Immigration: Good and Bad Arguments

I've mentioned before my ambivalence on the illegal immigration issue. There are a lot of good arguments on both sides, made by people I trust. But when people on one side make obviously poor arguments, that pushes me (probably irrationally) to the other side. I noted that kind of thing previously with David Friedman. Now I'm also seeing it, unfortunately, from Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek.

Don wants to confront the argument that "immigrants free-ride on government-provided goods." He admits that might be true, but:

But even if we conclude that, on pure cost-benefit grounds, the best course of action is to restrict immigration further because immigrants overuse public-supplied and subsidized goods and services, why blame immigrants? Why point accusing fingers at immigrants? Why not blame government for supplying and subsidizing things that it ought not supply and subsidize?
… and at this point, I'm thinking: wait, who's blaming anyone? Why is that even entering the equation? Aren't we all just trying to find a better policy than the status quo here?

On the web, it shouldn't be too hard to find examples of the kind of argument you're trying to refute. You can link to those arguments; you can quote them. And your readers can judge for themselves whether you're representing your opponents' arguments fairly. Your readers can also consider whether the folks you're refuting are truly representative of the other side, or just a handful of fringe-dwelling fruitcakes.

But when you don't link or quote the actual arguments of your opponents, it invites speculation that you're simply setting up a strawman. I've really come to expect better service than this at Cafe Hayek.

To see an actual argument about the type of (further) fiscal mess we might find ourselves in as a result of immigration "reform", check David Frum:

The first and most immediate impact of the president's amnesty/guestworker plan will be a huge increase in taxes on the American middle-class. 11 million illegals - plus unknown numbers of guestworkers and other low-income migrants - will become eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, for Medicaid, for unemployment insurance, for Section 8 housing, and so on and on through the menu of the American welfare state.

Libertarians may retort: Well these migrants would not be so costly if we abolished EITC, Medicaid, Section 8, etc. True enough. But these migrants will also qualify for the vote. David Boaz estimates that 9% of the 2004 electorate was economically and socially libertarian. I have no idea if that is accurate, but whatever the figure may be, I think we can guarantee that the number will plunge precipitously if the president and Senate succeed in adding millions of low-income, government-dependent, non-English-speaking, affirmative-action-eligible voters to the rolls.

Those business lobbies pushing for more cheap labor are adding a huge future liability to the public finances of the United States. The amnesty/guestworker plans in the Senate accommodate that demand. It's a little like the prescription drug benefit: a pleasant freebie for an influential constituency today at a huge, concealed cost to the taxpayers of tomorrow. This is not moderation; it is innumeracy.

There's none of the nasty accusations, blame, and finger-pointing at immigrants there; to the extent that there is blame, David is pointing his finger at Dubya, the Senate, and business lobbies. Don, and people on his side, should try to confront these types of arguments, if they can. If they keep flailing away at strawmen instead, people like me are likely to draw obvious conclusions.