Friday, December 26, 2008

A Growing Recognition of Immigration as a Labor Market Issue?

There have been lots of stories suggesting that Mexican immigrants may be returning to Mexico in large part due to the economic recession that has resulted in increased unemployment.  (Here and here.).  Today, also linking immigration to the domestic labor market, a N.Y. Times op/ed expresses some optimism about reform to the current immigration system and observes that:

"In simplest terms, what [Hilda Solis, nominated by Senator Obama for Secretary of Labor] and Mr. Obama seem to know in their gut is this: If you uphold workers’ rights, even for those here illegally, you uphold them for all working Americans. If you ignore and undercut the rights of illegal immigrants, you encourage the exploitation that erodes working conditions and job security everywhere. In a time of economic darkness, the stability and dignity of the work force are especially vital."

For successful immigration reform, we must realize that immigration (and undocumented immigration) is directly related to the labor market.  The United States need sensible immigration laws that address labor market needs; the most likely alternative is an undocumented population that, as we see today, fulfills labor market needs.


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Hilda Solis is an affirmative action appointment, nominated solely because of her race despite her lack of qualification.

Posted by: Peter Chan | Dec 26, 2008 10:05:53 AM

Sorry Horace, I've re-read the above quote by KJ several times, and I just can not fathom what part of his quote you are referring to when you say, "The professor's arguments are disingenuous at best."

Since Restrictionists have all but lost their argument against CIR, they have recently taken up the mantra of playing the "unemployment card."

Your own quote, above, "the employed among them should be fired so as to free up jobs for our people in this time of economic disaster," is all the rage, (no pun intended) among the far-right anti-CIR crowd, (thinned as the herd is).

In all seriousness, I want to point out why that is the penultimate bad idea, among a vast assortment of bad ideas proposed by the Restrictionist contingent. While I deplore the fact that we're in an economic tailspin, and sympathize with all that have lost their jobs, you have to understand what most small to medium sized businesses are doing to try to survive, (and many of them won't). Every business that I know has downsized to their bare minimum to ride out this storm. They have kept only their most experienced, cost effective, and productive workforce.

Most of the jobs in our country are created by small to medium sized businesses, and in a down economy, most jobs are lost in these sectors as well, albeit less publicly. It is not coincidental that most undocumented immigrants work in these sectors. Unemployment is higher among the undocumented then the documented, but still, several million undocumented are still employed in these sectors.

You advocate that we fire and/or deport all of these people, and give these jobs to unemployed legal workers, and I can understand the underlying yet overly simplistic logic inherent in that emotional decision. Unfortunately, you are suggesting that we force our most important business sectors to lose millions of the experienced and productive workers, arguably the "last ditch" lifeblood of their struggling businesses, and instead hire millions of trainees. It usually takes at least 6 months of training to bring an employee up to speed, and you're advocating that we do this at the worst possible time, as these companies are fighting for their lives, and are barely keeping their heads at the waterline, much less above it.

Simple solutions sound good because they're easy to understand. Unfortunately, in this economy, we need advanced solutions, not simple ones. We need far reaching solutions, not archaic ones.

Should the new CIR have provisions that require cabinet level input on the proper amount of immigrants and guest workers required on an annual basis, so that we only admit an amount that is sustainable and fair, no more and no less? I could get behind that concept. Do we want post CIR biometric work ID's and an efficient variation of e-verify to limit future illegal entry? I could get behind that concept as well. What I can't get behind is the concept that we should do anything to disrupt the efficient workflow of our economy, just when we need our businesses to run as efficiently as they ever have. We shouldn't lower their productivity, just when we need them to be as productive as they have ever been. We shouldn't raise their payrolls, just when they need to run a lean as they possibly can to survive. This recession is serious, and fixing it will require serious solutions. Unemployment is a horrible thing, but we need solutions that will lead to the most jobs, in the least time. In the long run, the idea of replacing the best employees with trainees will increase the overall unemployment rate through more failed businesses and a deeper recession. It might not be the news that we want to hear, but it's the truth.

Posted by: Robert Gittelson | Dec 26, 2008 5:57:25 PM

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