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Tilting at Windmills

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June 15, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

IMMIGRATION....Brendan Nyhan has a cool map at his site showing the impact of Hispanic immigration on Iowa, most of it centered around the meatpacking plants in the state. It's an interesting data point that lends support to the idea that concern about immigration has spiked recently because it's increasingly affecting areas that have never experienced significant immigration before, rather than being confined primarily to border states like California and Texas. You can read more about that phenomenon in "My New Kentucky Home," from the January issue of the Monthly.

Kevin Drum 12:52 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (93)

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I agree with Cheney. Before, the harmful effects of illegal immigration were largely limited to the border states. Now that the entire country can see illegal immigrants draining public services, overruning hospitals, wrecking schools with overcrowding, and refusing to assimilate into the culture, the American people will vote for the party of law enforcement, and find it yet another reason to reject the Democrats.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 15, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Hello? Any intelligent life in here?

Nope, guess this thread is empty..

Posted by: craigie on June 15, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

It's interesting how the comments above demonstrate the conservative inability to differentiate between Hispanics and illegal immigrants.

On a related note, I can't tell you how many people I've heard complain about "immigrant" Puerto Ricans.

Methinks this debate has become less about the legalities of one's immigration, and more about the country of one's origin. "Illegal" is becoming, more and more, a new ethnic slur to be used by all people who don't like Hispanics.

Posted by: theorajones on June 15, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

As a Hispanic who will be heading to Iowa in a couple months (law school) I find this interesting. Although I guess I'm not what one thinks of when they think of Hispanic as I was born and raised in Minnesota, and my family have been US citizens since the Republic of Texas became the State of Texas.

Accent? Well maybe a little Minnesota one on the ohs, but even that's pretty light.

Posted by: MNPundit on June 15, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

"refusing to assimilate". What, does that mean they aren't cheering for the U.S. in the World Cup?

Posted by: Doctor Gonzo on June 15, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

as an iowa native and having had friends who years ago worked at ibp, i can tell you the rancor comes from the influx of undocumented workers to take these formerly decent-paying jobs that a man could support his family with. they no longer do and the resulting displacement and impact on the families/communities has been profound.

Posted by: linda on June 15, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Draining public services," etc: Note that the Hispanics in Iowa and the Midwest are working at jobs, paying taxes, etc. Used to be that was thought a good thing, and supporting public services. Or maybe American Hawk knows something s/he's not saying... No, probably not.

Posted by: LeisureGuy on June 15, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Go here if you want 2000 Census stats for Iowa:

http://www.epodunk.com/cgi-bin/popInfo.php?locIndex=16

Posted by: Keith G on June 15, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

And why is the ire directed against those who took jobs that were offered and not against those companies offering the jobs?

Posted by: LeisureGuy on June 15, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

About 20 years ago there was a long, bitter strike in Austin MN. (Info here.)

The union was busted and since then meatpacking has been increasingly non-union, low-paying, Hispanic, and dangerous.

Blaming the immigrants is completely wrong, but the arrival of the immigrants coincided with a degradation of labor standards.

MNpundit, I just passed through Melrose, Minneota, a small town that's now 12% Hispanic. The old-timer I talked to ( a bartender) refused to not anything bad about the newcomers; I think that it was his policy. I don't know how typical that is. I had a feeling that the Catholic Church might make assimilation easier there, sionce the locals are mostly Catholic.

Posted by: humble blogger on June 15, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

California Republicans thought they had a big issue when they went in for Mexican-bashing in a big way. They forgot about Reagan's 1986 amnesty, and 1986+5=1991. The result of their "fear the immigrants" campaign was that large numbers of formerly illegal immigrants became citizens and voted, and they voted Democratic. Bob Dornan, star of the hard right, was defeated by a woman named Sanchez.

The Republicans have a credibility problem running on the "close the borders" issue in any case. The owners of those meat-packing plants hiring cheap Mexican labor are all Republicans. Notice that they argue for building a big fence and making illegals subject to felony charges, but they don't propose prosecuting employers. If they can make their illegal employees even more fearful, they can keep them accepting sub-minimum wages and unsafe working conditions. If they complain, they are not only subject to expulsion, they are subject to prosecution as felons. How convenient.

Posted by: Joe Buck on June 15, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

It's an interesting data point that lends support to the idea that concern about immigration has spiked recently because it's increasingly affecting areas that have never experienced significant immigration before, rather than being confined primarily to border states like California and Texas.

No. I see the sudden interest in immigration "reform" like "fixing" Social Security and the Meiers nomination to the Supreme Court as just a garden variety mis-read by the Bush administration. Or, this handy, contentious issue is being used to distract from the more pressing issues like our abject failures in Afghanistan and Iraq and Republican corruption and incompitence, not that America is really paying attention to or concerned by any of this. If the majority of the population was really outraged at six years of complete failure, Bush and Cheney would be impeached.

Posted by: JeffII on June 15, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

the rancor comes from the influx of undocumented workers to take these formerly decent-paying jobs

Are there not laws that make it illegal to hire undocumented workers?
If so, why havent they been enforced?

Posted by: Pierre Asciutto on June 15, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Iowa has experienced significant amounts of immigration, just not recently. My Iowa family was very much apart of the wave of German immigrants that settled there in the late 19th and early 20th century. Much like todays immigrants: they went to church services in their own language, and attended public bilingual schools. Okay, today's immigrants aren't allowed to do that last bit.

Posted by: DC1974 on June 15, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

theorajones: I can't tell you how many people I've heard complain about "immigrant" Puerto Ricans.

One of my pet peeves too. Especially here in NY, where there have been lots of Puerto Ricans for at least 50 years, you'd hope that people would know better.

Posted by: alex on June 15, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Guess every state ought to start building a fence around itself.

Posted by: craigie on June 15, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Pierre Asciutto: Are there not laws that make it illegal to hire undocumented workers? If so, why havent they been enforced?

They're not enforced because various politically powerful forces (eg meat packing plant owners) don't want them enforced. Iowa is particularly notorious, where serious enforcement was clearly defeated by political pressure.

Posted by: alex on June 15, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

For those Mexicans who are educated?

Why can't Mexicans find work in Mexico? Mexico has the 2nd largest oil field in the world. It has ample natural rescores to support and its population and an eager/inexpensive work force.

Why havent you as educated members of Mexican society been able to pull Mexico into a first world power?

Why do you think that our questioning as to why so many of you are here means we are being racist?

We dont need immigration reform, we just need enforcement of the LAWS that are already on the books. Mexico has no problem deporting illegal immigrants and squatters from within its boarders. Surly the US is within its rights to do the same.

Posted by: Ron on June 15, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Thumbs up to Brendan Nyhan, who wrote:

Given that many of the Latinos taking the dangerous, grueling jobs in meatpacking facilities are likely to be undocumented immigrants, it's not surprising that Iowans are concerned about the issue of illegal immigration. Some of this may be xenophobia; some may be serious concern about policy ...

and thumbs down to Kevin Drum, who cherry picked this to say

It's an interesting data point that lends support to the idea that concern about immigration has spiked recently because it's increasingly affecting areas that have never experienced significant immigration before

Failing, as usual, to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration. Worse yet, failing, as usual, to consider that in addition to some xenophobia, people are concerned for legitimate policy reasons (eg turning middle class jobs into cheap labor ones).

Posted by: alex on June 15, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure the meatpacking companies and all the other companies that profit from illegal immigration would be quite happy with this post and most of the comments. Rather than supporting those who oppose attempts to bring in as much cheap labor as possible, "liberals" like Drum and some of his commentors end up in effect supporting the meatpacking companies, Bush, and the government of Mexico.

Say, has everyone visited spp.gov yet? I have to admit I was surprised to see the HuffPost finally paying attention to the scheme, as well as the large number of negative comments on it.

-- Immigration reform

Posted by: TLB on June 15, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney says:
Which is why you Dems are in for a BIG surprise if you think you are taking back the U.S. House of Representatives.

Theorajones responds:
It's interesting how the comments above demonstrate the conservative inability to differentiate between Hispanics and illegal immigrants.

But which way I am I supposed to go with this? I should think part of the point is that Latino/as who vote are on the whole a pretty conservative lot.

Posted by: Buce on June 15, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

A good follow up is through this site:

http://migration.ucdavis.edu/rmn/more.php?id=126_0_2_0

try searching "meat packing", "meatpacking", and "worksite enforcement."

Posted by: rewolfrats on June 15, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Why can't Mexicans find work in Mexico? Mexico has the 2nd largest oil field in the world. It has ample natural rescores to support and its population and an eager/inexpensive work force.

The Vatican's prohibition on the use of condoms?

Posted by: B on June 15, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

The reason people leave Mexico for here is that Mexico is just like the neocons want our country to look like--no social security, no public health, no minimum wage, no safety standards......the rich and powerful can do whatever they hell they want.

Posted by: Ravinia on June 15, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK


Rivinia Nails It.

That's why the rules havent been enforced.

Its a whole new take on living in the land of the free.

Posted by: Pierre Asciutto on June 15, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Ravinia: The reason people leave Mexico for here is that Mexico is just like the neocons want our country to look like

Give the neocons some credit. Obviously their other policies are part of a sincere effort to fight illegal immigration. Once America looks like Mexico, illegal immigration will stop. Heck, give the neocons their way and the flow will reverse.

Posted by: alex on June 15, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Immigration is a non-issue. It exists during this election cycle to give blue collar men a reason to vote for Republicans. The biggest threat to the American jobs is not the foreigners people see working on construction sites but those they dont see in Asia, particularly China. This is what is causing labor compensation in the United States to remain flat even at a time of increased productivity. This compounds already dismal figures of the competitiveness of the American workforce. We are told that Americans must up-skill to increase their competitiveness in the global market as manufacturing jobs head elsewhere but across the country about 30% of high school students dont graduate. In places like South Carolina the figure is 50%. The National Science Foundation reports that 200,000 bachelors degrees in science and engineering are awarded each year in the US compared to 650,000 and rising in Asia.

No, the Mexicans that clean toilets and cut grass are not a threat. It is all election year theatrics and, as usual, the real problems of the nation are not addressed. To even discuss the immigration issue gives credence the shameful Mexican-menace bamboozle perpetuated by the Republicans.

As for meatpacking, a Chinese friend tells me, and I havent checked this, that in her hometown American chickens will be processed and flown back to the US for sale in supermarkets. Chinese labor is so cheap that the Mexican share of imports to the US has been declining as quickly as Chinese imports have been increasing. Same goes for Mexicans working in America: the Chinese get their jobs too.

Posted by: bellumregio on June 15, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Hispanic immigrants have been working in the meatpacking plants of the Midwest for decades. What is bothering my fellow citizens is that Hispanics are assimilating and moving into their neighborhoods. When Hispanics, or any other ethnic group, are confined to a certain area, most citizens are happy to have them perform dirty work they would rather not do. It is when the oppressed groups move out of their designated areas and begin to assimilate that their fellow human beings really lash out, debasing them and wanting them removed.

Assimilation and continuous repetition of inflammatory rhetoric like crisis and invasion are what inform the masses that those others should be dealt with harshly with political and police repression.

Posted by: Powerpuff on June 15, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

bellumregio: The biggest threat to the American jobs is not the foreigners people see working on construction sites but those they dont see in Asia, particularly China.

Depends on your line of work. If you're in manufacturing, the it's China, etc. If you're in construction, then it's illegal immigration. It all depends on whether you're in a tradeable sector of the economy.

Isn't it reasonable that there can be more than one significant contributor to a problem? Especially if these phenomena are the result of conscious, if generally unstated, policy goals?

The National Science Foundation reports that 200,000 bachelors degrees in science and engineering are awarded each year in the US compared to 650,000 and rising in Asia.

Red herring. The US produces more engineers, programmers, etc. than it employs. No point in making more if nobody buyin' em. Beware anything from the NSF. They act as a gov't supported lobby group for academia. And academia is always looking for more customers (oops, I mean students). They don't give a shit if their former customers can find jobs.

Chinese labor is so cheap ...

Things in China are so cheap in large part because the Chinese gov't spends 10%/GDP (like the US spending $1.2T/yr) keeping their currency artificially low. In a free market it would probably rise 30-40%. Even the WTO bans this kind of currency manipulation, but no one does squat about it.

Posted by: alex on June 15, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

"areas that have never experienced significant immigration"

I imagine this must come as a surprise to the Plains Indians!

Posted by: JC on June 15, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

We are told that Americans must up-skill to increase their competitiveness in the global market as manufacturing jobs head elsewhere but across the country about 30% of high school students dont graduate. In places like South Carolina the figure is 50%.

Is that an improvement? I kind of assumed that rate was pretty typical south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The National Science Foundation reports that 200,000 bachelors degrees in science and engineering are awarded each year in the US compared to 650,000 and rising in Asia.Posted by: bellumregio

Well, considering that that Asia's population is nearly ten times that of the U.S., I'd say they need to get to work, the Asians that is.

Posted by: JeffII on June 15, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

JC: I imagine this must come as a surprise to the Plains Indians!

No. People who come in with guns blazing are generally called "invaders" rather than "immigrants".

Posted by: alex on June 15, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Ron said: For those Mexicans who are educated?Why can't Mexicans find work in Mexico? Mexico has the 2nd largest oil field in the world. It has ample natural rescores to support and its population and an eager/inexpensive work force. Why havent you as educated members of Mexican society been able to pull Mexico into a first world power? Why do you think that our questioning as to why so many of you are here means we are being racist?

As a Canadian living in Mexico City for over 3 years I cannot answer as a Mexican, but it amazes me that a country with so much resources like Mexico is still in the third world.

That said, there are a lot of economic pressures that are the cause of that problem. First the country has just experience the first 6 years of somewhat real democracy, after more than 70 years of being ruled by the corrup PRI.

Second there are very few jobs, good or bad available under the current economic situation. Foreign companies came to Mexico and created lots of factories, but now they are being price out by cheaper labor in China and other parts of the world. You cannot compete and win in a market where the non-living wages are the norm.

Third, a lot of foreigns companies come to Mexico to exploit a well-educated workforce. They pay their foreign workers wages that they are used to at home, and hire locals for similar jobs at 50% or 70% less. This cause a lot of imbalances and resentments in the workplace.

Fourth, there is not only having natural resources that is important, but the means to transform them is the key to prosperity. That crucial part is normally not controlled by local companies, and a lot of the money made is exported out of the country.

Fifth, solid well paying jobs are important to bring the country out of the third world, but since most of the large successful local companies are either sold or absorbed by foreign competitors, there are very few local competitors who can afford to build the infrastructure that can give those jobs.

Sixth, the average monthly salary here hovers around US$400, and the average person cannot afford to get better education as they are in survival mode all the time. Here in town the salaries might be a tad higher, maybe around $5-600 a month, but when we move last year the cheapest appartement we visited was around $3-400/month and in a very bad unsafe neighborhood. After paying the rent and food, it does not leave much to further your life.

All in all there are a lot of internal and external economic factors that makes somebody leave their family and country and take the risk to go work in the US as an illegal. The attraction for an unskilled laborer to make $3-4 an hour at a tough job in the us when he would be making less than $1 an hour at home, if he can actually manage to find anything at all is the main attraction. As long as people in the US are willing to hire illegals there will be people willing to take the risk to go work there as however awfull the work is, it is better that staying home and starving.

Posted by: JLP on June 15, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

OK, the attached story made me think of one of my funniest memories of a trip home. (Home, for me, is east of Bowling Green, but the same kind of country--just hillier and poorer.)

I stopped at an "indoor flea market"--basically, a mini-mall of junk. As I walked in the front door, right in front of me was a stand selling velvet blankets with pictures (like the kind that kids have on their beds with Mickey Mouse on them). One the front racks--so you could see the whole blanket (in other words, in the single most visible piece of real estate in the mini-mall) were two blankets, next to one another on the racks: a Battle Flag, and the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Posted by: SamChevre on June 15, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Meat packing is simply the crookedest industry in America. It's crookeder than casino gambling. Since the 70s when labor contracts with meat packing workers unions were carefully destroyed by Republican governments allowing these companies to weasel out of them by selling the plants to themselves through daisy chains of fake holding companies, a serf class with no legal rights was the inevitable result.

Republicans are trying to use this as a wedge issue, but it turns around on them: the issue is corporate feudalism --literally feudalism. Like tsarist Russia, an ideal Republican state.

Posted by: cld on June 15, 2006 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

In the part of Iowa that I live in the major immigration issue is black people from Chicago, who seem to murder each other at a phenomenal rate.

Posted by: afigbee on June 15, 2006 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK
The National Science Foundation reports that 200,000 bachelors degrees in science and engineering are awarded each year in the US compared to 650,000 and rising in Asia.

Considering the relative populations of "the US" and "Asia", why is this even a source of concern?

Posted by: cmdicely on June 15, 2006 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

It is a source of concern because these are no just low skill economies. They are producing highly skilled labor that is in direct competition with higher skilled American workers. If the market for engineers is now global than what good will a degree from State U be when an equally skilled engineer can be found in India who will work for less than half? It increases the insecurity of skilled workers in the US.

Posted by: bellumregio on June 15, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Looking at the liberal responses on this thread, the determination to sacrifice the vital interests of people who work with their hands to cultural elite political correctness, it is easy to see why Cheney is right. The Democratic Party is going to get its clock cleaned this November.

The Democratic Party that used to be the party of working class Joe Sixpacks is now the party of latte liberals, of academia, of Hollywood and lifestyle liberalism. Nothing that purports to be an American Left has anything whatsoever to do with the bona fide needs, values, and interests of Americans who work with their hands. It is willing to side with cheap labor globalism because it wants to import a new welfare underclass of future Democratic voters, sneering about how Americans fighting to protect their livelihoods and families are 'ignorant, racist, nativist yahoos' notwithstanding the fact that illegals are pricing poor blacks clear out of the work force.

Thirty years ago the Democratic Party argued that people afraid of violent crime were 'racists'. It is handling this issue with precisely that tone of latte liberal condescension. That HALF the America labor force composed of people who work with their hands don't appreciate being condescended to.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 15, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

True story: In May, a good friend of mine from LA visited me in DC to see his brother graduate from Georgetown with several honors and awards. Their parents are Mexican immigrants. (Who are here legally, but not without first being here illegally in the 1970s and after much legal shenanigans). His father owns a gardening business, although he does not speak much English.

Why did the parents come to America?

So they could own their own business, prosper at it, and eventually see their youngest son graduate from Georgetown. The father had never been anywhere else in the U.S. besides LA. Had never stayed in a hotel. The weekend of his son's graduation was the most important weekend of his life. On a pre-dawn trip to see the sunrise from the Lincoln Memorial, my friend translated Lincoln's words to his father: his father cried.

It's the same reason why various members of my family came here (in forms that would be anything but legal today) in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Posted by: DC1974 on June 15, 2006 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

"Immigration is a non-issue. It exists during this election cycle to give blue collar men a reason to vote for Republicans. The biggest threat to the American jobs is not the foreigners people see working on construction sites but those they dont see in Asia, particularly China."

It is a non-issue to you because you're not an American who used to have a good job in the construction, meat packing, or service industries. It's a non-issue to you because you don't live in a city that is suddenly saddled with the social welfare costs of thousands of non-taxpaying poor people. It is a non-issue to you because MS-13 hasn't moved into your neighborhood. It is a non issue to you because no one you know has caught non-treatable TB. It is a non-issue to you because the Left is gleefully anticipating one more ethnic grievance group to manipulate and is willing to expend American workers in the process.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 15, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Considering the relative populations of "the US" and "Asia", why is this even a source of concern?
Posted by: cmdicely

The concern being that once the U.S. no longer has an absolute or even a comparative advantage in technological know-how, we will have lost our last area of economic advantage. We have being seeing the hollowing out of U.S. knowledge-based enterprises for at least a decade now.

If the number of engineering and science grads continues to rise in China in particular, China will approach the enviable state the U.S. occupied for about 25-years after WWII - the world's largest producer and consumer of manufactured goods. Or so says Robert Reich and other social scientists concerned with sort of thing.

China's (and India's) Achille's heal is food production and natural resources, which are less an issue in a more globalized economy than they might be three or four decades ago if a nation the size of China was trying to grow in the way it has since the 1980s.

Posted by: JeffII on June 15, 2006 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

The Dem elite can kiss control of the Senate goodbye by dismissing voter concerns over immigration and then adding insult to injury by trashing valid concerns as being the result of racism. What's really racist is the view that Hispanics are monolithic and will vote as a block on the issue of illegals and not even registering the impact on the poor black community. And btw, could there be anything politically stupider than voting with men who are as unpopular as bush and mccain?

The impact of immigration is wide and deep. It extends to places like Maine and Iowa and isn't limited to the blue collar jobs. The fact that the Senate Dems voted to just about double H1B visas is going to impact a big chunk of the middle class.

Posted by: Chrissy on June 15, 2006 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK
The concern being that once the U.S. no longer has an absolute or even a comparative advantage in technological know-how, we will have lost our last area of economic advantage.

And that's a valid issue -- note that I wasn't trying to argue, but to tease out what the issue was that that fact was trying to raise. I don't see it as a bad thing, per se; that the US domination in that area was destined to be transitory should have been obvious from the start -- such advantages usually are.

Although it does underline why the people of the United States might have an interest now in, while that dominance lasts, working to promote progress towards an international order which is more cooperative than the models the US has been pursuing historically, where the shifting regional tides of economic advantage are smoothed out more effectively.

Of course, that likely won't happen, instead, the US will seek to milk every drop of short-term advantage out of its dominance it can until its gone, no matter what the long-term consequences. And its dominance will fail as it has for every dominant power in history, the best outcome that is likely is a soft fall from military and economic superpower to one among several comfortable second-tier powers (in the manner of the UK).

Posted by: cmdicely on June 15, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Ok, Charles Warren. Put up or shut up: what do you recommend right now to raise the labor standards in the industries that are big employers of immigrant labor so that we will cut off the demand (as opposed to merely stopping the supply)?

Enforcement? Good. And after that?

If you are truly interested in helping the "Joe Sixpacks" (itself an abusive term), and "people who work with their hands" you will have an answer that entails more than putting up a fence.

Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 15, 2006 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

It is a non-issue to you because you're not an American who used to have a good job in the construction meat packing, or service industries.
Posted by: Charles Warren

As "they" say, WTF?

"(a)good job in the . . . meat packing or service industries"? Sarcasm? Meat packing has always been one of the dirtiest and most dangerous businesses in the country, and where oh where do you find a "good job" in the service industries? Are McDonalds and Jack-In-The-Box now offering the kinds of perks and signing bonuses we saw during the dot com boom? Are Best Buy and Circuit City raiding each others retail sales staffs, luring them away with higher wages and better fringe benefits?

To date, the construction industry is the only one to be studied closely enough to show that there has been a slight decrease in wages directly attributable to illegal immigration.

Posted by: JeffII on June 15, 2006 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

MNpundit, I just passed through Melrose, Minneota, a small town that's now 12% Hispanic. The old-timer I talked to ( a bartender) refused to not anything bad about the newcomers; I think that it was his policy. I don't know how typical that is. I had a feeling that the Catholic Church might make assimilation easier there, sionce the locals are mostly Catholic.

Interesting--I actually live in Greater Minnesota (outside the Twin Cities area). In Pelican Rapids, MN I know a great many poorer hispanics who work in the turkey plants there. I know the conditions they have to work in and it's not a picnic to say the least.

I have no idea how easy or difficult the Catholic Church would make assimilation, as my mother is a hardcore Southern Baptist Dem and so growing up I consistently got the subtext that Catholics were barely Christians. Hence, I'm a Protestant.

Posted by: MNPundit on June 15, 2006 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

As "they" say, WTF?

"(a)good job in the . . . meat packing or service industries"? Sarcasm? Meat packing has always been one of the dirtiest and most dangerous businesses in the country, and where oh where do you find a "good job" in the service industries? Are McDonalds and Jack-In-The-Box now offering the kinds of perks and signing bonuses we saw during the dot com boom? Are Best Buy and Circuit City raiding each others retail sales staffs, luring them away with higher wages and better fringe benefits?

As you so aptly demonstrate, we have a Left which is contemptuous of the needs and interests of people who are not white collar professionals and will deserve having its ass handed to it this November.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 15, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Charles Warren writes:

As you so aptly demonstrate, we have a Left which is contemptuous of the needs and interests of people who are not white collar professionals and will deserve having its ass handed to it this November.


Not good enough by half. MNPundit is pointing out the reality of work in substantial swathes of the service sector. He shows contempt for the employers, not for the workers.

Now answer the question. If you are really the champion of people who work with their hands, you should be able to reel off fairly easily a number of steps that could be taken to improve their conditions of work.

Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 15, 2006 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

CW: As you so aptly demonstrate, we have a Left which is contemptuous of the needs and interests of people who are not white collar professionals and will deserve having its ass handed to it this November.

Really? Not totally clear on what position is being ascribed to the left.

It seems like the way to deal with immigration is to make a serious attempt at discouraging the hiring of illegal aliens, which obviously means enforcement targeted against employers (which is what I thought MNpundit was advocating, thus my confusion with CW's post).

At the same time that this is being done, if the labor pool that has been adversely affected by illegal immigrants were to get collective bargaining representation, then they wouldbe able to negotiate more effectively for good living wages and benefits.

Once that has happened there will be an accurate picture of how many jobs are available at a decent wage, and if jobs are still going unfilled, the country could consider granting more visas.

Now does anyone really think the Republicans would do any of that? Or will they just stir up trouble around immigration without really improving things for blue collar workers?

Posted by: cyntax on June 15, 2006 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Asked and answered, cyntax.

Chuckie's silence speaks loudly.

These guys are full of shit.


Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 15, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

As you so aptly demonstrate, we have a Left which is contemptuous of the needs and interests of people who are not white collar professionals and will deserve having its ass handed to it this November.
Posted by: Charles Warren

I don't have contempt for the working class. I have contempt for dumbshits like you who are either too stupid and/or too dishonest to address the substance of the discussion. Or are you telling us all that meatpacking and the service industries uniformly provide great wages and benefits and great working conditions? If you believe this to be true, you have a rather limited view of the world.

Posted by: JeffII on June 15, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

These guys are full of shit.
Posted by: Friend of Labor

Too true. But usually when they completely misread an argument, it's as a part of a strawman tactic/fallacy or something. That just seemed wildly off the mark.

Posted by: cyntax on June 15, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

"As you so aptly demonstrate, we have a Left...blah, blah, blah, November"

Oops, Charles "Rabbit" Warren forget to make his recommendations on how to raise labor standards.
How could that have happened?

Posted by: Pierre Asciutto on June 15, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

Although it does underline why the people of the United States might have an interest now in, while that dominance lasts, working to promote progress towards an international order which is more cooperative than the models the US has been pursuing historically, where the shifting regional tides of economic advantage are smoothed out more effectively.

What changes in the "international order" do you propose?

dominant power in history, the best outcome that is likely is a soft fall from military and economic superpower to one among several comfortable second-tier powers (in the manner of the UK)

Well, there don't seem to be any remotely viable competitors on the horizon.

Posted by: GOP on June 15, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK
Well, there don't seem to be any remotely viable competitors on the horizon.

To quote JeffII's post -- also quoted in the post you were responding to with this idiocy:

If the number of engineering and science grads continues to rise in China in particular, China will approach the enviable state the U.S. occupied for about 25-years after WWII - the world's largest producer and consumer of manufactured goods.

Do try to keep up, Don.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 15, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

To quote JeffII's post ...

Like I said, there don't seem to be any remotely viable competitors on the horizon. If you want to make the case that China is such a thing, you'll have to do more than quote an unsupported and conditional assertion by someone else. You idiot.

Do try to keep up, Don.

Yes, Blanche.

Posted by: GOP on June 15, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK
If you want to make the case that China is such a thing, you'll have to do more than quote an unsupported and conditional assertion by someone else.

I don't want to make the case at all; I'm not really concerned if you agree, and its a point not in debate between the grown-ups in this discussion.

If you want to start a debate on the issue, take it up with the person that raised it.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 15, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

I don't want to make the case at all;

I'm not surprised. It would be a very hard case to make.

Posted by: GOP on June 15, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

The concern being that once the U.S. no longer has an absolute or even a comparative advantage in technological know-how, we will have lost our last area of economic advantage.

In most respects that would be a good thing. There isn't a shred of evidence -- not one iota -- to suggest US living standards are going to decrease over the long haul, or that per capita wealth will decline. So for America to lose its economic advantage can only mean that the rest of the world will have caught up. In other words, the rest of the world will have reached developed world levels of wealth.

Now, for the record I think it will be at least a few centuries before this is likely to occur, but when it does, the world will be a much better place.

Posted by: 99 on June 15, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

China will approach the enviable state the U.S. occupied for about 25-years after WWII - the world's largest producer and consumer of manufactured goods.

Such a "state" may or may not have been enviable before 1970. It certainly isn't now. Service sector jobs pay better, and are certainly a lot more pleasant.

Posted by: 99 on June 15, 2006 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Service sector jobs pay better, and are certainly a lot more pleasant. Posted by: 99

Service sector jobs pay better than what?

The service industry was a miniscule part of the U.S. and world economy in 1970. Secondly, blue collar manufacturing jobs, the overwhelming majority of which were unionized, paid much better wages than the service sector, still do for the most part, even in non-union plants.

Posted by: JeffII on June 15, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

My great great uncle, Judge Rowan built and homed in the original Old Kentucky ome.

Posted by: Matt on June 15, 2006 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

In most respects that would be a good thing. There isn't a shred of evidence -- not one iota -- to suggest US living standards are going to decrease over the long haul, or that per capita wealth will decline.Our living standards are being held up by borrowing money. Both government and the people are maxed out.

US wages peaked in real terms in 1972.

A great deal of a nation's wealth is in natural resources per capita. This decreases automatically with the exploding population, both by simple division, and by the increasing rate of using up non-renewable resources such as farm land through urban sprawl and soil erosion. It's later than you think.

Posted by: Myron on June 15, 2006 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

It seems like the way to deal with immigration is to make a serious attempt at discouraging the hiring of illegal aliens

Such as "serious attempt" is almost always blocked by "liberals" who whine every time that the DHS conducts even a show raid.

For an example of how that works, see this about Nancy Pelosi. Speaking in Mexico about the 2003 Wal*Mart raids, she said: "We think there might be a better way to go about this because the fact is that it is against the law for the employer to hire these people so there should be more focus on the employer and less in these terrorizing raids."

Pelosi and other "liberals" support a magical kind of immigration enforcement where no one gets detained or deported.

Meat packing has always been one of the dirtiest and most dangerous businesses in the country, and where oh where do you find a "good job" in the service industries?

The "liberals"-for-corporatism solution is to import a foreign serf class to do that work.

The American alternative is to reduce the size of the possible employees, forcing employers to either raise wages or invent machinery. The latter will create much better jobs than the current situation, where "liberals" help employers throw ever cheaper labor at the problem rather than having to innovate. And, of course, raising labor costs would make inefficient industries like strawberry production move to where the cheap labor is, rather than importing said foreign serf class into a high-cost economy.

Immigration myths

Posted by: TLB on June 15, 2006 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

Here in Washington the pro-amnesty crowd is an interesting mix of Republican farmers and a lot of housing developers who are lately getting new homes thrown up at bargain basement rates; and downtown Seattle elitist Democrats who imagine that all the illegals are going to magically get registered to vote (no real ID of any kind required here) and will vote Democrat.

I'm talking to Joe Lunch-Box the former Democrat who has figured this all out, finally. He isn't sure about us Republicans but he knows the downtown liberals are absolutely stabbing him in the back and making it impossible for him to cling to a middle class lifestyle. He also knows the downtown Democrats are lying through their teeth about what they are doing by coddling the illegals (Seattle is a sanctuary city.)

So, all I have to do is convince Joe that I am willing to stiff the produce farm lobby and to force contractors to hire American citizens and pay the prevailing wage for carpentry, roofing, plumbing, and a lot of other trades that are being massively infiltrated by illegals.

Can do! Boy, can we do this!

Posted by: Mike Cook on June 16, 2006 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

"Iowa has experienced significant amounts of immigration, just not recently. My Iowa family was very much apart of the wave of German immigrants that settled there in the late 19th and early 20th century. Much like todays immigrants: they went to church services in their own language, and attended public bilingual schools. Okay, today's immigrants aren't allowed to do that last bit."

Germans are basically the same genetically as English, and there is very little difference genetically among European ethnic groups. However, there is a relatively large genetic difference between Europeans and Native Americans. We have been relatively unsuccessful at assimilating non-immigrant Native Americans. Their rates of alcohol and drug abuse are off the charts. Their crime rate is l.8 times greater than Caucasians. Their educational achievements are relatively low. The immigrants we are getting from Mexico have all the genetic problems of being Native American, plus a language issue, plus a greater attachment to the adjacent native land. Unfortunately, race is a real part of the immigration problem. We can do more to help our own Native Americans with affirmative action etc., but this will be impossible in states like California where Hispanics are 1/3 of the population.
My own German immigrant ancestors also lived in Iowa, but neither of my parents learned German. My Grandfather didn't even speak much German due to great grandpa marrying an Irish lady. On my mother's side, the children were sent to Sunday school in the Congregational Church, in order to learn more English than in the Lutheran Sunday school.


Posted by: sf on June 16, 2006 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

"Asked and answered, cyntax.

Chuckie's silence speaks loudly.

These guys are full of shit."

My silence bespeaks Thursday night plans, genius.

The solutions are simple.

1. Border security. This is a military problem because much of the border is in a condition of drug lord warlordism in which our border patrols are shot at by corrupt Mexican military and police.

2. Employer sanctions. Suits should start doing the perp walk.

3. No guest worker or amnesty programs. But as you see Democratic mayors and politicians 'compassionately' create 'sanctuary cities' where they flatly refuse to enforce the immigration laws of this country in order to create an ethnic grievance group voting bloc.

And just because a meat packing job is hard work has nothing to do with the fact that once upon a time it paid enough for one American to be able to support a family on it.

And organized labor thinking it is going to organize illegals is fundamentally stupid. Workers who know they can simply be replaced with another batch of illegals and have no legal recourse whatsoever are not going to organize or strike. Labor that is cheap and plentiful has no bargaining power whatsoever. You can't organize a labor pool that is in constant flux.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 16, 2006 at 5:36 AM | PERMALINK

#1) Can the trolls go a single thread without being the first to comment?

#2) "Guess every state ought to start building a fence around itself."

I've built a fence around myself.

#3) "The reason people leave Mexico for here is that Mexico is just like the neocons want our country to look like--no social security, no public health, no minimum wage, no safety standards......the rich and powerful can do whatever they hell they want."

If that is the case, I gather the neocons are not quite corrupt enough. Corruption, and the wiggle room it provides, is one of the few things that make a rather large swath of the developing world liveable. In Bush's America one begins to appreciate that in the lawnessness of our southern neighbors there is a kind of freedom, even privacy. How can track people's every move - get into their pants - when you don't even know how many people are in your country, let alone what all their names are, and what the hell they do with themselves all day?

Posted by: Linus on June 16, 2006 at 5:55 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Charles Warren had all night to think about it, and the best he could come up with is more of the same: keep the illegals out.

I am still waiting Charles for the answer to my question: If you are really the champion of people who work with their hands, you should be able to reel off fairly easily a number of steps that could be taken to improve conditions of work for "people who work with their hands" as you put it.

Is the idea, as you put it, that a job can pay enough for one American to support a family an idea of the past or is it something possible today? And if so, how?

Stop bashing some fantasy downtown liberal conspiracy and tell us how this result could come about. Stopping illegal immigration is only a (small) part of the answer. Let's hear the rest.

Until you do your continual invocation of the interests of "Joe Sixpacks" to justify a twin attack on liberals and illegal immigrants is nothing more than a fear-based bait and switch.


Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 16, 2006 at 6:18 AM | PERMALINK

I am still waiting Charles for the answer to my question: If you are really the champion of people who work with their hands, you should be able to reel off fairly easily a number of steps that could be taken to improve conditions of work for "people who work with their hands" as you put it.

The very best thing that we conservatives can do for working Americans is to take your knife out of their backs. Working Americans are being driven from one job category after another by illegals and seeing their wage levels driven down so pretending that you are any 'friend of labor' is the purest hypocrisy.

The Democratic Party in the Senate stood solidly behind a bill that would wage war against working class Americans by a massive indentured labor program and war against white collar professionals by massive automatic expansion of the H1b program. These are things you supported and have the gall to call yourself a 'friend of labor'. Glutting the supply of labor destroys labor's bargaining power and reduces wages and increases job insecurity thereby creating a situation where any talk of 'improving the conditions of work' is just stupid pie in the sky. Or the usual vaguely ineffectual whiny sentiments of latte liberals to salve their consciences while they actively sabotage you.

How do you improve labor conditions ? Well, you start with pay and job security because if those are not addressed anything else you say is just drivel. And you do that by stopping the glutting of the labor market which is the exact opposite of what you want.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 16, 2006 at 6:40 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter Charles Warren: one trick pony. Solve the immigration problem and everything else will be hunky dory.

Additional ideas for improving "pay and job security": zero.

Hey Chuck: where's the glut?

The Center for Immigration Studies - your guys - estimates there were 5 million illegal aliens in 2000. This was at the end of the 1990s boom during which we had among the tightest labor markets in US history. No glut there.

Since 2000 CIS estimates 3.7 million illegal aliens entered the country. Okay - the unemployment rate rose during the 2001-2002 recession, but at its peak it was not close to unemployment levels in previous recessions. And the rate has been falling ever since. It is right now at late-1990s levels again.

If you came to us as hell-bent about improving the NLRB (now, there are some laws that could do with enforcement!) I'd tend to listen to you.


Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 16, 2006 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

As a politician I worked the Cinco de Mayo celebration here hard with signs made in Spanish for the occasion. I expect maybe 10% of the crowd will vote in this off year election legally. I did not encourage any illegal immigrant to vote. I'm going to leave it to the Democrat activists to get out there and do that.

Hispanics, however, are like anyone else. They don't like the crime problem, they don't like what drugs do to a neighborhood, and most Hispanics are more socially conservative than their Anglo neighbors who have been to college.

Some of the Hispanics will become Democrat robo-voters whether or not they are citizens (our state not only doesn't check, they make it impossible to check.) These people respond to a lot of personal contact and attention and I intend to see that they get it.

Posted by: Mike Cook on June 16, 2006 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

"Hey Chuck: where's the glut?

The Center for Immigration Studies - your guys - estimates there were 5 million illegal aliens in 2000. This was at the end of the 1990s boom during which we had among the tightest labor markets in US history. No glut there.

Since 2000 CIS estimates 3.7 million illegal aliens entered the country. Okay - the unemployment rate rose during the 2001-2002 recession, but at its peak it was not close to unemployment levels in previous recessions. And the rate has been falling ever since. It is right now at late-1990s levels again."

Is it at late-1990's levels for blacks ? No, it is not. Indeed, one might deduce that from the fact that the violent crime rate has begun to rise again. Why ? Because illegals have the jobs that blacks did ten years ago. And blacks know it.

Educate your latte liberal self on the link below, as to the people who have paid the price for your 'compassion' and WTF obliviousness.


http://www.epinet.org/content.cfm/webfeatures_snapshots_20050406

Apparently what you numbers do not reflect is people who have been priced clear out of the work force. None of the things you think are important to 'improve the conditions of labor' mean squat to people who have lost their jobs in a glutted labor market.

Above you rather stupidly asked how I would go about reducing 'demand' for illegal labor instead of supply. It is the nature of capitalism to seek ever cheaper inputs so the 'demand' for cheap labor will always be there. It is an externality which is a law enforcement problem. You reduce the demand for illegals the way you would reduce the demand for stolen or counterfeit merchandise. By legal sanctions that make the risk not worth it. By sending people to jail for breaking the law.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 16, 2006 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

"It's no use trying to reason with these extremists, CW."

I know, Cheney, I know.

The Democrats are handling illegal immigration with the same condescending obliviousness with which they handled violent crime thirty years ago. The same pious determination of the comfortable to denounce people's valid security-based fears as 'racist'. The same willingness to play Lady Bountiful and sacrifice the safety and well being of people who aren't upper middle class white collar professionals to their 'compassion' and 'sensitivity'. The same softheadedness that refuses to accept that a viable immigration policy must both keep foreign intruders out and deport those that are here.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 16, 2006 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

I live in New Mexico. It starts with tobacco - then morphs into other trades.

Electricians in Santa Fe and Albuquerque cannot compete with unlicensed Mexicans.

In New Mexico, white Americans cannot support themselves in concrete, new or old construction, plumbing or general maintenance.

AND the presence of so many semi skilled men suppress wages for everybody else.

The author addresses PHASE ONE of the takeover of America.

I am living in PHASE 3 or 4.

The home team is losing to the invaders - one job at a time...

Posted by: thomsen on June 16, 2006 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Charles,

I'm sure this is futile but would you consider referring to these people as 'illegal immigrants' instead of 'illegals?'

Regardless of your position on the issue I hope you will admit that we are talking about the fate of different groups of people here.

Otherwise I'm left with the impression that you consider the illegal immigrants to be equivalent to stolen or counterfeit merchandise.

Posted by: Tripp on June 16, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

thomsen,

Who is hiring these unlicensed workers? If the home team is losing to the invaders they have business to thank for it.

Lets face it - the "home team" gave up their power when they turned away from unions. Now they are powerless to the forces of capitalism which, as Charles points out, will always seek to pay less and less.

I'm always a little amazed when Republican workers embrace 'bidness' and then are shocked when businesses screw them. But the rich and powerful are masters at turning one powerless group against another.

Posted by: Tripp on June 16, 2006 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'm always a little amazed when Republican workers embrace 'bidness' and then are shocked when businesses screw them. But the rich and powerful are masters at turning one powerless group against another. Posted by: Tripp

Somewhat off topic, yesterday I saw some scruffy guy soliciting signatures for the repeal of the "death tax" here in Washington. Most signature gathering positions are now paid, so this was this guy's "job." I almost went over to asked him what his personal stake in all this was as the inheritance tax itself affects less than 5% of all Americans, but the cumulative effect of its repeal would have significant negative ramifications for people in his "income bracket."

It's not what's wrong with Kansas but what's wrong with the whole country.

Posted by: JeffII on June 16, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Even shorter Charles Warren: "If you can't make the cut, rabbit on about the glut..."

CW's evidence (actually EPI's) shows that African American unemployment rates have not recovered as quickly in Bush's recession as they have in previous recessions. The authors don't know why this is the case, but opine that it is because:

* labor demand remains relatively weak for this stage of a recovery, and this has a greater impact on minorities;

* there are weaknesses remaining in the particular industries and occupations where African Americans (men, in particular) are over represented, such as manufacturing; and

* the labor market still discriminates against minorities, particularly African American males.

NOTE: IMMIGRATION, AND ESPECIALLY ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION ARE NOT MENTIONED AS CONTRIBUTING FACTORS.

Perhaps the possibility that the labor market still discriminates against minorities has something to do with Bush's gutting of the EEOC??

Okay Chuck - go out and find some evidence. We are still looking for the labor glut you claim is all around us, the plot hatched by that nasty liberal-corporate conspiracy you are so worried about.

Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 16, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Are you trying to argue that all those hispanic faces in jobs that black people had ten years ago is just an illusion ? Once upon a time black people worked at Tyson Foods.

I understand that you have an insitutional need to pretend that the laws of supply and demand somehow don't exist in the labor market (i.e., you can have an open borders labor policy without it driving wages down). Indeed the much cited Borjas study proves the direct link between levels of illegal immigration and wage stagnation and indeed decline among working class Americans. Workers have always understood that. The jobs that illegals now have were once upon a time held largely by entry level American workers. How do you count entry level American workers who never got to enter ?

Organized labor is completely willing to betray the interests of working Americans to pad its rolls, as if this is going to give it some increased bargaining power. In a cheap labor universe there is no worker bargaining power and illegals are much too unstable and vulnerable a demographic to organize.

But it means nothing. You have chosen to align the Democratic Party with the cause of WSJ cheap labor corporate globalism. And you will pay the price just as Busby and the mayor of Herndon did.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 16, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

Tripp, you had better decide where your compassion lies. With illegals or American workers who can actually legally vote. Or there will be a price to be paid this November.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 16, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

Warren...Straw-man arguments: Open borders policy? WTF?

One-trick pony:

What's had a larger impact: the off-shoring of manufacturing jobs? Lots of blacks once worked in the autoplants and steel mills that were the heart of stable wage labor employment. Don't see those jobs being done by blacks, whites, or illegal immigrants. Because they are not here.

Privatization of public services? Contracting out?

The gutting of the NLRB?

The gutting of the EEOC?

Trickle-up tax breaks?

We could name a hundred different factors that have had a greater impact on the lives of working Americans than illegal immigration. You are silent on each. If you truly championed the interests of workers - as opposed to your shilling for the racist right wing of the Republican Party - you'd spend at least an ounce of your energy advocating policies that could improve workers' position.

Borjas? A study of some controversy.

Take a look - even his coauthor is skeptical. Later revisions to their original work has further scaled down the impact - basically to zero for the workforce as a whole, some small impact on poorly educated workers, which is impossible to disaggregate from all the other shit thrown in their path.

April 16, 2006
Economic View
Cost of Illegal Immigration May Be Less Than Meets the Eye
New York Times

By EDUARDO PORTER
CALIFORNIA may seem the best place to study the impact of illegal immigration on the prospects of American workers. Hordes of immigrants rushed into the state in the last 25 years, competing for jobs with the least educated among the native population. The wages of high school dropouts in California fell 17 percent from 1980 to 2004.

But before concluding that immigrants are undercutting the wages of the least fortunate Americans, perhaps one should consider Ohio. Unlike California, Ohio remains mostly free of illegal immigrants. And what happened to the wages of Ohio's high school dropouts from 1980 to 2004? They fell 31 percent.

As Congress debates an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, several economists and news media pundits have sounded the alarm, contending that illegal immigrants are causing harm to Americans in the competition for jobs.

Yet a more careful examination of the economic data suggests that the argument is, at the very least, overstated. There is scant evidence that illegal immigrants have caused any significant damage to the wages of American workers.

The number that has been getting the most attention lately was produced by George J. Borjas and Lawrence F. Katz, two Harvard economists, in a paper published last year. They estimated that the wave of illegal Mexican immigrants who arrived from 1980 to 2000 had reduced the wages of high school dropouts in the United States by 8.2 percent. But the economists acknowledge that the number does not consider other economic forces, such as the fact that certain businesses would not exist in the United States without cheap immigrant labor. If it had accounted for such things, immigration's impact would be likely to look less than half as big.

Mr. Katz was somewhat taken aback by the attention the study has received. "This was not intended," he said.

At first blush, the preoccupation over immigration seems reasonable. Since 1980, eight million illegal immigrants have entered the work force. Two-thirds of them never completed high school. It is sensible to expect that, because they were willing to work for low wages, they would undercut the position in the labor market of American high school dropouts.

This common sense, however, ignores half the picture. Over the last quarter-century, the number of people without any college education, including high school dropouts, has fallen sharply. This has reduced the pool of workers who are most vulnerable to competition from illegal immigrants.

In addition, as businesses and other economic agents have adjusted to immigration, they have made changes that have muted much of immigration's impact on American workers.

For instance, the availability of foreign workers at low wages in the Nebraska poultry industry made companies realize that they had the personnel to expand. So they invested in new equipment, generating jobs that would not otherwise be there. In California's strawberry patches, illegal immigrants are not competing against native workers; they are competing against pickers in Michoacn, Mexico. If the immigrant pickers did not come north across the border, the strawberries would.

"Immigrants come in and the industries that use this type of labor grow," said David Card, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. "Taking all into account, the effects of immigration are much, much lower."

In a study published last year that compared cities that have lots of less educated immigrants with cities that have very few, Mr. Card found no wage differences that could be attributed to the presence of immigrants.

Other research has also cast doubt on illegal immigration's supposed damage to the nation's disadvantaged. A study published earlier this year by three economists David H. Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Katz of Harvard and Melissa S. Kearney of the Brookings Institution observed that income inequality in the bottom half of the wage scale has not grown since around the mid-1980's.

Even economists striving hardest to find evidence of immigration's effect on domestic workers are finding that, at most, the surge of illegal immigrants probably had only a small impact on wages of the least-educated Americans an effect that was likely swamped by all the other things that hit the economy, from the revolution in technology to the erosion of the minimum wage's buying power.

When Mr. Borjas and Mr. Katz assumed that businesses reacted to the extra workers with a corresponding increase in investment as has happened in Nebraska their estimate of the decline in wages of high school dropouts attributed to illegal immigrants was shaved to 4.8 percent. And they have since downgraded that number, acknowledging that the original analysis used some statistically flimsy data.

Assuming a jump in capital investment, they found that the surge in illegal immigration reduced the wages of high school dropouts by just 3.6 percent. Across the entire labor force, the effect of illegal immigrants was zero, because the presence of uneducated immigrants actually increased the earnings of more educated workers, including high school graduates. For instance, higher-skilled workers could hire foreigners at low wages to mow their lawns and care for their children, freeing time for these workers to earn more. And businesses that exist because of the availability of cheap labor might also need to employ managers.

Mr. Borjas said that while the numbers were not large, the impact at the bottom end of the skill range was significant. "It is not a big deal for the whole economy, but that hides a big distributional impact," he said.

OTHERS disagree. "If you're a native high school dropout in this economy, you've got a slew of problems of which immigrant competition is but one, and a lesser one at that," said Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group.

Mr. Katz agreed that the impact was modest, and it might fall further if changes in trade flows were taken into account specifically, that without illegal immigrants, some products now made in the United States would likely be imported. "Illegal immigration had a little bit of a role reinforcing adverse trends for the least advantaged," he said, "but there are much stronger forces operating over the last 25 years."


Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 16, 2006 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

First of all, if you are making the minimum wage, a decrease of 3.6% due to desperate competition is fairly significant. As for the claim that there is "scant" evidence that illegal immigration is hurting those native born American workers who once had trade union jobs that afforded them middle class lifestyles, if the evidence of that is "scant" somebody out there has cooked the books.
Somebody is stonewalling this big time.
At one time Seattle was truly a working class city. The strong union movement here was built on the alliance of longshoremen, farmers, fishermen, timber workers, trade workers, miners, and the rest factory workers.
In the early 1990's the Seattle labor movement sold out the timber workers on the Spotted Owl issue and 50,000 middle-class jobs vanished overnight into history. It was a huge betrayal based on a completely bogus, junk science definition of what a species might be (a definition that modern techniques of mapping the complete genome REALLY EXPOSES as a political farce BTW.) The miners and farmers took endless bashings from Seattle's leftist elites while the cosmopolitan labor movement stood by and said nothing.
Now it's their turn. The last of the workers are being sold out and betrayed. In a way, they deserve it.

Posted by: Mike Cook on June 16, 2006 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

Mike Cook - try to be consistent (a feat Chuckie finds impossible to bring off).

Both you and Chuckie have argued immigration is affecting "labor" or "Joe Sixpacks","stabbing him in the back and making it impossible for him to cling to a middle class lifestyle."

The only evidence you've provided is that immigration might have a limited effect on those at the BOTTOM of the wage scale - high school dropouts, those making minimum wage, and even here the evidence is in much dispute and multiple other (non-immigration-related) factors may well be at work affecting these people.

Key question: even stipulating for the moment that Borjas and Katz are right, how does a phenomenon affecting those at the bottom of the wage scale make it impossible for "Joe Lunch Box" as you put it to enjoy a "middle class lifestyle"? By definition "Joe Lunch Box" was making well more than minimum wage, as do all union members.

If you want to say that it has an impact on the poorest workers (though even whether this is the case, and how much it may be the case is in dispute), this is quite a different argument from saying it has undermined the position of relatively well-paid union members.

Note this shift in Chuckie's argument when presented with an argument that there is no labor glut - but what about poor black males he spits? But the argument was about the decimation of well-paying union jobs, and the labor movement's and the Democratic Party's complicity in destroying their members' jobs.

This is of course a bizzarro-world argument on its face; it is worth showing that there is no empirical evidence to support it.


without If immigration

Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 17, 2006 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

As for the state of labor in Washington State...

It is alive and well. Not what it was in the past, but hardly as pitiful as you describe.

Union density in Washington State was between 23 and 24 percent in the early 1990s; today it is about 19 to 20 percent - well above the national average. The real declines in density in Washington (as in most of the country) occurred during the 1970s; it fell from 44.5% in 1964 to the low 30s by the end of the 1970s, then again to the low 20s by the mid-1980s where it hovered for most of the 1990s.

Basically this long-term decline has nothing to do with immigration - nor with your pet peeve, the Spotted Owl!

It is rather wrapped up in the observation you make:

"The strong union movement here was built on the alliance of longshoremen, farmers, fishermen, timber workers, trade workers, miners, and the rest factory workers.

Basically all or most of these industries have shed jobs, either through mechanization or off-shoring. A city with a unionized working class based on these industries is going to take it in the neck. No doubt about it - and immigration had probably zero to do with it.

That doesn't mean unions are dead in Washington State - they are just building membership in different sectors: your Seattle janitors, security officers, hotel workers and others are building unions that are doing quite all right, thank you very much.

Your fantasy about "leftist elites" and "cosmopolitan labor movement," sell-outs and betrayals, has no connection to the reality of the process.


Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 17, 2006 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

At one time Seattle was truly a working class city.

Yes. About forty to fifty years ago, which was true of all medium to large American cities to some extent. However, except for aerospace, Seattle's never had any manufacturing. Timber has been in decline since the 1980s primarily because of forty years of resource mismanagement, and increased harveting efficiancies, fishing ditto, and . . . That's it. The ports of Seattle and Tacoma combined have never been more than the third largest ports on the West Coast, and really came into their own with containerization. So while Seattle and Tacoma may have been home to one of the first contingent of Wobblies, that was almost 100 years ago. Seattle was little more than a large frontier town then.

In the early 1990's the Seattle labor movement sold out the timber workers on the Spotted Owl issue and 50,000 middle-class jobs vanished overnight into history.

The timber industy, which I have been involved with at least tangentially for over fifteen years, was in decline for a decade before that. There were never 50,000 timber related jobs in Washington, and few of those jobs paid what could be considered middle-income wages. Perhaps the entire NW had that many jobs in 1980, but not Washingon alone. 50,000 timber related jobs would have put the industry on par for employment with Boeing, though no where close to that in terms of pay scale.

The miners and farmers took endless bashings from Seattle's leftist elites while the cosmopolitan labor movement stood by and said nothing.Posted by: Mike Cook

Hardrock mining, of which there has never been much in Washington, is about as desireable employment as meatpacking, and more dangerous yet.

Farmers taking endless beatings? Bullshit. Agriculture, like the extractive industries, is actually a drag on the national economy because of excessive government support either through give away agreements (timber and mining), to underpriced irrigation water, to price supports and market protection for uncompetitive crops.

Seattle was never as blue collar as many people believe, and since the 1960s was increasingly less dependent on industries organized around manual labor, execpt for aerospace, and that was high-tech manufacturing anyway.

Posted by: JeffII on June 17, 2006 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

JeffII - I agree with everything except your last paragraph - Seattle was one of the most unionized cities in the United States until the 1970s. Everything else you say I agree with - lamentable processes which have had nothing at all to do with immigration.

And you are correct to describe the docks as remaining union, and you could stress, as I do, that 20% density is not exactly bad in today's United States.

Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 17, 2006 at 1:39 AM | PERMALINK

Should have said 50,000 jobs in Washington and Oregon, because you have to figure the collaterals in all the small towns that withered as the mills closed down. "Resource mismanagement?" To what does that refer? Trees will grow if planted and new growth sucks a lot more carbon out of the air than old growth. I helped Job Corps replant trees in the 1960s that are now harvest size, but will be left to bugs and fire. The social misery index in those small towns has been pretty high, incidentally, exacerbating the methamphetamine epidemic.
No, not much hardrock mining now, but would have been a 600 job open pit at Battle Mountain until the state changed the rules..
It really bothers me when urbanites disrespect agriculture. Urban nerds seem to be under the impression that someone, somewhere, will always be willing to grow the food they must eat. In the good times that is true and globalization even will allow you to drink Australian beer and oranges from Israel.
But France, Japan, and the other nations that cautiously protect their agricultural sectors really are being wise. Japan is smart to protect its whaling industry, because there is such a thing as radical historical events that may stop world trade dead for years, even decades. War is one such event, but radical climate change due to natural disaster could be another. When I studied Russian I once asked my elderly White Russian teacher (who fought the Bolsheviks and failed)why Russians had so many names for soup.
He replied that rich Americans don't appreciate the subtleties of soup when it is made out of anything, including dead cats and old shoes.


The Ukraine was once the breadbasket of Europe but 1932-37 Ukrainians starved to death as they watched full grain trains roll through to Russia under heavy guard.
Red mismanagement of grain production kept everyone hungry. When I was there in 2002 I noticed John Deere tractors owned by Germans are now restoring the deep, black Ukrainian soil to its former importance.
Seattle's south suburbs, where I live and am campaigning, are still heavily blue collar and are extremely effected by immigration pressure. If you can't fine any statistics on this yet, watch the poll numbers this Fall. People at my level care a lot about this populist issue, not to mention that hospitals here are going bankrupt from providing for Mexico's health care inadequacies and law enforcement sees a sizable stream of felons caught and deported, only to be back in three weeks with new names.
Law-abiding people go to a lot of trouble to license themselves to drive and to be insured, but a sizable portion of the population now does not.
Anyhow, watch the polls and thanks for the populist issue.

Posted by: Mike Cook on June 17, 2006 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Much as sellout of labor tries to cite corporate studies and repeat the outsourcers mantra that this only affects "jobs America can afford to lose", what happenned to thomsen has happenned to thousands of American workers.

And now organized labor is trying to join in with the WSJ cheap labor crowd because they think it will pad their rolls and have chosen to base the "Left" on impoverished ethnic grievance groups instead of fighting for the economic interests of working Americans.

This is a wonderful issue for the House Republicans. It plays directly to Republican strength as the party of order and security. And economic populism can come every bit as readily fron the Right (remember William Jennings Bryan ?) as the New Deal Left.

Fine, sellout of labor. You are welcome to Hollywood, academia, and Ward Churchill. We don't really want or need the corporate cheap labor GOP. As the party of American workers, whose cultural conservatism appalls and sickens this Democratic Party, we will be the majority party forever.

You have whigged yourselves.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 17, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Charles Warren: Are you on drugs? Larry Katz, co-author of the study you promote, has walked back from its conclusions. Don't you think its time you did?

Jared Bernstein, author of the study you cite on the African American unemployment rate is a leading critic of the Borjas thesis, and the work of his that you cite supports none of your assertions.

When you repeat reflexively your arguments when YOUR OWN sources dispute your arguments it is time either to hang them up or check into an institution. We have a word for those who cling to conspiracy theories in the face of all evidence - deranged.


Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 17, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Tripp: the most accurate term is illegal alien. The governor of California is an immigrant, but he is not an alien because he has taken the oath of citizenship.

Friend of Labor: The study you cite ignores cost of living. High school dropouts are better off in Ohio when you consider cost of living. At any rate, the US economy is not a series of local markets. People move to where the jobs are.

Posted by: sf on June 18, 2006 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

The high school drop-out problem is my major campaign theme. I propose to address the problem by re-criminalyzing truancy. Formerly a misdemeanor crime, truancy was decriminalyzed in our state in response to children's rights advocates and a ton of touchy-feely junk psychology.

The practical effect is that cops can't stop and detain youngsters out and around the streets during school hours, not even if these youth are caught shoplifting! (shoplifters here get only a citation and are released on the spot.)

I grew up in a small, working-class community in Western Montana in the 1950's. Our high school graduating class of 101 had mostly been together since kindergarten. We lost one drop-out in 12 years, a girl who started her own family very early in life. All the rest graduated, although some were very heavy into vocational training. Truancy law was enforced by that community.

Today the community I live in has a 35% drop-out rate. This doesn't count the teen children of illegal immigrants who mostly just get an I.D. of some sort saying they are 18 when they are 14 and go to work for wages. Probably over half the home burglaries in our town are done by teens who are drop-outs or only occasionally appear in school for social purposes.

The state has tasked parents with a great deal of responsibility for this situation, but simultaneously took away all real authority they ever had. About all a parent can do is agree to their academically lazy child being placed in an "alternative" high school. These schools start late, get out early, the students take whatever courses they like and do little work to pass most of them. Also, they get to curse and disrespect the teachers all they want!

Students graduating from the alternative schools can't get diplomas that now depend on a final test of high school learning, but they typically can go on to a junior college where they will take classes that remediate all the subjects they skipped in high school. An A.A. degree from some or our junior colleges is basically equivalent to a diploma from those high schools with tough curricula designed for admission to the better universities.

How much will the drop-outs ever earn in their careers? I suppose union propagandists will assert that these people should make a "living wage" whatever they do. I guess a living wage means your own home, a car, a cell phone, all the appliances, furniture, and health insurance.

The thing is, the main thing that drop-outs learn is not to be responsible about attendance at work or any type of work habits or even showing minimal respect for bosses. They might be trainable if anyone could trust them to show up.

Today the town

Posted by: Mike Cook on June 18, 2006 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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