Over at The Corner, Mark Krikorian suggested spending funds Bush earmarked for job training on “immigration enforcement” at work sites. The idea is to make cheap immigrant labor less available, and thereby to make domestic ex-convicts more attractive to employers.
But how about streamlining immigration procedures instead? If immigrants will work for lower wages than ex-convicts, artificially restricting the labor market to benefit ex-cons amounts to an indirect and inefficient subsidy. Krikorian ignores the costs to business, and hence consumers, of immigration restrictions that drive up labor costs.
He also ignores the possibility that employers prefer immigrants for many jobs at a given wage level. In that case the better course of action might be to eliminate, or at least lower, minimum wage rates that price less-productive and higher-risk workers out of jobs.
It’s obvious that most immigrants come to this country because they want to work, but we shouldn’t forget that American employers want to hire them. It should be easier for hard-working immigrants to come here without first spending years jumping through bureaucratic hoops.
Prison reform is a separate issue. Ex-convicts may be made employable via training programs (as Bush proposes), by lowering the minimum wage, or even by directly subsidizing employers who hire them. Attempting to increase demand for ex-con labor by driving illegal immigrants — many of whom are illegal mainly because it’s prohibitively difficult and time consuming to become legal — out of the labor market, is a poor alternative.
5 thoughts on ““Cheap Foreign Labor” and Prison Reform”
Employers do not pay the full cost of maintaining a low-skill legal immigrant. Once the immigrant is too old to work, he/she will fal back on social services provided through the government, ie through tax dollars. Restricting immigration may both raise labor costs and save tax dollars. Determining the net cost/benefit is not simple. The desire of employers for cheap labor cannot be considered in a vacuum.
How and why are employers not paying the full cost of ‘maintain a low-skill legal immigrant’ ? And how and why are they different from other low-skill employees, who will also fall back on ‘social services’ when they’re too old to work ? I know conventional wisdom says immigrants take less pay, but there is evidence that this is not true, or that it doesn’t last for most legal immigrants. As for the notion that more tax revenue ‘saves tax dollars’, it makes little sense; it also seems to assume that whatever deficit is presumed to exist has to do with low-skill immigrants, as opposed to other low-skill employees.
“The desire of employers for cheap labor cannot be considered in a vacuum.” Handwaving doesn’t help either.
Bill Fusz over at The Bully Pulpit follows up on your post, taking on Kerkorkian for the second time in three days:
Another Response to Krikorian
LOL, oh that’s a good solution, replace illegals with ex-con’s…
“Employers do not pay the full cost of maintaining a low-skill legal immigrant. Once the immigrant is too old to work, he/she will fal back on social services provided through the government, ie through tax dollars.”
Well, it wasn’t the employers who decided that their employees should be given social services, and it’s not the employers’ duty to prevent their employees from being eligible for social services that our government has chosen to offer.
If we want low-income people to stop receiving social services, then we can shut down those programs. If we continue offering social services, then we are to blame for the continuing costs, not the employers.
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