Common decency

My dad’s first cousin is a now semi-retired sheriff’s deputy in a rural county in Kansas. He emails out a weekly report of his work. I’ve written about him before.
This act of kindness was in his latest email:

I was dispatched to [Redacted], KS to check on a homeless woman. She had about worn out her welcome in [Redacted]. She told me that she was traveling to Huntsville, Alabama from Decatur, Alabama, but got side tracked . . . The woman was barefoot, was wearing warm up slacks with draw strings to hold it up. She had not bathed lately and the weather was hot. She told me she was waiting for a truck to come by that was going to Huntsville, Alabama so I told her about a bigger truck stop in [Redacted], KS. She danced across the hot concrete at the convenience store to get to my patrol truck. We stopped in [Redacted] at the Law Enforcement Center long enough for the Detention Officer to bring me out a pair of rubber shoes that are issued to prisoners. We then proceeded to the truck stop at [Redacted]. She really liked the rubber sandals. When we got to [Redacted], I pointed out McDonalds Restaurant and gave her a $5.00 bill. The woman thanked me and then took my hand and said a prayer for me and my safety. I drove away feeling like I might have transported an Angel unaware. It was quite a surprise.

Common sense fail

I happened to read a little of today’s Austin American-Statesman while I was eating breakfast this morning. Today, the paper’s Politifact Texas column examined the following claim by Rep. Lamar Smith:

“Illegal immigration and unemployment are directly linked,” Smith said on the House floor July 1. “There are 15 million unemployed Americans in the United States and 8 million illegal immigrants in the labor force. We could cut unemployment in half simply by reclaiming the jobs taken by illegal workers.”
Smith later said his assessment reflects “simple logic.”
“If our immigration laws were enforced, illegal immigrants will not be able to get or hold jobs,” he told us in an e-mail, “and they would be available for citizens and legal immigrants.”

I’m always skeptical of appeals to common sense, as they are often oversimplified at best. This claim is a good example. The Politifact journalist talked to several people who are knowledgeable in applicable fields, including some from conservative think-tanks. The consensus is that deporting illegal workers would result in more legal jobs over the long term, but would not result in a short-term one-to-one replacement, thus reducing unemployment as Rep. Smith claims. Factors include:

  • Many jobs held by illegal immigrants are ‘under the table.’ If employers had to pay legal wages and taxes to get that work done, they would be able to hire fewer legal replacement workers
  • There may not be a big enough pool of appropriate legal workers in places where many illegal immigrants hold jobs (think: the meat-packing towns of the Midwest).
  • The skills of the (legally) unemployed don’t match up with the skills necessary for most of these jobs currently held by illegal immigrants. Most unemployed have much higher skills than the mostly manual-labor jobs held by illegal immigrants and would not take such jobs