Immigration Policy Strategy

The editors of the Wall Street Journal, no foes of expanding immigration, call on the Biden Administration to compromise with Republicans and pass immigration reform dammit:

The better political path is to look for small wins such as modernizing the farm guest-worker program and legalizing Dreamers, both of which have drawn GOP support. This week Mr. Biden said he’s open to piecemeal bills, which is recognizing political reality.

America needs more human talent to remain a vibrant economy as the population ages and China rises. Bowing to the left will play into the hands of restrictionists who want to define Democrats as the open borders party. Immigration offers Mr. Biden an opportunity to claim a political victory that has eluded his predecessors. But he’s going to have to work with Republicans and risk disappointing the left to get it.

The fly in that ointment is that immigration activists are pushing to complete amnesty and reduced enforcement while “restrictionists”, as the WSJ call them, not only do not want more immigrants but want to deport those who are here illegally. Hence the present impasse.

I’m rather skeptical of this claim by the editors:

America needs more workers in agriculture, construction and technical fields.

If that were the case wouldn’t you expect wages to rise in those fields? To the best of my ability to determine over the last 30 years the precise opposite is the case. Based on what I learned on the first day of Econ 101 that doesn’t suggest increased demand. It does suggest, as Jared Bernstein put it, whenever wages for anybody start to rise the “immigration spigot” is turned on.

Just to remind readers I support immigration reform:

  • I think we need an expanded guest worker program, specifically tailored for Mexican workers.
  • I support some form of DACA. Whatever requirements are established by law should be enforced in an even-handed manner.
  • I oppose a general amnesty.
  • I support strict workplace enforcement of our immigration laws in much the same way as is the case in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • I think the “diversity lottery” should be abolished.
  • I think that sponsorship should either be abolished or severely curtailed and enforced.
  • I could be persuaded of the wisdom of automatically granting “green cards” to non-citizens who graduate from American universities with doctorates in science, technology, and engineering.

That wouldn’t make anybody happy except most workers in the United States regardless of where they were born.

5 comments… add one
  • bob sykes Link

    Mass immigration, such as that proposed, will reduce the average American wage to the World average wage, which happens to be $5/hr. This will be disguised by increased unemployment among the working class.

    But even middle class programmers, engineers, doctors, dentists, nurses, scientists et al. will suffer from more H1_B visas. And that, of course, is the goal.

    If you need farm laborers, take them from the prisons. The prisoners might like to be outdoors.

  • Drew Link

    “If that were the case wouldn’t you expect wages to rise in those fields?”

    A well worn topic. I will point out, again, that I’m not sure its that simple. There are two supply/price/quantity demanded considerations at work. Producers and consumers. Plus something people don’t want to acknowledge.

    You can say that increased wages will attract workers. But at some point those wages either get passed through as price, or companies pull back because they cannot make money. And on the other side, consumers have a breaking point as well. If the price is too high because wages/cost structures are too high, they stop buying or seek alternatives. In addition, there are people who will prefer to take government subsidy rather than work. People don’t want to talk about that, but its true. The covid issue made it clear that there are plenty of people willing to take less income in return for no work at all. Ask someone who owns 7 companies, or any businessman in need of hires.

    I can’t speak to tech and H1B visas. Not my world. But in construction and ag there simply are Americans who will not do such work at a wage that can sustain the business. Markets can sort this all out, but if you restrict those foreign workers you may find your tomato supply diminished (or your American businesses displaced by imports), or your new home construction delayed 18 months.

    I think your guest worker point addresses this. Democrat’s willy-nilly immigration policies are ham fisted, poorly thought out and harmful.

  • You can say that increased wages will attract workers. But at some point those wages either get passed through as price, or companies pull back because they cannot make money.

    None of which contradicts my point. It does not support the notion that there is increasing demand for workers. You could increase the demand for Ferraris by cutting their prices to $10,000. What it tells you is that there are some activities which don’t make sense in the U. S., a proposition with which I agree.

    It doesn’t make much sense to be growing labor-intensive crops in the U. S. It might make sense were it to be automated. What is really nuts is subsidizing the cultivation of labor-intensive crops and then insisting on bringing in workers from Mexico and Central America so it can be more profitable.

    I’ve mentioned this example before. I think that the growth of fast food franchises was an outcome of the large pool of entry level workers coming into the market in the 1960s and 1970s as the Baby Boomers matured. By the mid-1980s that had already run its course and the primary pool of workers became low-skill immigrants. With a sane immigration system fast food franchises would have become uneconomical and would have vanished. That in turn would have had other societal implications. Everything is connected.

    The whole “Fight for $15” notion is a movement to pay a wage that adults can afford to support a family on for work for which it does not make economic sense to pay $15/hour. We don’t need a $15/hour minimum wage. We need more jobs that make economic sense to pay $15/hour and more for and fewer jobs that don’t make economic sense to pay less than $15/hour for.

  • TastyBits Link

    @Dave Schuler

    I agree, but you are beating your head against the wall.

  • But it feels so good when I stop!

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