Tuesday, December 12

Illegal Immigration And The Economy

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Illegal immigration and the economy

There are, today, somewhere between 10 and 14 million illegal immigrants in this country. A large majority of them do not come here to sponge off of the government. They do not come with the purpose of engaging in criminal activity. Some do indeed have those goals in mind, but only a very small number. Mostly, they come to work. In their home countries jobs are scarce and poorly paid. They work here and send money home to their families. They are, by and large, industrious and reliable. The question of whether we should allow such large numbers of illegal immigrants to enter the country and go to work once they are here does not hinge on their work ethic or their motivation. 

The fact that these millions of people come here intending to work is the essence of the difficulty. The American economy is in dire condition and, on average, about 600,000 people lose their jobs every month. Those people no longer pay much in the way of taxes so government revenues suffer. If the country had 10 million jobs available, the competition from immigrants for those jobs would be healthy. That competition would keep wages from skyrocketing to levels unaffordable for many businesses. We do not have millions of jobs and no citizens willing and able to do them. We have millions of people out of work. We also have many more people who are underemployed, which means they have a job but it does not provide sufficient income to enable them to achieve any level of financial security.

Many have claimed that we need these immigrants because they do jobs that Americans will not do. If that were really the case, Congress could fix the problem of illegal immigration quickly and easily. Congress decides how many work permits are issued for immigrants. If we need 10 million workers from Mexico Congress can authorize 10 million green cards and the immigrant workers would no longer be illegal. If we really do need all these people because they are willing to do jobs that citizens will not do the simple solution is to admit that they are a valuable part of our culture and our economy and make their presence here legal. Why does Congress not act in this way?

The reason we allow these workers to remain illegal is clear: they work cheap. They do not do jobs that citizens will not do; they do jobs that citizens refuse to perform for the low wages offered. This exerts a downward pressure on all wages. If the several million illegal workers were removed from the pool of possible employees there would be enough jobs available that every citizen who was willing and able to work would be able to find employment. Employers would have to raise wages in order to entice applicants who are able to perform jobs requiring more skills and abilities. Higher wages would mean that some prices would increase so it is not an unmixed blessing to have more citizens working and earning a living wage. The upside is that higher wages mean greater stability and financial security for American families. They will spend those wages thus stimulating growth of the economy because of all the goods and services these people would purchase. Higher wages also mean an increase in tax revenue, which might lead to balanced budgets at all levels of government.

The overall effect on the economy of eliminating illegal workers would be a powerful stimulus at all levels. More purchasing power results in higher sales numbers, greater investment, higher tax revenue, and fewer bankruptcies and foreclosures.  Those who are already rich would get richer. Those who are now poor and barely making it from paycheck to paycheck could move into the middle class. The current housing crisis would mostly disappear. Why does Congress continue to allow the destructive effects of millions of illegal workers?  Ask your representative.


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