On Tuesday, Charlie Thompson of The Patriot News’ capitol press team interviewed me about the slate of anti-immigrant bills currently before the state House and the House State Government Committee. That package, which is more appropriately called the “Sabotaging Our Economy Begins at the State Capitol” package, includes a mandate for all employers to use the E-Verify national ID system, a mandate for all local police to enforce federal immigration law, and second-class birth certificates for American-born children of undocumented parents.
Here’s the front page story that Thompson wrote.
Of course, a reporter can’t write everything his subjects tell him, and I’d like to expand a bit more on what I told him that did not end up in the article.
The first question Thompson asked was, what are your concerns, broadly, about this package of bills? (That’s not an exact quote, but that was the essence of his question.) My answer? Supporters of these bills are using misinformation and stereotypes about immigrants to advance their cause. For example:
- Legitimate academic research shows that immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, commit crime at lower rates than natural born citizens. And yet the primary pusher of this legislation makes wild claims about rapes and murders by “illegal aliens.”
- Supporters of bills to make English the “official language” of Pennsylvania claim that today’s immigrants aren’t assimilating. (Note that this is the same complaint that Benjamin Franklin had about the German immigrants of colonial Pennsylvania.) They never cite any research, and in fact, legit studies have shown that today’s immigrants are learning English as quickly as ever, and that previous generations of immigrants didn’t necessarily assimilate quickly.
- Supporters make certain statements about protecting jobs, but states that have passed punitive anti-immigrant laws have found that the economic results have been disastrous.
Oh, those pesky facts.
Pennsylvania’s rate of growth is one-third the national average. Our K-12 enrollment is the same as it was 20 years ago. Without immigration, the commonwealth would not have gained in population in real numbers at all over the last ten years. Philadelphia grew for the first time in several decades, thanks to its new immigrant population.
Economically, we cannot afford to do anything that scares people away from our state, as argued by Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute.
Supporters of these punitive bills don’t understand that the lines they rhetorically draw around undocumented immigrants and those with authorization disappear the minute these types of bills are enacted. When states like Georgia and Alabama and Arizona pass laws to turn our local police into federal immigration agents and to mandate the E-Verify national ID system with severe penalties, it impacts all immigrants. Why would authorized immigrants stick around in a state where they will be increasingly harassed by the police and discriminated against in the workplace? Why would any immigrant stay in a state in which the leaders of state government use ugly stereotypes about crime, unemployment, and assimilation?