Togane, Japan
December 31
I'm teaching English in foreign countries as a way to see the world. I lived in Germany for three years and have been in Japan since August of 2011.


Kemstone's Links

Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 4, 2010 6:06AM

There Is No Immigration Crisis

Rate: 18 Flag

If you’re one of those consumers of conservative news who is convinced that the problem of illegal immigration is spinning wildly out of control, that crime rates in border states are soaring, that ranches on American soil are being taken over by violent drug cartels, and that this problem must be dealt with immediately through strong measures like the Arizona sb1070 law or the repeal of the 14th amendment, I dare you to watch this entire segment from the Rachel Maddow show:

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If you didn’t watch it because you’re afraid of being confronted with actual facts that might shake the carefully constructed worldview you’ve been operating under for decades, you’re not in the clear yet. I suggest you stop reading this now if you want to preserve your illusions.

The fact is, illegal immigration is not spinning wildly out of control. This chart from the U.S. Department of Commerce shows the number of migrant apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border over the last two decades:

Wouldn’t you know it—it’s actually going down. Why? It might have something to do with the massive economic recession we’re going through, seeing as how the same thing happened during the mini-recession of the early 2000s. When the economy sucks, less immigrants come here because there are obviously fewer opportunities for them to get hired and enjoy a significantly better standard of living than they’d be able to have in Mexico. If conditions are poor on both sides of the fence, they might as well remain on their side.

But what about crime? John McCain recently called Phoenix the “kidnapping capital of the world”, a blatantly false talking point that’s now being repeated by his fellow Arizona senator John Kyl, who insists that crime rates are rising wildly due to the supposed rise in illegal immigrants crossing the border. These guys are sure serving their state well! I’m sure everyone who works in the Arizona tourist industry are very happy that their senators are telling the rest of the country that it’s not safe to come to Arizona.

Well, let’s do them a favor and look at the facts. In the above clip, a segment from an interview with John Kyl is played in which the senator is confronted with the inconvenient fact that crime rates in Arizona have actually been dropping. Kyl insists that while certain kinds of crimes have been going down, property crimes and violent crimes have been going up. Here are the numbers:

Property Crimes in AZ:
231,633 (2009)
262,130 (2008)
277,051 (2007)
281,686 (2006)

Violent Crimes in AZ:
26,094 (2009)
28,753 (2008)
29,612 (2007)
30,833 (2006)

If you look closely, you’ll notice those numbers consistently going down. The Arizona in which illegal immigrants are constantly pouring over the border to rape, pillage, plunder, kidnap and murder Americans exists solely in the imagination of conservative politicians, their enablers in the right-wing media, and those predisposed to believe anything that supports their pre-existing worldview while ignoring everything else.

Incidentally, the story about how the Los Zetas drug cartel has taken over ranches in Laredo, Texas—that Mexican drug-lords are invading American soil—is also completely false. In fact, if you Google “los zetas laredo” you can scroll through at least five pages of right-wing blogs trumpeting the story without ever coming to a single actual news source. You won’t even find the story anywhere on Why? Because they check facts, and there are no facts behind this one.

Republican politicians still think it’s the mid-1980s and that getting people all riled up about illegal immigrants is a great way to win elections. If stories that support their portrait of Mexican immigrants as violent criminals can’t be found, conservatives simply invent them. They forget that it’s 2010, when the truth can easily be found with nothing more than an internet connection and a few minutes of spare time.

They also forget that it’s 2010, when there are a heck of a lot more Hispanic citizens in America than there were in 1980, and that those legal residents might not appreciate their cousins from across the border being painted as bloodthirsty delinquents. Whipping up immigration furor may be a good way to win a primary, but it’s an incredibly stupid strategy for winning general elections—especially in the long-term.

Laws like sb1070 are an over-reaction to a problem that isn’t nearly as bad as it seems whenever an election season rolls around. Repealing the 14th Amendment, which guarantees that every citizen born on U.S. soil is considered a U.S. citizen, would be the most radical over-reaction on the part of the U.S. government since the invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. It’s a part of the essence of America that anyone born here, regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity is an American. Doing away with that just to prevent a few illegals from crossing the border to have anchor-babies would be a profoundly terrible mistake.

Luckily, this kind of race-baiting strategy will continue to lose effectiveness as the country becomes increasingly more multi-ethnic. So while I do recognize that there are economic problems associated with illegal immigration, that it’s unfair to those who go through the legal process to grant amnesty to those who came here illegally, and that a comprehensive immigration policy from the federal government is long overdue, I welcome anyone who brings a bit more color to America regardless of the manner in which they arrive.


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Another rational argument against the dishonest Republican tactics they use to win at any cost.
This is nothing new, they have been using this tactic for a long time. In the 1800's it was the Chinese, Irish and Catholics who were "taking over the nation". In the 20th century it was the Jewish, Italians, Germans, Japanese and finally the Mexicans. It's the same propaganda, they just swap out the nationality.
I just wrote a post about this myself. It is shameful. What's worse is that so many people allow themselves to be persuaded by the lies and propaganda.
Excellent post
Thank you so much for this. I will reference it in my calls to my senators and representatives. What a timely post. I'd kiss you if I could. Thanks and more thanks.
I'm surrounded by people who believe all these falsified, fake news stories - I've written about these bizarre encounters I have with them everyday (Just Drive Past Georgetown, Colorado is one that I did recently). Anyway, I love the facts that you put here. I wish you'd put them somewhere less liberal just to see what kind of reaction you'd get to it. You may be singing to the choir in this forum - my views are close to yours on this matter (my story Immigration Reform, another voice). Wishing you good luck bringing your facts to the rest of the people. Go get 'em.
Rated. Thanks for your contribution.
I think Rachel's great--hell, someone needs to point out the scare tactics that the Voldemort Party keeps using--but you know what, immigration IS a scary problem.

There are already way more undocumented people in this country than we can quickly naturalize--which means entire American cities like where I live in Washington State no longer have a representative government and probably won’t for years to come. That scares the crap out of me.

And Kemstone, an important fact that never gets pointed out with the immigration/crime rate stats is that undocumented folks are often silent as witnesses and even as victims. That silence creates an environment where street violence and serious crime can flourish. Violent crime may be decreasing in Arizona overall, but I bet there are communities where violent crime is on the upswing as a direct result of this phenomena.

I think even more outrage will be necessary to jolt both sides out of their scripted arguments. Our current immigration policies have indeed created a crisis for some states in our nation. The saying about the weak links in the chain applies. We on the left can't dial this down if we have any hope of getting the dramatic reform we need. It may not be politically expedient to side with the right in defining this as a crisis, but that's what needs to happen.
I'm not in favor of the Arizona law, but at the same time I'm not sure what the graph on immigrant apprehensions shows. It may mean that immigrants are staying longer in the country. When we crack down on border crossings, that makes it harder to get back into the U.S. Thus, many immigrants may decide to stay here rather than returning temporarily to Mexico, because if they do they might not be able to get back in.

Also, to the extent that immigrant apprehensions are down because fewer people are coming here in a bad economy, that doesn't mean that the problem is solved. It just means that the problem will increase when the economy improves.

Same thing with the crime stats. Crime of all kinds is down all over the country. What the stats don't know are the number of crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

Again, I'm not defending the Arizona law, but it's important not to draw conclusions from the data that may not be warranted.
Thanks to everyone for the comments. Fay, I'll read your immigration post when I have some more time. Curious, I'll have to look around for more right-wing forums but I know at least some conservatives are on here.

Fetlock, we definitely are in need of comprehensive reform but I hesitate to start calling this a crisis. You don't want to fuel the flames of right-wing hysteria, even if it's for a good purpose. The legislation you end up with could easily wind up being something that's 90% fences and border security, 9% deportation, and only 1% path to citizenship.

And Mishima, you make a good point about the border apprehension graph but the conclusion it led me to wasn't that immigration isn't a problem at all, but only that the problem isn't much worse now than it's been over the past 20 years, which you wouldn't know if you only get your info from right-wing sources.
For all of you supporters of illegally invading immigrants,
you need to


Then, just to keep you all busy for the next hour or two

Regarding Mishima's comment:
The piece of the puzzle not presented here is that deportations of illegal immigrants with criminal records has increased significantly under the Obama administration. Falling crime rates are not entirely coincidental.

Thanks for this, Kemstone. The more people who point this out, the better. I hope it bodes well for the next election cycle.
Facts? Don't you know that, as Stephen Colbert said, "they have a liberal bias?"

Whatever I may think of the Democrats, the Republicans cannot be taken seriously about ANYTHING. In my 59 years, I have never seen anything like their total disregard of truth and their total disengagement from any serious policy making.

But this story is exactly my fear: the right-wing nuts that spread the Laredo story have no interest in what Rachel Maddow or CNN says. The problem today is - and this true of many on the left also - that wingnuts tend to stick to the media outlets and news sources that play to their biases. People who listen to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh make no attempt to hear what Maddow has to say, and the more facts she cites to make her case, the greater their suspicion and disregard. The facts, of course, are easily retrievable with a click of your mouse, but that presumes a desire to seek out the facts.
I hope you're a better teacher than a policy analyst, Kemstone. You're setting up an army of straw men just to knock them down. Crime isn't the issue issue here; economics is. I'm sorry, but with real unemployment in the US at 15% or better, the US doesn't need millions of illegal immigrants dumped into the labor force. And spare me the arguement that illegals do work that Americans don't want to do. Illegals undermine employment and working conditions for American born workers and legal immigrants in everything from farm work to construction. Read Methland and see what happened to the US meatpacking industry when packers started to hire illegals: evaporating benefits and wages cut by two thirds. The author, Nick Reding, is a liberal and pulls his punches, but the damage to local economies, schools and health care he describes is clear. BTW although Republicans are getting tough on illegals in this election cycle--they need an issue with legs--the GOP, with its Chamber of Commerce constituency, has always supported illegal immigration because it undermines legal workers. I find it ironic that facile, unreflective liberals are embracing a traditional Republican position--to the detriment of the American working and middle class.
Sun God--crime is the issue because republicans are MAKING it the issue. If you want to talk about the negative economic impacts of illegal immigration, that's great. It certainly is a problem that needs to be dealt with, as I admitted in my final paragraph. But don't make up stories about drug cartels invading U.S. soil and tell blatant falsehoods about rising crime rates.

The point I'm making is not that nothing needs to be done about illegal immigration but that we need to stick to the FACTS and not pretend that there's a crisis happening now when the problem has remained more or less the same for several decades.
I'd like to point out Fetlock is correct in that there is ONE county where crime is up in Arizona: Maricopa County, home of Sheriff Jose "Nickel Bag" Arpaio, a master media whore who manipulates the fears of old white snowbirds in order to stay in the spotlight.

What a coincidence, eh?
nice analysis but some difficulties.
it assumes that border enforcement force has kept up with actual immigration. this is not an unreasonable assumption, but it is an assumption. (actually the case could possibly be made that border enforcement has gone up). anyway its the problem of an apprehension only being a "sample" of the actual traffic.
now, the other major issue is that absolutely, drug trafficking seems to be going up in mexico and especially the border towns are getting very violent, with literally thousands of homicides due to drug traffic and related gang violence. it has skyrocketed in recent years, not exactly sure why. this is leaking into US interests such as killings at our embassies, shutdown of our embassies etcetera. this story seems to be poorly covered by the US MSM. now, can we really argue this drug violence is having no effect on the US? we cannot. mexico has escalated the official response, bringing in the military, but this has so far had the effect of escalating the violence. in fact recently for the 1st time a grisly milestone was reached-- 1st car bomb in the area. so I urge you to look into the drug violence angle if you want to address the overall issue effectively. not blaming you, it looks like CNN said nada about it in their own analysis. the drug angle absolutely cannot be ignored in any serious conversation about mexican immigration issues. in fact its arguably the foremost issue.
I understand perfectly the points—the only points—that you are making in your posting here, Kemstone. Illegal immigration is apparently down, and there is no crime wave attributable to Mexican immigrants. According to the best evidence available, both of those propositions are true. I wish only to add that according to latest FBI statistics, the four safest big cities in the United States are San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso, and Austin.

I have lived in Mexico for some time now and have made the acquaintance of several who have gone north, worked, and come back. I became interested in this whole complex of issues almost against my will, never having given it much thought when living up north. I have been reading about it for several months and blogging about it since around July 19. Also, I have been surfing around here curious to see what others are saying. I ran into Fay Paxton's piece—she comments above—and others. Now I find yours, which is excellent by the way. A very well done piece.

Mexican immigration presents a complex of issues, many facets of which are unrelated to the point you are making, such as whether there is an impact on unemployment in the United States by Mexican workers. I will set those facets of the issue aside here as not directly related to the point you are making.

However, regarding the war between the cartels over routes north currently taking place on this side of the border, I did have this one further point to make. That whole matter can be taken care of quite easily if the consumer-citizens of the United States of America could find the wherewithal within themselves to stop snorting so goddamned much cocaine. I am dead serious.

I understand that citizens of the United States love to get high. They have an unbelievable appetite for mind altering substances. Perhaps some see it as necessary in order to endure the air-conditioned nightmare, as Henry Miller termed it. I understand that there is a heightened temptation to medicate one's self in a bad economy, too. But goddamnit, please stop snorting cocaine, and do not tolerate it socially.

If I could only get through to the young people with this simple message. Every time you put a little spoon up your nose or roll up a dollar bill, every time that you go into the Men's Room to snort that line on the top of the toilet bowl that your pal left for you in stall number two, you walk away with blood on your hands.
vzn, thanks for your comment. The media coverage on the issue is definitely frustrating. Right-wing media overstates the problem and left-wing media understates it. The supposedly "balanced" news network, CNN, barely mentions it at all. As for the drug issue, it is definitely the most important aspect of this whole thing, which is why I'd approach the problem by legalizing and controlling drugs.

Brassawe, I appreciate your comment and the point you're making. Cocaine users are indirectly causing drug violence, just as car-drivers are indirectly causing environmental disasters and wars in the middle east, just as meat-eaters are indirectly causing unimaginable animal suffering as well as global warming due to the methane from cow farts. If you're living in an industrial society, chances are you've got blood on your hands in one way or another.

That said, I hate cocaine and would be perfectly happy to see it wiped from the face of the earth. But since that's never going to happen, my solution would be to legalize it and make it available to people through pharmacies where only the safest kinds are available and people are monitored to make sure they don't purchase more than a certain amount each month. That certainly wouldn't solve everything but it would go a LONG way to crippling the drug cartels. Given the choice between black market coke and legal government coke, I think most people would take the latter.
Maybe there is no immigration crisis in the mind of Kemstone and other non-reality-based worldviews of some Salon readers. I suggest getting hold of a copy of Chris Burgard's movie, "Border" ( for a primer.
I'm bemused by the tenor of the replies ... they amount to "OK, so all the right-wing claims of specific 'facts' are wrong ... we still have a serious problem as a result of illegal immigration from Mexico (and points south)."

And logically that might even be true but it is a non-sequitur and all of the 'evidence' offered for it is either this movie or that movie etc ... and I sure don't see that as 'evidence.'

All of the available evidence shows that illegal immigrants have (as a group) far lower crime rates than 'average citizens' ... and if you think about it for a second that makes very good sense ... if you are an illegal immigrant in the ordinary sense of the word ... you don't want to get caught for a crime, you don't want to come to the attention of the authorities PERIOD.

I have no doubt that there are criminals here illegally in the US, many involved in the drug trade ... how new is that, and to what degree will the AZ 'enforcement' do ANYTHING about them? People who get caught for drug crimes go to jail ... whether or not they are citizens, what is new or different?

What is certainly just CRAZY is the idea that laws and policies intended to reduce the number of "ordinary" illegal immigrants (those coming to the US to work in jobs which would be legal other than their immigration status and work papers) would somehow seriously reduce the numbers of drug cartel criminals entering the country.

Arresting somebody working in a garment sweatshop (e.g.) is just about proof positive that they AREN'T members of a drug cartel ... eh?

The argument that illegal immigrants take jobs away from citizens is a really complex one and should be made on its own merits and without the hysteria and anger that this argument seems to carry when made. It's true that immigrants take jobs at lower wages and poorer working conditions than citizens commonly will. The very difficult questions in assessing the impacts of this are the degree to which those jobs would be offered at higher wages and better conditions if the illegals weren't there to fill them ... and then what the "feed through" contribution to the US economy is from having this illegal low-cost labor.

A case, admittedly hypothetical, for illustration: does a sweatshop garment worker make the rest of Americans poorer? Think about it, particularly if without them the garment production moves out of the US.

This argument has been used for years to tacitly support illegal immigration of garment workers into cities such as New York ... said garment workers mostly being asian. But the ethnic/national status has no bearing on the central argument, and mexican labor is increasingly involved in what of the garment trade continues in the US.

Ocular Nervosa's dimissive comment above strikes me as mostly bang on ... anger and agitation against immigrants (legal and illegal) has been a persistent theme in american history, indeed we had a "Know Nothing" party which favored a very particular and peculiar view of "Nativism" around the turn of 1900 ... this all seems like "Know Nothing" political agitation again.
The USA has far and away one of the most LIBERAL policies on immigration and emigration of any country on the planet.

Fer crissake - even Mexico itself jails illegals for 2 years! (Talk about hypocrisy on the part of Mexican society and government).

I had to laugh at it all when I heard that illegal immigrants in high school are demanding financial aid and in-state tuition rates to attend university. I came over here the legal way (not all of us non-Americans are lucky to share a border with the USA), on an F-1 student visa. As such, I was NOT eligible for financial aid...AND I had to pay 'international student' tuition rates, which are nearly double the prevailing rate for in-state students!

So lemme get this straight: some kid (and/or his parents) jumps a fence and breaks the law - and liberals believe they should be rewarded with low in-state tuition and financial aid. BUT students like me from other countries - who obeyed the law and came here legally - should be denied financial aid and made to pay high international student rates?!?!?

Break the law, get rewarded. Obey the law, get punished.

And oh yeah: Not a single white liberal advocate of illegal immigration EVER addresses the problems (several years to process paperwork, etc.) facing legal immigrants. I guess we just ain't brown or Spanish-speaking for y'all, huh?


If I - now a legal emigrant - had to do it all over again?

I'd trade my ticket to JFK for a ticket to Tijuana - and jump the fence. Much easier, and everyone here would love you for it! (Although my relatively pale skin might not add enough of the "color" that Kemstone and other self-loathing honkies desire.)
Wow, what a wide range of viewpoints. But everyone assumes that letting people from Mexico (i.e. Mexicans) work in the U.S. is a bad thing.

But take a moment to reflect on the logical - and I stress logical - outcomes of a reversal of policy which opened the border with Mexico.

Did you remember to contemplate increased consumer demand which would stimulate economic recovery in both countries?

What about the housing crisis? Having spend nearly a decade in an immigrant-rich (blue collar immigrants) neighborhood of Los Angeles I noticed that it was not uncommon for extended families to pool resources to purchase homes in one of the most over-priced housing markets in the world. So maybe more Mexicans might mean more housing demand, which would restore some of the price decrease, etc. etc. etc.

Don't forget the normalization of labor costs in both countries. On this point I think we need to include Canada in the bargain. They have a pretty workable system for providing a safety net while honoring the North American work ethic. Lord knows they could use more Mexican restaurants in Canada.

Calm down. This would never happen, because of all the nervous white people involved in the equation. But I really don't think life in North America would change all that much if we all thought of ourselves and each other as Americans. Let the Mexicans move up here. I want a beach house in Mexico. It could work out fine.

Every social advance in the United States has been accompanied by hysterical prophecies of doom and disaster. None have come to pass. Will we ever learn? Hell no, we're Americans damn it!
Sun God says that immigration is a problem because of economics and that employment is debased because illegals are hired by the meatpacking industry, farmers, construction industry, etc. on the cheap. Well perhaps the problem is the industry greed because they RECRUIT illegals to perform these jobs. The lawbreaking BEGINS with those who entice, then hire illegals. The illegals are deported, the industries get a harsh word and a slap on the wrist, if that.