Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Thoughts On A Day Without (Illegal) Immigrants

As the product of two families who immigrated to America via Ellis Island from Italy and Lebanon, there is little that I can say in opposition to immigration. Immigrants help make our country strong by bringing talents, work ethic, and the dream of a better life to our shores.

The problem is that right now, America's immigration policy is 180-degrees removed from what it should be. We tacitly permit millions of low-skilled, mainly Latino illegal immigrants under the guise of doing jobs that Americans won't do. Meanwhile, we make it increasingly difficult for foreigners of all stripes to come to American universities to study, and then make it even harder for them to stay if they so choose once their studies are completed. This policy is wrecklessly dangerous to our economy and needs to "flip-flop". We should make it harder for unskilled laborers to come to the U.S., but easier for foreign students to study at U.S. universities. And easier still for them to stay once they graduate. I would even go so far as to say that any foreigner who earns a master's or doctorate degree from an American university should have a "green card" stapled to their diploma.

I'd first like to say that there are no jobs that Americans simply won't do. The labor market is subject to the law of supply and demand just like every other market in America. If the supply of workers to perform a particular task is beneath the demand, then the wage paid to those workers will rise to draw more workers into the market for that task, until the market reaches equilibrium, supplying businesses with the labor they need a the market-clearing price.

However, the problem with this model is that businesses desperately do not want to pay the market-clearing price. The "Wal-Martization" of our economy has placed such enormous strains on businesses to have the lowest cost structure possible, that if they can get away with paying illegal immigrants far below the market-clearing price, they'll do it. This hurts American workers with a high-school diploma or below education level, because now they are forced to compete with illegal immigrants who will work for next to nothing. Consider that during the 1970's meat packers at chicken processing plants in the rural South had an average wage of $19/hour. Today these same jobs pay about $9/hour. How can they afford to pay that little? Well, lets just say its no coincidence that these businesses were the ones shutting down during the "May Day" protests. But, the businesses simply don't care because the penalties for this activity are light to moderate.

No more. This is the heart of the matter. For all the fantasies of people like Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado, no mass deportation of illegal immigrants to Mexico or other countries is in the offing. And there need not be. All we simply must do is make it clear to businesses that the U.S. will no longer tolerate companies who hire illegal immigrants. A fine of $100,000 per illegal immigrant employee or contractee, per day, should be a sufficient deterrent to corporations to make them scrupulously check the documentation of the workers or contractees they hire. Then, the corporations should be billed for any public services their illegal immigrant employees or contractees consume. These measures should dry up the demand for illegal immigrant labor, which would cause them to go home.

Now, I'm sure that there will still be some demand for immigrant labor in some sectors, agricultural being one, and that's why we need to institute a "guest worker" program to allow workers to enter the U.S. legally for a period of three years. We should probably allow a fairly high number each year, lets just say 300,000 per year just as a round figure for debate purposes. If after three years, the guest worker wishes to stay and has met certain conditions (such as having not been convicted of a crime, not on welfare, etc.) the permit can be renewed for another three years. If after the second three-year permit has elapsed they still meet the conditions they can then apply for citizenship. Then they can truly be called immigrants, because they would have come to the United States in a manner respectful of the rule of law.

I'd just like to close byoffering one of the most astute comments by the mafiosi who ran booze during Prohibition: "The worst part about being outside the law is that you no longer have the protection of it." If you come to this country outside the law, then please do not scream about your rights. This country is about liberty, and liberty is not possible without the rule of law.

1 comment:

Ol' BC said...

Wow. You sound a little like a Republican. The reality is there is an immigration process. Many have chosen not to follow it. Most people didn't notice the vacation day of the Latinos and that is that. This country is based on the rule of law and it should be followed. Period.