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Immigration and Fallacies Do They Belong Together?

Immigration and Fallacies Do They Belong Together?

C r i t i ca l / A n a l yt i c a l P a p er

Critical Thinking (HU 101)

Immigration and Fallacies Do They Belong Together?

Introduction We didnt talk about this topic in class, nor did I read an article which made me think of writing about this. But I heard the following conversation (simplified) about illegal immigration in the U.S. on campus: Anti: "I believe that illegal immigration is not good for our country." Pro: "Of course you would say that, you're a racist." Anti: "What about the arguments I gave to support my position?" Pro: "Those don't count. Like I said, you're a racist, so you have to say that illegal immigration is bad. Further, you are also a bigot and a hater as well as a racist, so I can't believe what you say." After we talked about fallacies in class and with just using my common sense, I was very stunned about the pro-persons argumentation. This conversation made me think about the topic of immigration in the U.S. and Europe and somehow, the arguments pro and contra are always the same no matter if in the U.S. or in, say, Germany. Most people just dont have the knowledge to discuss a matter like this, thus they come up with many fallacies in order to back-up their argumentation. I shortly want to describe some basic fallacies regarding immigration in the U.S. and then quickly describe the current situation and my opinion (incl. fallacies!) on this topic. Common Fallacies in the Area of Immigration Matters The conversation I cited above contains an Ad Hominem fallacy (irrelevant conclusion). Person A makes claim X. Person B makes an attack on person A. Therefore A's claim is false. An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the person presenting the claim or argument.1 Here are a few more examples of fallacies2 used in regard to immigration: 1. Appeal to Pity: Almost every newspaper article on immigration will make an argumentum ad misericordiam (usually at the beginning): Widowed Maria Vargas, who works two jobs
1

Cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem; Retrieved 04/06/2008 Cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies; Retrieved 04/06/2008

Immigration and Fallacies Do They Belong Together?

and sews her own clothes, only wants to make a better life for her baby girl. She heard that in America, if she works hard, she can give her daughter the life she could only dream of as a child. By focusing our emotions on the plight of the individual, the author distracts from the overall effect of a million Maria Vargases. 2. Accident, thats the fallacy caused by over-strict adherence to a rule or principle, e.g.: Hardworking people are good for the economy. Immigrants are hardworking people. Therefore, immigrants are good for the economy. 3. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc (literally, after this, therefore because of this) is a causal fallacy. One thing happening doesnt mean it caused the other. For example: After our huge wave of immigration at the turn of the century, America went on to greatness. This may be true, but it does not follow that such greatness was caused by the huge wave of immigration. In fact, greatness may have been achieved despite immigration. That are just a few examples, but basically every single fallacy can be and is used in regard to immigration (which answers the topic of this paper). And again, as I mentioned before, this is not just the case in the U.S. but also in Germany, France, Great Britain etc. Also, you wont find it only in connection with topics like immigration but especially with all topics which are very controversial and emotional. Immigrants Welcome or Not? Now I shortly want to outline my opinion on immigration. But since immigration is a widely used term and since we often hear from immigration opponents that illegal workers, for example, are stealing work places and cost a lot of money, I just want to focus on this issue in regard to undocumented workers. 35.7 million is the number of foreign-born people in the United States as of 2005, including 12.8 million naturalized citizens, 11.8 million legal permanent residents, and 11.1 million undocumented

Immigration and Fallacies Do They Belong Together?

immigrants. 7.2 million of those undocumented immigrants actually work.3 Like I said, I want to concentrate on this last group of people (which is bigger now in 2008). I want to approach the question if undocumented workers are welcome or not from two perspectives, the legal and the ethical side. From the legal side it is to say that undocumented workers are illegally living and working in this country, thus they are not living conformal with the United States law. Thats a clear fact which is not to argue (Fallacy?!). Just looking at the problem from this side certainly makes it easy for the observer to say that undocumented workers have to be arrested and deported to their home country. It makes it also easy to say that employers who employ undocumented workers have to be penalized in some form because they are supporting the lives of illegal migrants in the United States. Without answering now the question if these employers have to be penalized for hiring undocumented workers (Are they really that undocumented when they apply for work? Is the documentation business concentrating on illegal migrants a multi-million dollar business for some not-that-legal-groups of people?) I want to point out the perspective from the ethical point of view. So, is it ethically okay to deport undocumented workers back to their home country where they will experience a bad and poor live and where they most likely arent able to take care of their families? Or should the U.S. open up the borders and therefore eliminate undocumented workers? Both ways, in my opinion, are too strict. Too many undocumented workers are in this country as that some should be deported, basically on a random basis. Where do you start? Who do you deport the one with family or the single young man? But just opening the borders isnt a solution either. It somehow works in Europe but even there its getting difficult now. As soon as you have a neighbor which is tremendously poorer than your own country, you will experience problems if you totally open the borders. You have to find a happy medium. But, first of all, let me quickly outline
3

Cf. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/05/numbers_immigration.html; Retrieved 04/04/2008

Immigration and Fallacies Do They Belong Together?

the current situation: Undocumented workers contribute to the U.S. economy although there are zero relationships found between rates of economic growth, the absolute size of the pool of foreignborn workers, or job prospects for native-born workers during the economic boom of the 1990s, the recession that followed, and the subsequent recovery, as the PewHispanic Center found out in 2006.4 In addition, undocumented workers contribute $7 billion per year to the Social Security Trust Fund through payroll taxes paid on ITINs (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) and fraudulent SSNs. And 2.5 million would be the shortfall of low-skill workers that would result if undocumented immigrants were removed from the labor force.5 We see that a huge economical problem would occur. But not only that, it also seems like its not the biggest problem on the agenda of American people. According to another PewHispanic research survey, 65% of Americans think immigrants take jobs that Americans dont want, and 81% of Americans say they themselves or a family member have not lost a job to an immigrant worker.6 Obviously, its not such a rigorous problem in peoples opinions that we would have to deport all undocumented workers. Instead, we find a middle course. A first step to that certainly is the opportunity for undocumented workers to file their taxes with the ITIN, knowing the IRS is not sharing any kind of data with immigration bureaus. This way, they are able to work positively towards their legal possible immigration one day, and they support the U.S. tax system tremendously with their money and all the areas the tax money is going to, as I mentioned earlier in this paper, often without getting any services out of it for them (besides eventually hospitalization etc.). They may be here illegally, but they do something right for themselves and for the American community. Reflection Like I said earlier, with this high amount of undocumented workers in the U.S. its not possible to return them all and if we will find an unfair imbalance. Also, the elimination of borders isnt the best idea, in my opinion, when the bordering countries are unequal in many areas, for example
4

Cf. http://pewhispanic.org/files/execsum/69.pdf; Retrieved 04/04/2008

Cf. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/05/numbers_immigration.html; Retrieved 04/04/2008


6

Cf. http://pewhispanic.org/files/reports/63.pdf; Retrieved 04/04/2008

Immigration and Fallacies Do They Belong Together?

their economical system and success. Plainly opening the borders would create even bigger problems for the U.S. economy, especially in times like these. But it also doesnt make sense to build a fence for $2 billion or to invest more money into the border system without achieving better results (in 1992, the cost to apprehend one person attempting to cross the border was $300; in 2002 it was $1700, and the minimum cost of mass-deportation is $206 million over five years)7. Instead of approaching the problem in such radical ways or instead of spending so much money into something which obviously doesnt really work out, the whole immigration law has to be changed. I think if the U.S. wouldnt be that strict with immigration, things would be better. In addition, as we saw earlier in this paper, the low-income workers are needed to keep the system running. More people applying for work authorization from a foreign country should be admitted to work here legally. That way, even more currently undocumented workers would pay taxes, social security etc. and the whole discussion about illegal workers would end and it might even be that more companies hire foreign workers. If something serious would happen which makes the immigration law more positive, Im confident a momentum would occur and things would change tremendously to the good in regard to the economy, low-income jobs (for hard-working people) etc. So my recommendation is to lower the immigration law standards (why being that radical?) or at least to launch standards which actually dont fail in the real-world, and to start again to welcome foreign workers (high-profile workers face the same problems, they often have to wait years until they get issued a visa) and support immigration.

References

Cf. http://www.freetrade.org/pubs/pas/tpa-029.pdf; Retrieved 04/05/2008

Immigration and Fallacies Do They Belong Together?

Cato Institutes Center for Trade Policy Studies. 2005. Backfire at the Border - Why Enforcement without Legalization Cannot Stop Illegal Immigration. Retrieved on April 5, 2008 from http://www.freetrade.org/pubs/pas/tpa-029.pdf Center for American Progress. 2008. Immigration by Numbers. Retrieved on April 4, 2008 from http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/05/numbers_immigration.html PewHispanic Center. 2006. Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born. Retrieved on April 4, 2008 from http://pewhispanic.org/files/execsum/69.pdf PewHispanic Center. 2006. Americas Immigration Quandry. Retrieved on April 4, 2008 from http://pewhispanic.org/files/reports/63.pdf Wikipedia. 2008. Ad Hominem Fallacy. Retrieved on April 6, 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem Wikipedia. 2008. List of Fallacies. Retrieved on April 6, 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies