Problems With the Romney Plan
Mitt Romney’s plan to end illegal immigration worries me. In particular, this point bodes ill for the economy:
Encourage Legal Immigration. Streamline the system to recruit and retain skilled workers and welcome the best and the brightest from around the world to our universities.
To begin with, we already get “the best and brightest from around the world” in our universities. Some countries suffer from substantial “brain drain” that largely goes to the United States. Also, I support the idea of making the legal immigration system work. The big question is, Who decides how many people from where get to come?
But the real problem I see here is two-fold. First, it is not only skilled but also unskilled labor that is in demand. Second, who decides what makes somebody skilled? Which skills are useful? The freewheeling illegal immigration that has been occurring lets the market determine the answer to that. Any other system is likely to suffer from attempts at micromanaging the economy—a sort of outward-looking central planning system. Think of it as the Soviet Union take on immigration. Great.
The crux of the matter is the ability of illegal workers to undercut citizens/nationals by working for less than minimum wage. If we remove this ability by tighter border enforcement, active prosecution of employers who pay unlawfully low wages, and easier legal entry to help document and track those who come in to the country, then I believe we would have the following results:
- Lower-class citizens/nationals would be better able to compete for jobs in the lowest wage range.
- Increased prices of consumer goods due to higher labor costs for employers.
- Decreased employment overall, but, at least initially, a higher proportion of those employed will be citizens/nationals, and those employed will be paid at least minimum wage.
If we as a nation decide that that is a desirable combination of outcomes, then let’s do it.