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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« July 25, 2006 | | July 27, 2006 »
July 26, 2006

Mad at illegal immigrants?

Jon Fleischman, taking on the governor, says we should be mad at illegal immigrants who break the law to come here, not just at the federal government for failing to secure the borders:

I actually DO get quite mad at those people who violate our laws to come into the United States. A major component of my world-view is the idea of individual responsibility. To say that one should blame the government for not enforcing a law instead of blaming the law-breaker is very disturbing position to take. Clearly it would be ideal if our government could enforce all of its laws on the books. But the liberty and freedom we enjoy as Americans depends on our people following the laws of the land without having to be policed. As Alexander de Toqueville observed about this country, "America is great because America is good. When she ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."

My take is that illegal immigration, in and of itself, is a victimless crime. If people come here to work, which most illegal immigrantsdo, they are going to engage in a voluntary exchange of their labor for someone else's money. They are not stealing, and, as a group, they are helping our economy, even if a few people at the lower end of the wage scale see their wages bid down. Illegal immigrants are also not harming legal immigrants or anyone "in line" to enter the country legally. The number of legal immigrants is set without any reference to the number who enter without documentation.

I wonder what I would do, or what Fleischman would do, if we had had the misfortune to be born poor on the "wrong" side of the border, and we knew there was opportunity in the United States to better our lives and the lives of our families. Would we simply ignore that opportunity? Or would we do everything we could to take advantage of it?

Or to offer a more extreme example, what if, next year, the courts ruled that blogs were not protected by the First Amendment, and the government outlawed them. Would Fleischman, out of a respect for "personal responsibility," simply stop trying to communicate his views in this way? Or would his sense of justice compel him to disobey that law, because his actions are not, in fact, harming anyone?

When the governor said we shouldn't be "mad" at people who come here illegally, I don't think he was talking about people who steal, or even people who take advantage of our welfare state. He was talking about people who come here for economic opportunity. I'm not mad at them, either.

UPDATE: Fleischman responds. He says he's as mad at the welfare state as he is at the illegal immigrants.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:03 PM

SF health plan approved

San Francisco has given final approval to its universal health care plan. This story from a month ago said small businesses that don't provide insurance would have to pay a tax of about $1 per hour for each hour worked by a non-management employee. That's $200 a month for a full-time worker. Since that's probably less than most private insurance plans cost, I wonder if some employers will see this as a way to get out of the business of health care by dropping coverage and urging their employees to enroll in the city plan.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:28 AM

Using the minimum wage to fight immigration

In this New York Times opinion piece, Michael Dukakis and UCLA Professor Daniel Mitchell argue that the best way to fight illegal immigration would be to raise the minimum wage and enforce it strictly. This, they argue, would reduce employment opportunities for illegals by eliminating some low-wage jobs and making the jobs that remain more attractive to U.S. citizens.

An excerpt:

But if we want to reduce illegal immigration, it makes sense to reduce the abundance of extremely low-paying jobs that fuels it. If we raise the minimum wage, itís possible some low-end jobs may be lost; but more Americans would also be willing to work in such jobs, thereby denying them to people who arenít supposed to be here in the first place. And tough enforcement of wage rules would curtail the growth of an underground economy in which both illegal immigration and employer abuses thrive.

This is another way of saying that raising the minimum wage hurts low-skilled workers by denying them the opportunity to grab hold of the first rung of the economic ladder. It's just that in this case, the authors think that result would be a good thing, because some of the opportunities denied would be to illegal immigrants.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:02 AM



At Crossroads, a panel of experts and the public debate the future of health care in California. We'd like you to join the conversation.

Daniel Weintraub


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