You Won’t Have Nixon To Kick Around Anymore

Poor Memento Moron must have been horribly dissapointed when your humble Smallholder took a respite from blogospheric conflict. Our buddy Brian is so beside himself with joy at my reappearance that he had a response to my immigration missive posted before my keyboard cooled.

I acknowledge that there are a few bad men who come to this country illegally. But the VAST majority of people are the hardworking types I described above. It takes intiative to cross the border. Working in Harrisonburg, I encounter a huge number of immigrants, legal and otherwise. My impression is that the higher levels of crime associated with immigration is not caused directly by the immigrants themselves. So many of the immigrants in Harrisonburg are so busy working two and three jobs that they are not home with their children and their children often do a lousy job of raising themselves - though honesty forces the concession that somehow stopping illegal aliens would also preclude the creation of the antisocial American-born second generation. However, a fair amount of the crime pronbably results from people preying on immigrants who literally cannot seek protection from the authorities. Giving immigrants legal status would alleviate a small proportion of that crime.

The greatest criminal activity associated with illegal immigration is largely ignored: the American business communties’ prfit-driven motivation to look the other way and not check “papers” too closely. The unspoken reality behing the immigration debate is that the only real way to slow immigration down is to convince employers to stop giving immigrants jobs. And, aside from poorly skilled nativist high school drop outs, no one wants that.

Companies like immigrants because they hold down unskilled wages.

The middle class likes low wages because it reduces the cost of consumer goods and services. We like our cheap lettuce, grapefruit, chicken, landscaping services, and home construction.

There is no political way that Congress will actually pass legislation that would create enforceable penalties that would actually deter companies from hiring illegals. The Democrats are known for drinking at the corporate lobbying trough, but the Republican’s successful conquest of K-Street is even more impressive. Neither party wants to incur the wrath of the business community. Additionally, actually taking immigrants out of the labor pool would force companies to compete for unskilled American labor, driving up the cost of production. The higher production costs would be passed on to the consumer. The American economy already has serious inflationary pressures due to oil prices. Add higher production costs to the mix and we will have an ugly inflation monster knocking at Grandma’s door*. Stagnating home appreciation means that Americans won’t be able to continue to tap equity wealth to fuel spending, so consumer demand would fall.

Companies faced with a harsher business climate would start looking at their operations. If cheap labor based on illegal Mexicans can’t be found in America, the outsourcing trend wil accelerate. Instead of helping poorly educated Americans get higher wages, removing illegal aliens from the workforce will simply result in the elimination of jobs that poorly educated people can do. Many of our right-leaning readers will object to this. But consider this, my righty friends: this is exactly the same (and valid) argument made by the right against raising the minimum wage. If the logic opposing raising the minimum wage holds, so does the logic of welcoming immigrants.

Costs up + lost jobs + sales down = Recession. Bush and the Republican leadership know that a recession and disheartened middle class is a sure recipe for electoral disaster. Americans as a group won’t make the link between cracking down on immigrants and the recession. They’ll just vent at the ballot box**.

People like my esteemed friend Polymath like to highlight the “cost” of immigration. But those costs are more than offest by the economic benefits.

In conclusion:

Support illegal immigration to avoid a recession.

* Yes, I know that “ugly inflation monster knocking at Grandma’s door” is a terrible phrase. But the ugliness of my original language amuses me to the point that I won’t try to craft a better sentence. Inflation is so sucky that even describing it requires sucky language. ‘Sides, do you really think a poor sodbuster like the ig’nant Smallholder can be troubled to put together fancy words for all you snooty college types?

** Witness the public’s anger at Bush over gas prices. High gas prices are manifestly not the fault of the administration, despite what panderers like Nancy “No Blood for Oil!” Pelosi say (not that she is not mirrored by Bill “I’m a dishonest, opportunistic moron” Frist). Perhaps I’ll write a post defending Bush from gas-based attacks. If nothing else, it will give the Minister of Propaganda an aneurism.

9 Comments

I think you are wrong on a serious point. Many of the jobs performed by illegals cannot, due to their very nature, be outsourced overseas. The jobs in agriculture and contruction (which I seem to believe from reading somewhere - Dresner?) where illegals flourish cannot be packed up and moved to othernations.

Your basic points are, however, accurate.

I still believe that we must take control of our border. The question is one of greater significance than just the economic impact of illegals.



Brian B said:

“Support illegal immigration to avoid a recession.”

So it’s ok to break the law, as long as therer’s an economic benefit? Great, I’ll be right over to sell drugs to your kids.



In Harrisonburg the biug chicken processing plants could all very easily move overseas. Industrial chicken production is barely profitable at all as it is. There is nothing very high tech about it. And frozen chickens can be shipped like anything else.

We would end up paying more for our groceries, but that might help organic farmers out there by raising the price point of lower quality industrial meat. Hmmm. Maybe I should vote against illegals anyway.



Brian,

There is no doubt that illegals broke the law.

The question before America is whether prosecuting them for that breach is in the best interests of America.

It is not.

Businesses will be hurt.

Middle class Americans will be hurt.

The only folks who (perhaps) benefit are uneducated natives, who ought to be able to outcompete illegals anyway due to the language advantage. But perhaps they lose their jobs anyway when wages rise to the point that they outweigh the marginal utility of their unskilled labor.

We could also ticket every motorist who goes one mile above the speed limit. We don’t because the cost of enforcement would be too high.



Brian B said:

“The question before America is whether prosecuting them for that breach is in the best interests of America.”

It is. I will be glad to address that point, as soon as I have my lunch break.

but even if I acknowledged the economic benefits, I am disturbed by the argument that the cost benefit alone is enough to justify ignoring lawbreaking. By that logic, all a lawbreaker has to do is make it too expensive to apprehend them, and they’re off scot free. Why bother even having a law if we don’t intend to enforce it?



Isn’t that the way things are already?

When was the last time you were pulled over on the interstate for going 66 miles and hour?

When was the last time the INS actually penalized a company for hiring illegals?

When was the last time some 12 year old was charged with tax evasion for not reporting her babysitting money?

The cost to apprehend and prosecute mean that victimless crimes are usually ignored. In fact, lawbreaking is often tacitly encouraged. When you see a state trooper on the interstate, he is generally travelling between 75 and 80. This is not because troopers are scofflaws. The authorities know that everyone will always drive the speedlimit when they see smokey, so smokey is told to move through traffic as quickly as possible so that traffic flow can resume as quickly as possible in the 74 mph zone. Honestly, it is more dangerous if everyone obeys the laws and drives 65.



Brian -

“Why even have a law if we don’t intend to enforce it.”

Exactly.

All of Bush’s talk about securing borders is meaningless. He knows that this tough talk is all window dressing to distract people while the corporations and middle class regularize the system in which immgrant labor continues to subsidize our bottom line.

We may be having fun debating this, but this is just high school forensics extra credit. The reality is that immigration will not be resrticted in any meaningful way because the interests groups that matter have no intention of actually restricting immigration.

It’s much like our debate over gay marriage - we can score points and argue, but it is a done deal. The opponents have admitted as much when they claim we need a constitutional amendment that has zero chance of ever happening. The Protection of Marriage Act doesn’t trump the Constitution. The state constitutional changes are invalidated by the supremacy clause. Bashing gays gets votes, but deosn’t derail the contitutional train. Those who oppose gay marriage are like Faubus and Wallace and Connor - they can stand at the courthouse steps with their billy clubs and shotguns, but they are only delaying the inevitable.



Polymath said:

I must concur, Smallholder, that illegal immigration will continue to be largely ignored until the problem is even worse than it is now. Illegal immigrant labor does subsidize our economy. But our economy is not a prepetual motion machine. Locking down the border (now) and implementing a guest worker quasi-temp-agency program (later) is the only way to stop the flow of illegals while benefiting from the large pool of unskilled labor they represent.



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