Two Years After Strict Immigration Reform, Oklahoma Is More Than OK

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 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 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, 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 ... 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 anywhere 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 prosperous. 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.