Immigrants' Labors Lost
The New York Times
IMAGINE we wanted to create a huge Latino underclass in this country. We would induce more than 500,000 illegal immigrants to enter annually. We would see Latinos account for half of America’s population growth. We would turn a hardened eye toward all 44 million Latinos, because 12 million jumped our borders to meet our labor demand.
We would know that if we paid them, they would come, but we would offer no legitimate employment. We would adopt a let’s-pretend labor policy in our fields, yards, factories and restaurants, and for child care, construction and cleaning, with a wage fakery worthy of the Soviet Union. There, the joke was “we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.” Here they would work, hard — and we would pay them, sort of, but pretend not to, denying ourselves the future tax revenue needed to pay for services we faulted them for needing.
Rather than fencing aspiring contributors out, comprehensive reform means Congress getting serious about entry-level job training and midcareer education programs for all workers. They deliver better economic returns than border patrols do.
The guy with the leaf-blower not only can learn English, he — like the unemployed steelworker — should have a chance to learn auto repair or programming. He’ll start with the jobs “ordinary Americans” won’t do. But we impair our economic future if we leave him there, imagining that’s all he or his children will ever do.