The Friday Roundup - 1/26/2024 Border Crisis Edition
Just what the hell is going on in Texas?
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Happy Friday everyone!
This week has been kind of strange. As I mentioned in my last post, we’re doing a lot of processing after the funeral of my father-in-law, and trying to figure out what’s next for our family. Our oldest child at home graduates in May, our overpriced lease is up in June, our ties to Arizona have come undone one-by-one, and whatever comes next is still TBD. But now is the time to figure things out and start packing.
All of this has me thinking more than usual about politics. The politics of where we live now, and where we might go. There are good things about Arizona, but like many formerly stalwart conservative states, it is sliding in California’s direction, no doubt influenced by the number of Californians moving here. Thousands of them every month. The state has gone from red to purple in just a few short years, and I don’t know how long it will be before it’s midnight blue.
My religious beliefs may have changed, but my civic beliefs are still mostly a mix of conservativism and libertarianism. As the father of a large family, I am conservative by nature. As a someone who has had to rely on state assistance to help with things like the cost of my father-in-law’s long-term care, my views tend not to fall into economic extremes of libertarianism, even though I prefer smaller governments and maximum freedom. I think there’s a lot of nuance in the human experience, and my only non-negotiables are things like total opposition to mutilating children in the name of gender ideology, or my opposition to abortion, which I never needed religion to understand the horror of.
And while I’m open to discussions on immigration policy, I’m also pretty inflexible on the border. It must be secure, and immigration must be controlled. We can’t afford any other scenario.
I’ve lived in Southern border states for about 10 of my 46 years. I’ve traveled extensively through Mexico by both car and bus, and done door-to-door missionary work in some of the remote reaches of Michoacán. I have a genuine fondness for the Mexican people and recognize the plight of countless individuals who come to America looking for a better life. But national sovereignty is real and necessary, and this crisis is about so much more than feelings.
As Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman famously wrote:
"It's just obvious you can't have free immigration and a welfare state."
In prepared testimony given to Congress earlier this month, Steven Camarota, the Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies, summarized his findings as follows:
Illegal immigrants are a net fiscal drain, meaning they receive more in government services than they pay in taxes. This result is not due to laziness or fraud. Illegal immigrants actually have high rates of work, and they do pay some taxes, including income and payroll taxes. The fundamental reason that illegal immigrants are a net drain is that they have a low average education level, which results in low average earnings and tax payments. It also means a large share qualify for welfare programs, often receiving benefits on behalf of their U.S.-born children. Like their less-educated and low-income U.S.-born counterparts, the tax payments of illegal immigrants do not come close to covering the cost they create.
Camarota estimates that “the illegal immigration population grew to 12.8 millions by October of 2023, up 2.5 million since January 2021, when the president took office.” This is much lower than the estimate of 10 million asserted in this op-ed at The Hill, and echoed by a number of conservative politicians:
If some 10 million immigrants have crossed the border in the three years since Biden became president on Jan. 20, 2021, we could be looking at 15 million to 20 million more by the time he leaves office on Jan. 20, 2029.
According to Pew Research, there were only 3.5 million “unauthorized immigrants” — Pew’s term — living in the U.S. in 1990. That number peaked at 12.2 million in 2005, then gradually declined, including during the Trump years, to 10.2 million in 2019.
What about during the Biden years? According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Border Patrol had some 8.5 million illegal immigrant “encounters” from fiscal 2021 through November.
Besides the 8.5 million encounters, there are those who entered the U.S. illegally with the express intent of avoiding detection. Estimates put that number at 1.7 million “gotaways” over the past three years, which gives us the 10 million estimate.
Of course, these numbers are estimates. No one can be sure of the actual number, especially since many here illegally do their best not to be detected. Whatever the real number, it is larger than ever and growing quickly.
Camarota estimates that illegal immigrants receive $42 billion in taxpayer-funded benefits, and $7 billion in emergency medical benefits annually. If the real number of immigrants are higher than his estimates, however, the true numbers could be much more.
These days, of course, it’s about much more than economics. There is an alarming surge of young, military-aged men from countries unfriendly to America crossing along with your everyday Mexican migrants looking to improve their material situation. (More on that in a minute.)