PragerU’s Video “Who Cares about Illegal Immigration?” Has Numerous Problems

PragerU recently released a video by podcaster and influencer Will Witt titled “Who Cares about Illegal Immigration?” PragerU has released immigration videos before that also have serious factual errors that support dubious conclusions, one of which I’ve critiqued. Their newest video is no exception. Below I will block quote a few of Witt’s statements and respond.

Did you know that we are, in effect, adding a new city the size of Philadelphia to our country every year? That’s how many illegal immigrants came into the United States in 2021 and will in 2022.

Border Patrol and the Office of Field Operations have made about 2 million apprehensions of illegal border crossers in 2021 and will do so again in 2022, but apprehensions are not the same as 2 million individuals. In 2021, the government recorded a recidivism rate of 27 percent – meaning that 27 percent of those apprehended were previously returned or removed by the U.S. government and then tried to cross again.

As a Department of Homeland Security report recently stated, “A conceptual limitation of apprehension rate data is that they include information about border apprehensions but exclude information about turn backs (subjects who, after making an unlawful entry into the United States, return to the country from which they entered, not resulting in an apprehension or got away) … In this sense, measures of the apprehension rate understate USBP’s overall enforcement success rate.”

Furthermore, the number of individuals apprehended is not the same as the number of people who gained entry to the United States. Witt should have been clearer on this point.

It’s estimated that Americans spend $200 billion a year to house, feed, school, and care for illegal immigrants.

The $200 billion number comes from flawed research by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). I criticized FAIR’s report here. FAIR arrives at their conclusion by counting welfare and education consumed by the U.S.-born children of American citizens who are not illegal immigrants, exaggerating the number of illegal immigrants, oddly counting the cost of immigration enforcement as incurred by the illegal immigrants themselves, exaggerating illegal immigrant welfare use even though they are excluded from virtually all welfare programs, undercounting taxes paid by illegal immigrants, ignoring tax revenue paid by others as a result of illegal immigrant workers being here, and ignoring the extra economic activity generated by illegal immigrants. There is an important discussion to have about the fiscal impact of illegal immigrants, which is likely positive or neutral, but using widely discredited numbers worsens the quality of that debate. We should build a higher wall around the welfare state instead of around the country.

Doesn’t it seem likely that these illegal immigrants would work for almost any wage to make money? Wouldn’t that drive down wages for low‐​skilled American citizens—of every race and ethnicity—with whom they would be competing for jobs? What happens to those citizens, including legal immigrants, if they get priced out of the job market altogether? Is anybody thinking about them?

Immigrants have a small impact on the labor market with a net‐​effect of slightly raising the wages of native‐​born Americans. Most of the wage research on how immigrants affect the wages of natives focused on the relative impact of immigrants on the wages of Americans by education. That research does not show absolute declines in wages with rare exceptions.

Why don’t more workers reduce wages? Immigrants are workers but they are also entrepreneurs who employ workers or at least themselves, the capital markets adjust to new workers by increasing investment in machines and tools that increase worker productivity and wages, immigrants are often complementary to native workers, and they increase demand for goods and services that also boosts labor demand.

Violent crime is increasing across the country at an alarming rate. Under these circumstances, does it make sense to allow two million people a year into the country about whom we know nothing? We don’t know if they have a criminal record, if they’re carrying a disease, or anything else about them.

Crime is increasing, but immigrants are far less likely to commit violent and property crimes than native‐​born Americans. Texas is the only state that tracks criminal convictions and arrests by immigration status. In 2019 in Texas, illegal immigrants were 37.1 percent less likely to be convicted of a crime than native‐​born Americans and legal immigrants were about 57.2 percent less likely to be convicted of a crime than native‐​born Americans. Estimated nationwide incarceration rates for illegal immigrants are similar. Across Texas counties, there is no relationship between all criminal convictions and the illegal immigrant population. The recent increase in homicide arrests in Houston shows that the entire increase is of natives, and illegal immigrants aren’t somehow escaping after committing their crimes. The border is chaotic but crime is not especially heavy there and border walls don’t help. Illegal immigrants likely even litter less. Border security is not an anti‐​crime strategy.

We know the drug cartels control the border on the Mexican side. We know that you can’t cross into America without paying them a sizable bribe. We know that this bribe money adds up to millions, maybe billions of dollars. Doesn’t this mean that we are helping to make the cartels richer and more powerful? What do you think the cartels do with this money? Give it to the Red Cross? Or use it to further corrupt Mexico’s police and government officials, not to mention buy weapons or anything else they want.

This quote doesn’t contain an error but it is very confused. U.S. immigration restrictions are unintentionally enriching criminal smugglers because migrants must pay smugglers to get in. More immigration enforcement leads to more smuggling that raises smuggling prices. The easiest way to defund smugglers and criminal enterprises is to expand legal immigration to channel would‐​be illegal immigrants into a legal market. It’s worked before. The U.S. government could even sell visas, raise revenue, and put the smugglers out of business. In short, our immigration restrictions have created a black market and the solution is to increase legal immigration.

There are other portions of this video that are mistaken on issues of immigrant assimilation, the effectiveness of enforcement, and the ludicrous notion that are borders are open (explain the apprehensions if they’re open), but this blog post is long enough as it is.


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