There is a great deal of discussion these days about how desperately America needs more immigration to supplement our workforce. In fact, this canard is one of the few areas of steady bipartisan consensus in an increasingly polarized time. It has so enthralled our political and thought leaders that mass immigration has been sold as the silver bullet to solve a wide variety of issues in the country. "Immigration can help inflation" is just the latest messaging moment (keep in mind this basically admits immigration reduces wages). Before inflation was the issue, wage stagnation was a concern and we were told immigration increases wages (which of course would be inflationary). Immigration has also been sold recently as the answer to population growth concerns. While mass immigration is sold based on supposed benefits, the costs, especially to the aliens themselves, are rarely accounted for.
This brings us to the tragic story out of Alabama where it has been discovered young children were being employed at a Hyundai subsidiary. These are the collateral damage stories for the pie-in-the-sky 'nation of immigrants' narrative we are told. The children were not even enrolled in school so that they could maximize their productivity for the corporation. And this is only the latest example of abuse. Facebook had to settle a case for discriminating against American workers. In the H2A program we have seen DOJ allege slavery. Also, a recent lawsuit was filed alleging permanent indentured servitude for aliens in H2A.
So abuse of workers, foreign and domestic, cannot be in dispute. Yet the politicians and even the supposed advocates for the working class persist in supporting mass immigration within a context of rife abuse of foreign workers and discrimination against American workers. The cognitive dissonance on display is remarkable. It is so clear that you become skeptical that the source of the problem is simply confusion.
The Faustian bargain of our immigration policy is that people can get cheap goods and services due to a laissez faire employment environment with an overabundance of cheap labor relative to supply. This is closest to the immigration environment of long ago in the Gilded Age. It is no surprise that opposition to immigration policies has risen as inflation has shattered the illusion of cheap goods and services thanks to mass immigration.
At the heart of this corrupt immigration bargain is the externalizing of the costs to the politically marginalized. In other words "cheap" is a relative term depending on your particular costs, not costs overall. If you are an employer wanting cheap labor, our immigration policies are not permissive enough. If you are the exploited employee, understandably, your calculation is a lot different.
Imagine a business that simply ignored all costs and focused solely on their profits. Assume this business looks at their monthly profits and they far exceed even their brightest expectations. Each month breaking the record set the previous month. Then imagine this company seeing all the profits and expanding their business model based on the record profits. Of course, at some point, as they always do, the bills arrive. Vendors, suppliers, taxes, wages, benefits, utilities, and rents eventually must be paid whether the business accounted for them in their plans. In other words, what happens when the delta between costs and revenues is far narrower than you presume?
That is precisely the situation our government is encountering with immigration policy. The sunny narrative of mass immigration as an unalloyed benefit has led to increasingly permissive immigration policies to expand the numbers. Congress has been bombarded by special interest groups with success stories of valedictorians and immigrants founding their own companies and becoming CEOs. They have been dazzled by snake oil salesmen with stories of per capita GDP growth per immigrant. We all have been touched by stories of immigrants in desperate situations who arrived in the United States and made a better life for themselves and their families. But individual success stories do not paint the whole picture, because now the bills are coming due.
It is misleading to evaluate immigration, or any policy or idea, simply by the benefits, real or imagined. Just like there are success stories, there are also dramatically tragic stories in the immigration narrative. Imagine the life of an alien child in Alabama with no education opportunities working in a factory every day. All the supposed safeguards of our orderly immigration system are nowhere to help you. Your employer is exploiting you for profit. What are your prospects for the future? Forget being a valedictorian, you aren't even a student.
Whatever the problem, denial is not the solution. Our task today is to highlight the actual costs of the immigration policy so politicians and voters have the full perspective before they make their decisions. There are success stories and real winners in immigration policy. And there are real losers who are exploited and discriminated against. Only once we are clear about the costs and the benefits can we make informed choices about the sustainability of the costs.
From my perspective, the costs make clear the juice is not worth the squeeze. Excluding the current inflation that makes a mockery of cheap goods thanks to immigration, cheaper goods and services are not worth the exploitation of the workforce--American or foreign born. I am also a part of the workforce and definitely do not fancy less consideration and compensation for workers. Objectively, the current immigration system is foundationally operating like a Ponzi Scheme that always needs more victims to keep the engines running. The profit moves up and the costs spread out among the workers. People who think they can profit off the Ponzi Scheme while ignoring the costs should locate a search engine and put in the name "Bernie Madoff."
JARED CULVER is a Legal Analyst for NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, Sep 27th 2022 @ 1:59pm EDT