My own grandparents came to this country during that era, which ended with the imposition of severe immigration restrictions in the 1920s. Needless to say, I'm very glad they made it in before Congress slammed the door. As supporters of immigrant rights rightly remind us, everything today's immigrant-bashers say – that immigrants are insufficiently skilled, that they're too culturally alien and, implied though rarely stated explicitly, that they're not white enough – was said a century ago about Italians, Poles and Jews
Then veers abruptly into relevance:
Today, there's a highly technical controversy going on among economists about the effects of recent immigration on wages. No matter how that dispute turns out, it's clear that the earlier wave of immigration increased inequality and depressed the wages of the less skilled. For example, a recent study by Jeffrey Williamson, a Harvard economic historian, suggests that in 1913 the real wages of unskilled U.S. workers were around 10 percent lower than they would have been without mass immigration
Of course, this is in principle exactly the present day finding of the Statistics Canada paper I blogged about on Saturday (and which still has yet to see any US MSM coverage).
Krugman then goes on to make an ingenious argument. He suggests that the non-citizen status of so much of the population in the early 20th Century ”diluted democracy”
In 1910, almost 14 percent of voting-age males in the United States were non-naturalized immigrants. (Women didn't get the vote until 1920.) Add in the disenfranchised blacks of the Jim Crow South, and what you had in America was a sort of minor-key apartheid system, with about a quarter of the population denied any political voice. That dilution of democracy helped prevent any effective response to the excesses and injustices of the Gilded Age, because those who might have demanded that politicians support labor rights, progressive taxation and a basic social safety net didn't have the right to vote. Conversely, the restrictions on immigration imposed in the 1920s had the unintended effect of paving the way for the New Deal… by creating a fully enfranchised working class.
For this reason Krugman rejects any guest worker program. He, in effect, fears it is a trick by the GOP to avoid the Brimelow/Rubenstein prediction.
While abrasively self interested, this analysis is correct: it is the mechanism by which the Swiss keep tight control of their country despite an alien population proportion similar to the US.
Froma Harrop, while far less show-cased than Paul Krugman, has written much valuable work on immigration. Her May 22 column The Working Class Is Not Stupid About Immigration highlights a key reason why the American immigration disaster has gone so far: Worker Organization leaders betraying their followers:
The Service Employees International Union is backing a proposal to greatly expand the supply of low-cost labor pouring into the United States. The reason why is close to crazy…First off, any self-respecting union would blow its top at the very suggestion of a massive new guest-worker program. The AFL-CIO adamantly opposes the idea. Its president, John Sweeney, complains that the program gives employers "a ready pool of labor they can exploit to drive down wages, benefits, health and safety protections, and other workplace standards." It seems curious that the union does not mind adding another half million workers a year to compete with its own members. Its Website contends that America has a shortage of 10 million workers and that "nearly half of all jobs created from now until 2012 will be held by workers with a high school diploma or less." Duh – but don't worker shortages cause wages to rise?
Harrop seems genuinely puzzled at the behavior of the SEIU
...one can't be sure whether the SEIU aspires to be a union representing workers or an arm of the National Council of La Raza, a group that claims to further the interests of Hispanics – and does a lousy job of it.
VDARE.com has noted the odd stance of the Service Employees International Union and its grandstanding President, Andrew Stern before, for instance here and here. In all probability, as with the execrable former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, what we have here is a case of obsessive ancestor worship — from which Paul Krugman, thankfully, appears to have freed himself.