With enough undocumented immigrants, we can reduce crime rate to zero

“Is There a Connection Between Undocumented Immigrants and Crime?” (NYT):

Areas with more unauthorized migration appeared to have larger drops in crime, although the difference was small and uncertain.

For undocumented immigrants, being arrested for any reason would mean facing eventual deportation — and for some a return to whatever danger or deprivation they’d sought to escape at home.

According to Mr. Adelman and his team, however, the impact of undocumented immigrants is probably similar to what the research indicates about immigrants over all: They tend to bring economic and cultural benefits to their communities.

In other words, a true flood of the undocumented should reduce crime to zero!

Why don’t other countries figure this out and outbid us for these valuable folks who “bring economic and cultural benefits”? Citizens of Canada are not as smart as the writers and editors at the New York Times, which is why there are no Airbus A380s picking up caravans in Central America and bringing them to clean up the grittiest neighborhoods of Toronto and Montreal? (does Vancouver have any grit?)

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Sample bias at our local public school

In our town that provides sanctuary to any undocumented immigrant who can afford a $1 million house on an $800,000 zoning minimum two-acre lot, the middle school teachers asked the students to write up “My Family’s Immigration Story”. These were then displayed in the hallway:

(Immigrants to Massachusetts killed or displaced nearly all of the natives, so 100 percent of the students in the school were able to come up with an immigration story.)

One of the above guys came here in 1853 with $12 and eventually owned a 440-acre farm. The latest batch of immigrants shouldn’t have any trouble doing that… as long as we can find another continent to steal from natives!

These are awesome examples of sample bias/selection bias. To get people to think that low-skill immigration will lead to economic growth, ask people who live in $2 million houses to write about their immigrant ancestors.

Separately, the teachers ran an event featuring five speakers talking about their immigration stories:

The majority of non-citizens were on welfare as of 2014. How many of the five folks invited talked about their use of means-tested subsidized housing, health insurance, food stamps, or Obamaphones? It turned out not to be a representative sample…

Why would unionized public school teachers have an incentive to promote immigration and, therefore, population growth? Although their compensation, including pension, is guaranteed, they are at risk of being laid off if the population of school-age children shrinks. They might be able to demand higher salaries if the population of school-age children grows.

Some other fun stuff from the visit. Profound philosophical questions raised by personal locker signage:

PRIDE march hampered by chainmail:

Art from the adjacent elementary school:


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Showing one’s deep humanity by comparing Mexicans to German Nazis

From a virtuous Facebook user:

The administration’s shameful all out war on refugees and asylum seekers continues. International refugee and asylum law – the right to cross a border if you have a legitimate fear of persecution – came about as a result of the holocaust. Imagine if in 1939 there was a policy called “Remain in Germany?”

(As the Facebooker’s paycheck is derived from the river of tax dollars devoted to settling refugees in the U.S., it is fortunate that Donald Trump’s “all out war on refugees and asylum seekers” does not include any interruption in the federal cash supply to the refugee and asylum-seeker
non-profit organization for which this guy works.)

The above posting sounds righteous, but if we think about it for another 15 seconds we have to notice that he is comparing Mexico today to Germany circa 1939, near the very height of Adolf Hitler’s popularity with German voters.

Given that Mexican taxpayers are shouldering a substantial burden caring for the caravans of Central Americans drawn to the magnet of the U.S. welfare state, is it fair to compare Mexicans and Mexico to Nazis and 1930s Germany?

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New Yorkers figure out the best place to park millions of immigrants…

… and it turns out that the answer is not “New York.”

From the virtuous Editorial Board of the New York Times, “California Has a Housing Crisis. The Answer Is More Housing.”:

California finally is beginning to consider solutions to its housing crisis that are on the same scale as the problem.

The state is desperately in need of more housing. Home prices are the highest in the continental United States, and population growth continues to outstrip construction.

The city of Los Angeles calculates that 43 percent of its developable land would be opened to higher-density development. For wealthy cities like Palo Alto, the Silicon Valley community that abuts Stanford University, the legislation could increase permissible density virtually everywhere. Palo Alto has two commuter rail stations, but like much of suburban California, it has long resisted construction of anything but detached, single-family homes.

The state’s population continues to grow; the question confronting policymakers is where to put those people.

Did they forget about quality of life? That a resident of Los Angeles might spend five hours per day commuting through traffic jams? That California city-dwellers might have to travel for 30 minutes or more to find a green park? The existing Blade Runner-type crowding is acknowledged, but it turns out to be a good thing for Mother Earth:

The bill also is a necessary piece of the response to another crisis: climate change. Cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles — landscapes of tall buildings, concrete and traffic-clogged streets — are the most environmentally friendly places for human life on earth. The Harvard economist Edward Glaeser has calculated that the residents of California’s core cities use about one-fourth less carbon per year than the residents of the surrounding suburbs. Better yet, the residents of California’s cities use less carbon than the residents of any other large American cities because the temperate climate limits the use of air-conditioning and heating.

It is time to rewrite the rules: The solution to California’s housing crisis is more housing.

(Do we believe this? These “are the most environmentally friendly places for human life on earth”? A resident of Los Angeles generates less CO2 than someone who lives in Ethiopia or Madagascar? (Wikipedia per-capita CO2 emissions) Or maybe they are saving the planet by sending healing vibes?)

Readers: Does it show a lack of self-awareness to publish something like this? Saying that people on the other side of the country need to suck it up and wait a few more hours in traffic every week for the good of Planet Earth?

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We don’t want immigrant criminals until they’ve ripened a bit?

“Mass. Judge, Retired Court Officer Face Federal Charges For Allegedly Helping Defendant Evade ICE” (WBUR):

A Middlesex County judge and former court officer are facing federal charges for allegedly helping a defendant in a Newton courtroom avoid arrest by an immigration officer last year.

Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph and now-retired court officer Wesley MacGregor are accused of helping the defendant, an undocumented immigrant, slip out the back door of Newton District Court while an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent waited to arrest him on a federal detainer in April 2018.

Susan Church, a Cambridge immigration attorney, said the case would worsen fears about the court system for undocumented immigrants.

“We have witnesses who won’t come to court. We have defendants who don’t get tried. We have people who can’t get divorced — women who can’t seek restraining orders because they are terrified by ICE interference,” she said.

The defendant isn’t named in the indictment, but has been previously identified as Jose Medina-Perez, 38, from the Dominican Republic. In April 2018, he was facing drug charges and a fugitive warrant out of Pennsylvania for drunken driving. Immigration officials say the defendant’s real name is Oscar Manuel Peguero. According to Lelling’s office, Peguero has been deported from the U.S. twice — in 2003 and 2007 — and a federal order had been issued prohibiting him for re-entering until 2027.

It is the last bit that fascinates me. This guy, whatever his name might happen to be, seems to be a frequent flyer in our criminal court system. We say that want him out of the U.S. But we also say that want him back starting in 2027 after he has matured a bit. That’s because we need more Dominicans in the U.S. and don’t think that in 2027 we’ll be able to find any who lack a criminal record?


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The politicians who lowered Stop & Shop workers’ market-clearing wages now support their strike

One of our local supermarkets is now crippled: “New England Stop & Shop strike enters ninth day, as stores sit empty and unstocked; With support from Warren, Biden and Buttigieg, 31,000 striking workers say the grocery giant’s proposals would mean more expensive health care and worse retirement benefits.” (NBC):

Stop & Shop’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, reported profits in the billions but is asking workers to pay more for their insurance and cutting their retirement benefits, according to Erikka Knuti, spokesperson for United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which represents the striking workers.

Knuti said 75 percent of workers at Stop & Shop are part time, working multiple jobs and barely “cobbling together” a living wage.

On April 12, Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential contender Elizabeth Warren visited her striking constituents.

“Do not cross the picket line,” Warren said, addressing potential shoppers. “Understand people on the picket line are not just fighting for their families. They’re fighting for all our families. They’re fighting for basic fairness and equality in this country.”

Since Warren’s remarks, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and former Vice President Joe Biden have also joined workers on the picket line.

As a proud former union worker myself, I can sympathize with these folks who work all day on their feet for low wages. (With proper planning, there are a lot of easier ways to make money in Massachusetts!)

But I’m wondering if the workers’ primary enemies aren’t the very politicians who are showing up to “support” them. What better way to lower the market-clearing wage for a low-skill supermarket worker than to open the floodgates of low-skill immigration? Forming a union and striking might bump the paycheck slightly, but it can’t undo the reduction caused by tens of millions of immigrants and their children competing for the same jobs.

My neighbors’ Facebook feeds are lit up with the virtuous recounting their heroic tales of driving to Whole Foods, for example, instead. Yet Whole Foods has fought unionization for decades and the founder compared unionization to herpes.

Given that Stop & Shop regularly hires and trains new workers, I don’t know why the stores are running on such a barebones level. What stops the company from hiring and training replacement workers? (this Obama Administration ruling?) How much training does a person who stocks shelves get?


  • “Labor Board Tells Boeing New Factory Breaks Law” (nytimes, 2011), in which central planners in Washington, D.C. determined whether or not a company could build a new factory in order to escape a union: “In what may be the strongest signal yet of the new pro-labor orientation of the National Labor Relations Board under President Obama, the agency filed a complaint Wednesday seeking to force Boeing to bring an airplane production line back to its unionized facilities in Washington State instead of moving the work to a nonunion plant in South Carolina. In its complaint, the labor board said that Boeing’s decision to transfer a second production line for its new 787 Dreamliner passenger plane to South Carolina was motivated by an unlawful desire to retaliate against union workers for their past strikes in Washington and to discourage future strikes.” (see also Licence Raj)
  • “20 women slept with me to get promotion” (life in an English supermarket)
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Asylum-seekers’ stories point to a labor shortage in Central America?

A core feature of the tales told by many asylum-seekers is that criminal gangs tried to force them to join. The sought-after gang member thus fled from Honduras, for example, and couldn’t find safety in Guatemala, Belize, or Mexico (since the gangs are multinational and sufficiently organized to hunt down potential labor across borders?). Thus the former Honduran finds him or herself, along with some children, living in Texas (maybe soon in San Francisco or Oakland?), collecting welfare, and going through a multi-year asylum process.

I wonder if this shows that there is a labor shortage in Honduras. The population has grown from 1.5 million in 1950 to over 9 million today (Wikipedia). Yet criminal gangs cannot find volunteers to join in the activities and share in the profits. They are forced to recruit new members, whom they will be responsible for paying enough to afford housing, food, clothing, etc., at gunpoint. American criminal enterprises, on the other hand, get their employees by voluntary processes.

It seems reasonable to assume that a gang seeks only the minimum number of required members for its criminal goals (just as non-criminal employers try to avoid hiring surplus staff). A $1 million profit from dealing drugs, for example, isn’t so exciting if it has to be split among 1,000 members.

Can we infer from the above stories and assumptions that there is an acute labor shortage in Honduras compared to the U.S.? If not, why would gangs recruit members by force?

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Wouldn’t sending migrants to sanctuary cities enrich them?

“Trump claimed Oakland’s mayor doesn’t want released immigrants. Her response: We welcome all.” (Washington Post):

President Trump threw more fuel on the flames of the immigration debate Saturday night in a series of tweets that singled out Democrats and news outlets that had reported on his administration’s plan to relocate migrants to so-called “sanctuary cities.”

Trump specifically singled out the mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf (D), who had criticized a proposed policy to relocate detained immigrants to sanctuary cities as an “abuse of power and public resources.”

Then the president claimed that the mayor does not actually want the detained immigrants to be released into her city. In fact, Schaaf’s administration strengthened Oakland’s sanctuary policy in 2018 and had warned residents last year of an upcoming raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On Saturday night, she responded to Trump’s attack with a clear message: “Oakland welcomes all.”

In a federally funded welfare state such as the U.S., aren’t poor people an asset for a lot of the politically influential folks within a city? Migrants should be entitled to Medicaid, right? That helps the local health care industry. Migrants should be entitled to food stamps. That is a boost to local supermarket owners. Migrants should be entitled to housing subsidies and/or will have to do some work to pay rent. That’s a boon to anyone who owns an apartment building.

California funds schools centrally. Every migrant child who shows up for a day in an Oakland school, for example, will result in a transfer of funds from Sacramento to Oakland. There should also be federal funds for every new student from a low-income or no-income family.

Might it be an economically rational strategy for political and economic elites in Oakland to pursue a leadership position in the hosting of migrants?


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How is it reasonable to cut aid to Central America because they won’t stop emigration?

“Dismay after Trump moves to cut aid to Central America” (BBC):

Mr Trump ordered the suspension of aid payments to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to push their governments to stop migration into the US.

If we let anyone who sets foot on U.S. soil enter the asylum process, how is it El Salvador’s fault that people leave to take advantage of what is likely to be a lifetime of means-tested housing, health care, and food welfare?

What do we want them to do? Build a wall to keep their own citizens in? So that a future Reagan-like U.S. president can implore them to tear the wall down?

The article says

Aid advocates argue that the best way to stem migration from the region is to stimulate economic development

But as noted in https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2019/03/13/if-liberals-wont-enforce-borders-fascists-will/, it may well be that as the source countries get wealthier there be more asylum-seekers. From the quoted Atlantic article:

immigration is accelerating so rapidly in the 21st century less because of pervading misery than because life on our planet is improving for so many people. It costs money to move—and more and more families can afford the investment to send a relative northward.

Maybe we should cut off foreign aid because it is generally harmful to foreigners, but I don’t see how it makes sense to cut off aid to countries whose citizens are smart enough to show up in the U.S. for the unlimited lifetime welfare buffet.

Is it truly the case that the Land of Freedom (TM) is asking Central American countries to imprison their own citizens?

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City rebuilding costs from the Halifax explosion

Catching up on 2017 must-reads for Bostonians, I recently enjoyed The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism by John U. Bacon.

The main story is familiar, but worth retelling.

All explosives require two components: a fuel and an “oxidizer,” usually oxygen. How destructive an explosive is depends largely on how quickly those two combine. With “low explosives,” like propane, gasoline, and gunpowder, it’s necessary to add oxygen to ignite them and keep them burning. If a fire runs out of oxygen, it dies. Another factor is speed. The rate of the chemical reaction, or decomposition, of low explosives is less than the speed of sound, or 767 miles per hour. In contrast, a “high explosive” combines the fuel and the oxidant in a single molecule, making each one a self-contained bomb, with everything it needs to create the explosion. To ignite, a high explosive usually requires only extreme heat or a solid bump. Once started, the dominoes fall very quickly, ripping through the explosive material faster than the speed of sound.

“She had a devil’s brew aboard,” Raddall states of the Mont-Blanc, a perfect combination of catalysts, fuel, and firepower. The ship’s manifest included 62 tons of gun cotton, 250 tons of TNT, and 2,366 tons of picric acid, the least understood of the chemicals on board, but the most dangerous.

After the shipwrights had so carefully built the magazines, hermetically sealing each compartment, and the stevedores had packed it all systematically, the French government agent operating out of Gravesend Bay received a last-minute order from his superiors in France to pack what little space remained on Mont Blanc with urgently needed benzol, an unusually volatile fuel, the latest “super gasoline.” The stevedores followed orders, swinging 494 barrels containing 246 tons of the highly combustible accelerant into a few unused spaces belowdecks, on the foredeck, and at the stern, where they stacked the fuel three and four barrels high and lashed it with canvas straps, a somewhat slapdash approach compared to the thoroughness with which the shipwrights had built the magazines. When the crew walked past the drums on deck, they could smell the unmistakable reek of the benzol. With the final addition of the benzol, Mont Blanc now carried an impressive array of the most dangerous chemicals known to man at that time. While benzol can’t match the pure power of gun cotton, TNT, or picric acid—all high explosives—what the stevedores probably didn’t know when they stacked the barrels of benzol on deck was that the airplane fuel needed only a spark to ignite, while picric acid doesn’t explode until it reaches 572 degrees Fahrenheit, and TNT does not detonate until it reaches 1,000 degrees. But by making the last-minute decision to store most of the fuel on the deck and the TNT and picric acid below, the crew had unwittingly constructed the perfect bomb, with the easy-to-light fuse on top, and the most explosive materials trapped in the hold below.

Canada had a much larger stake in the war than did the U.S.:

Halifax sent 6,000 sons to the Great War, roughly a quarter of its male population. It seemed almost every home had sent a brother, a husband, a father, or a son. The Great War drained the town of its able-bodied young men and left behind women, boys, girls, and men too old or infirm to fight.

One question worth pondering is why more people didn’t chicken out and escape to the U.S. They knew what the trenches were going to be like:

When fresh recruits got to Halifax, they frequently made a beeline for any place that sold alcohol, where they met soldiers who had been recently discharged, were on leave, or were about to head back to the trenches. They told the recruits stories so horrifying that they might have been tempted to think they were exaggerating. The experienced soldiers knew the average infantryman lasted only three months before getting wounded or killed, so they were determined to make the most of their time on the safe side of the Atlantic. Their hard-earned fatalism fostered a devil-may-care disposition and all the elements that came with it, including scores of prostitutes from across Canada and bootleggers so fearless that they set up shop in the downtown YMCA—which was probably not what the YMCA’s benefactor, Titanic victim George Wright, had had in mind when he wrote his will. During the war years, Halifax experienced a spike in venereal disease and out-of-wedlock births. Local orphanages had to expand.

The Mont-Blanc makes it from New York to Halifax without incident, but before the sailors can go to the YMCA for a drink, there is a low-speed collision with another ship. The author describes the impact that resulted in the explosion as entirely the fault of the Imo‘s captain and pilot (see Wikipedia for a quick summary, but I highly recommend this part of the book). More than 10,000 people were killed or wounded. The book covers this staggering tragedy, but this post is about the physical destruction and the estimated cost of rebuilding:

The explosion destroyed 1,630 buildings and damaged 12,000 more, leaving some 25,000, almost half the population of Halifax-Dartmouth, without adequate housing and dangerously exposed to the elements.

After the fires had been extinguished and the wounded tended to, Colonel Robert S. Low assembled an army of carpenters, masons, plumbers, and electricians to rebuild the city, which had incurred more than $35 million in damages in 1917 U.S. dollars, or $728 million today.

It cost only $728 million to rebuild a whole section of a city. Our town will soon spend $110 million to renovate/rebuild a school that can hold only about 600 students. I talked with a guy recently who is involved in a $1.5 billion project to create 2,700 “affordable” apartments here in the Charlestown section of Boston (story). That’s $555,555 per apartment (less than 1,000 square feet on average) on land provided for free (city already has a housing project on the same footprint). Presumably these will be higher quality than whatever was built in Halifax in 1918.

[Note: poor people who are selected by the housing ministry to move into one of these apartments would actually be rich almost anywhere else in the world if they could only get their hands on the $555,555 capital cost as a direct grant instead of as an in-kind service! If they could also get their hands on the monthly operating cost and combine that with interest on the $555,555 they would be able to enjoy, without working, a middle class or better lifestyle in many of the world’s beach destinations.

How about folks who work at the median wage? That’s about $23/hour in Massachusetts (BLS) or $46,000 per year. NerdWallet says that someone earning this much in MA can afford a $258,500 house if he or she has saved $60,000 for a down payment, has a top credit score, and spends $0/month on food and other non-housing expenses. Zillow says $274,416 on a nationwide basis. So a dual-income couple in which both partners earn the median wage wouldn’t be able to afford one of these units without a taxpayer subsidy, even if landed were free and the unit were sold at zero-profit construction cost. The U.S. has apparently become a society in which Americans can’t afford to live like Americans!]

Maybe costs are lower up in Canada? Yes, but only a little:

Instead of drifting back into another long sleepwalk, Halifax has been accelerating, spending $11.5 million in 1955 to build its first bridge across the channel, another $31 million to build the second, right over the Narrows, and another $207 million in 2015 to raise the first bridge a few meters so container ships could get all the way to a dock in Bedford Basin. The city has spent $350 million to build a boardwalk along the bay and $57 million for a shiny new library downtown, an architectural centerpiece CNN judged to be the ninth most beautiful library in the world.

How about some other costs? A survivor of the explosion gets “$100 to enroll at the University of Michigan in 1919”. That’s $1,500 in today’s money, less than 1/30th of current tuition. He marries an American (same word “marriage” used, but really a different activity in those days before no-fault divorce):

Shortly after that invitation, Barss asked Helen to marry him. She said yes, but asked him to keep it between them until February, “so that if either of us wanted to get out of the deal, no one would be hurt.” Further, if Barss’s professors found out he was getting married, which med school students were forbidden to do, he could be expelled. “My father liked Joe & asked if he were a Republican or a Democrat,” Helen wrote. “He said he was a Canadian and voted for the man—Father said ‘If you ever live here and have anything or hope to have anything, you’ll be a Republican in self defense.’

Maybe it is good that this guy died before Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed their latest tax plans!

I found the numbers in the book sobering. If we wear down the infrastructure that we have or if perhaps it is destroyed for some reason, it doesn’t seem as though we could afford to rebuild it.

More: Read The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism


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