May 31, 2006

What Samuelson Didn't Tell You About What the Senate Didn't Tell You - UPDATED

Hatched by Dafydd

How many immigrants over the next twenty years?

UPDATE: See below.

Captain Ed posted an intriguing mystery today about the projected increase in legal immigration under the just-passed Senate immigration bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (CIRA). This has been the forgotten story of immigration reform; and the mystery, of course, is how much of an increase there will actually be.

(This is a "numbers" thing, so I'm in hog heaven -- meaning no offense to our kosher viewers!)

Any comprehensive bill that passes through both the Senate and the House will certainly not entail the same increases in immigration as projected for the CIRA; the House will surely cut back on a lot. But it's likewise undeniable that there will be some increase in legal immigration even in the joint bill. Thus, CIRA represents the high end of the range of immigration increase.

The low end is what we would get if nothing else passes, just under current law. The actual projected number will be somwhere in between these two figures.

The Captain's Quarters post links both to the celebrated Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation -- who has recalculated his estimates, but is still wildly overheated in his fear of excess immigration -- and also to a columnist for the Washington Post, Robert Samuelson, giving us dueling Bobs.

The Rector link is to the same article we linked earlier (twice); Rector has simply added the following correction at the top:

(Update: On Tuesday, May 16, the Senate passed Sen. Jeff Bingaman's (D-NM) amendment to S. 2611 that significantly reduced the number of legal immigrants who could enter under the bill's "guest worker" program. As a result of this change, our estimate of the number of legal immigrants who would enter the country or would gain legal status under S. 2611 falls from 103 million to around 66 million over the next 20 years.)

Rector doesn't give us any explanation of how he arrived at his figure of 66 million new immigrants. But I think we can suss it out from the innards of his article.

Rector notes in the original part of the article that:

The figure of 103 million new legal immigrants is based on the assumption that immigration under the guest worker program would grow at 10 percent per year.... If immigration under the H-2C program did not increase at all for two decades but remained fixed at the initial level of 325,000 per year, total legal immigration under CIRA would be 72 million over twenty years....

(He links to some cool and colorful charts here, for the visually minded.)

But of course, not only did the Bingaman amendment stop the automatic increases in the H-2C guest worker program, it also lowered the number per year from 325,000 to 200,000. When I apply this reduction to the 72 million figure, using Rector's own figures for H-2C workers plus their spouses and children, I get an increase in immigration of 64 million (to which Rector added a couple of million to grow on, I reckon).

However, another amendment, also by Bingaman, which passed on May 27th, caps the total number of work-related green cards to 650,000 per year, including spouses and children; Rector had earlier estimated that number as 990,000 per year, which knocks another 4.6 million off the total.

Thus, using the Rector Ratios, using his analysis modified for the two Bingaman amendments, total immigration under CIRA would increase by 59.5 million, not 66 million (or his original estimate of 103 million).

So much for Rector. What about Samuelson?

Robert Samuelson -- whose main interest appears to be selecting for high-skilled instead of low-skilled immigrants -- veered off today to fret about total immigration levels in general. He is not as alarmist as Robert Rector, but he still estimates a much larger increase in legal immigration than does Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA, 96%), writing for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), about which more anon.

Here is Samuelson in the current column:

The Senate passed legislation last week that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) hailed as "the most far-reaching immigration reform in our history." You might think that the first question anyone would ask is how much it would actually increase or decrease legal immigration. But no. After the Senate approved the bill by 62 to 36, you could not find the answer in the news columns of The Post, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Yet the estimates do exist and are fairly startling. By rough projections, the Senate bill would double the legal immigration that would occur during the next two decades from about 20 million (under present law) to about 40 million.

So Rector calculates 66 million; his own figures, when one includes the second Bingaman amendment, actually work out to 59.5 million; and Samuelson comes in with a modest 40 million. Under current law, without any immigration reforms, most believe there would be about 20 million new immigrants in the next 20 years.

We've started to set our boundaries: the increase in immigration over the next two decades, assuming comprehensive immigration reform passes, will be more than 20 million (that's just under current law) and less than 66 million. If we believe R. Samuelson instead of the somewhat hyperventilating R. Rector, it would be less than 40 million, giving us a range of 20 million.

But where did Samuelson get the 40 million figure he touts?

The doubling of legal immigration under the Senate bill that I cited at the outset comes from a previously unreported estimate made by White House economists.

Alas, that estimate remains unreported, because Samuelson does not give any citation for it. He also mentions the CBO estimate, but he doesn't report that even to the extent of quoting it. That one, however, I was able to find.

Sen. Charles Grassley is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and he took a look at the expected cost of the CIRA, as an official resource for members of Congress to use before voting on any final bill. As part of that estimate, he needed to project how many new immigrants would arrive due to the bill.

UPDATE: This part of my calculation was off, because I failed to notice that Grassley was only looking 10 years, not 20 years forward. It's off, thus, by about 7.8 million, which I will add here....

Grassley -- no friend of CIRA, which he voted against -- estimated for the CBO an increase of 7.8 million [actually, 15.6 million] new immigrants over and above the 20 million who would come here under current law. That would give an upper bound of [35.5 million], and a range of [15.5 million].

Thus, if we believe Charles Grassley, we're only talking about adding an additional [35.5 million] new legal immigrants under CIRA, against the background of 20 million we would add even without CIRA. That means an increase of about [78%] -- significant, but hardly the catastrophic level projected by Rector, and even below the figure estimated by Samuelson.

(Captain Ed is concerned not only about immigration but about the total increase in United States population; he writes:

That level of immigration [the Samuelson numbers -- the Mgt] would be the equivalent of adding eight Minnesotas to the nation within a generation without adding any more territory, and that doesn't even take into account the concomitant growth through births.

(However, the concomitant growth through births is zero, since we're hovering at exactly replacement rate right now, 2.09 births per mother; since that number is probably dropping -- though it's not likely to hit the historic low of 1.77 in 1980 -- we might end up actually losing native-born population... were it not for immigration, the US could eventually find itself in the same dilemma as Europe, with too few people to sustain their GDP -- although we're unlikely ever to be as bad off as they are now, with fertility rates in the 1.6s.)

So there you have it. The likely range, I believe, is the low-end one, since the Samuelson projection is invisible (you can't find out any information about it), and the Rector projection uses highly dubious assumptions, each of which tends to push the total up to ludicrous heights.

Thus, we should expect the actual increase of legal immigration due to reform to be somewhere south of [15.5 million] over two decades, assuming a comprehensive bill actually passes. That is the projection that appears to be both rational and defensible. Make of it what you will.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 31, 2006, at the time of 7:34 PM

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The following hissed in response by: SallyVee

Let me be the first to say thank you for addressing this subject. Within hours of the Heritage report, I received dozens of emails touting the Scare!Numbers! and alerting me to imminent disaster.

Unfortunately, as a publik skool dummy I can neither support or challenge your assertions and conclusions in any meaningful way. But I damn sure can spot a Scare!Number! when I hear one. I was so disappointed to hear one of my heroes, Newt Gingrich, using the Heritage numbers (originally 100 million) on the eve of the report's release. My very first thought was: come ON Newt. What is compelling you to resort to scare propaganda -- a favorite tactic of the Left. Remember Medi-scare?

This "debate" on immigration is so off the rails that I can't imagine how it can possibly get back on track.

The above hissed in response by: SallyVee [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 31, 2006 9:12 PM

The following hissed in response by: BigMediaBlog

Does the analysis above include the massive chain migration (immigrants bringing in relatives) and the even more massive illegal immigration that the Senate bill will result in?

Also, more from Robert Rector: In a subsequent memo provided to Senator Jeff Sessions (R –AL) on May 24th, CBO clarified the number promoted by the White House.[4] This CBO memo shows the White House figure was less than half of the actual CBO estimate of persons who would receive permanent status under S.2611... The CBO memo indicated that, over the next ten years, S.2611 would result in 11 million current illegal immigrants receiving legal permanent residence and 7.8 million new legal immigrants entering the country. Combined with 9.5 million immigrants who will enter under current law, the result would be 28.3 million persons becoming legal residents over ten years. This is almost three times the level permitted by current law.

And, whatever the numbers this amnesty would have an enormous impact on the U.S. I outlined just some of the impacts in this comment.

As always, search through the archives at my site for much more on this issue.

The above hissed in response by: BigMediaBlog [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 31, 2006 11:39 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I am a baby boomer and when we retire and go on Social Security the rest of you are going to need all the help you can get keeping up with our demands. It is going to be all about us us us.

Years ago when I farmed for a living, I had a little correspondence with Samuelson. He was very nice and he actually typed the letters he sent me. But at one point in the exchange he said something that I could never get out of my head: Even if we lose the farmers, the land will still be there.

As if corn or hay or wheat or anything people consume just grew and picked and delivered itself to market. Or that was the impression I got.

So after that it occured to me that there are people who are good at numbers and then there are people who only see numbers.

For instance, the last time we had a recession the numbers of people coming into the country dropped off...there was less work to be had. So there is no way of knowing what will happen, what variables there might be that will impact the numbers.

Maybe there will be improvements in economies in the third world at long last and that will mean less people coming in. Maybe China will absorb more high tech Asians. So we can not predict everything, even with the programs in place..things can change.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 1, 2006 3:57 AM

The following hissed in response by: Roy Lofquist

The number of immigrants from Mexico has always been and always will be determined by the availability of work. They are not fleeing oppression or persecution or famine. They have immediate feedback on the job market. There will not be an inordinate flood of immigrants "caused" by a piece of legislation.

The above hissed in response by: Roy Lofquist [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 1, 2006 5:39 PM

The following hissed in response by: BigMediaBlog

Roy Lofquist is truly a master of sarcasm. Of course, he knows that whenever amnesty (or non-amnesty amnesties) are discussed, border crossings pick up.

In fact, Roy knows that shortly after Bush proposed his "guest" worker program, crossings picked up. And, the Border Patrol started doing a survey of those they picked up, and a majority said they were coming here to take part in the "guest" worker program. (Then, of course, the Bush administration made the BP stop taking the survey).

Roy also knows that given the hugely inefficient USCIS (see a following post) which won't have fraud management in place until 2010 (see the GAO), the Senate bill is a recipe for disaster. Roy knows that all the millions of prospective illegal aliens know that all they'll have to do is come here and present some "documents" showing that they've been here for more than two years and, bingo!, they're ahead of all those prospective legal immigrants in other countries who've been waiting for years and years.

Roy knows all that, I'm sure.

The above hissed in response by: BigMediaBlog [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 1, 2006 9:49 PM

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