Cui Bono?

There is a lovely Latin phrase, “Cui bono?”, that helps to unravel crimes and other situations in our lives. “Cui bono?” means “Who benefits?”. If you are looking at a crime, someone benefits from it. And if you can figure out who that is, it points you in the direction of understanding what’s going on.

Cui bono has a lesser-known opposite, “Cui plagalis?”. It means, who is penalized, or who loses? I plan to look through those lenses at people entering the country illegally.

Let me start with a word about terminology. If you are gone for a week and a man sneaks into your house and starts sleeping in your bed and eating your food, he is NOT an “undocumented renter”.

He is an illegal intruder.

And similarly, if someone sneaks into your country and starts sleeping on your streets and eating your food, he is not an “undocumented immigrant”.

He is an illegal alien.

To return to the main topic, we have a porous southern border with Mexico. Every year, we arrest hundreds of thousands of people sneaking across the border. And we can assume that as many or more are getting through undetected. So … who benefits from that? And who loses from that? Cui bono? Cui plagalis?

Let me start with “Cui bono?”. The main group of Americans who benefit from illegal immigration are the wealthy. Wealthy people can and do hire illegal aliens to clean their houses, to tend their gardens, and to work in their businesses. From the employers’ perspective, illegal aliens are superb employees—they can’t go the police if you mistreat them, they can’t complain if you don’t pay them minimum wage, they are desperate for work, they have no recourse if they are wrongly fired, and they will work for wages so low that they seem impossible to live on.

big ag prefers slave labor.png

Hey, what’s not to like? If you are wealthy, illegal aliens are all gain, no loss.

And what about “Cui plagalis?”. Who loses from illegal immigration?

The main group that loses from illegal immigration are black Americans. Estimates are that there are around eight MILLION illegal aliens working in the US today. Illegal aliens tend to take low-skilled and entry-level jobs. And sadly, the main group of Americans in those jobs are black Americans. The presence of millions of illegal aliens means that many of those jobs are no longer available for Americans. The jobs are filled by people willing to work for a place to sleep and the smell of an oily rag …


However, black people are not the only Americans harmed by illegal immigration. It also affects two other major groups—legal immigrants and teenagers. Those are the two other large groups who take entry-level and low-skilled jobs. Like black people, these folks are being squeezed out of jobs that by rights should be theirs by millions of illegal aliens.

Finally, there is a third group who loses big from the presence of illegal aliens. They are the victims of the following charming class of people

illegal alien criminals deported.png

The people kidnapped, the women and girls trafficked, the dead homicide victims, the women and children who were raped … they are the biggest losers from the presence of illegal aliens. And while it is true that Americans also commit those crimes, the crimes listed above are preventable, simply by tightening up our borders.

Those are the groups who gain and the groups who lose due to illegal immigration. In simplest terms, the presence of people who are here illegally means that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

So are we surprised that the opposition to enhancing border security has been so successful? In a fight between the rich and the poor … who do you think will win?

Now, in addition to fixing our idiotic immigration laws, tracking visa overstayers, and ending birthright citizenship and chain migration, there is a very, very simple way to solve this problem—require every employer to use eVerify, and arrest employers who hire illegal aliens. That will solve both ends of the problem. The wealthy individuals and businesses won’t be able to hire cheap labor, and poor and unskilled Americans will have a much better shot at getting a job. And when people in Mexico know that they won’t be able to find work here, immigration will drop precipitously.

Finally, I’d like to touch on one more aspect of the immigration problem. People say things like “The majority of illegal aliens are visa overstayers, not people who came across the border”.

First, we don’t know that. Heck, estimates of just the numbers of illegal aliens here range from about ten million to double that. So any and all numbers are speculative. The best numbers that I can find say that somewhere between 27% and 40% of illegal aliens overstayed their visas. Now, being numerate, I can say that that means that between 60% and 73% of the illegal aliens snuck in illegally across the border …

More importantly, the two groups (visa overstayers and illegal border crossers) are very different for a simple reason. Here’s the word directly from the US State Department regarding just a few of the things you need to get a Visa to visit the US:

police certificats.png

court records.png

visa passport.png

So if someone overstays their visa, we know their name, we know their history, we have their picture, and we’re much more able to identify them and deport them. And more to the point of this discussion, it’s a pretty good bet that they are NOT a criminal. In addition, they obviously had the time, the clean history, and the skills to get a visa, plus the money to buy a plane ticket. So visa overstayers are not your average low-skilled, under-educated border crosser.

The same can NOT be said for someone sneaking across the border. We have no idea who they are, what they look like, or what their background is. In Fiscal Year 2018, we arrested over 6,000 people at the border who already had criminal convictions on their record, not to mention deporting nearly half a million illegal aliens who committed crimes here … and that’s just the ones that we caught. Sadly, it’s true—Mexico is not sending us their best people.

So yes, we need to fix the visa overstayers problem … but cracking down on illegal border crossing by all possible means is much more important.

Let me close by saying that I am a strong believer in LEGAL immigration. One of the discouraging aspects of this debate has been that those opposed to tightening up illegal immigration conflate illegal and legal—instead, they just talk about “immigration”. For example, they claim that if we don’t want criminals illegally entering the country we are “against immigration”. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know of very few people who are opposed to legal immigration … but illegal immigration, that’s a whole different subject.

My best to all on a rainy night,


PS—I forgot one detail. The census is coming up. California Democrats are agitating hard to NOT ask if people counted are illegal aliens. And the more people that are counted in California, the more Democratic Representatives California will have in the House of Representatives … cui bono indeed …

34 thoughts on “Cui Bono?

  1. Willis, in the UK as Brexit approaches, the farmers are wondering how they’ll get the harvests in without the army of (largely Eastern European) pickers who come over each year. The hospitality sector is also worrying about where they’ll get the people to run the hotels. Both say that the indigenous people won’t do the work. The reason is of course that the gastarbeiters will do the hard work and strange hours for minimum wages or below, and will accept poor working conditions and accommodation because it pays so much better than in their home countries. They’ll put up with the problems because they can earn 4-5 times what they can at home, and after a few years have enough to buy a house back in their own countries.

    For a while here in France I had a zero-hours contract with a builder, and most of his subcontractors were from the Czech Republic. Good workers, with high-quality work produced, but prepared to work for minimum wage in France because it was worth it to them relative to what they could earn back home. Of course, that was all totally legal, but I suspect that back in the Czech republic finding a builder to do your job would be more difficult and it would cost more. Poland is likewise probably somewhat short of plumbers. People with skills tend to go where they get better-paid.

    The same thing obviously applies to the illegal immigrants in the USA, except that because they are in that case illegal they’ll accept even lower wages and worse conditions. Can’t complain to the authorities since that would result in deportation. What business would turn down the chance to get the same work done at a lower cost when there’s no downside as regards prosecution? Individuals can also pay less for house-cleaners, gardening jobs etc. when they slip cash to someone asking if they want the job done.

    You’ll thus get a conspiracy of silence from those who have employed people cash-in-hand in the past and present, and a blind eye turned on the illegal immigrants because they reduce the costs. The losers are only the local poor unemployed after all, and they don’t have much clout.

    Generally, I’d expect the folks who leave their own country to find more money in another would be self-selected as better than average. Immigration should thus be good for the country that receives them, and bad for the country that loses them. Doesn’t apply when the education-levels are too far different, though, or the skills don’t transfer. You could be a great goatherder in your own country, but lousy at programming computers in another….

    As such, the country needs to have the ability to select the people who are allowed to immigrate, so they don’t take in people who are either unemployable or where the skills are over-supplied anyway. With burger-flipping now becoming automated, the bar needs to rise somewhat.

    Given that a lot of those Democrats have in the past called for better walls at the border, it seems to me that the only reason to oppose it now is because it would be allowing Trump to deliver on an election promise. That’s a lousy reason to not protect your own country, given that it’s not only the illegal people but also illegal drugs that are coming across that porous border. Somewhat amusingly, Mexico has a wall against Guatemalans entering Mexico, and a lot of the people saying a wall isn’t needed have walls around their own houses….


  2. That was one smooth, thorough write-up of the illegal alien situation, Willis.

    The current President of The United States is being vilified for pointing out the same things you just did. Pointing those things out got him elected.
    My daughter-in-law came to America from China when she was 19 years old. She came here legally to go to university in the U.S., which is common. She loves the U.S. (and China) but she preferred the U.S. and its freedoms most, so she began the process to legally become a U.S. citizen. About 7 years after starting the process, she became a U.S. citizen.

    The point is that she, and many other legal immigrants I have heard or read about on the topic, are really pissed off about the “line jumpers.” They sure as heck don’t call them “undocumented immigrants.” What they do call them is… well, I’ll leave it to the imagination, and it doesn’t take much imagination. I can understand why the illegals really cheese them off after all the hoops they jumped through to become citizens.

    BTW, the citizenship ceremony is really neat. If you’re passing by a courthouse while they are swearing in new citizens, try to sit in. It’s fairly brief, but it will do your heart good to see the joy and pride that’s evident in a brand-spanking-new batch of U.S. citizens. It makes you appreciate your own citizenship a bit more and if it doesn’t bring a big grin and a tear to your eye of your own pride and joy of citizenship, you are made of stone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Willis, you’ve hit the fundamental and most important issue that gets ZERO public discussion: how much legal immigration should we allow? What standards? Should we have a temporary worker category—people who are allowed to come in for work for, say, 6 months at a time and then required to stay out of the US for, say, at least 5 months before reapplying? We have a visa program for skilled workers who can come for several years at a time (not sure of the H1B details), but nothing AFAIK for shorter-term unskilled workers (e.g., farm workers or landscape or domestic help).

    The US has OBVIOUSLY insufficient quotas for legal immigration/ work permits for unskilled workers. With a reasonable program, these people would be subject to minimum wage and other regulations. Yes, they would compete with Americans for those jobs, but if the program were data-driven against employment trends/ requirements in relevant industry segments, that problem could be minimized.

    With a sensible approach to legal immigration (which is the REAL problem), we would have far higher documentation of immigrants and much better control over preventing undesirable individuals from coming into the US.

    Of course, we STILL need strong border security; we still need a way to meaningfully deal with illegal immigrants currently in the country; employers should be required to check immigration status of employees; we should be highly effective in tracking down visa over-stayers.

    But, no changes will ultimately make sense without a sensible approach to how we manage how many people we SHOULD allow to come into the country on a year-by-year basis.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meisha, welcome to the blog, and thanks for a well-reasoned comment.

      The main change that I think we need to make is to move to merit-based immigration rather than quota based or based on family relationships. Automation is killing low-wage jobs. The very last thing we need is more low-wage workers. We need people with education and innovative spirit. We can no longer be the world’s dumping ground for the “wretched masses”.

      Best to you,



  4. Another group of people who benefit are the people-smugglers who charge illegal immigrants often large sums of money to get them into the US and then – sadly all too often – force people who can’t pay into even worse conditions of slavery. This is a lucrative industry only because the people being smuggled think they will have a chance to get into the US and then stay there. By making it harder to get across the border – and also not giving such illegal immigrants any option beyond deportation – the incentives are reduced and the criminal gangs will lose their clients.

    Australia has pretty much proved this with their policy of not allowing illegal immigrants who arrive by boat to actually land in Australia: The boats stopped in a surprisingly short period. The causal nature of the policy change was supported by the speed with which the illegal boats returned when government policy changed – and stopping again when the policy was re-imposed. The US doesn’t have the same policy option at a land border, but this example shows how the illegal industry is very responsive to government policy and making it less likely for people smuggling to succeed will reduce the number of people smugglers.


    • True. The part I’ve never understood is why we cannot simply take illegal border crossers to the nearest port of entry and give them back to Mexico. But noooo … they get a ticket saying “Show up at court in six months” and are turned loose in the US.


      Thanks for your comment,



      • Willis wrote: “The part I’ve never understood is why we cannot simply take illegal border crossers to the nearest port of entry and give them back to Mexico.”

        I think that we *can* do that if they are from Mexico. But we can not so that if they are from farther away and claim asylum (I think that those from Mexico are not allowed to claim asylum). Then they can not be deported until their asylum claim is denied. Of course, many jusy disappear before that happens.

        The obvious solution (or at least part of one) is to prohibit asylum claims by those who enter illegally.


        • I agree that we should be able to deny asylum to illegal entries, but from what I’ve read we can’t because of the way the law is written. It says that we have to allow asylum claims be adjudicated regardless of how they got here. The only way to prevent them from getting here and disappearing into the crowd is to keep them from crossing the border till their claim is reviewed.


  5. ” arrest employers who hire illegal aliens” Ahh but Willis, as you said earlier, these are the affluent so I think not. Love your writing. from the UK


  6. I worked construction for over 40 years. In my part of the country in the ’90’s, there was an influx of illegal workers. They were welcome because native citizens were not entering the workforce. Of course, wages were pretty meager. In the following twenty years wages increased slightly. But imagine what wages would have been without the illegal alternative. I put it at $20 to start and $50 after several years of experience, more with skill.
    That is one route, the other would have been a plan of legally allowing a limited number of workers in the country. With a somewhat lower potential cost for wages.
    Either way makes sense, what doesn’t make sense to me are the carcasses of the few who didn’t make it through the desert hiding from the border patrol. I know of one very good worker, a good man, a person anyone would enjoy the company of who lies out there somewhere. He had gone home to see his family and was reported missing by the coyote on the way back north.
    So no, the current method of supplying labor for “unskilled” is not moral. And having been outdoors in the west I know what hundreds of miles of range look like. I don’t understand the notion of high tech border control unless you are going to shoot a laser at the offenders from a drone. To my mind building a wall would be a difficult job. But I don’t see anything else slowing down the influx of want to workers.


  7. When I was in college in the 70s, a lot of guys worked summers doing construction, painting, roofing, landscaping and other primarily-summer-only jobs (one guy wrote an article in the university student newspaper about his stint working in a fish-processing plant in Alaska during the summer). It was a good way to earn enough money in about three months to pay for the following year’s tuition and living expenses (this was before government-guaranteed student loans killed the work ethic in college-age students and caused tuition costs to soar into the stratosphere). It was easy to tell who did this kind of work by their deep suntans when school resumed in the fall. A combination of an influx of cheap, illegal-immigrant labor and the aforementioned student loans killed off that segment of the college-student job market. Americans will do those kinds of jobs, but not for illegal-immigrant slave wages.


  8. And similarly, if someone sneaks into your country and starts sleeping on your streets and eating your food, he is not an “undocumented immigrant”.

    He is an illegal alien.

    If I drive my car for a quick errand but forget to bring my wallet and driver’s license, I am an “undocumented driver”, and if stopped can be given a citation with an order to appear. If I can’t prove that I actually have a valid license, I am an “illegal driver” and face stiffer penalties.

    If it turns out my license has been revoked for prior offences, it gets worse for me.

    At least in the MSM, it appears the phrase “illegal immigrant” is forbidden, let alone “repeat offender illegal immigrant”.


  9. There is also the issue that many people entering the US illegally are doing it with the help of professional smugglers involved to some degree at least with the drug cartels. The smuggling fee, if not paid in cash up front, has to be worked off somehow. So even if people don’t intend to become involved in crime, if they have to pay off the smugglers and cartels, it becomes more likely that they will.


  10. Thanks Willis.
    One of your best. Be nice to see this in the Wall Street Journal – the post does address economics, so they might be interested.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    On my father’s side: My grandmother was born in Balinamore, County Leitrim, Ireland. She traveled to Derry (Londonderry), boarded a Norwegian ship and entered the US via Ellis Island. Granddad’s folks came from Sweden, and we don’t know how that was accomplished, being a generation earlier.
    Mom’s folks were of German stock, entered long ago, and settled in the hills of western Pennsylvania. No records there.


  11. How are teens supposed to get their first job nowdays when ‘minimum wage’ is supposed to be enough to support a family of 4?

    If there are not people willing to work for the amount being offered for a job, the amount offered will go up (and the price of the product being produced will go up)

    but when government gets involved and says that you can’t charge more, pays people to not work (or eliminates their benefits if they work even a little bit) it breaks this process. In the USSR there was the Black Market when it was forbidden to charge what something was worth,in the US we have ‘under the table’ payments to workers

    For those who are in favor of Government regulations to protect workers, ask yourself if it’s really worth having no protections for the ‘under the table’ workers in order to drive up the minimum wage for ‘normal’ workers?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. “Cui Bono”…
    Except for the Title, utterly Off-Topic…
    From February, 1956: “The Cui Bono Matter,” serialized on “Yours, Truly, Johnny Dollar” []
    …”little mag-nolia blossom”…

    Most of the 1955-1956 serial stories hold up well, 60 years later; high-quality mid-1950s adult detective tales…


  13. We have a problem in the US which is different from the situation I have experienced in other countries which I have visited or lived in (29 and 10). unlike the US, most other countries have an ID card for citizens. The only people in the US with an ID that shows their citizenship status are legal immigrants (green cars.) I have a passport which proves my citizenship, but most Americans do not (85% lack a passport according to a Jan 11, 2018 Forbes article.) If you meet someone at random on the street, they may or may not be a US citizen however most likely they could not prove their citizenship status. The exceptions would be foreign citizens with their passports or foreign ID card and green card holders. I only carry my passport when I am flying, thus I typically could not prove my citizenship. Perhaps it is time to have a US ID card which shows citizenship status.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, due to the Real-ID law, the drivers licenses and ID cards show citizenship status. There are some states that make this hard to see (California for example), but it’s there.

      This is why California is having to re-issue everybody’s Drivers Licenses over the next year or two.


  14. We hear about illegal aliens. We know that legal immigration is a long and painful process. Is there something in between, a temporary work visa for Mexicans?

    The illegal aliens who find legitimate work are the best of the lot. (Do they have driver licence, do the pay car insurance, do they pay taxes?). Because if you don’t have legit job, you will probably turn to crime, drive stolen cars, be a drain on welfare. Well, not you, but is there any in between?

    I heard 13 million illegal Mexicans, up to 22 million illegals total. Hard to imagine, almost as many people as live in Australia, one report said. If so, it’s amazing that there have not been more effects. How many before everything falls apart?

    Others can make analogies to other historical walls. I would like to make a different analogy. Woodstock. Woodstock had incredible PR, we all know it as peace love and weed. I wasn’t there. From what I have heard it was a train wreck disaster for the promoters. The masses of people pouring in overwhelmed the gate. You can bet that later festivals had better walls. BTW, two 50 year anniversary shows are coming up.

    The other analogy is the fall of Rome. Decadent Rome overwhelmed by immigration, not conquest, just immigration. I think. I’ll have to read that book before this is over.

    BTW, what I can tell you from my travels in central and south america is that everybody builds their own walls, preferably with razor wire or embedded broken glass on top. It’s not that everyone is bad, far from it. But it only takes a few bad apples.

    If there are more than a few bad apples, what you get is a failed state. The gangs or warlords are in control, and justice for the rest is not on their agenda.

    Mexico is headed that way. Several of the newly elected leaders only lasted a few hours before they were shot.

    Is that the new Democratic Party vision?


  15. For the sake of comparison, the TSA budget for airport security is over 5 billion per year. The total TSA budget is about 8 billion per year.


  16. I’ve been trying to come up with a term that describes those of the buearocracy, media, education, and financial realms. Oligarcy is the right term (rule. by the elites) but that has been highjacked to refer to Russian business thugs. Gentocracy is the best I’ve been able to come up with (rule by the Gentry): rule by those who consider themselves the elite. They neither spin nor sow.

    Orwell came to the conclusion that his solcialist colleges didn’t like the poor in fact they distained them, they just hated those richer than themselves and felt that they should be running things.


  17. If the proposed “wall” went the whole length of the border, it would be about $3000 per mile. I think they should stop calling it a wall and call it a fence instead, an enhanced fence. Limited access highways have fences; nobody calls them immoral.

    The next caravan from Honduras has started.


  18. Also Cui Bono: democrat politicians, who believe that a large majority of these illegal aliens will someday become loyal democrat voters. California used to be a republican state.


  19. What kind of society would be better off without more of the ultimate resource – people?

    Put the effort into:
    – catching criminals
    – education of low-skilled Americans (which has to start with rational culture, not teaching people of a collective group that they are inferior or that they should blame others).

    And note that a good society can offload work to societies that can export at low cost, because it can employ its people in more skilled work.

    Donald Trump is really just a hawkish Democrat, a loudmouth version of Scoop Jackson from WA state years ago. He panders to unions.

    PS: Of course leadership is key. Examples:
    – a Ford plant in Mexico has better quality than Ford’s US plants, whereas I’ve seen shockingly bad quality in steering component from Chrysler’s Mexican production.
    – US plants of Sony and Toyota produce better quality than their Japanese plants. (Yes, better, albeit probably small difference, hard to be a lot better than very good.

    I recommend the ‘culture’ document at for exposition of sound values that helped that bank succeed, including by facilitating delegation. OTOH Wells Fargo went bad at the top, and at the bottom in absorbing a bank in the Carolinas to which it moved its customer service – bad performance in that.)


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