May 16, 2010

Over Two Years Into Immigration Reform, Oklahoma Is More Than OK

Filed under: Economy,Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:57 am

oklahomaThe state’s economy is outperforming most of the rest of the country. Why is that?


Note: This column went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Friday.


Given the economic damage inflicted on us by the current administration and many state governments, most readers of this column would probably be quite happy to live in a state where:

  • The official unemployment rate in March was 6.6%.
  • The average unemployment rate in 2009 using the most comprehensive definition was 10.5%, the fourth-lowest in the nation behind three much smaller states, and far lower than the national average of 16.2%.
  • The number of people either working or looking for work has actually grown during the past twelve monhs (in most states, the labor force has contracted significantly).
  • The economy grew in 2008, and probably did so again in 2009.

Unless you live in Oklahoma, you’re not in that state.

It “just so happens” that the Sooner State passed a strict immigration enforcement measure in May 2007. It went into effect six months later. Specifically:

House Bill 1804 was passed by overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate of the Oklahoma Legislature. The measure’s sponsor, State Representative Randy Terrill, says the bill has four main topical areas: it deals with identity theft; it terminates public assistance benefits to illegals; it empowers state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws; and it punishes employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens.

Oklahoma is no longer “O.K.” for illegal aliens, Terrill observes. “When you put everything together in context,” he contends, “the bottom line is illegal aliens will not come here if there are no jobs waiting for them, they will not stay here if there is no government subsidy, and they certainly won’t stay here if they know that if they ever encounter our state and local law enforcement officers, they will be physically detained until they’re deported. And that’s exactly what House Bill 1804 does.”

An amazing animated graphic still available at The Mess That Greenspan Made shows what happened in the immediate wake of “1804′s” passage. It shows month-by-month changes in the unemployment rate for each state in the Lower 48. From March 2007 to March 2008, alone among all states, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate fell significantly, especially in the final few months of the 12-month period presented, i.e., the first few months after “1804″ went into effect.

Coincidence? Well, if fewer jobs are available to illegals, you would expect that lesser-skilled individuals shut out of the labor market by low, often under-the-table wages would be in a position to take them. Sadly, blacks and Hispanics in this country and in Oklahoma are likely to be disproportionately represented among the lesser-skilled, so looking at those groups’ unemployment rates will serve as a useful proxy for my premise.

Here are the facts:

… newly released numbers for 2009 show the unemployment rate for black Oklahomans is 11.1 percent, compared with 5 percent for whites and 7.4 percent for Hispanics. In 2008, black unemployment in the state was 8.7 percent, while the rate for whites was 2.9 percent and the rate for Hispanics was 9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Shannon Muchmore at the Tulsa World had a reaction that was sadly and predictably ignorant:

The unemployment rate for black people in Oklahoma is twice as high as the rate for white people, and Hispanics face a similar disparity that exists regardless of education, training or experience, data show.

Just a minute, Shannon. The 2.4% increase in the black unemployment rate from 2008 to 2009 was barely more than the 2.1% increase for whites; the “twice as high” degree of difference between the two rates (actually 2.2 times as high) was down from three times as high the year before. The unemployment rate for Hispanics went not up, but down, by 1.6%. Nationally, from December 2008 to December 2009 the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for blacks and Hispanics increased 4.1% and 3.5%, respectively.

I’d say this is evidence that lesser-skilled Oklahomans have been quite willing to take the “jobs that Americans (supposedly) won’t do.” While in the neighborhood, I’ll note that perhaps the knee-jerk elitist stereotypes about race- and ethnicity-based discrimination in the heartland need to be revisited.

If “1804″ isn’t the reason Oklahoma has vastly outperformed most of the rest of the country, someone will have to try to explain what is.

Not that those who oppose any kind of immigration enforcement legislation are impressed. In an April 28, 2010 Christian Science Monitor opinion piece (“Arizona immigration law: painful lessons from Oklahoma”), Sally Kohn rolled out this startling claim about “1804″:

One study suggests the bill led to an estimated 50,000 people fleeing Oklahoma and a 1.3 percent drop in economic output statewide. As a result, Oklahoma may well have incurred $1.8 billion in economic losses, just as it, like the rest of the nation, was bracing for recession.

Hmm, that’s funny, because Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the state’s economy grew by 2.7% in 2008, a performance that puts it in the top ten among all states in a year when the national economy only grew by 0.4%. Additionally, information from the Census Bureau shows that the state’s population increased by just under 75,000, or 2%, between July 2007 and July 2009, in line with the country as a whole. If those results are “painful,” I wonder how Ms. Kohn would characterize what’s going on in Michigan and California?

The Sooner State’s economic indicators are comparatively positive just about no matter where one looks. Per capita personal income in Oklahoma grew 2.8% between 2007 and 2009; nationally, it fell by 0.7%. The state’s already puny welfare caseload dropped by 11% in 2007 to under 19,000, and stayed there until June 2009. The number of SNAP/Food Stamp recipients in Oklahoma fell in both 2007 and 2008 by a combined 3.8% while rising 6.5% nationally. Loosened eligibility rules allowing those who don’t really need them and even college-aged children of the well-off to qualify have since made the SNAP/Food Stamp program an unreliable indicator of the true extent of poverty. Oklahoma does have a budget problem that bears watching, but so does the large majority of other states.

The aforementioned Ms. Kohn’s characterization of Oklahoma’s economy as “littered with crumbling farms and factories and aging populations who feel that any prospect of prosperity is passing them by” seems more than a little overwrought and offensively arrogant.

Since “1804″ passed, Oklahoma has not suffered nearly as much economically as most of the rest of the U.S. In fact, the state can fairly be described, especially on a relative basis, as prospering. Even before considering the reductions in crime the citizens of Arizona are so desperately seeking in their state’s new immigration enforcement measure, what the Sooner State has done seems well worth imitating elsewhere for pocketbook-related reasons alone.

As to the legal and moral dimensions of limiting illegal immigration, I would suggest that the hand-wringers first aim their critiques at other countries which deal much more harshly with trespassers — starting with Mexico.



  1. [...] BizzyBlog [...]

    Pingback by One Old Vet » Stop the Lies | Educational New Mexico — May 16, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

  2. I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened. All of us ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated, but this is not the case.

    I know the proponents of this law say that the majority approves of this law, but the majority is not always right. Would women or non-whites have the vote if we listen to the majority of the day, would the non-whites have equal rights (and equal access to churches, housing, restaurants, hotels, retail stores, schools, colleges and yes water fountains) if we listen to the majority of the day? We all know the answer, a resounding, NO!

    Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics and do what is right, not what is just popular with the majority. Some men comprehend discrimination by never have experiencing it in their lives, but the majority will only understand after it happens to them.

    Comment by Benito — May 16, 2010 @ 6:38 pm

  3. #2, conscience examined. Your TOTALLY irrelevant “arguments” have been reviewed.

    What about “being here illegally” and “using taxpayer-funded services without paying for them” and “taking jobs away from people who ARE citizens” don’t you understand?

    Comment by TBlumer — May 16, 2010 @ 6:44 pm

  4. What #2 overlooks about freedom and equality #3 (you) caught on to is the idea of breaking the law (being here illegally). You can’t have freedom or equality if those who seek their own self interest (mostly economic in their case) refuse to abide by the rules of this society. Those who came to the US without permission did so against the very law that promotes freedom and equality. You can’t have it both ways, either you obey the Law or you can’t have the benefits of the Law.

    Any society in which a significant portion of people decides their self interest is more important than submitting to the rules (Law) destroys the very atmosphere that supports the majority in enjoying freedom and equality. It was the majority who created the atmosphere to support freedom and equality, NOT the minority. If it were up to the minority, dictatorship would be the state of society where arbitrary enforcement of the Law would be the norm which by it’s nature breeds inequality under the guise of victimhood. Contrary to #2′s claim that the majority is wrong to enforce it’s laws against those who ignore those laws, what he proposes is anarchy where self interest rules without restraint. The consequence of anarchy is inequality and slavery. I think Glenn Beck framed the issue this way: illegal immigrants are the new slave class to be exploited by the elites of this country. It doesn’t matter if they are all given amnesty, they still will be uneducated, gullible, underpaid slaves. How is that freedom or equality?

    The other thing #2 overlooked is the obvious, WHY did these people come here? THEY refused to stand up and demand of THEIR leaders in THEIR country to emulate the US conditions for prosperity, freedom and equality. As an example, Mexico is not a repressive dictatorship, it is however a corruptly and ineptly run country. How is it that 10% of Mexico’s population voted with it’s feet against the obvious failings of it’s government? In this example, which is pretty much representative of the majority of nations where all these illegals are coming from, Mexico used the US for a safety valve to mitigate its own incompetence. Why should we, the US be burdened with the failure of Mexico? Why can’t Mexico get it’s act together, reform its laws, prosecute the corruption and lay the framework for prosperity? WHY should the US taxpayer expend literally billions of dollars to mitigate the failure of Mexico? How is that fair or justified. Let me put this another way, if you bleeding heart liberals are so enamored with the downtrodden who come here, i.e. the 10% of Mexican citizens escaping poverty, then what about the other 90% left behind??????? Why the crap don’t you give a rats ass about them?????? You see the problem here? Instead of fixing their problem in Mexico where the majority lives, you ignore their plight and self righteously trumpet yourself to make all of us pay for your faux generosity. Liberals are hypocrites of the first order.

    Comment by dscott — May 17, 2010 @ 1:38 am

  5. #4, great points, esp about the “left behind.”

    Comment by TBlumer — May 17, 2010 @ 7:03 am

  6. “All Men are created equal”! The founders had it right, when attempting to form a perfect union and they also knew that they were not there yet but knew we one day would get there. Lincoln moved us forward as did JFK and LBJ. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

    It is my contention that this AZ law is not constitutional and will fail when challenged (unless, of course, they keep adding more amendments), pretty funny for this so called perfect law.

    Comment by Benito — May 17, 2010 @ 10:01 pm

  7. Besides conflating human rights and civil rights with citizens versus foreigners (faulty apples and oranges comparison), #6 is apparently unfazed by the wee little problem that the AZ law mirrors the Fed law. Hence, to be unconstitutional, you would have to find the Fed law unconstitutional. FAT CHANCE #6, I suggest you find another windmill to challenge.

    In fact I suggest you do a “thought experiment” to exercise your critical thinking skills. The fact that Obama, Holder and Napolitano haven’t filed suit in Federal Court should give you a clue as to the strength of AZ’s legal position. To further underscore that Chucky Schumer “asked” the AZ governor to delay the law’s implimentation. Now why would he ask if he thought the Feds had the legal basis to challenge the AZ law? He knows they don’t and so asked the AZ governor to “illegally” delay the law, the governor has no such authority, when the people’s representatives write a law, the governor either signs it or vetos it, there is no third option. I suggest a civics lesson #6.

    So here’s the deal, IF you liberals are so against securing the border, then why don’t Pelosi and Reid put up a bill to repeal the Federal immigration laws the AZ law mirrored??????

    FYI- IF in the wildest extreme interpretation of the SCOTUS that the AZ law is not constitional, then ALL State laws that mirror Federal ones are ALSO NOT Constitutional. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Comment by dscott — May 18, 2010 @ 12:58 am

  8. #6 Benito, dscott said most of it. One addition, which is a repeat from a previous comment:

    What about “being here illegally” and “using taxpayer-funded services without paying for them” and “taking jobs away from people who ARE citizens” don’t you understand?

    Comment by TBlumer — May 18, 2010 @ 9:37 am

  9. As for the undocumented workers, as Ronald Reagan said “It’s the Economy, Stupid”. When the economy is good we say let’s all celebrate “Cinco de Mayo, my brothers” but when the economy is down “it’s all your fault, you damn immigrant”. This too will pass. The real problem is the narcos/drug and people smuggler that’s what the focus should be on.

    Don’t you find it funny that no one ever voted for Governor Brewer, it’s all about politics, do not be fooled. Busy Brewer has passed S.B. 1070, no permit conceal weapons law, the famous Birthers law banning Ethic studies law, and if history is a lesson their House Bill 2779 from two years ago (which failed when challenged) and the one that was the funniest the boycott of Martin Luther King Day, not wanting another holiday. I believe there is an undercurrent to their enactment of new laws, they real love following a distinct pattern.

    Comment by Benito — May 19, 2010 @ 9:17 pm

  10. #9, Reagan’s amnesty was premised on the INS preventing future influxes. The INS didn’t do its job, and Bush 41 and then Clinton didn’t care.

    Don’t put words in my mouth, pal. It’s your surest path to never coming back here. I’m against ILLEGAL immigration, and I’m for LEGAL immigration for as many people as want to come here and share our values and participate positively in society. If you’re not willing to get in line behind everyone else doing it the right way, you have NO right to be here. Virtually every other country on earth handles things this way. Only we are supposed to have open borders.

    You can imagine racism all you want, and it won’t make it true. And bleep you for implying it. The MLK issue is 18 years old. That’s the best argument you have?

    As to Brewer, she succeeded Napolitano. If she was so undesirable, Janet should have stayed put. Brewer has something you apparently don’t like in women: principled, constitution-based conservatism.

    Comment by TBlumer — May 19, 2010 @ 9:46 pm

  11. City of Costa Mesa’s enforcing of immigration law was found to be legal, so any thought that the State of AZ’s law is Unconstitutional is bogus:

    #9, Count me as unfazed by the Reagan era Amnesty (Crafted by a Dem controlled Congress) since as Tom said, the INS failed to enforce it with any heart. In fact, the current predicament has it’s roots in the last two years of the Clinton era where the INS just about laid down on the job where arrests and deportations went down to almost zero. Clinton hold overs in the Bush Administration continued that policy under W until we kicked up a fuss. When I say “we”, I mean Tom, myself and millions of other Americans who objected this flaunting the Law. We said NO and we meant NO!

    Immigration policy has to make sense for the country and if political leaders don’t have the leadership skills to properly convey that need, then the American People won’t agree. In this case the pols were trying to serve their own selfish interests at the expense of the citizenry. That’s the rub of a Republic, consent of the governed. We said NO!

    Comment by dscott — May 20, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

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