Friday, May 18, 2007

Borjas on the Immigration "Compromise"

Harvard professor and labor economist George Borjas calls the immigration deal a "travesty of a mockery of a sham." That's putting it nicely.

"Any 'reform' that gives amnesty to 12 million illegal immigrants without taking care of the underlying illegal -immigration problem is a lemon," says Borjas. "After all, what guarantees that the current batch of 12 million illegal immigrants will not be replaced by another 12 million in just a few years? What guarantees that guest workers will not stay illegally in the United States after their visa expires? What guarantees that border enforcement will be taken seriously by the Bush administration in the next two years or by the Democratic administration after that?"

The immigration "compromise" contains a provision creating a guest-worker program that will admit 400,000 workers each year. Where exactly will these laborers come from? Unaddressed is the fact that 5 billion people live in countries with a lower per capita income than Mexico. They will likely work for lower wages than your average Mexican.

The likely consequence is therefore the importation of 400,000 Thais, Chinese, Indians, and Pakistanis by means of the guest-worker provision--supplemented by the continuing onslaught from the southern border. (As an aside, is there anything more permanent than "temporary" workers? Will we really deport them when the time comes?)

The economics are relatively simple. Low-skilled immigrants are admitted in huge numbers driving down the wages of blue-collar workers. Certain groups of professionals (doctors, engineers, and computer programmers for example) will also see their wages decrease due to various visa provisions granted to numerous industry interest groups. Meanwhile, the social costs associated with education, health care and welfare expenditures will explode and be largely socialized.

The primary beneficiaries will be social, economic, and political elites who manage to reap the benefits of mass immigration while insulating themselves and their families from the consequences. America’s verbal elite will essentially be importing a servant class at no cost to themselves in terms of increased competition. The lawyers, politicians, business executives, journalists, and editorialists who drive the immigration debate don’t have their livelihoods, not to mention their children’s education, threatened by mass immigration, but they will acquire the cheapest pool cleaners, house-keepers, and roofers in the Western world.

So who are the losers? The rest of us. What a deal.

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