Over at The Dish, Andrew Sullivan collected comments from several smart people on immigration reform, particularly on whether liberals should support immigration reform. These are comments from other journalists rather than commenters on his own site, which I usually find much more interesting and original.
But these thoughts are still interesting and worth considering. Their basic point is that increased immigration leads to more competition for low-skill jobs, which can drive down wages. Also, that lower-class people are more likely to have to rely on public services like schools and hospitals, which are more likely to be burdened by an immigration influx. (For example, instead of having a poorly-funded public school, you’ll have a poorly-funded public school where a non-negligible percentage of students don’t speak English in the home.) Rod Dreher makes the point that you can be concerned about these things without being a racist. And he’s absolutely right there. These are the kind of questions that a society capable of mature discussion should be considering on issues like this.
I’m not enough of a policy wonk to offer an educated opinion on the questions they raise. I would question some of the assumptions. For instance, I would question whether low-wage workers are really significant worse off with an influx of legally recognized workers. Personally, I start with the assumption that some degree of immigration is unavoidable, at least with the way American businesses conduct their business. They seem to rely on it. The trouble is, if you have no legal status it’s easy for employers to pay you less than the minimum wage, which makes it that much harder for American citizens to find any kind of low-wage job at all. I mean, think about it: if you were building an office building and could hire unskilled citizen/visa-possessing laborers at minimum wage or could pay unskilled illegal laborers a lower wage (because how exactly are they going to fight you if they can’t involve the authorities?), which are you going to hire?
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