A disconnect
Foreground, background

The Immigrants' Path

Wsj_illegal A recent Wall Street Journal editorial used this chart (via the National Foundation for American Policy) to claim success for the "Bracero" guest worker program, initiated in 1942.  Their analysis:

... illegal border crossings subsequently plummeted.  Between 1953 and 1959, they fell by some 95%.  In 1960, mainly in response to complaints from labor unions, the program was scaled back and eventually phased out.




Long-time readers may recall Friedman's Crossover Law of Petropolitics, where the opportune criss-crossing of lines
plotted along double axes was taken as proof of causality.  Friedman's Law lurked here, right in the 1953-1959 range. 


Nfap_illegal1The NFAP went one better: in their original version, they blew up the 1953-1959 period to show us the criss-crossing lines!

We see trouble right from the start.  The "subsequent" effect that proved the case occurred in 1953, over 10 years after the program started. During that first decade, the number of apprehensions rose 4388%, in spite of the guest worker program.

A scatter plot (below left) now shows the lack of any meaningful relationship between these two variables.  While high admissions appeared together with low apprehensions, any level of admissions had historically been paired with low apprehensions.


On the right, I connected the dots in chronological order.  Any claim of a negative relationship between admissions and apprehensions has been debunked.  From 1942 on (as we trace the line clockwise from lower left), first the nation experienced stepwise increasing admissions coupled with stepwise increasing apprehensions; then it witnessed sharply dropping apprehensions with relatively stable admissions; and finally it saw plummeting admissions while apprehensions remained low.  Three separate episodes, three distinct patterns.  There was no association, let alone causation.

Source: "Immigration Plan B", Wall Street Journal, June 13 2007.


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Jon Peltier

I have followed up on my web site (I use my site because my ISP doesn't allow hot linking of pictures):


My conclusion:

I don't think INS apprehensions is the appropriate variable to compare with Bracero admissions. How well does INS apprehensions reflect illegal border crossings? How does the number of apprehensions vary with the level of effort of INS enforcement? How much legal immigration is replaced by Bracero admissions? The actual situation is much more complicated than is shown by the two marginally related curves in these charts.

Darius K.

Very nice analysis.

Please take a look of
from business week.

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