An op-ed in the New York Times by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas):
Fix Immigration. It’s What Voters Want.When I read articles and essays about rising inequality in the NYT, I like to do a text search on the character string “migra.” Usually I get zero hits.
By TOM COTTON DEC. 28, 2016
Donald J. Trump smashed many orthodoxies on his way to victory, but immigration was the defining issue separating him from his primary opponents and Hillary Clinton. President-elect Trump now has a clear mandate not only to stop illegal immigration, but also to finally cut the generation-long influx of low-skilled immigrants that undermines American workers.
Yet many powerful industries benefit from such immigration. They’re arguing that immigration controls are creating a low-skilled labor shortage.
“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.
I have an answer to these charges: Exactly.
Higher wages, better benefits and more security for American workers are features, not bugs, of sound immigration reform. For too long, our immigration policy has skewed toward the interests of the wealthy and powerful: Employers get cheaper labor, and professionals get cheaper personal services like housekeeping. We now need an immigration policy that focuses less on the most powerful and more on everyone else.
It’s been a quarter-century since Congress substantially reformed the immigration system. In that time, the population of people who are in this country illegally has nearly tripled, to more than 11 million. We’ve also accepted one million legal immigrants annually — and a vast majority are unskilled or low-skilled.
Some people contend that low-skilled immigration doesn’t depress wages. In his final State of the Union address, President Obama argued that immigrants aren’t the “principal reason wages haven’t gone up; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns.” Yet those decisions are possible only in the context of a labor surplus caused by low-skilled immigration. In a tight labor market, bosses cannot set low wages and still attract workers.
After all, the law of supply and demand is not magically suspended in the labor market. As immigrant labor has flooded the country, working-class wages have collapsed. Wages for Americans with only high school diplomas have declined by 2 percent since the late 1970s, and for those who didn’t finish high school, they have declined by nearly 20 percent, according to Economic Policy Institute figures.
No doubt automation and globalization have also affected wages, but mass immigration accelerates these trends with surplus labor, which of course decreases wages. Little wonder, then, that these Americans voted for the candidate who promised higher wages and less immigration instead of all the candidates — Republicans and Democrats alike — who promised essentially more of the same on immigration.
This time, however, “migra” turned up 34 times.
Will wonders never cease in the year 2016?