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The Legal/Illegal Distinction is One Without a Difference

author Published by Chris Chmielenski

When it comes to debates over immigration, one of the common errors is distinguishing between aliens who enter legally as opposed to illegally. Often, we are told that legal immigration is beneficial, but illegal immigration is harmful. A recent Washington Times article highlights an extreme example of this by calling for admission of a million H-1B aliens while deporting the illegal alien population. This type of argument ignores the reality that the impacts of immigration rest far more on the numbers involved than anything else. It is the numbers that distort labor supply and demand, overwhelm government resources, increase exploitation, and exacerbate shortages in necessities like housing.

The proposal in the cited article is to dramatically expand H-1B employees to one million annually. To interpret this generously, the basic idea is to find the “right” type of foreign worker and dramatically expand their opportunity for entry while removing the “wrong” type of alien. In this case, the supposedly “high-skilled” foreign workers of the future will contribute to our growing tech sector with high-paying jobs. They would be prioritized and maximized while enforcement resources would be dedicated to removing aliens entering illegally.

However, the article does not mention the current free fall of the tech sector. Nor does it mention the discrimination against American workers in hiring and firing that is prevalent. In fact, you will not find much of a discussion at all about the American tech workers in the piece. American workers with expensive degrees would be forced to compete in the shrinking tech sector job market with at least a million cheaper alternatives.

As the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) recently reported, the Department of Labor (DOL) is significantly understaffed in the investigation of labor violations. Wage theft of H-1B workers, at present numbers, is widespread. Increasing the numbers dramatically would only add fuel to the fire. The only winner with this type of policy is the unscrupulous employers.

While illegal immigrants are suffering from exploitation in the black market for labor, many fail to realize that exploitation of foreign workers with legal status is similarly prevalent and growing. This is happening regardless of visa status or the nature of the work involved. Whether it is H-2A (agricultural) workers, H-2B workers, or H-1Bs, exploitation is rampant. It is no solution to the labor problems to simply admit mass numbers of aliens into the United States. No matter their skill set, mass numbers will crowd out American workers, suppress wages for all workers, and exacerbate the growing exploitation of labor.

Aliens entering legally also present the same resource burdens, employed or not, as illegal immigrants when they enter in sufficiently large numbers. For an example, look at the current experiment in mass immigration occurring in Canada. As the Canadian government aggressively expands the number of foreign workers, serious constraints are being placed on housing affordability, healthcare, and education.

The Canadian problem is not with illegal migration. The United States suffers the bulk of the illegal immigration problem, thus shielding Canada from that calamity. The important point is that legal immigration expansion is beyond what Canada can currently sustain. That’s not because of some deficiency in the migrants themselves, but because the numbers are higher than Canadian infrastructure can handle.

Again, whether or not aliens entering a country are legally admitted or illegally enter is not the determinative factor when reviewing their impact on communities. Instead, the number of aliens vis-a-vis the resource capacity of the community is the key factor. This is why the Biden Administration’s illegal parole programs are not a solution to the escalating border crisis they created. Simply stamping an invented “legal” status on hundreds of thousands of aliens at the border does not magically erase the resource burdens on local communities that are increasingly declaring the situation an emergency. The real sustainable solutions involve reducing the number of legal aliens entering the country to a quantity that does not cause resource burdens, wage suppression, and labor exploitation, while ending illegal immigration.

JARED CULVER is a Legal Analyst for NumbersUSA

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