“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” from Dune by Frank Herbert
This is the one where I get decidedly more partisan.
Fear and anxiety are powerful emotions. In fact, some would argue that those emotions are important to decision-making. Specifically, fear can lead a given individual to put more focus on catastrophic outcomes as opposed to an expected normative analysis.
Applying this to voting behavior, one could argue that fear of an outcome could lead a voter to over-focus on that less-likely outcome and vote based on the less-likely event. To translate that: people who are really afraid of getting involved in a car crash may want cars off the road all together. I don’t drive, so that one makes total sense to me.
Clearly, it is more valuable to have some cars on the road than to ban all cars because of the 1% chance you get hit. I would be over-focusing on an unlikely outcome, and losing real value/utility because of it. They are, however, gaining perceived value if they successfully ban cars because of their assumptions.
Let’s apply this to immigration policy.
By and large, Republicans are pessimistic about immigration and see it as a large threat to the nation. This is particularity interesting, as Republicans have also done a 180 on globalization. Globalization is decidedly pro-immigration at the end of the day. Immigration was ranked as a high priority by Republican voters; and the Trump campaign tied this in to global insurgency. (Global insurgency, Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism–whatever you want to call it–is a completely different essay. I’ll write that one at some point later, I promise. Right now, I’m going to focus specifically on illegal immigration).
Let’s break down immigration. I’m going to start with the the easiest point to knock down, the idea of ‘building a wall’.
Personally, I identify this as campaign rhetoric; I don’t think anyone, even Donald Trump, can seriously thing a physical wall would keep out immigrants. Dog whistles work. All campaigns use them to some degree. BUT I’ve been wrong before and will be wrong again, and we don’t have a clear immigration plan yet from Campus Trumpus outside of building a wall so let’s all pretend we’re in Wonderland and “begin at the beginning”.
Argument 1: Building a wall on the Mexican border will prevent or reduce the rate of illegal immigration to the United States.
Counterargument 1: The ACLU estimates that nearly half of illegal immigrants entered the country legally on visas and overstay them. In fact, according to the Department of Homeland Security as reported by conservative paper The Washington Times more than 500,000 visitors overstayed their visas in 2015–thus becoming illegal immigrants. This number is higher than the 408,870 people apprehended crossing our southern border in 2015 as reported by the DHS via the Daily Wire rag. This is about equal to the DHS estimate of how many people made it across the border, around 400,000.
For those playing the home game, that means that even if the wall were 100% effective and apprehended all estimated 400,000 immigrants crossing the border, the wall would be less than 50% effective at stopping illegal immigration. For those playing the deluxe edition, this isn’t counting the fact that a wall would probably cause more visa overstays.
Response to Counterargument 1: 50% ain’t bad, and we could stop them visa overstays, too.
Counterargument 2: To address your second point I’m going to go back to my favorite conservative newspaper source, the Washington Times, the Feds have had no success catching visa overstays. To address your first point, I’m going to bore you with math. Donald Trump estimated the cost of his border wall between 8 to 12 billion dollars US; other estimates say between 5.1 to 25 billion dollars US. I’m going to be a doll and go with the lowest estimate, and I’m going to be a pal and give you a $1,ooo,ooo dollar discount by going with a cool 5 billion dollars US. Illegal immigrants paid $7 billion in sales tax alone in 2013. 50% ain’t bad, it’s terrible. You’re removing a source of revenue greater than the cheapest estimate of your wall. Not to mention the Donald himself would be paying an extra $1 billion to lose a source of income. Insert bankruptcy joke here.
Response to Counterargument 2: it isn’t about the money, it’s about morality. People should not violate our laws.
Counterargument 3: I could take the easy route and argue that politics is amoral (I partially disagree, but that’s a different essay). I could take the easy route and invoke the Hitchen’s razor. I could take the easy route and cite times where the US violated international laws (US law, to a foreigner, would be international). But that’s not what you’re arguing. You’re arguing that violating the laws of the nation you are emigrating to disqualifies you from immigrating there.
To quote a famous emigrant, no, political refugee to America, Thomas Jefferson, “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.”
Our immigration laws are unjust. It is fundamentally American to do whatever you can to get here and become a part of our national fabric. It is fundamentally moral.
If you want to fix immigration, fix our immigration laws. A wall will do nothing. Cracking down on visa overstays increases your taxes or the national debt at best. If you cannot find it in you to be moral, at least be cheap.
Response to Counterargument 3: Cheap? They’re taking our jobs! Where is the morality in that?
Author’s Note: originally, I intended to write something about how my own anxiety and fear informs my voting behavior, and how that breaks with what you’d expect but the best laid plans go to waste. I think that theme is better for the aforementioned essay on terror, which will be written eventually. The beginning of that one will probably look similar to this one.