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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Reviewing the Liberal Opposition to Immigration Reform

In a post at New Republic T. A. Frank lays out the liberal case against the Senate version of immigration reform. It's remarkably like the conservative case against the travesty bipartisan elites in Washington would inflict on middle America but up until now I assumed that liberals were in lock step with the Washington insider establishment and the special interests that view a lower standard of living for many Americans as the necessary trade off the public should gladly make to help their sectional interests prevail and prosper. I'm speaking of those in agribusinesses who have always had a soft place in their hearts for employees who will work cheaply and keep their mouths shut, of well heeled middle class minions in industry and politics who really need but can't quite afford nannies and maids in today's labor market, of the corrupt SEIU that is filled with illegal immigrants and brand E-Verify as a "jobs killer".
The country I want for myself and future Americans is one that’s prosperous, cohesive, harmonious, wealthy in land and resources per capita, nurturing of its skilled citizens, and, most important, protective of its unskilled citizens, who deserve as much any other Americans to live in dignity. This bill threatens to put all of that out of reach, because it fails to control illegal immigration. The problem is not that it provides 11 million people eventual amnesty (I don’t object to that, in theory); the problem is that it sets in motion the next waves of millions...
Most of America’s college-educated elites are little affected by illegal immigration. In fact, it’s often a benefit to us in terms of childcare, household help, dinners out, and other staples of upper-middle-class life. Many therefore view the problem as akin, in severity, to marijuana use—common but benign, helpful to the immigrants and minimal in its effects on Americans or anyone else. I know, because it used to be my own view.
Frank's epiphany came in Hong Kong during the during the SARS crisis of 2003. He saw a remarkable city in which even low-skilled laborers such as the men and women, who were wearing masks and wiping down railings, lived far better than similar laborers on the other side of the border. Yes, the former British colony maintains secure borders that prevent an influx of more low-skilled labor from driving down wages and damaging the standard of living of the most vulnerable.
Frank does not cite it but I'm sure he is aware of the Congressional Budget Office scoring of an earlier Gang of Eight bill without the addition of the Corker amendment, that predicts it would slash the deficit by $197 billion in the first decade, but at the cost higher unemployment and lower wages. To quote the report;
The average wage would be lower than under current law over the first dozen years. … CBO estimates that S. 744 would cause the unemployment rate to increase slightly between 2014 and 2020.
So the Democratic Party has become the party of higher unemployment and lower wages but accepts that as a necessary cost of growing the party.
And a lot of Democrats have also convinced themselves that even if there’s a wage loss to low-skilled workers, the massive new voting bloc of mostly left-leaning immigrants will ultimately help the little guy. But if millions of new Democratic voters oppose strict immigration control, then there will no Democratic support for meaningful immigration control. And generous social benefits cannot coexist with an open border.  (Nor can a more egalitarian society.)
Notice Frank falls back on Milton Friedman's dictum that a welfare state with open borders cannot exist. Prior to the welfare state immigration problems barely existed. Hardy souls who needed work such as Glen Campbell together with his father and brothers would annually drive up to Indiana to pick tomatoes. Migrant Mexican workers would return to Mexico after the crops were in and nobody needed a sanctimonious lecture from millionaire senators whose lives will not change no matter what the final immigration reform bill looks like.
It's not my intention to put words in Mr. Frank's mouth for he is, in fact, a much better writer than I am, but let me mention that I have noticed an uncanny correlation between immigration reform and the NSA spying scandal. The most strident voices for immigration reform are also the meekest in their acceptance of governmental spying into the private lives of ordinary Americans. It seems there is no liberal or conservative opposition to immigration reform but rather a Washington insider point of view with its vested interests, aligned against the interests of ordinary Americans. Washington society is comfortable with government secrecy because it is imbued with government actors who are insulated from normal American life just as they will be insulated from the dire effects of blanket amnesty. It is we the people against Senators Schumer, Bennet, Durbin, Menendez, McCain, Graham, Flake, and Rubio and their fellow Washington insiders. It's taxi drivers, iron workers, nurses, auto mechanics, waitresses, pipe fitters, and backhoe operators against the American Chamber of Commerce, Facebook, the SIEU, Linkedin and Microsoft. It's real Americans against corrupted law makers and vested interests.

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