The Immigration “Debate”

In What is wrong with these people?, Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post made an admission that defenders of “illegal” migration loathe to hear: “Immigrants who are here illegally are more likely to work (hence, they must have some job skills) than other groups.” Rubin cites, from a Money article, Professor George Borjas of Harvard.  Borjas’s work is usually reported in the more Conservative press, while being largely ignored by the Liberal sector, although the New York Times did print an opinion piece of his in February that did not offer much insight.

Translated from profit logic this means that employers want cheap employees, and “illegal” immigrant workers fit that bill. They don’t hire themselves, We hear. We don’t like the terms “illegal,” “undocumented” or “unauthorized” immigrant. They mask the truth of what these individuals are: economic refugees. They come to the First World seeking work because the First World has basically destroyed their economies. The Third World is the modern legacy of Western imperialism.

The “debate” on “illegal” immigration is a good one for the ruling class. It a complex issue. This is certainly to Our advantage, for it is a ruling class principle that an issue mired in “debate” promotes the status quo, because until a decision has been reached by the parties nothing will happen. It is like a subject which politicians agree requires “more studies”. It is also useful to ignore the issue. While there is a lot of coverage from the  Liberal/Conservative political angle, recent popular analysis of the actual details are surprisingly hard to come. Center for Immigration Studies has an abundance of information, including by George Borjas. But many view them as conservative, though quote by “both sides”. It is also quite wonky. Some of the material herein are a little older but their discussion is still relevant today.

Another article (Trump says American workers are hurt by immigration.) by the illegal-immigration-supporting (refugee-supporting) Washington Post, seems to corraborate Borjas’s claim. It discusses a slaughterhouse in Cactus, Texas. It said, “Wages in the packing industry increased with unionization and remained high relative to other manufacturing jobs between the 1930s and 1970s, a period of relatively low levels of immigration.”

This is a simple physical truth which to Our eyes seems undeniable, though issues of immigration can be complex. Promoters of economic refugee migration like to say, “Migrants create more demand because they have to eat and buy things.” While this is true, it is also true that they do work that could have been done by a native worker, only they do it for cheaper and likely under worse conditions. Borjas found that economic refugees lower the wages of those native workers with the same skill level.

As Borjas points out, this situation naturally and unsurprisingly favors employers. From there Borjas makes the conventional observation that eventually this cheaper labor is good for society because it creates incentives to pass the savings on, presumably in the form of cheaper products and expansion of business. But this is like saying if you cut taxes for the rich they will invest more or expand their business, and as most serious individuals know there is no such meaningful correlation in either case. Are the masses really expecting Us to pass down the benefits of cheap labor?

Many of Us at the Preservation Society recall that in Our youth construction was done by natives, as well as landscaping. Many of Us were surprised to discover that working at slaughterhouses or factories used to be a middle-class living. We are told by one of Our members that the father of Ray and Dave Davies, founders of the 1960s rock band The Kinks, worked in a slaughterhouse and was able to raise a modest but comfortable working-class household of eleven children in a London suburb and then retire. As far as anyone could tell no rich people suffered in the process.

Today, since the masses have let Us, First World ruling classes are discarding the expensive First World native in favor of the unfortunate economic refugee. There is just too much wealth among the masses not to loot. When will the masses understand the implications of this:  the slow murder of the First World standard?

Borjas found,

The large Mexican influx in recent decades widened the U.S. wage structure by adversely affecting the earnings of less-educated native workers and improving the earnings of college graduates.

Better-educated native workers and those with higher skill levels were better off, while those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder were hurt. Divide and conquer — it is built into the system. In another article, he elaborates:

Somebody’s lower wage is always somebody else’s higher profit. In this case,  immigration redistributes wealth from those who compete with immigrants to those who use immigrants — from the employee to the employer. Somebody’s lower wage is always somebody else’s higher profit. In this case, immigration redistributes wealth from those who compete with immigrants to those who use immigrants — from the employee to the employer. And the additional profits are so large that the economic pie accruing to all natives actually grows.

The last sentence, as We’ve alluded to above, sounds dubious, like the tax cuts “theory”. “Cutting taxes for the rich grows the economy!” Is this the price one pays for telling the truth at Harvard? It is probably next to impossible to say how much of these labor savings accrues to the benefit of the average individual. But it can’t be very much. We don’t sit around Our boardrooms and say, “Let’s hire a bunch of illegals so that we can spread the savings on to the little masses, who we’d rather see drown in their own stupidity.” Indeed, wages have been stagnant for decades, and what recovery there has been recently has gone mostly to the one percent. This has been the situation for years now.

This reality does not stop the Establishment talking points. Roger Lowenstein wrote in the New York Times Magazine in “The Immigration Equation“:

In theory, if you added 10 percent to the population — or even doubled it — nothing about the labor market would change. Of course, it would take a little while for the economy to adjust. People would have to invest money and start some new businesses to hire all those newcomers. The point is, they would do it. Somebody would realize that the immigrants needed to eat and would open a restaurant; someone else would think to build them housing. Pretty soon there would be new jobs available in kitchens and on construction sites. And that has been going on since the first boat docked at Ellis Island.

The growing epidemic of bankrupt cities and states do not reflect this “theory”. In fact, do a google street view of Cactus, Texas — a migrant town featured in a story We highlight below — and see what wonderful businesses and construction sprouted up around economic refugees as of 2013:

Cactus

Is this what the rank and file want for their future? While one may argue whether there are more or less refugees coming into the country, there can be no doubt that it has always been a significant number, enough to make claims of positive developments centered around economic refugees questionable. Like an economist said about tax cuts, “If tax cuts created jobs, we’d be drowning in jobs by now.” If the presence of cheap labor spurred economic activity, wouldn’t we have prosperous communities instead of failing ones?

Lowenstein writes, “And certainly, wages of the unskilled have been a source of worry for years. From 1970 to 1995, wages for high-school dropouts, the group that has been the most affected by immigrants, plummeted by more than 30 percent, after adjusting for inflation.”

“The Immigration Equation” is from a 2006 issue of the New York Times Magazine. And in case you are wondering how impartial the publication’s coverage was, you will see scattered throughout the article silhouette images of migrant laborers in their work attire, captioned with their name and occupation, but there is no corresponding image of an unemployed native worker who might have been hired instead. Like the most vulnerable individuals, except for those whose plights are being highlighted, the workers being hurt are invisible for ruling class purposes.

Lowenstein in his piece further articulates another theme of pro cheap migrant labor: “The majority of immigrants can’t literally have ‘taken’ jobs; they must be doing jobs that wouldn’t have existed had the immigrants not been here.”

Is that not an absurd statement? Why not make jobs magically appear in their home country? Do they really love America so much? But if this is indeed the case, why can’t natives, who are supposedly better positioned, do “jobs that wouldn’t have existed had” they “not been here”?

A contributor to the New York Times series, “Room for Debate”, put it like this: “Immigrants Are Replacing, Not Displacing, Workers”. Semantics makes all the difference in the world.

Lowenstein points out that most economists who support unauthorized immigration “tend to frame the issue as a puzzle — a great economic mystery because of its very success. The puzzle is this: how is the U.S. able to absorb its immigrants so easily?”

A little later on the same page he says:

What economists aim for is to get beneath the anecdotes. Is immigration still the engine of prosperity that the history textbooks describe? Or is it a boon to business that is destroying the livelihoods of the poorest workers — people already disadvantaged by such postmodern trends as globalization, the decline of unions and the computer?

Could part of the answer to the “puzzle” be that importation of economic refugees, along with computers and globalization are part of the agenda? It is well known that “illegal” immigrants, and migrants in general, have been used throughout history to break unions (as well as being incorporated within them).

Many economists believe economic refugees don’t negatively affect the wages of most of society but perhaps only those of similar skill levels. Studies have been done supposedly demonstrating that wages had been relatively unchanged by refugees. But that lack of change could also be a prevention of wage growth resulting from refugee labor. After all, wages have not grown significantly in decades. From Our viewpoint, keeping wages low is as good as reducing them.

One could endlessly parse the “debate” on “illegal” immigration but We will always come back to the basic facts and the laws of physical nature. More economic refugees may increase demand but that does not negate the fact that they “replaced” a native worker for cheaper pay. This is the case until there are no more unemployed, underemployed or homeless. Moreover, a native worker would not bring another mouth, and usually many other mouths, to feed, nor would they drive down wages.

With economic refugees comes additional mouths to feed, while the native, who could have that job, goes unemployed or underpaid. No amount of studies can escape this “micro fact”, if you will. Walk into any deli in New York and most of the individuals preparing the food or stocking shelves are Latin American. Go to any construction site, and you are likely to encounter migrants, legal or not. This is what many of the rank and file experience. And they are summarily written off as racists.

But herein lies another problem for the proponents of unauthorized immigration. If  refugees have the power to benefit most of society through their cheaper wages (thanks for the sacrifice!), how does the increased demand they bring with them keep prices low? Increased demand means savings do not have to be passed on because there is no incentive to do so, since there are more among the lower orders competing for the same things (hiring economic refugees is about cheap labor not increasing production). And what kind of standards are produced with lower wages? Walmart anyone? Your First World is in jeopardy.

Borjas demonstrates the simpleness of the obvious — refugees lower wages — with a simple example (this was in 2016):

We don’t need to rely on complex statistical calculations to see the harm being done to some workers. Simply look at how employers have reacted. A decade ago, Crider Inc., a chicken processing plant in Georgia, was raided by immigration agents, and 75 percent of its workforce vanished over a single weekend. Shortly after, Crider placed an ad in the local newspaper announcing job openings at higher wages. Similarly, the flood of recent news reports on abuse of the H-1B visa program shows that firms will quickly dismiss their current tech workforce when they find cheaper immigrant workers. (emphasis in original)

All that migrant labor didn’t bring much prosperity to the area either, but at least they have more greenery than Cactus:

Crider

Cactus, Texas is the home of a giant meatpacking plant. In 2006 it was owned by Swift & Co. when it was raided by federal agents. The entire work force was hauled off. As the pro-cheap labor Washington Post reported

Cactus and surrounding Moore County have bounced back from the raid, and the plant today is once more thriving, shipping steaks to Walmart and ­ham­burger meat to Burger King. But finding workers remains a perpetual struggle. JBS USA, a Brazilian conglomerate that now owns the plant, has raised starting wages nearly 25 percent in recent years, but like other meat processors across the country, it survived by finding a different set of foreigners to do jobs that used to be filled by illegal workers: refugees.

Again, taking away cheap labor raises wages. Clearly, these companies, whether Crider or JBS, can afford to pay much more, and do so when they have to. Why doesn’t the government seize upon this to push for higher wages  and/or offer relocation to unemployed workers from other states at decent pay? Why does it not criminalize big companies that traffic and benefit from cheap labor? Those would be pertinent questions if the issue was about the prosperity of society.

How do mostly non-English-speaking migrant workers find such seemingly obscure places to work? Do they have a highly developed cheap labor radar? Eric Schlosser, in his excellent 2002 book Fast Food Nation, recounted the exploits of GFI America, Inc. —

a leading supplier of frozen hamburger patties to Dairy Queen, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, and the federal school lunch program — needed workers for a plant in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It sent recruiters to Eagle Pass, Texas, near the Mexican border, promising steady work and housing. The recruiters hired thirty-nine people, rented a bus, and then dropped them off across the street from People Serving People, a homeless shelter in downtown Minneapolis. Because the workers had no money, the shelter agreed to house them.

How much more of this is going one is anybody’s guess but somehow thousands economic refugees find their way to their obscure destination. “IBP (Iowa Beef Packers),” Schlosser wrote, “was a trailblazer in recruiting migrant labor. The company was among the first to recognize that recent immigrants would work for lower wages than American citizens — and wold be more reluctant to join unions.” At first they recruited from poor neighborhoods from across the country. “IBP now maintains a labor office in Mexico City, runs ads on Mexican radio stations offering jobs in the U.S., and operates a bus service from rural Mexico to the heartland of America.”

This brings up another difficult issue for those who champion the exploitation of these vulnerable populations. Fast Food Nation is an excellent catalogue of the grotesque world of labor that supposedly “Americans don’t want to do”, as Liberals and Conservatives love to tell us. The Liberal, in this regard, is like the Conservative dealing with abortion, who value “life” so much that they want to outlaw abortion. But once the child is born, they abandon that life. The Liberal is so concerned about the plight of migrants, but once they are here do these Liberals care about the refugees’ conditions? Do they care?

Could it be that the jobs “Americans don’t want to do” (but once did at middle-class wages) present conditions no employer wants exposed? Conditions at meatpacking plants are notoriously bad. Turn over has been so high that most workers don’t collect benefits they are entitled to receive after six months on the job. Many injuries go unreported, especially with the encouragement of managers. As one former IBP employee told Schlosser, “They’re trying to deter you, period, from going to the doctor.”

Economic refugees workers are more vulnerable and far more alienated from the community in which they work than an American citizen would be. They have very few family and friends with them, and thus, most don’t complain for fear of dismissal. Americans would have recourse to the law, civil organizations, and the outrage of family and friends. Outrageous conditions would be much more difficult to hide.

In addition to being more willing to accept miserable conditions, economic refugees benefit little from the state to which they pay taxes. Economist Bob Pollin:

Do immigrants—particularly undocumented workers—drain the public treasury, paying little or no taxes while benefiting from our public schools, government health care programs, unemployment insurance, food stamps, and Social Security? Here again, the weight of evidence points in the opposite direction: most undocumented workers are paying significant amounts of taxes, while receiving few social benefits. One survey of undocumented Mexican migrants— conducted jointly by researchers at Princeton University and the University of Guadalajara— found that three-quarters did pay taxes, with 66 percent having had social security taxes withheld, and 62 percent having income taxes withheld. At the same time, only about 10 percent said they ever sent their child to a U.S. public school and 5 percent, or less, said they ever received food stamps, welfare, or unemployment compensation. Along similar lines, the chief actuary for the Social Security Administration roughly estimated that for 2007, the Social Security Trust Fund had received a net benefit of somewhere between $120 billion and $240 billion from unauthorized immigrants—a remarkable 5–10 percent of the trust fund’s total assets of $2.2 trillion, as of 2007.

Do supporters of “illegal” immigrants think they are being humane, or are they helping Us with Our agenda? We forget.

Wages haven’t increased but the economy is supposedly growing along. Hmmm . . . The Establishment says unemployment is at 3.9 percent but it is more like 22 percent. Austerity is imposed on the First World because we supposedly can’t “afford it”.  But after the economic destruction of Greece and other “peripheral” nations, the EU Court of Justice ruled that countries must accept “their share of refugees”, which were created by the bombings, wars and financial predation of the rich countries.

If Liberals want to be compassionate to the vulnerable then they must stop aiding and abetting ruling class superficial interests, and help Us with long-term interests. If they want to help, demand We stop destroying other countries. Allow them to prosper so their masses aren’t transformed into economic refugees and forced to leave their homes and friends to come to the US or Europe just to be low-paid props for politicians. That’ll help stabilize the rich economies and give their workers a reason to be complaisant. It might cost the ruling class a bit more but that is the price of existence.

Make no mistake: illegal immigration is supported by the leadership of both Liberals and Conservatives the world over, which is why there are so many refugees languishing  in the dark recesses of the U.S. economy.  But the game must be played. Martha White, in the Money story cited above, concludes her piece:

It’s likely both sides of the aisle will use these findings as fodder for their policy positions. No, illegal immigrants aren’t shiftless people who come to mooch off the system, or criminals who make a living by breaking the law. Yes, illegal immigrants undercut American job seekers because they’re willing to work for less money. The only conclusion both sides are likely to agree on is that the debate over immigration isn’t going away any time soon.

The assumption that economic refugees are lazy criminals is mostly nonsense, while their depression on wages is real. The “debate” rages on. In politics “debate” favors the status quo, an essential for suicide by success.

2 comments

  1. Nunya Biness · · Reply

    “the First World has basically destroyed their economies. The Third World is the modern legacy of Western imperialism.”

    I tried. Didn’t get past this gem.

    Like

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