Liberals should fret about poor’s fate, post-immigration ‘reform’

June 28, 2013

By Chris Reed

Cesar ChavezOne of the most striking things about the debate over changing our immigration laws is the refusal to have a real discussion about what would happen to existing citizens with relatively few job skills if we allowed millions more unskilled people to become citizens. It’s striking that for much of his career as a union organizer, including when he was on the cover of TIME at right, Cesar Chavez was a strong critic of illegal immigration because he feared the negative effects on farm workers who were already here.

This should be a social justice issue with the left, one would think. But except in the blogging and columns of Los Angeles Democrat Mickey Kaus, this pretty much never comes up. That’s why it is so surprising, and welcome, to see a liberal writer, T.A. Frank of The New Republic, make this point, explaining how he started out with the standard views that “decent people” are supposed to have on immigration before his life experiences and growing familiarity with the history of immigration led him to a different conclusion:

‘Immense blow to America’s working class, poor’

“All in all, I became convinced that high levels of low-skill immigration are good for wealthy Americans and bad for poor Americans.  Far more important, high levels of illegal immigration—when you start to get into the millions, as we have—undermines unions and labor standards, lowers wages, heightens social tensions, strains state budgets, widens income inequality, subverts the rule of law, and exacerbates class divides. The effects go far beyond wages, because few undocumented workers earn enough to cover anything close to the cost of government services (such as education for their children) they require, and those services are most important to low-income Americans. In short, it’s an immense blow to America’s working class and poor. …

“… a lot of Democrats have also convinced themselves that even if there’s a wage loss to low-skilled workers, the massive new voting bloc of mostly left-leaning immigrants will ultimately help the little guy. But if millions of new Democratic voters oppose strict immigration control, then there will no Democratic support for meaningful immigration control. And generous social benefits cannot coexist with an open border.  (Nor can a more egalitarian society.)”

Good for Frank. He’s actually willing to think through the implications of what will happen if the House adopts legislation similar to what the Senate passed Thursday.

Unfortunately, we can’t have a real debate about this because skeptics of immigration reform, as Frank notes, are not considered to be “decent people.” But such skeptics aren’t all nativists by any means. Some of them are realists. And some of these realists think hurting the job prospects of existing low-skill Americans isn’t the right thing to do.


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