Monday, May 30, 2005

Illegal Immigration, Hiring, etc.

Given the quality of the SS discussion, I'll start one on what could be done about illegal immigration, illegal hiring, lax enforcement, poor economic coniditions in Mexico and central America, alleged American dependance on cheap labor, American workers' fear of losing their jobs/current payrates, homeland security, etc.

I found the recent Marketplace feature (which focused on Mexico) thought provoking.
Marketplace features: The Undocumented War, including some poorly done numbers graphs. A few interesting points...

  • Mexico's poor economy and dependance on emmigrants sending money back to their families.
  • The estimates that very roughtly 1% of the total population of Mexico is moving to the US each year.
  • Variety of potential effects (economic, political, social) of a large population of illegal immigrants on US society.
  • Similarities between the treatment of illegal immigrants and slavery.

For another piece to the puzzle, here's an example of what can happen if the main stream politicians continue to try to ignore the issue from NYT story on the situation in Idaho.


Blogger Justin said...

If I were elected dictator for a day

1) Open the borders. Build a big statue just north of the Rio Grande in Texas. We'd need to have an open contest to design the thing, but something that evokes the Statue of Liberty.

2) Build the equivalent of an Ellis Island at every major border crossing. When you cross the border, you're asked to pick a track-- you can be a guest worker or a prospective immigrant.

3) Guest workers are handed an identity card, a tax ID number, and a panphlet that explains their economic and political rights. Guest workers can stay and work here as long as they'd like so long as they don't commit a crime and so long as they are officially employed at least 5 of every 12 month period. Guest workers, however, are not eligible for most government programs, including social security, welfare, public schools, etc. This means that guest workers will primarily be young, single men, not families.

4) Prospective immigrants would have access to government programs other than direct welfare payments, but would be expected to be making reasonable progress toward becoming US citizens-- filing the appropriate paperwork, learning English, passing the citizenship test, etc.

5) Employers would have online access to a database where they can validate a guest worker's (or prospective immigrant's) tax ID and would be free to hire as many guest workers as they'd like. In exchange, they would be expected to validate every guest worker's creentials and the penalty for hiring undocumented workers would be increased substantially.

6) An additional tax would be imposed on guest worker earnings (not prospective immigrants) that would be earmarked for economic development projects in the home state and/or home city of the guest worker. This tax would be paid half by the employer and half by the employee. Guest workers that needed work to remain eligible (the 5 of 12 month rule) could be employed to manage/ work on these projects.

This would eliminate 99% of the market for true illegal labor. The supply of legal guest workers should be sufficient, and the penalties for employing true illegals high enough, that no rational employer would want to hire illegals. The tax revenues would help boost opportunities in Mexico and the combination of work requirements and hometown benefits would be incentive for guest workers to be "on the books" rather than working for payment under the table. The presence of a "prospective immigrant" category with reasonable benefits would allow Americans to recognize those immigrants that want to contribute to the US long term without worrying excessively about those that just want to leech. My gut is that people are a lot less worried about paying to educate the children of a farm worker that is working to learn English and enter American culture at night than investing the same resources to educate children of those who have no particular ties to the US and have no desire to assimilate.

5/31/2005 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

You do realize that many of them don't have stellar English reading skills? So getting them to follow compilcated rules can be tricky, even if the foreigner and their employer both want to follow them.

What do you do with the ones who file papers to become an immigrant, but don't complete one of the necessary steps or don't learn much English, etc.?

Would employers still have to pay them minimum wage? If so, some jobs (e.g., harvesting crops) may still be tempted to hire on the black market. So you better step up enforcement, too.

I don't think Americans doubt most immigrant's desire to stick around. I do think many Americans (esp. those with relaitvely low skilled jobs) are afraid of losing their job or having to take lower pay to compete.

Of course, the major practical problem with your plan is that many Americans would suddenly lose their jobs due to immigrants willing to do the same job for much lower pay. While that may be a good thing in the long run and from an ethics viewpoint, in the short term, it'll be hard to stay in power for more than a day.

6/02/2005 05:23:00 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

I'm happy to provide literature in the appropriate non-English languages. Spanish translations at the southern border, French translations on the northern border.

Those that start on the immigrant path can always switch to the guest worker path. Failure to make sufficient progress will switch people to the guest worker path. I doubt that a sufficiently motivated person would be unable to master basic English after a few years.

We'd still have a minimum wage. The occasional farm might try to cheat, but those jobs are mostly structured to claim to pay minimum wage but to have "administrative difficulties" in reality. You can legally hire people to pick tomotoes at $x per bucket, but you're supposed to then figure out whether the minimum wage was higher for the number of hours worked and pay the difference. Somehow, that calculation ends up being rather difficult. Legal or not, this accounting system would be hard to detect. Making the workers legal would tend to shine a light on that sort of problem, since there would be no risk of deportation. I suppose there might be groups that explicitly reject the legal guest workers and only hire illegals, but I'd wager that there would be few enough that it wouldn't matter much.

We are a country that always venerates immigration from previous generations but is always suspicious of modern immigration. A lot of this suspicion comes from the fact that the new group isn't assimilating quickly enough. Whether it was the Chinatowns or Little Italy's of the past or the enclaves today where shop keepers converse primarily in Spanish, countries will always be suspicious of "others". If those others are learning English and American history, though, most people will recognize that they are working to assimilate and welcome them.

I doubt that there will be a significant influx of immigrants under the benevolent dictatorship of Jocave. At least, there won't be a significant influx of the type of immigrants we're most concerned about. Those folks that are willing and able to do the low-end jobs in this country are, for the most part, already here. If you're an ambitious, unskilled, and unencumbered person in Mexico, you're probably already looking for ways into the US. The jobs that can reasonably be done by immigrants are already primarily being done by immigrants. A few Americans might be put out of work, so we can kick in a bit more for retraining and community colleges. The folks that aren't sneaking in are the computer programmers and other professionals that we want to encourage to come here. American professionals are already competing against these folks due to the growth of outsourcing. I'd much rather that the really ambitious come to the US both to drive innovation and to drive up wages, or at least equalize wages and quality. I'd rather a company import programmers to the US than export work elsewhere.

6/06/2005 05:31:00 PM  

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