Mark Krikorian (of the Center for Immigration Studies and an NRO Corner contributor) and I have been discussing immigration for some time. I thought the readers might find this interesting (although I probably hold a position to which 95% of my readers don't subscribe):
Mark Krikorian wrote:
It's not immigrants that are the bogeymen, it's policymakers that set up the cockamamie immigration policy.
You ask: "the difference between unskilled and uneducated labor from Mexico and unskilled / uneducated labor in the US is what? Their passport? Their language?" The short answer: Yes. Their passport and their language, i.e., the nationality -- as Americans we have a responsibility to our fellow countrymen that is greater than our responsibility to foreigners. Part of that responsibility is not loosening the labor market so as not to devalue the only thing that our countrymen with less education have to sell -- their labor.
In any case, thanks for your note. -- MK
At 05:20 PM 3/23/2006 -0800, you wrote:
Mark - Yes, the uneducated are the hardest hit, primarily because they are the ones competing for the jobs. One could also make the statement that college graduates with ComSci degrees were the hardest hit when the IT sector found out about the possibility of outsourcing to Indian helpdesks, but what's the point. [Students with ComSci degrees today aren't wasting years helping grandma with her DVD-drive. Instead, they're consulting and performing higher-value tasks.]
Labor mobility is a good thing. Free trade in inputs and outputs of free markets are beneficial... the difference between unskilled and uneducated labor from Mexico and unskilled / uneducated labor in the US is what? Their passport? Their language?
And I'm not condoning illegal immigration, because there is a clear difference between the illegal immigrant and those working here legally. However, I subscribe to the president's guest worker program for a variety of reasons...
1 - it makes sense from an economic standpoint;
2 - It forces employers to pay the minimum wage to guest workers, thus removing the current downward pressure on pay rates for unskilled labor;
3 - it forces guest workers to pay taxes into the system;
4 - it makes sense from a security standpoint to channel legal guest workers through a process which is easy, but documented, allowing for the border patrol to focus on those that still try to enter illegally (ie drug-runners & terrorists - no more touchy, feely border patrol); and
5 - I'm part of Another Rovian Conspiracy and Rove would be very displeased if I bucked him.
But, seriously I don't see immigrants (skilled or unskilled; brown, black, yellow, or white) as the boogiemen that you do... [In fact,] I'm writing this as I sit in a hotel bar in Montreal, doing a little "guest worker" thing of my own. While I think your position might be good politics for '06, I think it's bad policy.
Another Rovian Conspiracy
Now, I'm sorry, but I wonder what Mark's response would be if the immigrants coming in were unskilled Canadians instead of unskilled Mexicans. For some reason, I think this has less to do with the skills that the workers brings and more to do with other factors.
Now, with regard to my "duty" to my fellow Americans in finding a job. I'm sorry, but almost any American has the opportunity to succeed in our capitalist system. And the current system of illegal immigration is what is causing the problem regarding the downward pressure on wages, since illegals often are paid below minimum wage simply because their employers know that they can't go to the authorities and file a complaint. Allowing them to work legally would remove that downward pressure. And, since I also have a "duty" (and some would say a moral obligation) to provide public education, allowing people to obtain the skills required to become successful in the US. Now, readers of this blog know that I have serious issues with our current education system - not because of its existence, but because of its ineffectiveness.
I'm not pro- illegal immigration. However, the current system (even if enforced properly) would result in continued illegal immigration. The best way to solve the problem is to allow for a guest worker program which has the goal of moving them to citizenship within a certain timeframe. Heck, I'm all for a policy that would make English the official language of the US (and am against Spanish-only classes), ensuring that fellow citizens are able to truly understand one another and eliminate the possibility of the balkanization of America. This is probably to the "right" of many of those arguing for fortress America.
As I wrote in my response to Mark, his position on immigration makes for some terrible policy, but nice politics for 2006. Unfortunately for many of those in the GOP, Bush is unlikely to back down from this issue as it is one of the issues which most animates him. Ultimately, we need to face the economic reality that as long as our economy is as good as it is, we will attract immigrants from all over the world. Those that are our neighbors who could earn will understandably seek jobs in our country. The question is how best do we deal with them? I submit that a wall with 50-caliber machine guns mounted every 100 yards is not the solution. And that is what it might take.
ARC: St Wendeler