To Jeff Jacoby: Re your 7/6 Column on State Budget, Respectfully Suggest Reading 7/2 Column on Immigration by Jeff Jacoby:

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby thinks that we all owe a round of applause to the eight state legislators — all Republicans — who voted against the new fiscal year budget that was enacted last week.

These votes against the budget, Jacoby writes, benefit us all because they represent a blow against the centralized power wielded by the Democratic party in the state. He is particularly admiring of the memo that two of them –Representatives Marc Lombardo of Billerica and James Lyons of Andover — wrote to explain the reasons for their votes.

It might have been better if Jacoby had looked a little deeper into that explanation before praising it as “principled” and calling for a standing ovation for its authors, because it relies in large part on an unfounded fear of and hostility toward immigrants, a stance Jacoby himself justly criticized as “restrictionist” in a column that he wrote less than a week before.

In that earlier column, “The Stolen Job Myth,” Jacoby absolutely flattens a recent report by the Center for Immigration Studies (which, as he notes, favors sharp reductions in immigration) “purporting to show that all net jobs created in the United States over the past 14 years have gone to immigrants, both legal and illegal.” After demonstrating that report’s many flaws, Jacoby concludes that “immigrants aren’t taking jobs that ‘belong’ to Americans. They are fueling the economic engine that creates more opportunity for everyone, and we would be poorer by far without them.”

Now, the problem is that the eight dissenters whom Jacoby praised on July 6th are notable restrictionists of the kind he criticized on July 2nd. Here, for example is candidate Marc Lombardo in 2010: “I 100% support Arizona’s illegal immigration law…I would support a similar type law in Massachusetts. Illegal immigration is one of the most pressing matters facing the country because it cuts across all areas of life. Illegal aliens take jobs from Americans.” And, if you want more evidence, here are the bills that Representative Lombardo and Representative Ryan Fattman, another budget dissenter, filed to increase the penalties for employing undocumented immigrants.

The primary rationale for the votes of these eight legislators against the budget was their contention that taxpayer dollars are being spent on unqualified (which is to say, immigrant) recipients. This rationale relies on a study produced by an another anti-immigrant organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which asserts that 1.8 billion dollars have been spent in Massachusetts alone for public benefits to unqualified immigrant recipients. You can read about the very dubious premises behind this study here. Not surprisingly, they mirror Jacoby’s takedown of the jobs study.

And once the argument that the state is wasting $1.8 billion dollars on benefits to unqualified immigrants has been punctured, the other arguments of the budget dissenters — that taxes are too high and spending on local aid is too low — collapse. Their principled dissent is revealed as a mere tantrum.

Jacoby was exactly right in criticizing the restrictionists’ inconsistent position this way: “immigrants can be depicted on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays as indolent leeches who flock to the United States to go on welfare — and condemned on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for taking away jobs that would otherwise go to Americans.”

For proof, consider that vote on the budget happened on a Monday. That was one of the “indolent leech” days.

2 thoughts on “To Jeff Jacoby: Re your 7/6 Column on State Budget, Respectfully Suggest Reading 7/2 Column on Immigration by Jeff Jacoby:

  1. HP I am curious what your thinking is about what tactical efforts have been or could be effective in broadening the average Americans understanding of the economics of immigration as well as the human/humane factors? How do we inform and create benevolent opportunity? Thank you – I always learn something from your blogging.

    • Hi – thanks for writing. I think that the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (www.miracoalition.org) and a national counterpart, the National Immigration Law Center (www.nilc.org), are excellent sources of information and effective advocacy on immigration issues, so I turn to them frequently. It seems that anti-immigrant sentiments are strongest during times of economic stress, so I am hopeful that an improving economy will also improve the current “nativist” problem. Also, I think time is generally on our side. Thanks again – your comments are greatly appreciated.

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