Whack a mole?

Reuters posted an article called “Frustrated U.S. lawmakers urge tough action on child migration” which caused me several WTF moments.  By the end of it, I had a different adjective in mind besides “frustrated.”  Here are some low-lights:

1. Michigan Republican Representative Candice Miller suggested cutting off aid and repealing free trade agreements with Mexico and the Central American countries involved. “We need to whack them, our neighbors, to understand that they are just not going to keep taking our money and we are just going to be sitting here like this – we’re not the ATM machine,” she said.

Whack?  really?  is that the word you wanted to use Candice?

2. Alabama Republican Mike Rogers scoffed after Johnson said he had discussed the issue with Guatemalan authorities. “I think what you need to do is ask the Guatemalan government where they want these kids dropped off when the buses bring them back down there,” Rogers said.

It’s sad when the Homeland Security Secretary is the big softie in the room.  Jeh Johnson (not a typo!) argued:

“We are talking about large numbers of children, without their parents, who have arrived at our border – hungry, thirsty, exhausted, scared and vulnerable. How we treat the children, in particular, is a reflection of our laws and our values.”


Despite the Virginia primary result, are Americans are becoming less anti-immigrant?

Yes! According to this report in the NY Times at least. Here’s a couple quotes:

Today, six in 10 Americans say immigrants “strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents,” according to the results, while roughly three in 10 say immigrants are a burden “because they take jobs, housing and health care.” In a survey in 2010 with the same questions but different participants, Americans were almost evenly divided, with 45 percent saying immigrants helped the country and 43 percent calling them a burden.

and this too:

The poll is based on interviews with a random sample of 1,538 Americans who took the same survey last year. Support has remained “remarkably steady,” the survey found, for a path to citizenship for more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the country “if they meet certain requirements,” declining one percentage point from 63 percent a year ago.

The poll found that 17 percent of Americans favor legal permanent-resident status, but not citizenship, for those immigrants, while 19 percent favor identifying and deporting them. Those figures have also changed little from last year.


The article also notes that the Tea Party is a huge outlier from these numbers (in the anti-immigrant direction).





Immigration Visualized, 100 years later

largest-immigrant-population_0Thanks to Mental Floss for this great graphic of immigration changes from 1910-2010 (click on the image for a more readable illustration). One thing I learned is that Canadians really seem to like cold weather.  I thought maybe they would migrate predominantly to the US South or perhaps Hawaii, but why would they choose those beautiful, sunny places when they could go to Montana and North Dakota instead?

It’s also amazing to see how varied immigration was in 1910 (what was up with Nevada and the Italians?) and how dominant Mexican immigration is 100 years later.

Fun with Maps









I’m teaching a Master’s level class for the first time this spring on Global Political Economy.  One of the sections we are going to cover is on immigration.  With all of Lant Pritchett and Michael Clemens’ great work on this topic, I actually have too much material for that section of the class.  I need to work to actually pare it down some.

Having said that, I do think I’ll add the following map to the syllabus.  It gives a very nice illustration of how big migration flows are across the world, much more so then just a bunch of numbers on their own. I’d like to have one in per-capita terms as well but this is a good start.


h/t Amazing_Maps



Finally saw “Elysium” at home with Mrs. Angus. What a compassionate and unrepentantly pro-immigration movie!

“I cannot arrest a citizen of Elysium”.

It’s true that even the rich in America don’t have the healthcare and security of the residents of Elysium, but there are billions of non-citizens whose lives are much worse than the “dystopian” scenario of Los Angeles in the movie.

We need to get Lant Pritchett a brain hacking chip and Michael Clemons an exo-suit, and make a lot more people into “citizens of Elysium”.


Clemens & Sandefur bring the thunder

Oh my.

Foreign Affairs has their exhaustive and incisive takedown of Paul Collier’s “Exodous”

My favorite bit came at the end:

To get a sense of just how big the gains that Collier brushes aside are, consider the following back-of-the-envelope calculation. Assume for a moment that everything Collier says is correct. He argues that there is an optimal level of emigration from low-income countries and that it lies somewhere between Bangladesh’s rate of around four percent, which he deems beneficial, and Haiti’s level of around ten percent, which he deems harmful. Many low-income countries have emigration rates far below four percent. If those rates were raised to four percent, that would mean about 13 million new immigrants (using the World Bank’s definition of low-income countries and its 2010 estimates of cross-country migration numbers). If all of them moved to OECD countries, the foreign-born population of the OECD countries would rise from 12 percent to 13 percent — the same level found in the United States and far below the 20 percent share in Canada and the 27 percent share in Australia.

Those people would move from countries with average annual incomes of about $600 to countries where average incomes are over $30,000, transforming their lives and adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the world economy every year. In other words, even if one concedes Collier’s dubious moral and empirical claims about immigration, his own analysis suggests colossal potential gains from new immigration without substantial offsetting harm. But somehow, in his policy conclusions, Collier preoccupies himself exclusively with restricting immigration.

Can I get an Amen?


“While Washington waffles, I’m not waiting”

I never thought I’d be quoting California governor Jerry Brown but in some rare good news for immigration reform, he signed into law sweeping new reforms yesterday.  Here are the major reforms, set to go into force in January 2014:

1. “Immigrants in this country illegally would have to be charged with or convicted of a serious offense to be eligible for a 48-hour hold and transfer to U.S. immigration authorities for possible deportation.”

2. “Undocumented immigrants can be licensed as lawyers.”

3. “It will be a crime for employers to “induce fear” by threatening to report a person’s immigration status and allow for the suspension or revocation of employers’ business licenses if they retaliate against employees because of citizenship or immigration status.”

4. “There will be a new policy to allow people to apply for driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.”

The article goes on to not that while many other states have enacted similar reforms, the impact of California’s actions could be especially dramatic since nearly 20% of illegal immigrants in the US are thought to reside there.

It’s nice for a change to wake up to some good news about government action.

Making immigration reform personal



The NY Times has a good article today called “Immigrants Reach Beyond a Legal Barrier for a Reunion.”  The above photo, taken from the article, is heart wrenching. It shows the reunion of a young woman and her mother at the border in Nogales. The mother was deported 6 years ago and the daughter isn’t allowed to leave the US and legally return. There were three such reunions that day between deported parents and kids left behind in the US.

The children are part of a group called Dreamers, which advocates for immigration reform. As this article explains, they are “commonly referred to as “DREAMers” because they comprise most (though not all) of the individuals who meet the general requirements of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.”

The good thing about sad photos such as this is that it makes immigration reform real and personal to many Americans who might be against reform (or at least are neutral).  The more people recognize that these are real families that are being torn apart by our immigration policies, the more support I think there will be for serious change. Or at least I’m hoping so.