The Heritage Foundation’s assertion that immigration reform will cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion is the latest example of a complex study used to support a foregone conclusion. Jim DeMint, the Foundation’s president and Tea Party stalwart, is a vociferous opponent of legislation to create a “pathway to citizenship” for 11 million undocumented immigrants. And it isn’t just the Tea Party grinding its own axe: Silicon Valley companies are lobbying for more highly educated “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) immigrants; labor unions protest cheap and compliant workers; farmers want migrants to harvest their crops; environmentalists fear population overload. Many of the arguments, however self-serving, are legitimate, and in the face of a bill that keeps getting bulkier and wordier (over 50 amendments already filed), how are the rest of us supposed to know what to think?
Overwhelmed, we gravitate to positions that fit our preconceived prejudices, and the politicians continue preaching to the converted. In such cases I recommend the “I Test” – looking through the prism of personal experience. For example, I live in an area that is politically conservative and overwhelming white – and has a large undocumented Latino population. They arrived poor and uneducated, and there are worrisome pockets of gangs, drugs and crime. But on balance my life has been greatly enhanced by their contributions – colorful Cinco de Mayo celebrations, thousands of people who seek nothing more than a chance to work, the diversity required to keep a community vibrant. The I Test is not a substitute for rational analysis, but it affords the opportunity to step back and look through the stereotypes.