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About the only useful contribution I can make to the immigration question, at this point is to lament one thing about the current proceedings. While this is all great political controversy and surely educational for those folks who worry about precedent and the limits of constitutional authority and what the original intent was and what Reagan or Bush did or did not do, what the entire conversation at the moment seems to be missing is an examination of what economists know about the impacts of immigration in America.

What better time would there be to have economists, who seem to have something useful to say about this topic, to be heard? We have written on the impacts of immigration on high-skilled employment and wages; we have written about the impacts of immigration on low-skilled employment and wages; we have written about the impacts of immigration on crime; we have written on the success of immigrant children and their descendants economically and on other aspects of assimilation. Yet we see almost nothing about this. I won’t cover all of that here, I bet most Americans would be very surprised to learn what those literatures have to say.

On another note, back to the political angle, I do believe that Coyote is onto something (again) here:

Imagine a Republican President who is opposed to the minimum wage.  The Executive branch is tasked with enforcing that law, so wold the folks defending the President’s methods also argue hat the government can issue permits to 5 million businesses allowing them to  ignore labor law?  Or emissions standards?  Or insider trading laws?

People are just being blinded by what they rightly see as a positive goal (helping millions of people) if they fail to see that the President issuing licenses to not be prosecuted for certain crimes is a huge new precedent.  Proprietorial discretion is supposed to be used to avoid patent unfairness in certain cases (e.g. the situation in Colorado with conflicting state and Federal laws on marijuana).  It is not meant to be a veto power for the President over any law on the books.  But I can tell you one thing — it is going to be seen by future Presidents as just this.  Presidents and parties change, and for those of you swearing this is a totally legal, normal, fully-precedented action, be aware that the next time 5 million wavers are issued, it may well be for a law you DO want enforced.  Then what?

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