Back in October I had a letter posted in the New York Times about a bunch of people in Los Angeles who were fired by a clothing company because they could not prove that they were here legally. My letter was in favor of the firings, which could probably lead to some confusion for people, since I seem unfailingly liberal, and it has been a stereotype that liberals love illegal aliens for some reason.
Here's the deal: I don't hate immigrants. I do very much differentiate between legal and illegal immigrants. My wife is from the Philippines, and came here legally. We were married in Manila almost 14 years ago. At least in part, due to the Republicans shutting down the government several times that year, it took 13 months to bring her here to this country. That was a royal pain, but it was done legally. We later were able to bring both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law here legally. The government's metering of immigrants helps to make sure that our job market is not oversaturated. Why would this be of any interest to me? Because when the job market is oversaturated, as it is now, salaries suffer and we see companies, like the one I work for, start pressuring managers into firing experienced employees in order to hire cheaper inexperienced ones (I'm not joking.) In short, allowing unfiltered and unmetered immigration into this country, even in good times, means a kind of constant recession for our labor force, and in a recession things become depressionlike.
By setting some kind of basic employer sanctions for hiring illegal immigrants we help our economy. Yes, I know that many conservatives will claim that by lowering payroll we improve the economy, but there is absolutely no truth to that myth. The economy of the United States is NOT a Capitalist economy, it is a Consumerist economy. Without consumers buying the items sold by corporations you cannot support those corporations. No amount of capital sunk into a corporation will save it if consumers can't or won't buy it's products. And employees are the consumers.
So, illegal immigrants are saturating the jobs market and depressing the average income in the country, which decreases buying power of the consumers and contributes to a depressed economy. Got it?
In addition, there's the safety issue. My family didn't put themselves or anyone else at risk when they came here, which can't be said of illegal immigrants crossing the Sonoran Desert, many of whom die each year out there. Why would someone risk their lives to come here? Is it the health care system? Are you kidding? How about the welfare? Not eligable. Could it be the income they can get here, even depressed as it is, is still better than what they could get at home? Bingo.
So, what is the best way to keep these people from risking death and depressing our economy? Employer sanctions are the key. If nobody will hire you once you've gotten here, why bother coming? Canada does it and has no serious illegal immigrant problem. Is it possible to emulate a system that works?
Maybe, if the firings in Los Angeles are any indication.
[12-16-2009] Paul Krugman has blogged about a proposed decrease in minimum wage and it's likely effects over at the New York Times. Very timely.