Compromise: Unlimited Haitians for communities that prepare to welcome them?

One of my Bay Area friends was engaged in a typical California activity: talking trash about other states. In particular, he was decrying Kentucky’s attempt to try to get “able-bodied adults without dependents to work at least 20 hours a week to qualify for [Medicaid] coverage.” (The Hill) [Note that producing or getting hold of a baby would continue to guarantee welfare benefits, such as free housing, health care, and food, for 18 years (there may be better ways to cash in a baby, though, albeit not in Kentucky where child support revenue for a parent is capped at about $15,000 per year per child).]

I pointed out that, rather than complain about the unfairness of what Kentucky offers to welfare recipients, why not simply invite these folks to come to California?

friend: if people are fleeing your state, because of your government policies — you suck at governance.

me: Californians are generous and warm-hearted, right? Why is it a problem if people in Kentucky who can’t get welfare there anymore move to California?

friend: Who said it was a problem for us? They come here, and get work, because we have a functioning economy It’s a problem for the people of KY that they’d have to do that.

[California has a higher unemployment rate and a lower labor force participation rate than the U.S. average (stats); adjusted for demographics, California has the worst schools in the U.S. (nytimes); California has one of the highest tax burdens (Tax Foundation).]

me: if they are on welfare in Kentucky and can be enjoying the satisfaction of gainful employment in California, isn’t this a good situation? If California is an awesome place to work AND has the correct/fair level of welfare services, why shouldn’t everyone who is failing to prosper in Kentucky move to California? Donald Trump won both the Republican primary and then the 2016 Presidential election in Kentucky. Do you mean to suggest that people are better off in a Trump-supporting state than in California?

friend: It does NOT fix the problem in KY! How is that NOT a bandaid? If they can make it here, but not in KY, how is that not a problem?

me: If everyone who needs welfare in Kentucky moves to California, the problem of the inadequate (in your view) Kentucky welfare system is fixed, by definition. There will be nobody collecting welfare in Kentucky and therefore it won’t matter what the rules are.

friend: What, it’s not a problem that if you live in KY, and you become disabled, you have to leave? That’s … insane. A special kind of insanity. The kind that says “It can’t happen to me.” It can happen in an instant.

me: A one-way ticket from Louisville to San Francisco is $190. Just tell me how many you need! The ticket can be purchased in about 5 minutes. The disabled person will be at your house in California by the next day. You can then assist them with collecting fair welfare benefits in a state that rejects Donald Trump. How are they not better off?

friend: As long as people in KY fall on hard times, or suffer injuries or health problems that leave them disabled, the supply will be endless.

me: Kentucky has a population of only 4.4 million right now. Even if 100 percent of them need to come to California due to their inability to work, that’s only a 10 percent boost to the California population. You have a functioning economy, right? Surely you can easily expand your housing supply by 10 percent. After all, aren’t your friends there wearing “No Human Being is Illegal” T-shirts? If they support immigration from outside the U.S., why wouldn’t they be happy to have immigrants show up from Kentucky? (and, remember, that Kentucky does not have 100% of its population on welfare!)

The exchange went on until I had to get back to work. Summary: he didn’t want any refugees from Kentucky in his house or neighborhood, but he did want to be on Facebook criticizing the lack of generosity of voters and politicians in Kentucky. So far I have not had to purchase any plane tickets (but my offer remains open!).

I’m wondering if Donald Trump could do the same thing in the context of international migration. People in San Francisco, Santa Monica, Manhattan, Boston, etc. are criticizing Trump for voicing his opinion (wrong, by definition!) regarding living conditions in Haiti. They also criticize him for being unwelcoming toward low-skill immigrants from unsuccessful societies in general. What if Trump were to offer immigration proponents an unlimited supply of people, without any preference for those capable of working, on condition that immigration advocates use state and local tax dollars to pay for their housing, health care, food, and walking-around money? So if people in San Francisco want to build a 1000-unit apartment complex for Haitian immigrants, and folks will be permanently entitled to live there by paying a defined fraction of their income in rent ($0 in rent for those with $0 in income), and San Francisco commits to build additional apartment complexes in which any children or grandchildren of these immigrants can live, why should the Federal government stand in the way of their dreams? (Of course, the city and state would also have to pay 100 percent of the costs of Medicaid, food stamps, Obamaphones, and any other welfare services consumed by these immigrants or their descendants.)

If there were no numerical limits on immigration, but host communities had to pay for the guests whom they were welcoming, Trump wouldn’t have to be the bad guy anymore. If my friend is typical, the overall level of unskilled immigration to the U.S. would fall (maybe to zero!). In any case, whatever the level happened to be it would be one that Americans had agreed on and therefore would be more likely to accept as fair and appropriate.

49 thoughts on “Compromise: Unlimited Haitians for communities that prepare to welcome them?

  1. If San Francisco build a 1000 unit housing complex for immigrants from another country, while they have more than that number already living homeless on their streets after the Techies have spiked rent prices, would not only make no sense at all, it would likely incite a housing riot. I love the idea of allowing immigration to places that can support it and do want immigrants, but San Francisco was an awful example as there is no space for a 1000 unit building for anyone, let alone Haitian immigrants, unless the city wanted to tear down a bunch of extant low income housing.

    Try San Jose, they are liberal like San Francisco but do not suffer the same space issues, and they have lots of abandoned tech businesses who failed at doing anything other than leaving giant empty buildings behind after they went bankrupt (or moved for lower tax rates).

  2. Many of these liberals on facebook are hypocrites. They like to bloviate on facebook about open doors yet never seem to open their own doors to anyone!

  3. Mitchell: Are you sure that there is no space? Check out

    Mumbai, for example, hosts roughly 74,000 people per square mile.

    shows that San Francisco has only about 19,000 people per square mile.

    Why would it be an issue for folks in San Francisco who love to welcome migrants to live at the same population density of Mumbai or Manila (higher yet)? What could be better than living in a vibrant enriched-by-diversity environment?

    I am informed by the New York Times that Haiti is a pretty awesome place to live. shows that the density in Haiti’s big city is 70,950 people per square mile. Plainly San Francisco would still be a nice place to live at the Port-au-Prince density, which would enable an expansion of San Francisco’s population from the present 865,000 to 3.37 million. The entire population of Haiti is only 11 million. So San Francisco could actually welcome a fair fraction of the total.

  4. You create tangents to your own arguments! Started with welfare in KY and somehow ended on immigration of Haitians.

    Why do you so often predicate your case on the assumption that immigrants = lifelong public support, or as you put it “permanent entitlement.” If you keep citing, there must be some facts or studies you can share.

    The truth is most immigrants (legal, illegal, refugees, asylees) contribute more than they receive.

    And, if there were no limits on immigration, people would come here as long as they saw opportunity. Immigration is hard, people are not stupid (it’s also worth noting that those who have the wherewithal to make the decision and the journey are often those most motivated and most likely to succeed). If there are no jobs, or if local economies improve, word gets out very quickly and people stop coming. This has happened many times in the past (see Irish emigration back to Ireland in recent decades and more recently with Mexico).

  5. Your friend does have a point that moving people out of Kentucky does not fix the problem in Kentucky. Likewise, moving people from Haiti to the USA does not fix the problem in Haiti. He should agree with Trump that we should not take so many people from problem countries.

  6. Of course your friend is right, if you dont fix the problem at the source it will continue to be a problem. (I dont read the long posts on medical school, but I imagine that continuing to amputate without fixing the underlying problem wouldnt end well, tho it may end soon.)

    Luckily there is an easy Republican friendly solution to the problem in Haiti. Remember when Obama said guys you didnt achieve great success on your own, you had help as part of our system. And the Republicans all groaned and said no of course we achieved success on our own. Well send all these people to Haiti and similar countries. They will soon, on their own, achieve great success and in short order Haiti will have a great economy and no one will want to leave.

  7. PhilG: I don’t believe people in Mumbai are paying $2,650 a month for studios. Admittedly, many of those who live in Mumbai are living in tiny homes by Western standards, but things are changing here and smaller houses are coming to the Bay Area to help provide those who aren’t making 100k+ a year a home they can afford to rent, or maybe even own.

    Perhaps I am wrong, and Mumbai has Tokyo or New York like rent, but I have my doubts.

  8. Mumbai, relative to local incomes, is less “affordable” than San Francisco, I think. See

    shows that Mumbai has a price-to-income ratio of 28 versus 12 for San Francisco. So folks in San Francisco, following the welcoming of an additional 3 million souls, would likely have to make do with a little less than half the square footage per person. That’s a small price to pay for helping Haitians migrate from Haiti (not that, of course, there is anything actually wrong with Haiti).

  9. Diversity is our strength, Haiti is not diverse enough (95% black) and Kentucky is not diverse enough (85% white). We should take Kentucky citizens and resettle them to Haiti. Thusly, both Kentucky’s and Haiti’s diversity will be increased, fixing a multitude of issues.

  10. Bill: if immigrants “contribute more than they receive” why are we able to get any at all? We are not paying immigrants cash for showing up. Why doesn’t Canada or Australia outbid us for this lucrative resource?

    Oil is valuable and useful, but I cannot get oil for free because people in other countries are willing to pay for it.

    [Separately, if you are sure that immigrants can prosper in your neighborhood, let me know where to send them! I will be happy to find disabled 65-year-olds in foreign countries. Once they are settled in your area, you and your current neighbors can relax and cut back your working hours while these newcomers shoulder the burden of pushing our economy forward.]

    Anonymous: You are definitely thinking outside of the box with your population exchange idea. It would be awesome if a good-hearted diversity-promoting politician were to suggest this. Just imagine if white welfare recipients in Kentucky were offered one-way JetBlue tickets to Haiti!

    [Sadly, Haiti does not seem to have realized how beneficial immigrants are. It is impossible to emigrate to Haiti unless one already has a job there and the employer has to agree to deport the would-be immigrant if the job ends. See ]

  11. Mitchell,

    Why do you say that there’s no room in San Francisco? Skipping the third world comparisons, New York City as a whole has a density of 27,000 per square mile. At that density, SF could accommodate another 389,000 people. But the NYC number includes all the outer boroughs–the better comparison for SF is to Manhattan at 66,940 per square mile. At that density, SF could handle an additional 2.25 million people.

    The problem isn’t lack of space, it’s lack of building. And that’s because the people already there, despite their Facebook posts, aren’t interesting in allowing the riff-raff to join them.

  12. Phil: You clearly (intentionally?) misinterpreted my point. You repeatedly argue that immigrants are a cost and seem to fear “perpetual entitlement,” but what facts do you have to back up your concern?

    A recent report by Health & Human Services Dept (which the Trump administration attempted to quash), found that over the past decade, refugees resettled in the US brought in $63 billion more in government revenues than they cost.

    And, as Bret Stephens wrote in his 1/12 NYTimes op-ed “Proud to Live in a Nation of Holers”

    “…immigrants don’t steal jobs. They fill jobs Americans won’t do or create those that haven’t been invented. They don’t bring crime to cities. They drive out crime by starting businesses and families in shrinking cities or underserved neighborhoods. They don’t undermine American culture. They feed, enrich and reinvent it, not least through their educational ambitions for themselves and their children.

    This is true of most immigrants, but perhaps more so of the so-called “holers.” As Michelle Mittelstadt of the Migration Policy Institute notes, sub-Saharan Africans have “among the highest college-completion rates of any immigrant group.” As for Haitians, MPI found they had a higher labor participation rate than the overall work force, and had median household incomes of $47,200 — lower than the overall U.S. median, but robust by any developed nation standard.

    How can this be? It shouldn’t be a mystery. Immigrants self-select. They have a broader perspective. They know their luck. They want it more. The miraculous in America is mostly invisible to those who’ve known nothing else. To really see it clearly, you must first rise up from a hole.”

    I’m guessing you have not met many of the people you are so quick to disparage, but I’ve gotten to know many recently arrived refugees through my work (for a refugee protection agency) and I can tell you that they are overwhelmingly motivated and proud and do not come here with their hands out. And how much do they “get” when they arrive? $1,125 per capita for housing, furnishings, clothing, etc. (the local resettlement agency working with them receives $1,000 for their efforts to help these new arrivals get settled, find jobs, etc.). Yes, they may qualify for other benefits, but that’s not why they’re here and most quickly move up the economic ladder.

    Phil, you may see people as commodities like oil, but our country has a long, proud tradition of welcoming those seeking freedom from political, religious or sexual oppression as well as economic opportunity, that’s why your ancestors and mine came here.

    I never said I was sure that immigrants can prosper in my neighborhood (I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan), but there certainly are many, many more affordable places where they can find work and make meaningful contributions to local economies. It’s hard to take your arguments seriously when you repeatedly cite “Cambridge” and “San Francisco” ignoring the thousands of other cities and towns where new immigrants can and do thrive.

  13. Bill: We made a profit of $63 billion on the last crop of refugees? That gets back to my original question of why there isn’t a hot market for refugees. Nobody else on Planet Earth wants to make an easy $62 billion by giving refugees $1 billion in cash incentives more than what the U.S. is offering? How is it that everyone on this globe is stupid and economically irrational except for us?

    Let’s look more carefully at the report that you cite. It purportedly includes “all individuals who received asylum.” That would include our neighbor who waged jihad at the Boston Marathon. The initial economic impact of the Tsarnaev brothers’ jihad was $333 million (see ), but there were also tens of millions of dollars in health care costs for those injured, plus the cost of the trial for the surviving brother. Security costs for all future big public events in Boston went up and maybe for events around the country. So those two guys alone probably punched at least a $5 billion hole in the U.S. economy and that is not reflected in the report (the word “tsarnaev” does not appear, nor “jihad”, “marathon”, etc.)

    It looks like they got the good numbers for the report by including mostly Vietnamese refugees in their analysis. As noted in , Vietnam is not typical of the world’s poor and/or war-torn countries. The Vietnamese are some of the best-educated people on Earth (but still they aren’t smart enough to run their own refugee resettlement program and make an extra $63 billion?). It is absurd to use data regarding Vietnamese immigrants to predict what will happen when someone shows up here from one of the world’s worst-educated countries.

    There may be some great reasons to welcome refugees, particularly in diversity-loving places such as Manhattan and San Francisco that want to invest their own cash in this. But I don’t think it has been established that bringing in refugees from countries other than Vietnam is a surefire path to greater per-capita prosperity.

  14. says “Across the board, refugees in the U.S. are poorer than other immigrants: From 2009 to 2011, their median household income was $42,000 — $3,000 less than what other foreign-born populations were living on and $8,000 less than the median income for those born in the U.S., according to the MPI report. Some do worse than others; 79 percent of Somali refugees lived in low-income households, as did 73 percent of Iraqis despite their relatively high literacy level.”

    It is great that the New York Times was able to spin adding poor people to the U.S. economy makes us wealthier and that some government employees got paid to crank out a 55-page PDF without realizing the absurdity of their conclusion. (We’ll get to pay their pensions too!)

  15. … and immigrants in California, despite the majority of recent arrivals being from Asia (with its strong tradition of education), earn less money per household than the native-born:

    [Immigrant households tend to be larger than native-born, so the per-capita earnings of immigrants are even lower than the raw statistics on household income would suggest. Thus, like the U.S., California is making itself richer, on average, by bringing in people who are poorer than the current average…]

    I guess you could argue that housing in San Francisco is already pretty inexpensive. Therefore an immigrant family that earns less than the current average household is very unlikely to need, e.g., taxpayer-subsidized housing.

  16. “and immigrants in California, despite the majority of recent arrivals being from Asia (with its strong tradition of education), earn less money than the native-born”

    As would be expected. So what?

  17. Why does it matter? It looks as though a family of four earning up to $230,600 per year is eligible for at least some taxpayer-funded housing assistance (i.e., “welfare”) in the San Francisco Bay Area. See

    This casts doubt on the assertion that refugee families will not be long-term consumers of welfare.

  18. philt: If we use your definition of “welfare” (any government expenditure outside of defense and the FAA), then of course most immigrant families (as well as most refugee families and most native families for that matter) are long term consumers of “welfare”. So what?

    Also, conflating “refugees” and “immigrants” is not helpful. Refugees constitute a small fraction of immigrants, and the justification for admitting them is explicitly humanitarian.

  19. I’m not going to comment on the Tsarnaev argument as it is beyond absurd. Shall we include the contributions of Sergey Brin, a refugee resettled by my agency or other wildly successful entrepreneurs?

    I’m not sure what you mean by “including mostly Vietnamese refugees in their analysis” are you saying that large percentages of refugees were intentionally excluded? The data is based on arrivals during a specific period of time.

    That refugees may struggle during their early years in a new country should not come as a shock. The majority are fleeing civil wars and have lost everything.

    I’m guessing you’ve never spoken with business owners who employ immigrants and refugees and rave about their work ethic and performance.

  20. Ah. Sergey Brin! A good example of an immigrant selected at random. Like former patent office clerk A. Einstein.

    Let’s see… Brin was from one of the best-educated and most successful societies in the history of humanity. But Brin was not from an average Russian family. Brin’s family lived in Moscow, home to that society’s best-educated and most successful individuals. But they were not average Muscovites. Brin’s parents seem to have been educated to the PhD level at one of the world’s best universities (Moscow State University).

    So his parents were among the top 1 percent academic achievers (maybe closer to 0.1 percent?) in one of the world’s most educated societies. They came to the U.S. with the 6-year-old Brin in 1979 when U.S. population was 225 million (compare to 325 million today).

    Once your Upper West Side neighbors agree to build the 1,000-unit Tower of Holers, we can see whether a randomly selected person from a country with a median income of $2 per day will do just as well as Mr. Brin! (and remember that today’s refugees come into a U.S. that is far more packed with humans than the country into which Sergey Brin arrived)

    To answer your question on the Vietnamese, that a period of time was picked such that Vietnamese dominate is a great way to come up with the answer that was sought. Let me tell you about how great the stock market is as an investment compared to bonds. I will pick 2009-2017 as my reference period. What kind of a moron would buy bonds?

  21. Neal: “Refugees constitute a small fraction of immigrants, and the justification for admitting them is explicitly humanitarian.”

    So refugees are crazy profitable, according to folks at non-profits and in the government whose paychecks depend on bringing in refugees. But then if anyone questions the data and assumptions, or wonders why no other country has discovered the easy profits available through refugee hosting, we switch gears. Profitability doesn’t matter because we take in refugees for humanitarian reasons and the cost is irrelevant. But then, if the goal is humanitarian, why would we admit a handful of people to one of the world’s highest cost-of-living and most energy-wasteful countries? Wouldn’t we be able to use the same funds to help a lot more people (and save our Mother Earth) if the refugees stayed overseas in a country (maybe not their original one) with a low cost of living and a low carbon footprint?

  22. I don’t know if anyone has claimed that refugees are “crazy profitable” (straw man). I do know that the only arguments you’ve mounted against the report linked to in #14 is to claim the author’s “paychecks depend on bringing in refugees.” (ad hominem) and that their conclusion is “absurd” (begging the question). Not only do you want to argue from anecdote (i.e. Tsarnaev), but you want to cherry pick the particular anecdote (let’s not discuss Brin). There are reasonable arguments to be made from both sides of the issue. Perhaps you might consider making some from your side.

    “if the goal is humanitarian, why would we admit a handful of people to one of the world’s highest cost-of-living and most energy-wasteful countries? Wouldn’t we be able to use the same funds to help a lot more people (and save our Mother Earth) if the refugees stayed overseas in a country (maybe not their original one) with a low cost of living and a low carbon footprint?”

    Both strategies make sense and are in fact pursued.

  23. Let’s look at the cost for progressive cities that implement actual “affordable” housing policies:

    Here’s NY:
    The first of these buildings will come with 160 apartments, 97 of which will be supportive apartments for formerly homeless New Yorkers with special needs. FXFOWLE and MHG Architects are on board to design this $67 million project, and the building will come fitted with solar panels, a green roof, and a 4,500-square-foot green roof.

    $67 million / 160 apartments is $418,750 per unit, 61% of which will house homeless.

    Cambridge MA is even worse:
    The $190 million, 308,000-sq-ft Mass+Main development…
    will include 308 apartments with green roof terraces, energy tracking, wind energy and smoke-free apartments

    $190 million / 308 apartments is $616,883 per unit. No word on what percentage will be allocated to the poor, but Cambridge’s mayor seems quite pleased at the per unit cost of “affordable housing.”

  24. “You know what the bottom quartile of earners needs? A bunch of competition”

    No doubt there are some markets where the bottom quartile of earners have been adversely affected by competition from immigrants. That said, there are other important factors which have contributed to the stress of that population (e.g. automation, foreign competition, and a political/economic environment favoring rentiers). Overall, it isn’t clear exactly how big the contribution from immigrant competition is. Certainly there is some reason to think that the political emphasis on immigrant competition is intended to distract from economic stressors for which others are responsible. Especially when considering that while immigrants do add to the supply of labor, they also add to the demand for labor when they spend their wages.

  25. Hello? Earth to Phil…you completely missed my point about Brin, which was to say if you’re going to hold up an extraordinary exception as an example of why we should not grant asylum to anyone, then I’ll come back with an extraordinary exception to explain why we should resettle refugees. Maybe I need to use tags?

    That rational decision not to build a 1000 unit building for refugees in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the world does in no way mean we cannot or should not resettle refugees anywhere in the US. And your randomly selected “holer” scenario is just dumb, what would it prove if a sample of 1 succeeded or failed?

    For generations, people have come here under duress, worked hard, sacrificed more than most of us can imagine in order to give their kids an education so the had a chanced at a better life. For every fucked up Tsarnaev family, there are countless good people who work, pay taxes, buy old houses and fix them up. Of course, there’s the occasional loser and the occasional Brin. I believe that, on balance, our country is better off continuing to let newcomers have a chance at the American dream.

    Regarding the HHS report, as far as I can tell it used the most recent data available. Period. No conspiracy there. You’ve offered to buy a lot of plane tickets recently, why don’t you commission reports on the cost of refugee resettlement over time for other time periods, say back the last 150 years? I’m willing to bet the results will show it has always been a revenue positive in addition to being the right thing to do.

    Lastly: “why no other country has discovered the easy profits available through refugee hosting” – do you think Germany has taken in so many refugees solely as a humanitarian gesture? I don’t.

  26. You can count how many “good people who work, pay taxes, buy old houses and fix them up” are immigrants for every Tsarnaev family.

    Where I live the immigrants buy old houses and violate hotel and investment property law by purchasing them as primary homes but running them as full-time hotels. So they risk less money and pay fewer taxes than American citizens who buy old homes and fix them up. And they also drive up the price of housing while reducing supply through illegal means. I’m not sure how anyone could view such behavior as a net positive.

  27. Mr. Practical Conservative – so if I read what you wrote correctly, you believe there’s a 1:1 ratio of good, hard-working immigrants to Tsarnaevs? Interesting theory.

    As for your neighbors, I don’t recall advocating for violating any laws. I believe immigrants have to abide by the law, just as anyone else. If you think you see someone breaking laws and it bothers you, say something. I also find it hard to believe that purchasing homes as primary homes but running them as full-time hotels is something “American citizens” never do, but if you have data, by all means, please share it.

  28. Phil, I just went and read the article you shared in comment #16. You pasted this passage:

    “Across the board, refugees in the U.S. are poorer than other immigrants: From 2009 to 2011, their median household income was $42,000 — $3,000 less than what other foreign-born populations were living on and $8,000 less than the median income for those born in the U.S., according to the MPI report. Some do worse than others; 79 percent of Somali refugees lived in low-income households, as did 73 percent of Iraqis despite their relatively high literacy level.”

    Curious why you neglected to include the VERY NEXT SENTENCE in that paragraph: “But gradually, the MPI report found, refugees’ income levels and rates of public benefit use “approach parity” with those who are U.S. born.”

    Is it a surprise to anyone that some refugees struggle for a while before they reach income parity? How did your great-grandparents do when the got here (I’m assuming your family came 3-4 generations ago)? I know at least some of mine labored as tailors in sweatshops – including one who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire – so that their kids could get an education and never have to do the same. And their efforts paid off, big time.

  29. “Not only do you want to argue from anecdote (i.e. Tsarnaev), but you want to cherry pick the particular anecdote (let’s not discuss Brin).”

    The point surely was that the cost of Tsarnaev wasn’t even counted.

  30. From reading the rejected report referenced in NYT ( ), it seems clear there is a methodology problem. If somebody really cared about measuring the costs of refugees, they would start with all the welfare expenses, some 85-90 programs, sort by recipient, tag all refugees in a database with all the SS#s, and tell which fraction of the money from each agency goes to refugees, and total this. That is the expense side. The income side, would be what was contributed in taxes by welfare receiving refugees in years they were not welfare recipients, as well as refugees that never received welfare.

    By all the hand waving in this report, it is very clear that the methodology is very different from what I am proposing would be accurate.

    In the US, in many cases a survey is used, when a measurement would be quite feasible, for example for unemployment numbers. Using IRS data, one could easily estimate unemployment numbers with much higher accuracy than the current survey of unemployment benefit eligible persons.

  31. Your Bay Area friend, and some of the comments here, indicate it’s time to update the famous prayer of St Augustine, “Lord, give me chastity but don’t give it yet.”

    How about “Lord, give us refugees and immigrants, but in someone else’s neighborhood”?

  32. @philg – It’s not just people in the locales you cite – Rick Scott and Marco Rubio want to extend TPS, partially in response to the perceived contribution of these Haitians to the Florida economy. So they’d seemingly be glad to have these people. I wonder what these republicans, who have exposure to a large Haitian influx in the communities they serve are seeing that you aren’t?

  33. To the immigrant and refugee supporters: your solution is to welcome them from a “shithole” country into a “rich” country to help them out. Well, what about those who are left behind in the “shithole” country? Don’t you want to help them too? Wouldn’t a better solution be to help the “shithole” country so those poor people rise up and enrich their own country so that NO where on planet earth there would be a “shithole” country anymore?

    Oh wait, we tried that and continue doing so. We dumped so much money into a “shithole” country and yet they don’t seem to want to rise up.

    Please, do not give me that whole a “shithole” country doesn’t have resources or the climate is the issue. Virtually any country has some sort of exportable resources that another country will buy.

  34. Bill: Immigrants may eventually be like natives? says that 52 percent of American households with children are on welfare (compared to 76 of immigrant households with kids). So it would appear that, with 325 million people competing for resources, the average native-born person is unable to sustain a family at market rates for housing, health care, and food. What is the rationale for packing in yet more people who can’t afford to live in the modern-day U.S.?

    Michael: Why would politicians support a policy? To get campaign contributions and votes! What other reason could there be? Rick Scott? I wrote about him in

    Maybe his big support base is Haitians and alimony plaintiffs?

  35. “So it would appear that, with 325 million people competing for resources, the average native-born person is unable to sustain a family at market rates for housing, health care, and food.”

    Phil: It would appear that way if you’re trying to jump to an unreasonable conclusion by grossly oversimplifying your case.

    As I said before, it does not come as surprise to me that some immigrants struggle for a period. I think it would be much more relevant to see what happens over time. My guess is that many of those come off “welfare” (which the CIS report defined very, very broadly) after a period of time and that by the second generation, there’s a measurable improvement.

    I know you care about the veracity and underlying methodology of studies cited on this blog, so want to make sure you’re aware of this critique of the CIS report (from the New Republic):

    “The CIS study exaggerates the number of immigrants on welfare by using households as the unit of analysis; as long as the head of household is an immigrant, they consider it an immigrant household, and Camarota counts a household “as using welfare if any one of its members used welfare during 2012.” This means that a household with an American spouse who therefore qualified for welfare could be counted as “using welfare.” The same would go for a child born in the United States to immigrant parents. If he or she received subsidized lunch at school, the whole household would be categorized as “using welfare.” As the Cato Institute notes in its critique of the study, that measure is “ambiguous, poorly defined, and less used in modern research for those reasons.” Relying on such mutable methodology let Camarota exaggerate the number of immigrants on welfare to back up the claim that Americans are footing the bill for immigrants.”

    What do the numbers look like if you remove things like subsidized school lunch?

  36. Bill: We are fed a more or less constant diet of news regarding how it is impossible for median-income Americans to survive. They can’t afford health care so they need Obamacare subsidies. They can’t afford housing so they need to live in a government-directed mixed-income affordable housing development. We need to vote for politicians who promise to tax successful corporations and individuals at higher rates so as to redistribute the wealth fairly/properly. Then we’re fed another stream of news from the same media outlets in which immigrants are going to show up in the U.S. without (a) English proficiency, (b) college educations, or (c) youth and good health, and these folks, unlike current middle class Americans, are going to get great jobs and be able to sustain themselves without a hint of taxpayer assistance.

    Which one is it? Is the U.S. a great place for a working-class citizen and therefore nobody needs to vote for politicians who promise to attack inequality? Or is the U.S. a bad place for a working-class citizen, in which case we can’t grow the population via immigration up to 450 or 500 million without the bottom third or half of U.S. earners being reduced to scraps and handouts?

  37. Just to say, I love it when Phil is in pugnacious mood. Though it is also great to see the rest dishing it out as good as Phil! I’m learning a lot folks, keep it up!

  38. I don’t think Phil or anyone else wants me posting real estate records as part of an internet discussion, but the casual attitude towards real estate laws is not in fact equally common among native-born Americans. Americans who want to rent out property go to a lot of trouble to make sure they’re following the rules and have enough funds accordingly. This regulation-following gulf between immigrant and American behavior has in fact historically been a driver of various regulations being adopted, sometimes in attempts to reduce this sort of system-gaming by foreign entrants to our nation.

  39. #40 – Phil – why is it an either/or, black and white? Much more likely that the truth is somewhere in the middle. And while you’re at it, what percentage of Americans (or median-income Americans, if you insist) “require” Obamacare subsidies and/or “need” to live in government-directed mixed-income affordable housing developments? I’m serious.

    And which news outlets are feeding you this more or less constant diet? I can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone (other than you) say they’ve been fed the news that “immigrants are going to show up in the U.S. without (a) English proficiency, (b) college educations, or (c) youth and good health, and these folks, unlike current middle class Americans, are going to get great jobs and be able to sustain themselves without a hint of taxpayer assistance.” It’s nonsense and you know it.

    #43 – Mr. PC – Without any data, this is a worthless assertation. If you have records to prove what you’re saying, redact and post them! If they’re public records, you really don’t even have to redact. You’re going to have to do better if you want to sway anyone to your belief that most real estate crime is committed by non-native born Americans. Can you even come up with a single newspaper article or court case?

  40. Bill: What percentage of native-born Americans can’t afford to sustain themselves with market-rate purchases and therefore must be subsidized by taxpayers? USA Today (cited above) reports that it is 52 percent of those with children.

    Separately, I think it is funny that you assume “The Practical Conservative” identifies as a man (because only a man would be hard-hearted enough to look at what stuff costs to implement?). Based on previous comments, my understanding is that “The Practical Conservative” (currently?) identifies as a cisgender heterosexual female with kids.

    Is there any evidence of association between immigration and the operation of illegal lodging houses? I did a quick Google search and found

    here in our neighborhood. It seems that this attorney believes there to be an association.

    talks about your home town. It seems that New York City is going back to 19th century tenement conditions. The good news, though, is that “Lacking documentation does not disqualify you for conventional public housing in New York City”. So just as soon as the government builds sufficient housing capacity (see the original posting), there won’t be any more illegal quasi-hotels.

    More on immigrants and illegal housing situations: (“People have a perception of the Hamptons,” Mr. Lynch continued. “They don’t have an image of illegal immigrants packed like sardines into houses.”)

  41. Ok, I feel I need to come to bat for Phil — he is being super entertaining but maybe not fully clear. I am going to first annoy him by mind reading his argument, which I believe is this: the fact that immigrants were successful (either themselves or their children) in the past does not mean that immigrants will see the same outcome now, or in the future, because the social and economic conditions of the past are not the same as the conditions in the US now. The argument is also, if we accept that is getting harder and harder for ‘middle income americans’ to make ends meet without state intervention, how can we expect people whose starting point is even more precarious to achieve economic independence and viability? Finally, even though immigrants do provide a net income to the country, who benefits from this income? are the people who will live next to immigrants going to be the first and most immediate recipients of these benefits? or will they have to bear the brunt of assimilation while the benefits are collected elsewhere?

    In actual fact the final argument Phil is proposing is that, even if immigrants provide a net income to the country, a handful of them can cause so many expenses to punch a very large hole in the benefits, so much so that a very small minority of immigrants could act in a way to nullify all the benefits that the vast majority provides.

    This is my mind reading of Phil’s argument. I also mind read a desire to provoke and challenge the current left wing thinking of these matters more than actual hostility towards immigrants and asylum seekers.

  42. Federico: Immigration policy has been a racial dog whistle in American politics for a long time and President Trump has only made this worse. Philip’s arguments are focussed on demonstrating that the “millionaires for Obama” (who are reacting to the dog whistle) are idiots so nobody is really engaged in a coherent discussion of immigration policy.

    “even though immigrants do provide a net income to the country”

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen Philip write something which could be construed as conceding this.

    “that a very small minority of immigrants could act in a way to nullify all the benefits that the vast majority provides”

    What Philip actually did in this thread was point to a report which found a $350 million dollar cost associated with a particular incident and then through a hurricane of hand waving claimed a $5 billion dollar “hole” in the economy which he then suggested somehow rebutted a different report which took this type of cost into account and still found a $63 billion net benefit to the economy.

    To put these numbers in perspective, Americans spent roughly $15 billion on bar soap during the ($63 billion) study period.

  43. @Neal, the argument that even illegal immigrants do contribute to public funds by paying for goods and services that are taxed (an argument that I might have made on a comment on this blog recently) was take almost verbatim by Phil himself — that was something he said some times ago. I presume that the natural segue of the argument is that immigrants can in fact bring about a net contribution. Hence why I do not believe Phil is inimical to immigration.

    A few more things: while I do not live among the “millionaires for Obama”, they do come across as unlikeable hypocrites, and I do see why Phil wants to provoke them. Assuming that my mind reading of Phil’s argument is broadly right, his arguments might be wrong, but are still reasonable. In fact, if we stick to the arguments and not the tone, factual proof that he is wrong is scarce: the concern that modern American economy and society will not let the vast majority of poor/middle class immigrants succeed in the US (thus making them a burden through welfare) is a reasonable concern. Stating that things were different in the past is both true and pointless. What can we factually say about the present? what kind of educated guesses can we make about the future? I offer no answers, but those who do better answer the right questions with the right data.

    Similarly, the issue of who pays the social/economic costs of immigration, and who reaps the benefits is also cogent to this debate. I cannot say whether these two groups overlap or not, but if the overlap is poor, or nonexistent, those who pay the costs do have reasonable grievances.

    Finally, I was delighted when I realised that I successfully proved I do not ‘mansplain’, but I actually ‘Fedsplain’, since post #46 is clearly a case of me explaining to Phil his own argument — I assume Phil self identifies as ‘male’.

    For the record, I am perfectly happy to believe that even in the current social and economic situation in the US immigrants and/or refugees contribute more than they take out, and have as high or higher chances of upward social mobility. I am also perfectly happy to believe that immigration is directly beneficial to those who have to directly accommodate said immigration. I do not live nor plan to ever immigrate in the US, so it is not an issue for me. Yet I do see that for many people in the US it is perfectly fair to ask for hard evidence that the above statements are true before they are convinced.

  44. I think Federico’s summary of my argument is basically accurate.

    I am not sure that the question of whether or not our current system of immigration can somehow bring in more cash to the nation as a whole is the right one to ask. First, most advocates of immigration try to fool the arithmetically incompetent (e.g., nearly all U.S. journalists) by demonstrating that immigrants can provide some kind of aggregate GDP growth (why would any existing resident care about this if his or her own income falls because immigration results in a falling GDP per capita and therefore a falling median per-capita income?). So nearly all of the numbers in our public debate are fraudulent. And the true dollar cost of immigration can’t be measured because the U.S. welfare state has now shifted to things like free housing in a commercially developed apartment building where the cost is not on any government’s budget (the cost is a silent increase in market rents and condo prices).

    But the real reason that it is the wrong question is that it might be just about money. As hinted in the original post, there are cities in this country whose residents claim to love immigrants and want to be surrounded by foreigners without regard to skills, income, age, disability level, etc. It will make them happier to have 1,000 additional Haitians as neighbors so let’s just consider that consumption and let them buy this extra happiness. The big political fights, I think, are from the folks who seek to have taxpayers six states away pay for their happiness at having 1,000 additional Haitians in the neighborhood. So my original proposal lets each city in the U.S. decide for itself what it wants in the way of a future population size and composition.

    This ties into my general thinking that the U.S. is now far too big and diverse for the federal government to run everything. Why do a handful of people in Washington, D.C. decide how many immigrants will be available to a neighborhood in San Francisco? There is an argument to be made for a centralized military or patent office, but why this? New Zealand has 4.7 million people and gets to make its own immigration policy. Why can’t the 8 million people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area make (and pay for!) this kind of decision? Why can’t the 40 million folks who live in California?

    We’ll have to cut off the comments after this because once the counter hits 50 the Harvard software makes it almost impossible to find the first 50.

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