Birth citizenship depresses immigrant wages!

Most anti-immigration arguments beg the question; rather than showing how immigration is a problem, their arguments assume this very conclusion from the start.

By analogy, I heard Rush Limbaugh on the radio arguing against “smart cars”—tiny, very fuel efficient vehicles. His point was that these fare poorly in wrecks with larger cars. The argument was supposed to show that smart cars are a problem; but all it really showed was that the discrepancy between smart cars and larger ones is a problem. Pointing to a discrepancy tell us nothing about how to resolve it; that is a separate issue entirely and must be argued for independently. Rush’s argument points as much to getting rid of large cars as getting rid of small ones. It is just as reasonable for smart car owners to cite the discrepancy in favor of making all cars smart.

The same logic is behind arguments to the tune of “immigrants depress our wages.” Yes, when you have “rational” wage discrepancies among groups—when the wages correspond to discrepancies in skill levels, for instance—there can be a drag on the wages of the more highly paid group. But again, pointing out the discrepancy doesn’t tell us in which direction to resolve it. For the discrepancy describes a mutually adverse relationship. Mexican immigrants could just as fairly argue that the ‘skilling’ of the higher paid workers has served to ghettoize them in the second, low-paid group. Indeed, this skilling accounts for the existence of a tiered wage system in the first place. There is nothing ‘in’ the discrepancy to tell us which is the right way out of it. To side against the immigrants because they are immigrants assumes the very thing the “depression” argument was supposed to prove.

No group of wage laborers in history has ever impugned, legislated or barricaded its way out of a bidding war. There is no reason to think American-born workers will be the first. Their best bet is to unite with Mexican, etc. immigrants and bid together against the wage-payers. That might raise the standard of immigrant living, but if we can stomach that…

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One response to “Birth citizenship depresses immigrant wages!

  1. Good points, you have provoked some further thoughts in my mind, allow me to continue…

    And of course the immigrant laborer is perfectly willing to work for as high a wage as he/she can get. And they do hold out for higher wages depending on the given circumstances.

    It is of course the employers who depress wages if they are able to, given the conditions of the labor market.

    It is often the illegal status of the immigrant worker that in part undermines their bargaining power, but that is the moral fault of the conditions of capitalism and its dehumanizing divisions of workers into legal/illegal. A sort of aparthied if you will. But it is simply absurd to blame the victim for not having the social and poltical resources to demand a higher wage.

    (I have read and commented here before, but now I have recently started a new blog and new ID. I am going to continue this line of thought over there, stop by later if you like. Once again good post and thanks for getting me started)

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