11 Aug 2013

Etiology of Large-Scale Illegal Immigration


Ezra Klein explains that Princeton Professsor Doug Massey identifies the recent decades’ great influx of Hispanic illegal immigration as a classic case of unintended consequences. However, if you don’t like Hispanic immigration, Massey also points out, you can cheer up: that period of immigration is also basically over.

[T]he rise of America’s large undocumented population is a direct result of the militarization of the border. While undocumented workers once traveled back and forth from Mexico with relative ease, after the border was garrisoned, immigrants from Mexico crossed the border and stayed.

“Migrants quite rationally responded to the increased costs and risks by minimizing the number of times they crossed the border,” Massey wrote in his 2007 paper “Understanding America’s Immigration ‘Crisis.’” “But they achieved this goal not by remaining in Mexico and abandoning their intention to migrate to the U.S., but by hunkering down and staying once they had run the gauntlet at the border and made it to their final destination.”

The data support Massey’s thesis: In 1980, 46 percent of undocumented Mexican migrants returned to Mexico within 12 months. By 2007, that was down to 7 percent. As a result, the permanent undocumented population exploded.

The militarization also had another unintended consequence: It dispersed the undocumented population. Prior to 1986, about 85 percent of Mexicans who entered the U.S. settled in California, Texas or Illinois, and more than two-thirds entered through either the San Diego-Tijuana entry point or the El Paso-Juarez entry point. As the U.S. blockaded those areas, undocumented migrants found new ways in — and new places to settle. By 2002, two-thirds of undocumented migrants were entering at a non-San Diego/El Paso entry point and settling in a “nontraditional” state.

In recent years, the net inflow of new undocumented immigrants arriving from Mexico has fallen to zero. Some of the decline is due to the U.S. recession and a falloff in construction, which employed a lot of migrant workers. But some is due to an improving economy in Mexico, where unemployment is 5 percent and wages have been rising. “I personally think the huge boom in Mexican immigration is over,” Massey said.

Read the whole thing.

I think Massey is right.

12 Feedbacks on "Etiology of Large-Scale Illegal Immigration"


This story is full of intentional misrepresentations. Does anyone really believe the huge increase in illegal immigration is caused by “militarization” of our border? Or even more laughably that recent illegal immigration has fallen to zero! The increase in illegal immigration is a result of the acceptance and even encouragement of illegal immigration. Tha amnesty of 1986 being the biggest factor. As for illegal immigration dropping to zero it is totally untrue and most recently border watchers are calling the illegal immigration as a “rush on our borders”. The new proposed amnesty will simply cause even more illegal immigration. The country is lost. The intent is to flood the country with illegals and tax the citizens to pay for welfare and special treatment for the illegals until the economy and culture collapses.

Stephen Lawrence

How about the ease with which social benefits can be had? Like, for example, showing up at a hospital and receiving treatment courtesy of the taxpayer? Having a child born here means a great deal to people who have very little. An anchor baby is worth a lot of money. Immigration has destroyed the old blue collar town you grew up in, in the aspect of depressing wages so much that the remaining jobs are horribly compensated. I live in NEPA, and our wages have been stagnant for over 3 decades because of the oversupply of labor. Now the leaders of both parties want comprehensive reform. Please. What they want is the destruction of the historic American nation.


GWTW: As the article notes, the facts support Massey’s argument. Hispanic permanent residency in much larger percentage resulted from government efforts to control border crossings. If we’d kept the border open, lots of people would have come here to make some money and then simply gone back home.


Dr. Lawrence:

1) Immigrants come to America for economic opportunity and for a better future for their posterity. Nobody really comes here to hit the emergency room for some free services.

2) The overwhelming majority of Hispanic immigrants are here to work. We did reform welfare back in the 1990s.

The interesting exception seems to be NE PA decaying coal towns like Shenandoah. There is a welfare Hispanic population which settled there because the cost of living is so low, and in order to be near relatives in the local prisons.

3) NE PA being an economic disaster area has nothing to do with labor competition from Hispanics. The region was historically a wilderness settled as mining boom towns. As Anthracite declined, the whole region and all its towns and cities settled into a long and apparently permanent decline. The massive brain drain of talented residents, the low quality of local housing stock, the monocultural economics of coal mining, the relative paucity of educational and cultural institutions, and the anti-intellectual mentality of the PA German religious extremists and the later Roman Catholic immigrant groups all contributed to the fatal progress of decline.

I’d say that the current Hispanics arrival really just represents one more cruel joke on the part of History.

Phil McKann

I know, I know you want Massey to be right. But he is not.

I just took a road trip from Oxnard California to Palm Springs, California. 170 miles of mostly Mexicans. They’re not here because it is too expensive to go home, they’re here because it is home.

That population hit a critical mass in the early nineties and they’re not going anywhere. One day they’ll be looking to evict you, laughing all the way at the absurd gringo with Libertarian-colored glasses.


Cause and effect. Something that usually trips up “theories”. We tightened up the laws and the theory is that caused massive illegal immigration because it was too hard to go home and come back. But BUT… we tightened up the laws and not the border. About 2 million illegals from Mexico and South America cross the border illegally every year. Now seriously does that sound like we tightened up the border? SO what caused the dramatic increase in illegal immigration? The 1986 amnesty of course! Not to mention presidential decrees allowing illegals to stay even after they are arrested for committing crimes and numerous legal/court rulings that keep illegals here contrary to our laws and the will of the people. We are screwed. It’s over. About the only hope would be a massive uprising by the American people, Obama’s impeachment, or a revolution. I don’t see any of those happening. What will happen is amnesty and after amnesty of the 12-20 million illegals and welfare for all the borders will be rushed by millions and millions looking for the next amnesty. So what will the good professor say then? I suspect he knows the truth and will be laughing up his sleeve at how stupid Americans are. It’s over, the American dream is over because our politicians sold us out for a few votes and the power that brings them. Now the politicians will tax the shit out of us to pay off the new citizens with welfare and other free stuff as long as they vote Democrat. Is this a great country or what?

Vernon Speer

A short vignette, humor me.

I grew up in in South Texas. I lived in Robstown, a small ranching/farming community of 10,000.
Our home in Robstown was on Ligustrum Blvd. Ligustrum was nicknamed “Silk Stocking St.”, the boulevard having maintained homes and manicured lawns. My Dad had a law degree from Baylor, an attorney lived across the street, two doctors, a dentist and two pharmacist shared the block. It was the “nicer” street in town. I admit to somewhat of a privileged childhood. Dad died some 20 years ago. The house was sold as were most of the homes in the neighborhood as neighbors aged. The homes sold at pennies on the dollar. Why? Robstown is no longer a viable town, main street is boarded up, the tax base is nonexistent. The town resembles many others in south Texas. It is now a town of Mexicans…not Hispanics, not Anglos, not Blacks, but Mexicans that are or were illegals. Mass migration, as a result of a porous border, have overwhelmed this community, most of South Texas, much of the four tier states bordering Mexico, and many southern cities. The thousand which cross daily, day after day, have become millions.

Then and now:
In 1964 the demographics of Robstown broke out something like 60% Anglo, 30% Hispanic, 10% Black…
I’ll use 1964 for comparison as it’s the year I graduated from Texas A&M, joined the corporate world and left Texas.

This is the census of Robstown as of 2010, now a town of 11,000
Note the 2010 census classifies this group as Hispanic. This is not the case. They are Mexicans; alien in culture, overwhelming in number and un-assimilated. Very few Hispanics remain in Robstown.
Non-Hispanic Population
White 568
Black 131
American Indian 9
Asian 14
Pacific Islander 1
Some Other Race 6
Two or More Races 6
Hispanic 10,752

Last week a cousin from Houston, passing through Robstown, sent this photo of our block via his cell. The boulevard was lined with Ligustrum trees with a middle island of 20 ft. palms…no más.

There’s no single factor that determines civic prosperity, but an all-else-being-equal analysis shows that demographics play a sizable role.

Illegal immigration/mass Mexican migration hasn’t changed in my lifetime, but, the country has. We no longer need vast armies of unskilled labor to pick cotton, cut cane, harvest truck… Mexico’s mandatory 8th grade education requirement is a poor fit for our technical economy…few have any marketable skills as there is little opportunity in Mexico with which to gain these skills…few speak English and none cross the border with money or means to support themselves, only those who would swell the ranks of the unemployed with casual labor, or if employed, compete for the minimum wage jobs. We share a common border with Mexico…and with Canada. Mexico has a non-functioning government, Canada does, Mexico is the problem, Canada is not. The Federal government is tasked to control the borders. We have a legislated immigration policy which allows entrance in numbers which allow some assimilation…be they red, white, yellow, green or blue…the illegals entrance has made a mockery of this. This isn’t a new problem…the open border was dinner table conversation when I was a child, that conversation still is. I’ve experienced 71 years of political procrastination. We had open borders then, we have open borders now…another Amnesty Bill is being proposed. Amnesty without border control is insane.

Although VISA overstay is a problem nationally, the souther tier of states carry the burden of massive illegal crossings…Texas and the souther tier of states are a stark example of why borders should be controlled.

Phil McKann

One last parting shot, JDZ. The facts support many arguments, not just Massey’s. Correlation/Causation, and all that.

But I would suggest that there aren’t many Libertarians in Mexico, and this is an academic argument anyway because the politicians have no intention of doing anything other than legalizing the lot. So you’ll at least get to be the one with the dead right philosophical argument.

Any philosophical perspective to an open borders policy ended when the government distorted the whole mess.

Maggie's Farm

Tuesday morning links…

Retriever’s web site is back Breaking Bad Returns: Is This Show Even About Walter White Anymore? LEEDS certification: When Sustainability is not Sustainable Can Beirut Be Paris Again? Freed from Syrian domination, Lebanon’s capital could shine….

Stephen Lawrence

I would argue that educational opportunities are robust in NEPA, along with cultural, which are appropriate for a region of this size and population. The local colleges are truly excellent. The university of Scranton, is highly regarded in the northeast Catholic enclaves as a great choice for college. Unfortunately, the brain drain is real…. In my family alone 4 of 7 siblings moved away, while 2 of my children have moved away. I think that blaming the religious Germans and Roman Catholics misses the mark. This area has been a hotbed of unionism, always has been. The local counties have had zero competition in voting, it may as well be Stalin’s Russia with the monolithic thinking and voting patterns. Dem controlled for decades, remember Dan Flood? Several years ago, on a plane flight to Atlanta, I had the opportunity to sit next to an executive from a Mountaintop, Pa., food manufacturer. He told me point blank that our union reputation around the country is horrendous. He said that all manufacturers know this and they move here to take advantage of the tax breaks and then leave when the benefits expire. 7 years in, and then gone. We keep trying, however. It is all fine.
BTW, love your blog. I always get some different perspectives. I have an employee from near your hometown, you calls it Chendo!? Or Shendo? Our culture! Slovak here, and you Lithuanian… Friends and visitors are mesmerized when I just tell the tale of Jewish migration into Wyoming Valley, even though I am not Jewish. The story of the Eastern European stock here is part and parcel of the Jewish experience. I sometimes envy your movement to Virginia, every time I visit that state, I decide that I must move there. But home is here. Sister Justitia made sure I remembered that. Peace.


Schuylkill County was less monolithically democrat-voting, because the respectable Lithuanians, when they got off the boat met the Irish, and then inquired whom the Irish were voting for, resulting in Lithuanians commonly being rock-ribbed Republicans. In my boyhood during the Eisenhower presidency, our congressman was Dr. Ivor D. Fenton (R) from Mahanoy City.

I had one high school friend who went there, but I otherwise know little about the University of Scranton. I think you will agree with me that U of S, and even our Penn State extensions, fail to function like, for instance, Stanford, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz in serving as incubators of entrepreneurial activity.was

Yes, Shenandoah was commonly referred to as “Shendo.” When people wanted to be quaint and folksy, they’d speak of “Shandor.” “Chendo” was a kind of mock, derisory pronunciation. My father, born in Mahanoy City, referred to Shenandoah as “Zululand,” which I believe was his attempt at translating the Lithuanian epithet applied to Shenandoah: zhariya. Zhariya really means “the burning embers,” i.e., “the infernal region.”


The Jewish merchant families in Shenandoah seem to have come from exactly the same places in Lithuania as the Catholic Lithuanian immigrants. My parents used to buy their furniture and appliances from Benny Schor. I can remember Benny sitting me on his knee, when I was a small boy, and telling me that he had sold furniture to my great grandfather in Lithuania, and when I grew up, he was going to sell furniture to me!


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