Monday, September 27, 2010

Placing blame

Mark Shea on illegal immigration:
I don't get the panic over illegal immigrants. They are thoroughly woven into our economy, so it's cloud cuckoo unrealism to imagine we are going round up 12 million of them and send them back. And they are, largely, Lazarus--doing back-breaking work that we need them to do and getting crap wages for it. I've never understood the menace they allegedly represent: hard-working, largely Catholic, with a strong sense of family who have shown repeatedly that they want to make a better life for themselves and their kids. Yeah, sure, they've ignored US immigration law: a human system. Not ideal, but not the end of the world either. The reality, though, is that large segment of our economy would collapse without them. So since we have already made it clear we are willing to exploit them, I think the real onus is, as ever, on the powerful rather than the powerless. Weak and hungry people who fudge on a human law are guilty, it seems to me, of a venial sin at best. Powerful people who exploit the poor and the alien and deny the worker his wages are guilty of three of the sins that cry out to heaven for judgement.
1867 The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are "sins that cry to heaven": the blood of Abel, the sin of the Sodomites, the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, injustice to the wage earner.
Such is the fractured nature of American politics that the first two sins are sacred rights defended as "freedom of choice" and "the right to gay marriage" by the Left, while the latter three sins are solemnly defended pillars of any conservative worth his salt. We'll take the powerless migrant's labor, denounce him for doing it and then defend the guy who pays him crap wages. Any sympathy for the poor and powerless laborer is bleeding heart liberalism and (naturellement) incipient socialism.
Read the whole thing here.

I think that any attempt to solve the problem of illegal immigration is going to have to be clear about why it's a problem in the first place: that is, we have to identify the powerful corporate interests that entice (and even bus) immigrants into our country to do the jobs that these corporations won't pay Americans to do. And before we start punishing the illegal immigrant, we need to punish American businesses that insist that in order to maintain the level of stockholder profit they've become used to, they can't afford to hire Americans.

Because I don't believe there are jobs Americans won't do. I do, however, believe that there are plenty of companies out there who won't pay Americans to do the jobs their companies depend on. Let's make sure that the proper share of blame gets placed where it belongs, on the issue of illegal immigration.


  1. My field is construction where I'm a licensed contraction as well as architect, and where I have in the last year done a fair amount of hiring as supervisor in residential construction.

    The low wages obviously cuts both ways. But I know from experience that typically the final number that matters is the bid price. And those companies who use illegal immigrants typically come in lower.

    As long as the illegals offer their services at a below living wages, they will dominate the industry to the point where the only American on the site is the supervisor.

  2. @ltg - how would a blanket amnesty for currently illegal immigrants, and granting of abundant work visas, affect the situation?

    Would these workers then be enrolled in unions and protected by laws? Would there develop an underground labor pool - whether composed of immigrants or not - who are "offer their services at or below living wages"? Or would bid prices rise?

    These are honest questions. I'm in no way suggesting a blanket amnesty; but it seems as if that would take the "illegal" aspect out of the equation.

    I do think that there's every reason to begin supplying vastly more work visas than we currently are. But it occurs to me that, if it puts an immigrant on the same playing field as an American in looking for work, someone might still have incentive to enter illegally in order to get a job more easily.

    Therefore, it seems to me that the solution has to include strict regulation of hiring practices, and penalties for companies that, knowingly or through negligence, hire illegal immigrants.

    In other words, I think we have to both provide sufficient opportunity for legal immigration to meet our labor needs and provide sufficient penalties to companies to remove incentive to immigrate illegally.

  3. Robert,

    The solution is the same as that for outsourcing. The jobs have to be forced into American hands, because the market punishes those who do not outsource, and likewise punishes those who do not hire cheap labor.

    Society's duty is first to it's own citizens, just as my duty is first to my family.

    And just as affirmative action is unnatural because it asks me to place the stranger above my own flesh and blood, so likewise is it unnatural to place immigrants, illegal or otherwise equal to, or above, our own citizens, which is what amnesty would do.

  4. correction. Affirmative action doesn't place MY children above strangers, because I'm a legally protected species whose children get to go to the head of the line. Not that I've ever used it other than the enjoyment of listening to nitwits telling me how I'm oppressed.

  5. I agree, in principle at least, with the problems with amnesty.

    I'm a little wary of the idea that jobs have to be forced into American hands. This is mainly because I consider force of any kind to be a last resort, and I'm very wary of either businesses or government doing the forcing.

    Re: outsourcing, if I understand you rightly, you're saying that companies will outsource even more than they already do if they can't get cheap illegal labor. Is that correct?

    Again, seems to me that incentives are the solution here: tariffs and so on.

  6. I agree with LTG. For decades, masonry subcontractors employed Americans, especially black Americans, who often owned the their own companies. Owning a subcontracting business was the typical way I saw blacks pursuing a middle-class, private-sector entrepreneurial life.

    I can't remember the last time I saw a black mason on a jobsite.

  7. kkollwitz : "Owning a subcontracting business was the typical way I saw blacks pursuing a middle-class, private-sector entrepreneurial life."

    Not just blacks, it was a typical way for anyone without resources to pull themselves up into the middle class.