Drop those wages,
Bring in workers,
Illegal immigration has slowed lately. Since the U.S. economy is no longer a bowl of cherries, why risk your derriere to come up here if there's no job waiting. And those risks are surely mounting. The infamous border security fence is gradually growing longer, and the tactics of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency are getting scarier.
But much of this equation seems about to change. Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano has just announced a White House plan to end the problem of 12 million "illegal" immigrants. She'll legalize them.
That may not help. Our economy is already 10 million jobs short. But why not add another 12 million legal workers to the official unemployment pool if one's real aim is to keep wages down. Of course all this won't happen overnight. It will all take time.
In the meantime, it's not hard to predict the economic fallout. We've been through this one before. Countless hearts will leap in impoverished breasts all across Latin America. Long-deferred plans to defect to El Norte will be dusted off. The promise of citizenship puts the risks of sunstroke and snakebite into a whole new perspective. Let's go for it!
Thus as we gradually drain the huge bubble of undocumented workers at one end by making them citizens, we will refill that bubble on the other end by enticing millions of more to join us. Their economies back home are terribly dismal, made worse by colonialist U.S. trade policies. Better to risk possible poverty up here than to settle for certain poverty down there. And by attracting such entrepreneurial souls we will again beef up our own gene pool, just like the old days.
But the old days are gone. Back then there was plenty of work to go around. Now there's plenty of unemployment to go around. More immigrants will make matters even worse. Hence it's no shock that Napolitano is seeking out business leaders to garner support for her plan. They foresee a cornucopia of cheap labor. Their loyal spokesmen,
Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, add a striking display of bipartisanship to the president's anti-labor proposal. Democratic lawmakers, led by Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, are already on board. They favor humanitarian relief and eagerly support their constituents in providing a vehicle for their cousins to join those that are already here. And by chance a lot of Democrats also have business contributors who like cheap labor as much as Republicans.
Nor will the current employers of undocumented workers be much hurt. The egregious ones, like Sholom Rubashkin of the Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse fame, will simply keep hiring from the new flood of replacements while their current employees, now freshly minted citizens, will graduate to the unemployment line.
To give Napolitano and company credit, they have been putting their backs into toughening up our border and into a few high-profile enforcement cases. But so far there's precious little money for humane detention centers, speedier investigations, or more judges. Also no hope for the softening of "free trade" rules, which are increasing unemployment and poverty throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Unfortunately, Mr. Obama's "cure" for immigration seems more likely to infect us with the disease of still greater disparity between rich and poor.
Minuteman Media columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Conn.