ideas and other friends that you will discuss them with more and more because they support you and help you put everything together.

In short, you become a convert. And if you have much sense of personal integrity, it will be harder for you to convert back, or for anyone to persuade you to convert back.

Short version: consider this as a wedge issue.

Bernard: there are lots of surveys of illegal immigrants. Hundreds. Some even ask about reasons for migration! (You can find them with easy googling.) None show that citizenship for the children is a factor, although many do want a better life for their kids.

One bit of telling evidence is that the data show that stronger border enforcement (which makes temporary migration harder) encourages permanent migration and family migration. Yet more evidence.

I know you're devil-advocating, but I know you well enough to know that you know that the idea that expected wage differential drive Mexican immigration is much more than "just a guess." Right?

David: interesting!

In the absence of hard evidence, I'd call it a "strong hunch". I know that's why I'd move, for starters, and the bits I've read on 19th-20th century European immigration point that way. But I haven't seen those polls you mention, though I'm going to check them out. In any case, citizenship for the kids seems like a tenuous payoff for emigration except under rather specific circumstances that don't currently apply to Mexicans (though they did with my own folks.)

"One bit of telling evidence is that the data show that stronger border enforcement (which makes temporary migration harder) encourages permanent migration and family migration."

It's probably the lack of coffee in my gut at the moment, but I was less able to connect the dots on this one the second time I read it.

1) Impose additional costs on border jumping
2) Border jumpers then tend to stay put
3) ?
4) Therefore, they're jumping the border for the wage differential rather than some other prize (i.e. citizenship for their kids, the delicious tap water in LA, etc)

Underwear gnomes!

No, seriously, the idea is this. If most immigrants came to the U.S. to plant "anchor babies," then the number of families coming over shouldn't change with border enforcement. The reason is that those families should be coming anyway.

Except it seems that making it harder for the husband to go home on vacation does significantly increase the number of families coming over to stay.

The implication is that they're not coming anyway; they'd prefer to stay home.

Another test, of course, is that France doesn't really get more migrants than Germany used to, when you account for chain migration.

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