This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Immigration Reform Opponents Get Ugly

A couple of days ago, David Brooks of the New York Times had a very reasoned article focusing on what the opponents of immigration reform would actually accomplish by defeating the current immigration reform bill being considered in Congress. Toward the end he addresses the demographic realities of the US:
Finally, opponents of reform are trying to hold back the inevitable. Whether immigration reform passes or not, the United States is going to become a much more cosmopolitan country than it is now. The country will look more like the faces you see at college commencement exercises and less like the faces you see in senior citizen homes.
One crucial question is whether America will be better off in that future with today’s dysfunctional immigration laws or something else? Another interesting question is whether a major political party is going to consign itself to permanent irrelevance. If conservatives defeat immigration reform, the Republicans will definitely lose control of one thing for years to come: political power.
This article provided a good set of counter-arguments to the genuinely ugly report on immigration that came out that same day from the Heritage Foundation. Their report, innocuously titled "The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the US Taxpayer," claims that providing amnesty to the current undocumented immigrants would ultimately cost the US taxpayer $6.3 trillion dollars. This is based on the assumption that all such people will receive far more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. In other words, they and their children are and will forever be a poor and useless subset of the population. 

However, as the Huffington Post pointed out today, immigration supporters were ready for this:
Six years ago, the Heritage Foundation helped kill immigration reform. Now the conservative think tank is on the defensive, fielding attacks from left and right over its claim that reform would cost trillions. The change is a sign of why reform is far more likely to survive this time around.
In 2007, senior research fellow Robert Rector wrote two reports that helped kill immigration reform the following year — one predicting a flood of 100 million new legal immigrants over the next 20 years, the other again finding that reform would swell the welfare ranks. Senators referenced it during debates; Rush Limbaugh caught then-Vice President Cheney off-guard by asking about the findings in an interview.
A Heritage report co-authored by Rector released this week made similar claims. But this time reform supporters were ready — and coming from the right.
We can hope that the analysis is correct that this time the pieces really are in place to pass the legislation, despite the negative knee-jerk reactions to it on the part of some people.

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