To the Editor:
IN HER contribution to your symposium (“Taking President Trump Seriously: On ‘The Wall,’” November), Linda Chavez demonstrates a disturbing lack of understanding about illegal aliens and their ill effects on this country. One would hope that Commentary writers and editors would travel outside of New York City and venture into “flyover country.”
Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that when Arizona required employers to verify that their employees had a valid social-security number, the economy took a hit. On the other hand, employers had to start paying higher wages to U.S. citizens in order to obtain new workers. This constituted a wealth redistribution from employers to workers.
The U.S. government doesn’t have effective procedures to do the extreme vetting that is necessary when it comes to potential immigrants. This leaves Americans open to future Muslim terror attacks. America would benefit from admitting immigrants who are intelligent and have the highest moral and ethical standards. But Ms. Chavez is not proposing a merit-based immigration system.
Collectively, illegal aliens receive billions in child tax credits. Right now, men and women in our armed forces are using increasingly obsolete weapons. Our military doesn’t have the funds it needs to develop new weapon systems that could deter or defeat North Korea. Instead of giving money to illegal aliens, we should fund weapon systems to give our military men and women a fighting chance.
Richard R. Allen
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Linda Chavez writes:
RICHARD R. Allen’s letter contains several errors, the most egregious of which is the claim that I do not support a merit-based immigration system. Indeed, for the past 30 years, I have advocated—including in the pages of Commentary—for major changes in our immigration laws that would move to a merit-based system. Such changes would mean admitting new immigrants based on the positive contributions individuals make to our society. As someone with blue-collar roots who hails from and currently lives in “flyover country,” I think I understand Americans’ frustrations with our broken immigration system. We need to deter illegal immigration, but the best way to do that is to provide an opportunity to those whose only desire is to come to work in the United States and, especially, those with the skills and willingness to take jobs that Americans shun.
Mr. Allen suggests that a recent drop in the illegal-immigrant population in Arizona led to an increase in wages for American citizens. He’s wrong again. Not only did the state’s economy shrink by 2 percent, but there is no analysis that shows a positive impact on wages for citizens. The effect that immigrants have on wages is one of the most hotly debated issues in the immigration field, with economists mostly agreeing that immigrants (legal and illegal) have a small, net-positive effect on the average wages of American-born workers. Those most likely to see negative effects, especially from illegal immigrants, are other, demographically similar immigrants who arrived earlier. Even economist George Borjas, a favorite among critics of large-scale immigration, acknowledges that new immigrants depress wages primarily for earlier immigrants and their co-ethnics among less educated native-born workers. Moreover, the notion that higher wages mean “a wealth redistribution from employers to workers” is pure nonsense. Employers generally pass on increases in wages to their customers in higher prices for goods and service—which means we all pay—or they try to absorb the costs either by producing the same amount of goods or providing the same amount of service with few workers.
I am not sure what Mr. Allen means when he says the U.S. can’t do “the extreme vetting that is necessary when it comes to potential immigrants.” Is he suggesting that we stop all immigration to the U.S., or only keep out all Muslims, as he hints in his worries about “future Muslim terror attacks”? Even the Trump administration has now pulled back on its so-called Muslim ban in favor of a temporary halt in admitting persons from certain countries that have a history of terrorism. (All countries on the “banned” list are majority Muslim, though some Muslim-majority countries with a history of Islamic terrorism are missing from the list.) In any event, this issue will be decided by the Supreme Court, which has recently allowed the president’s third attempt at a temporary ban to go into effect.
Finally, Mr. Allen is partially right that some illegal-immigrant families have benefited from the refundable child credit in the U.S. tax code. Current law provides a $1,000-per-child refundable tax credit. This allows families that pay no income tax, because their income is below the taxable level, to receive a payment from the government equal to the credit. Since a majority of illegal immigrants do, in fact, pay taxes by using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) provided by the IRS, those illegal immigrants who file tax returns have heretofore been eligible to receive the child tax credit and to receive a refund if they owe no taxes. This loophole—at least as it applies to the refundable portion—should be closed and likely will be by the bills currently in conference between the Senate and House.