Obama Passes DREAM Act by Executive Order

Good news, although this dude doesn’t think so:

On Friday, the Obama administration issued a memo announcing that federal immigration officials do not have to deport illegal aliens if they are enrolled in any type of education program, if their family members have volunteered for U.S. military service, or even if they are pregnant or nursing.

This new policy of “prosecutorial discretion” was quietly announced on Friday afternoon, and completely ignored by the mainstream press.

It’s worth rereading Will Wilkinson’s excellent post on the DREAM Act if you need a refresher.

The Street Food Strategy for Latino Integration

In today’s Patch column, I make the case for integration through relaxed food cart regulations:

The best integration strategy I can think of would be for cities to relax their food cart regulations, and offer financial incentives to street vendors or food trucks. Bethlehem’s food cart regulations are much too restrictive and make it unnecessarily expensive to start a food cart business.

Allentown in particular, which has spent a lot of money to attract trendy restaurants downtown, might consider how many taco trucks they could get for every successful Sangria. If you got enough vendors, you could even organize a Latin American Food Festival sometime during the summer months. I could imagine an annual block party with street vendors cooking cuisines from all over Latin America becoming a big hit.

These kinds of businesses cost a lot less in overhead than a traditional restaurant, and the profit margin is lower, so it’s ideal for people who have cooking skills, but not much formal education or access to the normal credit channels.

I wasn’t blogging during the Bethlehem Hot Dog Man debate, but if I was, I would’ve been saying that capping street food vendor licenses at just 5 licenses and requiring city council to approve all of them is a gross infringement on economic liberty too great for even a dirty hippie like me to countenance. If someone wants to sell food in exchance for money, and other people want to buy it, there is no problem there. No reason for city council to intervene.

The reason the regulation ended up as strict as it is – so strict that the original Hot Dog Man said it was no longer profitable for him to do business – is because city council caved to rent-seeking by nearby incumbent businesses (the Funhouse was particularly vocal) who didn’t want any competition. Now, the downtown businesses are certainly our friends, and of course we want to see them do well. But it’s just not city council’s job to protect incumbent businesses from competition by new businesses. The sensible response would’ve been to ignore the complaints, not pass a law regulating the guy out of business.

Over in Allentown, Michael Donovan told me that the city has some very old strict laws governing street food. That’s needlessly handicapping business activity, and preventing the city from capitalizing on what is potentially a key asset.

Dent Watch: Dent Votes Against the DREAM Act

The DREAM Act would give the children of illegal immigrants – people who were brought to the US when they were young children and have spent their whole lives in America – a path to citizenship. It’s the decent, and obvious, thing to do. DREAM passed the House yesterday, but Charlie Dent voted against it. Why he thinks we ought to turn people away who we have already spent money educating, who want to pursue higher education, and who want to contribute productively to our economy is beyond me.

For an explainer, here’s the conditions a person must meet to qualify for DREAM followed by the key bit from Will Wilkinson’s much-celebrated Economist post on the bill:

  • Must have entered the United States before the age of 16 (i.e. 15 and younger)
  • Must have been present in the United States for at least five (5) consecutive years prior to enactment of the bill
  • Must have graduated from a United States high school, or have obtained a GED, or have been accepted into an institution of higher education (i.e. college/university)
  • Must be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of application
  • Must have good moral character

Then, if the qualifying individual enlists in the armed forces or enrolls in college, and completes two years of military service or two years of work toward a bachelors (or higher) degree within six years of having gained conditional permanent residency, he or she will qualify for plain vanilla legal permanent residency, which entails the right to apply for citizenship.

Suppose your parents moved to America from Mexico without legal permission when you were five years old. You grow up in America. You graduate from high school in America. You’re an American in every sense except the legal one. You want to go to college, but because your parents came into the country illicitly, you don’t qualify for government financial aid, and you can’t get legal work. If caught by immigration authorities, you face the possibility of detention or deportation, even though this is, in every sense, your home. That doesn’t seem fair. Every year, over 60,000 kids like you graduate high school in the United States. And unless something like the DREAM Act becomes law, you and they will become part of a growing class of marginalised and unprotected Americans without papers. Even then, the papers are no sure thing. You’ve got to serve in the military or get a couple years of college under your belt, and stay out of trouble. But at least you’ll someday have the chance to enjoy the same rights and opportunities as your date to the prom.

Stop the Upper Mt. Bethel Prison

People are getting organized against the immigrant detention center in Upper Mt. Bethel, and for good reason: private prison companies like the GEO Group are lobbying states to pass invasive Arizona-style immigration laws that will give them more “business” and pad their bottom lines. Needless to say, it’s disgusting and neither the law nor the prison should be allowed to go forward. The link above is to the Facebook group if you want to get involved through that channel, or you can go speak up at one of these public forums:

Wednesday November 10th at 6pm – General Public Hearing to Discuss Proposed Detention Center – Bangor Middle School, 401 Five Points Richmond Road, Bangor PA 18013

Thursday November 18th at 6:30pm – Northampton County Council Meeting – Northampton County Courthouse, 3rd Floor, 669 Washington Street, Easton, PA 18042

My preferred policy is to allow a much higher level of legal immigration because the economic benefits of such a policy are well-established, despite ignorant nativist frothings to the contrary.

Morganelli Talking Nonsense on Immigration

I had no idea John Morganelli believed all sorts of crazy nativist stuff about immigration and criminal justice policy, so I was disappointed to read this nonsense over at LVR:

I arrived at Friday night’s monthly LV Tea Party meeting just in time to hear Northampton County DA and Fear Monger John Morganelli warn a 300-plus crowd that a “tidal wave” of illegal aliens is coming our way. He was singing that song four years ago, so it must be an awfully slow tsunami.

According to a Pew Hispanic Center study, the number of illegals has actually dropped in this country by nearly a million. No jobs. They’re illegals, not stupid.

But the hell with facts. Morganelli made points with tea drinkers by slamming both Bush and Obama for lacking the “political will” to do anything about this problem. Morganelli incited the crowd with accusations of “a number of sexual assaults by illegal aliens. They should not be here. … No one wants to do what has to be done.”

What’s that? The final solution?

The DA claims they’re everywhere, kinda’ like bed bugs. “Go to any job site and you’ll see people who are not home grown Americans.”

First of all, I think the term “illegal aliens” exists to needlessly dehumanize undocumented immigrants who have primarily come here to the US to work, seeking a better life for their families. I think upward mobility is a goal most Americans can relate to, so there’s no reason to demonize these people other than to stoke hate.

Morganelli evidently thinks “what has to be done” is to round up and deport 12 million people – an untenable position from both a civil liberties perspective (think about the unprecedented surveillance this would require), and a fiscal perspective (it would cost $285 billion).

Not to mention the cost to the economy. Immigration is postive sum, pushing up income and productivity. Here’s what Daryl Metcalfe’s Arizona copycat bill would do to Pennsylvania’s economy:

Mr. Metcalfe’s H.B. 2479, introduced to the House State Government Committee in May, is modeled after the Arizona legislation and claims it would save Pennsylvania taxpayers over $728 million annually. Arguing the opposite, a fact sheet released by the Immigration Policy Center (IPC), a research and policy project of the American Immigration Council, says the removal of illegal immigrants would cost Pennsylvania $5.3 billion in economic activity, $2.4 in gross state product (the state version of gross domestic product, or GDP), and over 27,000 jobs…

The positive economic impact comes because immigrants not only pay taxes and are consumers, but contribute as entrepreneurs and students. The total purchasing power of Pennsylvania’s Latino population is estimated at $12.7 billion in 2010, and Pennsylvania’s Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $6.5 billion.

Elise Foley at Washington Independent explains why immigration’s effect on jobs is not zero-sum

One of the major complaints against immigration — both legal and illegal — is that non-Americans take jobs that could be occupied by citizens during a time of high unemployment. But immigrants actually boost incomes and productivity over time, according to a paper released Monday by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The study’s author found immigration has no “significant” effect on the number of jobs available to U.S.-born workers.

The main reason, economist Giovanni Peri argues, is that U.S. and immigrant workers tend to take different jobs, particularly because immigrants often face language barriers that make them less likely to take higher paying jobs requiring strong communication skills. This allows U.S.-born workers to shift toward these jobs, Peri writes…

Many other economists have come to the same conclusion as Peri: Immigrants help the economy to grow and therefore create jobs and increase average wages for American-born workers.

Matt Yglesias has a good thought experiment showing how immigration boosts living standards:

Think of some classic “bad” jobs that we find a lot of immigrants doing—basically the tidying-up
industries. Now imagine that tomorrow 75% of the maids, the janitors, the dishwashers, the gardeners, the people who make the beds at hotels, etc. are all teleported to Mexico. This is a class of low-income people that’s vanished, so it’s possible that their teleportation will make certain statistical sets look better. But what’s going to be the impact on the living standards of those of us Left Behind in the United States of America?

Well there are really only two things that can happen here. One is that to an extent things can just be allowed to be dirtier and the other is that to an extent people can spend less time doing things that aren’t cleaning and more time cleaning. Down the first pathway, overall living standards decline because of the increase in the overall level of filth. Down the second pathway, overall living standards decline because of the decrease in the production of other goods and services. It’s true that amidst this overall decline in living standards some specific individuals would probably benefit (the remaining 25% of cleaners, for example) which is why there’s room for empirical research like the SF Fed paper linked above, but it’s easy to see that on the whole immigration boosts living standards even before you consider the positive impact on the immigrants.

More on the SF Fed study here and here.

Ultimately, the tone of Morganelli’s statements matters as much as the factual content of his nutty beliefs. The insinuation that “illegal aliens” are somehow more prone to violence or sexually-assaulting people than native-born people is especially offensive. It sounds like something straight out of the Jim Crow South. Really despicable stuff.

What Does Charlie Dent Think About Immigration?

With immigration issues all over the news, isn’t it weird that reporters never ask Immigration Reform Caucus member Charlie Dent what his views are on the Arizona racial profiling law and the 14th amendment?

Deportation-Only Immigration Policy Costs $285 Billion

Since House Republicans appear to be leaning toward campaigning on full-throated support for Arizona’s racist immigration law as a tactic to juice turnout among racists in the November elections, it’s worth pointing out how terrible scaling up the Arizona model would be for the economy, and of course the deficit:

Tim Foley was the last to speak, but had perhaps some of the most interesting numbers to share. What’s the economic imperative behind an enforcement-only strategy? “There really isn’t,” he said, to laughs. The mass deportation of the estimated 12 million unauthorized immigrants living in the US, plus the effort to keep that up, would cost approximately $285 billion over five years. But the economic pain wouldn’t end there. Because our economy is so interconnected, all states would likely lose $250 billion in economic productivity as a direct result; Arizona alone, if it lost all unauthorized workers, would loose $26.4 billion in economic activity and approximately 140,000 jobs. Why such a hard hit? While new immigrant workers do add to the labor supply, they also use services — they pay rent, buy groceries, buy clothing — and that affects job creation. Not to mention that unskilled labor counts for 32% of the Arizona workforce, in industries like construction, agriculture and tourism. And what negative affects there may be from immigration-such as a drop in salary rates-are not felt by native workers; they are felt by those who have most recently immigrated.