Reason's Home Run on Immigration
By David Henderson
When I dug into [Reason e-book] Humane and Pro-Growth, I realized that I had fallen behind in the immigration debate. Sure, I had read all of my [Econlog] co-blogger Bryan Caplan’s excellent posts on immigration. And I’ve become quite familiar with the powerful arguments that Kennedy School economist Lant Pritchett and the Center for Global Development’s Michael Clemens have made for much more open borders. But what I was not familiar with was how anti-immigration many conservatives at National Review and other publications have been and how well journalists like Shikha Dalmia and Kerry Howley have answered them and other critics. My attitude toward this e-book is much like that of John Maynard Keynes after reading Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. Keynes stated, “In my opinion it is a grand book…. Morally and philosophically I find myself in agreement with virtually the whole of it: and not only in agreement with it, but in deeply moved agreement.”
This is the opening paragraph of “The Powerful Case for Immigration,” my review of Humane and Pro-Growth: A Reason Guide to Immigration Reform, edited by Shikha Dalmia. My review appears in Regulation, Spring 2014, and was just published.
An excerpt on my discussion of immigrant crime:
Why, then, do many Americans think that illegal immigrants are particularly dangerous? Could it be because we’ve heard people like Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) say that illegal immigrants murder 12 Americans a day and kill another 13 Americans daily by driving drunk? In a 2009 article, “The El Paso Miracle,” Reason contributing editor Radley Balko artfully debunks King’s statistics. According to Balko, King says he got these numbers from a Government Accountability Office study that he had requested. Well, not quite. What the GAO study showed is that 27 percent of prisoners in federal prisons are non-citizens. According to Balko, King then applied that 27 percent to all murders and DWI fatalities and, voila, concluded that 27 percent of those crimes are committed by non-citizens. Talk about proof by assumption! I would not want Steve King teaching statistics. Of course, as Balko notes, most convicted murderers and DWI offenders are in state prisons or local jails, not in federal prisons. And according to the Bureau of Justice, only 6.4 percent of inmates in all prisons combined are non-citizens. My own quick check of U.S. data shows that in 2010, 7.3 percent of people living in the United States were non-citizens. In other words, non-citizens are slightly underrepresented in U.S. prisons.
As is perhaps obvious, I recommend the whole book.