Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Assumptions About Immigration Reform

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has an op-ed in the New York Times about immigration reform. He wants to drastically reduce legal immigration. The problem is that right off the bat he draws the wrong conclusion:

“We’re pretty much begging for workers,” Tom Nassif, the chief executive of Western Growers, a trade organization that represents farmers, said on CNN. A fast-food chain founder warned, “Our industry can’t survive without Mexican workers.” 
These same industries contend that stricter immigration enforcement will further shrink the pool of workers and raise their wages. They argue that closing our borders to inexpensive foreign labor will force employers to add benefits and improve workplace conditions to attract and keep workers already here.

Actually, no, they're not complaining about having to raise wages. They're concerned that no one will want to work there at all. In the 21st century, I don't see evidence that non-immigrants want to move seasonally with the harvests. That's why a guest worker program makes sense.

Some years ago, I reviewed Gabriel Thompson's excellent book Working in the Shadows. The work our economy needs people to do is brutal, and not something anyone wants to do long-term. This is an unpleasant reality, but we have to be conscious of it. If you greatly restrict labor supply, the most likely outcome is bankruptcies, accompanied by prices shooting up.

Let me put this another way. Trump voters do not think that "making America great again" involves them picking lettuce.


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