Help wanted regarding immigration statistics

I had a most fascinating (and surprisingly polite) discussion with a liberal the other day regarding illegal immigrants. My friend kept arguing that we owe the illegal immigrants in our country citizenship, welfare, health care, education, etc., because they’re here and we can’t humanely deny them access to those benefits. I argued that, if we denied illegal aliens protected workplaces, citizenship, welfare, health care, education, etc., they wouldn’t keep coming illegally to America. The same services his emotions tell him to provide for them are the incentives that bring them here in the first place.

My friend absolutely rejected my cause/effect argument. He said a minute number might be rational actors seeking all the benefits America provides, but the others come for “hope.” I responded that this “hope” is all tied up in the services we offer. And so this endless loop of a conversation kept rolling along, with him saying they’re coming anyway, so we should just ignore our sovereignty and owe them services, and I saying that they’re coming only because we give them services, and we have the right to control immigration.

I finally brought the conversation to an end when I said that history will reveal which came first in this chicken and egg argument: Did illegal immigration escalate when the courts ruled that America, instead of deporting immigrants, had to prevent employers from checking their immigration status, educate their children, give them full (as opposed to emergency) health care, and provide them with all welfare services? My bottom line was that, if those rulings sparked a huge uptick in illegal immigration, I am right, and the illegal immigrants are rational actors responding to American incentives. If one takes away those incentives one would dramatically decrease illegal immigration. Of course, if the statistic show the opposite — that the the ever increasing flow of benefits does not correlate to increased illegal immigration — my friend has a point, and I’ll have to revisit my theories.

The only problem is that I don’t quite know how to go about finding data matching welfare benefit outlays to the rate of illegal immigration. Google or Bing searches leave me inundated with information and I simply can’t process it all. Do any of you know of a single study or a single website that focuses on the long-term relationship between the freebies we offer and the flow across the border?

By the way, we did argue about myriad other immigration issues (mostly pure emotion versus rational sovereignty and economics), but he was really stuck on the fact that he believes they’ll come regardless of whether we make it easy or hard for them to be here, so that seemed like the best angle of education and attack.

Thanks for any help you can give.

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  • Danny Lemieux

    Book, some things are just common sense: people flock to any opportunity where they can get something for nothing.
    Out of curiosity…does your Liberal friend expect that if he/she goes to another country that they are automatically entitled to all that that country provides its citizens for “free”? Should, I for example, be allowed to go to Italy and enroll in its pension program?

  • 11B40

    Try the Center for Immigration Studies at “”.
    One of the professors that finally got me through college, Stanley Renshon, writes for them occasionally.

  • suek

    You already know I have mixed feelings on the issue.  In the best of things, I think our immigration laws need to be revised.  But that isn’t the problem here.
    I’d do specific research on Eisenhower and Reagan.  As I recall, Eisenhower rounded them up and shipped a couple of boatloads home.  Reagan granted citizenship to those who were currently in the country.   There’s bound to be some numbers attached, and immigration patterns after the fact.
    I’ll try to find some links.

  • Kate

    Here’s a small start – obviously the census will not cover all  illegal immigration. Still, there is data that goes back quite far when you start digging.
    Interestingly enough,USAtoday  last year supported your thesis:
    CIS has an astonishing summary (from 2007) here:

    Immigrants account for one in eight U.S. residents, the highest level in 80 years. In 1970 it was one in 21; in 1980 it was one in 16; and in 1990 it was one in 13.

    Overall, nearly one in three immigrants is an illegal alien. Half of Mexican and Central American immigrants and one-third of South American immigrants are illegal.

    Since 2000, 10.3 million immigrants have arrived :  the highest seven-year period of immigration in U.S. history. More than half of post-2000 arrivals (5.6 million) are estimated to be illegal aliens.

    The share of immigrants and natives who are college graduates is about the same. Immigrants were once much more likely than natives to be college graduates.

    The proportion of immigrant-headed households using at least one major welfare program is 33 percent, compared to 19 percent for native households.

    The poverty rate for immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under 18) is 17 percent, nearly 50 percent higher than the rate for natives and their children.

    34 percent of immigrants lack health insurance, compared to 13 percent of natives. Immigrants and their U.S.-born children account for 71 percent of the increase in the uninsured since 1989.

    Immigrants make significant progress over time. But even those who have been here for 20 years are more likely to be in poverty, lack insurance, or use welfare than are natives.



  • expat

    Here is the CIS address for Mark Krikorian, who also contributes to NRO.  I get regular E-mail updates from him on CIS activities.

  • Bookworm

    You are all wonderful!  Of course, this may be an exercise in futility, since my liberal friend is averse to facts, and wants everything to revolve around feelings and fairness — not what’s fair to America, but what is most fair to the one who best describes himself as a victim.

  • suek
  • suek

    I just posted a comment with a _bunch_ of interesting links you might find to be of use.  It’s probably in the junk/spam folder, wherever that is.  It didn’t show up here…

  • suek

    Do you think you could get your friend to agree that it would be reasonable for the US to have the same laws regarding immigrants that Mexico has?
    If so…I can supply you with a rundown of some of the more outrageous ones.  Guaranteed to twist him/her like a pretzel…!  They really are unacceptable to most of us.  Even irrational conservatives!

  • suek
  • Mike Devx

    The stats from Kate #4 include:

    The share of immigrants and natives who are college graduates is about the same. Immigrants were once much more likely than natives to be college graduates.
    The proportion of immigrant-headed households using at least one major welfare program is 33 percent, compared to 19 percent for native households.
    The poverty rate for immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under 18) is 17 percent, nearly 50 percent higher than the rate for natives and their children.
    Before the 70’s, immigrants were chosen with a priority focused on education and skills.  After the 70’s, thanks to Teddy Kennedy’s leadership, the focus switched away from education and skills, to family relations instead.  Brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews… and in truth, the poorer the better.  This was good for Democrats: Those dependent on government tend to vote Democratic.  This was good for that subset of Republicans that wanted to use immigrants, including illegals, to suppress American wages and lower prices.  How big is that subset?  McCain and Bush support illegal immigration for a reason.
    Sons and daughters on a priority immigration list, I am all for.  The rest of the relatives must all wait in line for open slots, I  think.  Especially parents and grandparents, who are grounded in their home country, have lived their whole lives there, and should receive no unusual immigration preference, I believe.  And the focus should again return to welcoming at priority those with education and skills.
    But with the GOP and the Democrats against that, each for their own outrageously selfish, un-American reasons… well, fat chance.


    Book, you are right on target. No use in sharing data, facts and reality with the ‘touchy-feely’ types. Just suggest the AAIA Program – ‘adopt an illegal alien. They get to sponsor the illegal alien and extended family – just tell them to put their money where their mouth is.


    Others have provided sources of statistics, which are good data.  I’d like to make a couple of larger comments.
    1. You fell into a bit of a trap.  It is usually the case that leftists start with emotions, and then seek “facts” to support their opinions, while libertarians and conservatives start with facts and then derive conclusions from them.  In this case, both you and your friend started with opinions or emotions, rather than with facts.  That is something we all need to be wary of:  I’m as guilty as anyone else.
    2. I think that in this case, you and your friend are both correct, but missed the main point.  Yes, an illegal comes here because of “hope”, and, yes, part of that hope is based upon the U.S. providing gratis things like schooling, medical care, etc.
    But the main part of that “hope” reflects things which make the U.S. different:  jobs (as a result of greater economic liberty), freedom under a relatively stable and straightforward law (at least until recently), opportunity (based upon the freedoms which the U.S. has vís-à-vís those in Mexico), and the like.
    Your leftist friend says “hope”!  Why is there more hope in the U.S. compared to the country they’re fleeing?  It stems from freedom:  personal freedom, the economic freedom a free market under the rule of law, less political corruption, etc.
    Then point out that the policies your friend advocates serve to lessen hope, to reduce hope, and to increase despair by reducing opportunity.
    You and I want to maintain and increase hope within the U.S. — and also desire that hope increases in other countries.  That’s why we advocate conservative/libertarian policies:  and that’s why we oppose ‘liberal’/statist policies.
    You see, for us, “hope” is more than a campaign slogan.

  • MacG

    If one of those other things y’all talked about was the “racist” notion that the illegals are a burden on the County jails then check this out.  I have checked the Marin County Sheriff’s online booking log several times counting the number of guests residing at the Blue Roof Inn and noting how many have an INS hold placed on them.  The three times that I have done this it ranged from 17 to 20%.  I remember the approximate numbers the first time I did this.  Perhaps it is remembered because I was surprised to see that 375 people were incarcerated and 75 had INS holds.
    If the criminal element of this demographic costs us this much what do the families that use the emergency rooms cost us?

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  • Brittanicus

    Will the politicians that we elect ever carry out the interests of the American people?  I read today on the AMERICAN PATROL website that President Obama is in a discussion to cap government money such as cutting back on NASA appropriations the sending men back to the moon in 1020? Yet we are still spending–BILLIONS–on illegal immigrants who have managed to settle here?  If we cannot afford to go back to the moon, how can we afford to pay for illegal immigration? Obama can find billions to Prop-up States like Sanctuary  California to pay for illegal immigrants, but he cannot find the cash to pay for space exploration. How can we allow millions of poor people to continue to cross our borders? So why are taxpayers forced by pariah lawmakers to pay for education, health care and even now anticipating BILLIONS more dollars to enact a ominous Comprehensive Immigration Reform? We all know by now, that this is a very crafty way to pass another AMNESTY. These people who have entered this country without permission? Every time a new immigration enforcement is passed, the open border Liberal-Democrats-Republicans use their influence to water the law down. How many of us know, that the controversial border fence is by law supposed to be–TWO SEPARATE–FENCES?  Senator Obama voted for it.  more than three years ago,  but only 35 miles of double-layered fencing is in place and much of the remaining 360 miles of the border fencing is badly constructed–without real barriers. The Truth is the government is lying to us.

    The Secure Fence Act of 2006     (Pub.L. 109-367)  was enacted October 26, 2006 in the United States. The act allows for over 700 miles (1,100 km) of double-reinforced  fence to be built along the border with  Mexico across cities and deserts alike, in the U.S. states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in areas that have experienced illegal drug trafficking, human slavery, gun peddling, illegal immigration and the threat of terrorism. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California who was the originator of the double fence, has not seen this happen, nor the complete wall that is just open areas, with the old barbed wire strands. Underfunded from its inception, the border fence was compromised by the open border organization, that includes American business consortium’s. As in Washington today, a team of intelligence operatives stated to Speaker Pelosi that a El Queda attack was imminent within the next 6 months. This is the time to enforce our borders with the National Guard fully armed and obviously apparent along the whole 2000 feet length. The majority of our State economies are broke–with California leading the pack. Arizona lawmakers realizing the main cause of their financial dilemma, the support of illegal workers and their families.

    E-Verify is one of the most successful mechanisms to remove illegal workers, but as yet it is not mandatory. It costs nothing to use it and it has been demonized by every pro-illegal immigrant group, along with corrupt politicians and their financial clients in the business consortium’s. E-Verify must be national, with no exclusions. THIS SHOULD BECOME THE No.1 PRIORITY FOR EVERY SMALL AND LARGE COMPANY, THAT KNOWINGLY HIRING A  FOREIGN WORKERS CARRIES PENALTIES SUCH AS HARSH FINES AND PRISON SENTENCES. THERE SHOULD BE NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS RULE?

    Our GOVERNMENT HAS SOLD ITSELF TO WALL STREET AND BOTH WALL STREET AND THE UNITED STATES ARE DEBTORS TO COMMUNIST CHINA. We cannot afford to subsidize every illegal family member, every Mother with a child who becomes an instant citizen, when 15 million Americans and residents are jobless, when our own people live in poverty. Yes! We always need exceptional highly skilled engineers and scientists, but not the indigent and desperate that we must endlessly financially support. Not semi-skilled labor that will take less wages, than our own people, who themselves will end up in the unemployment benefits line. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to your Senator and Congressman and use the voting power of THE PEOPLE.  Go to NUMBERSUSA AND JUDICIAL WATCH for more  information about this catastrophe that could overwhelm this country in the coming months.
    Latest Immigration news:
    President cuts border security budget
    While telling the American people that national security is a priority in his administration, President Barack Obama submitted a 2011 budget proposal that includes cuts to U.S. border security. — The proposed budget cuts include a reduction in Border Patrol agents and a cut in the amount of money allocated for the so-called “virtual fence” on the U.S.-Mexico border..

  • timw

    I suspect a partial, semi-tangential answer lies in the phenomenon of “anchor babies” — couples or women who come in from Mexico (or as far away as South Korea) to have their baby here so that the kid’ll be a citizen, receive benefits, etc. This phenomenon entirely separates the “wanting benefits” aspect (for those participants) from desire for jobs, a different culture, etc — since they return to their native land afterwards.

    Wikipedia is only careful to point out that anyone even daring to name this phenomenon must be some kind of racist, but one can find actual facts if you look around:

    “Just consider Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, the second busiest maternity ward in the U.S. In 2006, 70 percent of the women giving birth in Parkland were illegal immigrants. That added up to 11,200 babies for which Medicaid kicked in $34.5 million to deliver these babies, the feds another $9.5 million and Dallas taxpayers tossed in $31.3 million.” [ref]

    “Although birthright citizenship was never intended to be the law of the land, and is a flawed interpretation of the 14th Amendment, birthright citizenship accounts for more than 380,000 children each year, born to illegal alien mothers that become citizens simply because their mothers gave birth on U.S. soil.” [ref]

    That is, quite frankly, a very significant number, and reflects ONLY those who wish to remain in Mexico afterward. If such motivations are common among those who return, it’s a bit of a stretch to say that the those who stay here are completely absent from such desires.

    And, indeed, who would blame them? I’d sure be tempted, in the same position. (The benefits are actually worth far more, in some cases, than the employment.) I just wish we’d spend as much effort trying to help get Mexico back on its feet, economically (or even our own country) as we put into making sure the incentives you mention exist and are continually provided.

    Best to you, and thanks for your writings!

  • suek

    Ran across this today and thought it should be added to your immigration statistics info…

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