Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

From T.S. Eliot's "East Coker" ("Four Quartets"):

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
That sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood--
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Catholic Diversity at Notre Dame

I went to Siegfried Mass tonight. I came out of a managers meeting in the stadium at 9:52 and standing in the “shadow” of the Word of Life mural I felt an urge to attend Mass. I would never make it to Morrissey in time, but I know that my friend Emily always plugs Siegfried Mass, and it was close so I went.

I’d never set foot in the building before. I didn’t know what to expect but I figured that it couldn’t be much different than the Morrissey Mass that I am used to—albeit probably without the Latin and Greek that Fr. V appreciates. Yet when I entered the chapel I was surprised to see five people and a priest sitting in a semicircle around the altar. At first I thought it was some kind of study group and reached back for the door, but I figured that even if it was they probably wouldn’t chase me away and I might learn something. As if he knew I was coming and was waiting just for me the priest began the Mass as soon as I sat down. We stayed seated, in a semicircle, through the Liturgy of the Word and the Prayers of the Faithful, only rising once the priest had set the table. We held hands in a circle for the Our Father. Everyone hugged during the Kiss of Peace. The whole affair lasted slightly more than a half hour.

I was quite surprised by the experience. For one, the chapel was practically empty compared to the nightly affair in Morrissey’s Little Flower Chapel. Also, I had only heard rumors of dorm chapels that employed the semicircle seating pattern but never witnessed it. It didn’t feel as “wrong” as I would have thought. We should have stood and knelt at the regular times. But overall I was satisfied. If that is the right word.

Should I be satisfied? If I know one thing from listening to Fr. V’s sermons it is that the Mass is about Christ, not about me and what makes me comfortable. If anything I should look for opportunities that push me outside of my comfort zone in worship. Stations of the Cross in the rain might be a start.

What I take away from this is one more buttress to my belief that nowhere is there a more diverse Catholicity than at Notre Dame. Is there any where else that has more than 170 Masses per week and a dorm in every chapel[sic]? Is there any other place that has so many Catholic student groups with nuanced differences in belief that the average outsider wouldn’t even recognize?

Sometimes when I am home in San Diego, people—Catholic people…very Catholic people—will warn me about Notre Dame. About how “liberal” it is—as if the tag “liberal” has any consistent or relevant meaning in the context of the Church. About how it is abandoning its mission as Catholic. But I disagree. With the exception of a few hiccups that I think will eventually be straightened out, the University really is a paradigm of Catholic education. It must be admitted by even the most pious and most irreverent that Notre Dame treads an uncharted thin line as a premier Catholic research university. Some people say that a “Catholic university” is a paradox. I disagree. I think that a Catholic university simply has more obligations. Obligations to God and Country that take more precision to execute, but result in no less academic quality or religious atmosphere.

Even thought there have been strong objections to Fr. Jenkins’ recent decision about academic freedom, Notre Dame still holds a special place in the hearts and minds of American Catholics; otherwise they wouldn’t even be worrying and conversing about the decision.

If nothing else, Notre Dame is where the Church does its thinking. Hesburgh was right. This is a microcosm of the world out there. We have our Catholic students debating semantics about the faith. Every strain of Catholicism is represented: the liberation theologists, the Catholic social teaching experts, the proponents of the extraordinary form, the religious fascists, the Kennedy Democrats, etc. If one is looking for diversity, Notre Dame has it. If not in skin color than in ideas, especially Catholic ideas. Give Our Lady’s University credit for that. On most Catholic campuses, if the faith is still alive it isn’t vibrant, it isn’t debated, it isn’t living like it does at Notre Dame.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Global Warming Debate Sparks interest

A student-faculty debate on global warming tonight in Montgomery Hall provided laughter, applause, and informed exchange. There were two students and two faculty members, with one student and one faculty member on one side of the issue, and another two on the other side.

Representing the side of the skeptic were student Bret Shapot and Professor Mark McCready, Chair, Chemical and Biochemical engineering.Professor McCready discusses the difficulties of measuring many elements in the atmosphere.

McCready discussed how we get our temperature, that is, greenhouse gases, especially water vapor and Carbon Dioxide. Starting in the 1960s, CO2 emissions began increasing rapidly, and during the same period of time temperatures steadily increased.

McCready did make the point that it is impossible to predict many things in the atmosphere, mainly because the last 150 years of cloud data is missing. "The uncertainty is almost as great as the effect," said McCready.

Shapot began his talk by assuring the audience that his plans of going to work for a big oil company next year have no impact on his views.Shapot jokes with the audience about his plans to work for an oil company.

Shapot informed the audience of the importance of the missing cloud data that McCready talked about. "Water vapor is an often overlooked greenhouse gas, but it has 100 times the global warming potential as CO2," Shapot said.

He also spoke of the notion that global warming can lead to severe natural disasters. "It is ridiculous to say that we can predict hurricanes down the road when we can't predict the weather next week."

Ayala and Mori look on as McCready makes a point.

The other side of the debate was represented by political science professor Louis Ayala and student Hannah Mori. The soft-spoken Mori was difficult to understand but did pronounce clearly her stated thesis: something must be done. "You can't count on the economy to regulate itself," Mori argued.

Ayala announced that he had been summoned to participate in this debate at 6:00 tonight due to an illness of one of the professors who was supposed to talk. He talked about the importance of government regulation in order to "ensure the protection of public goods," such as clean air and a stable environment.

He argued that even if we are skeptical of the global warming data, steps to solve the problem will, at worst, lead to a cleaner environment.

St. Patricks Day

It was difficult for an Irish-American such as myself to go through the entire day of March 17 and not even have a single pint of Guinness. But I don't think too many of my compatriots suffered today. Driving into my town of West Chester, PA, tonight, I witnessed the spectacle of people of all ages dressed like leprechauns struggling to walk...or struggling to walk, they were dressed like leprechauns. I suppose they forgot that this year, March 17 was not St. Patrick's Day (or St. Paddy's Day...and it's never St. Patty's Day: It's Patrick not Patricia), but rather Monday of Holy Week. All feasts are canceled or translated to a different day during Holy Week and Easter Week; I guess Easter's kind of a big deal in the Church.
I began to realize that most folks would forget this fact this morning when I visited and was greeted by an advertisement for "Irish baseball on St. Patrick's Day." Of course, I wouldn't expect a school that commemorates Easter Monday with the V-Monologues to take Holy Week all that seriously. It's pretty hard, you know, to stand apart from the culture; better to be a peer institution. And most of the local bishops did a heck of a job not reminding people about the solemnity of holy week--but, with all of the exigencies of modern life, how could we be expected to restrain ourselves?

Last week in the Philadelphia Inquirer, someone involved in organizing a St. Pat's parade (the NYC one, I think; this is what's great about blogs--I actually don't have to look up facts when I can't remember them or when I am too lazy to go to Google--someone will supply them); anyway, this idiot was complaining that the Church had canceled St. Pat's, effectively. "I was baptized Catholic, but I was born Irish," he said, noting defiantly that he would celebrate regardless of what the Church said. Of course, as might be suggested by the "Saint" in "Saint Patrick," March 17 sort of began as a religious--Catholic, in fact--holiday. And in the USA, the only calender where it's official is that of the Roman Catholic Church. So without the Church this amadan, to use the Irish, wouldn't have even been baptized and wouldn't have a St. Pat's Day to celebrate, even when there is actually a St. Pat's.

That's all I've got.


Monday, March 17, 2008

New NY Governer Admits Affair

And he hasn't even actually started governing.

On the one hand, perhaps he genuinely made a mistake and he regrets it completely. On the other hand, no matter what the new governor says or does, this does not look good at all. Sarkozy, Spitzer, Clinton. A slew of powerful men, all of whom violated the sanctity of their marriages.

I am not married yet but I hope to think faithfulness is not impossible.

But then again, if I question the viability of faithfulness sincerely (finding it truly to be possible by the grace of God), how many more will believe infidelity to be the status quo? Is it the status quo?

Perhaps we should all post stories of men and women in our lives who have remained faithful to each other:

For one, my grandparents celebrated their 50th Anniversary a couple years ago. My grandfather, who migrated from Iran in his 20s, and my grandmother--a fun-loving, intense, red-haired mother of three--make quite the odd couple. My grandpa has lately grown hard of hearing and so, many times, my grandma has to yell at him to tell him to do something. (I secretly think the hearing problem is a facade.) My grandpa is also perhaps one of the most loving fathers I have seen and a great cook of fine Persian cuisine. When my grandmother had heart surgery, my grandpa was there. When my grandpa grew ill, my grandma was there. There were severely trying times for both of them, but one thing I have never doubted is that my grandparents love each other with all their hearts. May God bless them both.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!

Enjoy a pint of Guinness and thank God for your Catholic faith, the endurance of the Irish people, and our cherished Irish-Americanism! GO IRISH!

On Endowments, Grants and Baby Seals

We wrote in Cheers & Jeers today that the University has been duplicitous in discussing its financial operations. On Friday the University filed its report to the Senate Finance Committee concerning its endowment and financial aid policies. The wealthiest 136 colleges and universities (as measured by endowment) were asked by the Committee to respond to a survey. Notre Dame required an extension to complete its survey after the initial deadline (hey can I get an extension for admission, study abroad, drop date?).

On February 1, director of student financial strategies Joe Russo told Kate McClelland of the Observer that University spends $72 million on financial aid. In the report to the Senate Notre Dame listed $89 million in financial aid. And despite the fact that more students receive aid and the average award has gone up 107.3% in the last ten years, the average cost for those on aid has increased nearly $4000 dollars. The University also lags behind its peers in endowment pay out, which equaled 3.7% in 2006-2007. Most Universities with endowments of comparable size pay out more than 4 percent. USC and Rice both pay out more than 5%. The Senate is considering legislation requiring universities with $500 million or more in endowment to spend at least 5%. If the University spent 5% last year instead of 3.7% it would have had $56 million to spend. That's a new social science building and multi-purpose stadium for Olympic sports; that's 1272 full scholarships; that's 37 endowed professorships, that's 32482598 pounds of baby seal meat from The University could have done something with the money.

Commenting on reforms by other universities to eliminate loans from financial aid packages, Joe Russo said "There are too many factors that go into a financial aid decision to make a blind commitment based simply on income, but on average lower income families don't pay very much." This statement is supported by the Senate report: 4% of students in the class of 2011 receive an average of $42422 in grant aid. However, only one third of the student body receives $17000 or more, meaning the real cost for msot of us is $30000 or more, well out of range of the average family.

Notre Dame's increases (if they are in fact true) are laudable. But the University will continue to draw detractors if it doesn't at least run a better PR campaign.

In September 2006 the Chronicle of Higher Education, the flagship publication for colleges and universities, ranked Notre Dame 49th of the 59 wealthiest private institutions in its ability to attract low income students. The University disputed the methodology on the grounds that enrolling low income students doesn't mean that they graduate. Notre Dame has the third highest graduation rate in the country. Tom Mortenson of the The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education criticized Notre Dame for not reaching out to all members of the community, as a Catholic university should. His organization ranked Notre Dame the 19th most class-exclusive of the nation's 696 private four-year institutions. Mortenson suggested seeking out low-income students under a need-sensitive policy; director of admissions Dan Saracino decried such a policy under the pretense that financial aid funds would dry up and students couldn't afford tuition. This argument hardly seems valid when the University sits on $171000 per undergraduate in financial aid funds. However the University does employ "four full-time Admissions Office professionals to recruiting students of diverse socioeconomic status." Mortenson also complained of the 24% of the Class of 2010 who are legacies, the highest percentage in the nation. While Notre Dame's tradition of such high percentages of legacies smacks of incest (and I would argue is actually counterproductive) Saracino defends the practice saying "They bring academic credentials, a strong desire to be at Notre Dame, Catholicity and a commitment to public service." It's difficult to gauge whether that is actually true or not, but the man does read applications for a living so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. But I will note that Wall Street Journal writer Daniel Golden dedicated an entire chapter of his book The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges -- and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates to Notre Dame. "You do need the generosity of alumni and benefactors to help keep costs down, and provide financial aid for those that can't afford that," Saracino said. The benevolence of alumni can't be ignored but if they won't contribute because little Susie was passed over for a more qualified candidate then they don't live out the Catholic spirit and we don't need them anyway. Believe me, you'll lose far more donors because of Vagina Monologues and losing football than because of not admitting as many children of alumni.

Spring Break, Oh-8, Tomatoes, Sunshine and Slavery

Like Rover Publisher Kevin I spent my spring break in Florida. Like Kevin I went to the beach (albeit on Friday night at 11 o’clock). Unlike Kevin I wasn’t visiting friends and family. I was participating in the Center for Social Concerns Migrant Seminar in Immokalee, FL.

There is a sizable Haitian population at the local church

Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine at the local Catholic Church

In the last 120 years Southwest Florida has been logged, derricked for oil, herded for cattle and sown for agriculture. Immokalee (rhymes with broccoli, maybe the only word that does) in particular is known for its tomatoes. The small hamlet, which includes one motel, one high school, one grocery store, a WWII-era military landing strip, and 10000 or so migrant workers at any given time. Documented. Undocumented. Americans. Guest workers. Impoverished.

When the group of 12 students awoke on Sunday morning, our first in Immokalee, we were stricken by how unfamiliar Main Street Immokalee appeared from our room in the homeless shelter. The ‘tienditas’ with their calling card advertisements in Spanish, the dozens of brown-skinned men roaming the street without apparent destination, the empty lots and empty buildings. More like Mexico than America. Squalor is the word that comes to mind. It was confirmed when we had a home stay on Tuesday night. The 14 by 25 foot cinderblock shanty with seven people, no soap and a concrete floor didn’t bother me so much as the scarred and bloody cat that the children kept as a pet. We should have expected as much, but the shock was still there. And it was bolstered when we attended a Creole language Mass that lasted, by my count, 2 hours and 17 minutes. One of the church leaders graciously introduced us as Notre Dame students during the final announcements. This meant nothing to the vast majority of Haitians, who by now are used to students awkwardly sitting in on their celebrations. However, two loquacious youths seized on the rare opportunity and coolly harassed us on account of our embarrassing football team and proclaimed undying allegiance to Michigan State.

In spite of our culturally-enriching experiences and personal adventures (Creole Mass, flat tire, quail hunting, machete wielding, Aztec dancing) we were educated in the ills of the agrarian society. The long hours, the low pay, the employer abuse, the parental neglect and all the associated problems. For as much time as we spent smiling in communion with the people of the area, we spent just as much sitting in uneasy dismay of the situation—hiding our personal anguish behind inquisitive faces while relishing our independence to leave the town at will, a privilege that most who live there do not have.

The sad story of immigration in this part of the world is not news to most people who are educated about current events. Workers come from Mexico, Guatemala or Haiti seeking a better life, many rarely find it. Some are able to procure it for their children, but not under the auspices of justice but by the generosity of others. Habitat for Humanity, Redlands Christian Migrant Association, Guadalupe Social Services and Immokalee Non-profit Housing Association are only a few of the organizations active in the town. Unfortunately for many residents the police are also active. As enforcers of immigration.

Most police departments don’t want immigration duties because it takes their focus off of “real” crime. The Sheriff’s Department of Collier County thinks otherwise. By agreement with Homeland Security it enforces immigration law. As a result, “real” crimes haven’t been reported and some residents live in fear of deportation. I see no wrong in a single 20-something male being picked up for public intoxication and being sent back to Mexico if he doesn’t have residency, but the prospect of ripping families apart is unsettling.

Many families that live year round in Immokalee consist of foreign born parents and American children. By the 14th Amendment any child birthed on American soil is one of “us” regardless of the parents’ statuses. Among developed countries, America is the lone holdover that still has this law. Unfortunately overzealous policing can lead to the child without a country case. Undocumented parents get caught and are faced with deportation. The children are born in America, the judge can’t order them out of the country. Instead the parents are faced with the decision of taking their children back to the old country—where they could face worse poverty or violence—or release them to foster care in America never to be seen again. What do you do? A child that leaves goes with only a birth certificate and becomes a citizen without a country: an American to the country of her parents but unable to prove to US authorities that she is whom her birth certificate indicates. A child that stays wallows in the corruption and disappointment of the American foster care system. Nice dichotomy. Whatever happened to Leviticus 19:33-34? “You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.” Or how about “Send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-lost to me.”

Your fresh tomatoes are bought from farms at a rate that translates to 40-50 cents per 32-pound bucket. McDonald’s and Taco Bell used to pay 70-80 per 32-pound bucket, but there has been a backlash from other fast food companies (Burger King) and industry trade associations. For every step forward, it seems that there are greater forces pushing farm workers back. Visit the website of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers ( to learn more about the specific struggles and initiatives of farm workers in the area. I would like to proudly point out that one of the few CIW staff members not from Immokalee is Melody Gonzalez, ND Class of 2005.

Melody in Father Malloy's office in 2004.

A worker hauling a 32-pound bucket back to the truck, he will receive 40-50 cents for all those tomatoes, which will fetch about 50 dollars in supermarkets and restaurants

Slavery, oppression, neglect. That’s the world from which your produce comes. Not just semantic slavery, real slavery. Men chained inside U-Hauls so that they can’t exercise their right to walk the streets. Six slavery cases have been successfully prosecuted in South Florida in the last decade. Oppression that includes unfair housing practices (including the burning alive of a family that was locked in their trailer), reducing the hours on workers’ timesheets, and black listing those who attend meetings to learn about their rights. Neglect of the children in Immokalee, while their parents work they have no supervision and consistently fall behind in school. Many never catch up. Some go to the fields as early as 14. Companies don’t care, they don’t even check for the agricultural worker IDs that they sponsor. It’s exploitation in America.

Catholic Social Teaching holds that People have the right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families; A country has the right to regulate
its borders and to control immigration; and A country must regulate its borders with justice and mercy. I’d say that we are failing on all three charges. It shouldn’t take charities like the ones that I listed above to help people just get by. It should be the inherent justice of the society that allows each person to control his own life without relying on the generosity of others except in extreme circumstances. Unfortunately too many people live in these extreme circumstances in Southwest Florida. We can start to follow the radical call of the Gospels just by being informed. I am no expert. I was only there for a week, but what an educational week that it was. Yet I still have much learning to do. I can’t write about all of my experiences but I think that I have been able to highlight a few and my major thoughts from the week. I encourage everyone to visit the website for the CIW and post a comment.

These are few words that my classmate Laura Bradley has written about the experience and the situation:

As a Catholic, as someone who claims to desire to follow Christ, this situation in Immokalee and the attitude towards immigration in the US are not ok. These unjust conditions in Immokalee are simply unacceptable, and human rights are being violated all over the place! At the end of this experience, I have to ask myself if my faith is really important to me. If it is, then what does it require of me and what does it challenge me to do? Does being a Catholic mean simply going to Mass and praying about these issues, praying for these workers? If I have learned anything from my time at Notre Dame, I have learned that my Catholic faith requires me to act. The principles of Catholic Social Teaching are the principles on which I must base my life. I cannot be comfortable the rest of my life and be oblivious to the problems of this world. I must act out of love in everything that I say and do. I must love by fighting against injustice and work for equality for everyone. I must love by giving a voice to these migrant workers and to everyone else living in the shadows.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers for how to change the situation in Immokalee overnight. I also don’t have any solutions to the complex issue of immigration in the US or the problem of poverty in developing countries. All I know is that I must continue to ask the questions and I must continue to love, every day. If we all strive to love just a little bit more, maybe we can get rid of the hatred and racism that pervade our society today. Maybe then we can start overcoming the vicious cycle of poverty, both in the US and abroad. Maybe then, more people will begin fighting with, rather than against, the migrant workers in Immokalee.

Michigan Athlete-Students

(click the title to go to the article)

So Big blue is at it again. Wolverine nation cringed last year when alum and Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh criticized the academic environment that Michigan creates for its football players. Now there might be some hard evidence:

A single University of Michigan professors taught 294 independent studies for students, 85 percent of them athletes, from the fall of 2004 to the fall of 2007, according to The Ann Arbor News. According to the report, which kicks of a series on Michigan athletics and was based on seven months of investigation, many athletes reported being steered to the professor, and said that they earned three or four credits for meeting with him as little as 15 minutes every two weeks. In addition, three former athletics department officials said that athletes were urged to take courses with the professor, John Hagen, to raise their averages. Transcripts examined by the newspaper showed that students earned significantly higher grades with Hagen than in their regular courses. The News reported that Hagen initially denied teaching a high percentage of athletes in his independent studies, but did not dispute the accuracy of documents the newspaper shared with him. He did deny being part of any effort to raise the averages of his students. The newspaper also said that Michigan’s president and athletics director had declined to be interviewed for the series.

Now that RichRod is there, things probably won't get any better. At least Weis can apologize for graduating players, which is what they are "supposed to do."

Psychology Professor Hagen

Sunday, March 16, 2008

George Borjas speaks at ND

By Christina Pesavento, Rover Staff writer

This past Friday, Notre Dame students and faculty had the opportunity to attend a speech given by Harvard economist George J. Borjas as part of a series of speeches held by the Mendoza College of Business known as Ten Years Hence, a program that focuses on issues that are likely to play a role in the business world during the upcoming decade. Hailed by Business Week and The Wall Street Journal as “America’s leading immigration economist,” Borjas’ extensive research and numerous publications on the subject have made him a highly influential figure in the nation’s ongoing discussion of immigration.

At the outset of his speech, Borjas presents the audience with what he believes are the two critical questions that the United States needs to address when debating immigration policy: how many immigrants are we willing to admit, and which of the thousands of potential immigrants should be allowed into the country. Unfortunately, he remarks, politicians tend to ignore these questions and instead continue to argue about tangential matters that do not get to the root of the issue.

Since 1965, immigration policy has been built upon the family preference system, in which citizens can sponsor their immediate family members for permanent residence. Borjas points out that the problem with this system is that once an immigrant becomes a citizen, he or she can sponsor his or her own immediate relatives as well, and they in turn can sponsor their relatives after attaining citizenship. This effectively removes any limits on the number of low-skilled workers that can be admitted to the US. In fact, from 2001 to 2004, of the 3.8 million legal immigrants admitted, 2.5 million were immediate relatives of US citizens, while only 592 thousand were employment based. The rest included refugees and immigrants chosen based on a lottery system.

According to Borjas, the reason we are having such a heated debate over immigration today is because modern immigrants tend to perform much worse than immigrants of earlier eras in terms of the wages they are earning. Statistical data show that between 1960 and 2000, the percent wage differential between immigrant and native men has gone from a 7 point advantage to a 20 point disadvantage. When considering the fact that the vast majority of legal immigrants to the US are admitted based on family preference rather than employment prospects, combined with the estimated 11.6 million illegal immigrants who we can assume fall into the category of low-skilled workers, the cause of this phenomenon becomes obvious.

In terms of the effect of immigration on the employment opportunities of native workers, Borjas points out that the law of supply and demand would predict that the number of low-skilled workers admitted to this country would have a severe negative effect. However, some experts insist that the effect is relatively small. Borjas claims that the reason for this disparity is that “most studies exploit the geographic clustering of immigrants in cities that have a growing labor market and higher wages,” which “negates the negative impact that immigrants have on that city’s economy.” Yet when native workers in these cities see their wages falling, they migrate to other areas of the country, thereby diffusing the impact of immigration onto the country as a whole. In order to gain a more accurate perspective on the effects that immigration has on native workers, Borjas insists that we must look at the national economy rather than focusing on individual cities.

What probably came as a surprise to everyone in the audience was when, after giving an extensive lecture on the empirical findings regarding immigration, Borjas claims that such findings imply “nothing at all” about what the direction of immigration policy should be, and that “people who say otherwise are misleading you.” “In order to go from data to results about what immigration policy must be,” he says, “you must give a context to what you want the objective function to be.” It is a waste of time to try to come to conclusions based on detailed analyses of the economic impact of immigration because economists can already predict this by using simple economic principles. Politicians, however, continue to focus on arguing over the data without asking the bigger questions, namely “what do we want to accomplish from immigration policy?” and “whose well-being do we want to maximize?”

Among the outstanding policy issues that still need to be addressed, Borjas believes that the deciding factor will be the issue of national security. This is because even though workers and taxpayers may lose out, many influential people continue to gain from immigration. “It will be very difficult to change the system without a significant national security event,” he says.

When asked about the best way to combat illegal immigration, Borjas warned the audience to be wary of politicians who insist on the construction of a fence, which would be costly as well as ineffective, since illegals can and do enter the country through other places besides the Mexican border. The only effective way to prevent illegal immigration, he says, is to penalize employers for hiring them. This solution removes the incentives for immigrants to enter illegally, making it both far less expensive and far more effective than building a fence would be.

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