Monday, January 28, 2008

Conservatives must choose: Are they Anti-'Amnesty' or Pro-Business?

The GOP and the conservative movement in Texas face a big practical glitch as their patchwork ideology meets reality on the ground regarding immigration: At the end of the day, you cannot both be anti-"amnesty" and pro-business. The Dallas News over the weekend demonstrated why that's true in an effective article ("Employers wary of policing immigration," Jan. 27):

Between 8 percent and 9 percent of the Texas workforce is estimated to be in the country illegally, according to an analysis of 2005 U.S. Census data by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center done for The Dallas Morning News. That's nearly twice the national average of about 5 percent.

So a crackdown on employers in Texas – in agriculture and construction in particular, where the percentage of workers is higher – could have a major impact, some analysts and employers say.

According to the state comptroller's office, illegal immigration drained hundreds of millions from local governments in fiscal year 2005 but provided a boost of nearly $17.7 billion to the state.

"To do anything to dramatically reduce the Texas workforce would have pretty severe consequences," said Ray Perryman, an economist with the Perryman Group, an economic and financial analysis firm in Waco.

It's neither wise nor realistic to advocate expelling 8-9% of Texas' workforce. How can anyone think it would be? Nor is it wise to harass them or keep them as second class citizens. For that matter, it's unwise to forbid them from getting a drivers license, which means they can't buy auto insurance.

While the comptroller said illegal immigration costs hundreds of millions to local governments in Texas, the billions gained by the state overall show that's not a problem with immigration per se, but a mis-allocation of resources caused by restrictions on immigration. If currently "illegal" immigrants working here were allowed to get drivers licenses, car insurance, social security numbers and pay taxes, those problems for the most part could be resolved.

We can't and won't expel that much of Texas' work force - it would be practically impossible and economically devastating - so most of those folks, like it or not, will end up staying in Texas by hook or by crook. Self-described "conservatives" must make a choice: They can be either anti-"amnesty" or pro-business, but they cannot be both.

26 comments:

rage said...

You and your false dichotomy.

You can want business to follow the law while still wanting a border wall and tough enforcement of immigration laws.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You can want that, but that doesn't make the desire realistic or practical. It's not a false dichotomy at all, it's an actual one.

Anonymous said...

It is easy to be anti-illegal immigration and pro-ethical businesses who obey the law. Illegal labor gives illicit businesses an unfair competitive advantage in the free market. Conservatives are for a free market where business plays by the rules. To a Conservative use of illegal labor is no more acceptable than illegal immigration. They are both illegal!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

How is it "easy" to be pro-business and advocate expelling 8-9% of their workforce from the country? That's only pro-business in your own mind, in the real world it harms domestic industry.

Indeed, it borders on absurd to be able to hold the two ideas in one's head simultaneously. You either think such people should all be deported, or you don't. If you do, it's de facto an anti-business position in the real world, however you justify it to yourself.

AAII said...

It is a false dichotomy becuase while illegal immigration may create inexpensive labor, it adds other costs. Taxes go up, insurance premiums go up, and other business expenses increase. Business owners who only look at the labor side of the equation are not looking at the complete picture.

Ultimately, the previous commentor is correct because the cost increases associated with illegal immigration are absorbed by society in general so a business who taps the inexpensive labor provided by illegal immigrants does get an unfair competitive advantage because those business are contributing to increases in costs that are put on other businesses.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"adds other costs."

Yes, and the costs it adds are a problem because, if they're not documented, immigrants can't pay their share of taxes to cover the costs.

Let them get DLs, they can buy insurance. Let them get SSNs, they can pay taxes. It's not a false dichotomy because amnesty mitigates the problems you're complaining about. That's why you can be either pro-business or anti-amnesty, but not both.

Not Possible said...

aaii, do you and rage honestly believe it's practical or reasonable to expel 9% of Texas' work force?

rage said...

I don't see abiding by the laws as bad for business.

Do I think they can all be deported? No. But does that mean we should (continue to) ignore the law? No.

We need to build the wall, which as someone stated will happen no matter what, go after employers for hiring illegals, and deport them as we find them.

It'll work. I can see the argument for amnesty (taxes, driver's licenses and insurance, etc.), but you don't pardon millions of people at the same time. If we do that, we damn sure better do it for our own citizens accused of minor crimes before we afford that luxury to foreign citizens.

Anonymous said...

If I expect business to abide by other laws, rules, and regulations am I, by definition, 'anti-business'? I'm sure lots of businesses would love to illegally pollute with impunity. Is anyone who doesn't want to give them free reign to do whatever the hell they want anti-business? What if they are already polluting and their business model is based on polluting and they have an unfair competitive advantage from polluting and stopping them from polluting and getting right with the law would cause them to lay off 8-9% of their workforce? I say 'so what'? If an above board Texas workforce would be smaller than today's, so what? Product per capita is what's important, not just having a bigger, cheaper workforce.

We have democratically set the rules of who is supposed to be here in this country and who can be hired in this country. I am offended by those who thumb their noses at rule of law and national sovereignty and prefer to make 'business' the sovereign. Business should play by OUR rules and we should not just do whatever the hell business wants. Business would love to displace every last American worker they can with a guest worker. Should we just let them or would denying that be 'anti-business'?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It's fascinating to me that people think they're "pro business" in the abstract, but promote policies that would destroy business in the real world.

The business/Chamber folks would think you're NOT on their side, I assure you! That's why IMO this issue threatens in the medium run to destroy the GOP coalition.

You're anti-business if you want to destroy many Texas businesses, which you would by expelling their workers. And actually, many conservatives believe that regulating business in any way is "anti-business," though I don't agree with it. I hear that rhetoric on the right used about environmentalism all the time. In this case, the regulations are a) impossible to comply with without destroying the economy, and b)cause more harm than good.

Rage, immigration laws are civil, not criminal, making your parallel with pardoning citizens a little silly. And if deportation and mass enforcement will "work", why hasn't it so far? There's a wall in San Diego and it hasn't kept Mexicans out of California.

"Amnesty" was Reagan's conservative solution, and in the end it's the only conservative solution.

Anonymous said...

"It's neither wise nor realistic to advocate expelling 8-9% of Texas' workforce. How can anyone think it would be? Nor is it wise to harass them or keep them as second class citizens. For that matter, it's unwise to forbid them from getting a drivers license, which means they can't buy auto insurance.
"

Grits for President!!! Finally, someone who believes in open borders.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I believe in free markets, including labor markets - a relatively open border is just a necessary corollary to that.

Anonymous said...

Grits, are you advocating this bs because it's cheap labor? There could be no other reason. If businesses who hire illegal aliens obeyed the law, they'd go out of business because they'd have to pay minumum wage - hardly a livable wage. Right?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Not at all. I'm advocating for amnesty, which would mean they WOULDN'T work for less than minimum. Legalizing these workers is good for everyone. A rising tide lifts all ships, economically speaking.

Anyway, these days most illegal immigrants in TX aren't typically making less than minimum wage - the job market is already too tight. There's a worker shortage, and if you removed 9% of Texas workers, particularly in certain industries it would be an immediate, overarching crisis.

My biggest reason is security: The drivers license and insurance issues are huge. Plus illegal immigrant crime victims tend not to report or come forward as witnesses in criminal investigations. Having that many non-criminal workers and families out there who won't cooperate with police makes Texas a more lawless and unsafe place for everyone. Additionally, I think it was a mistake to boost enforcement to the point that the drug cartels took over the trade, enriching them dramatically. I don't like to hand thugs more money if it's not necessary.

Also, I'm cognizant of history. Texas used to be Mexico - that border is an arbitrary line (it used to be at the Nueces instead of the Rio Grande). People have gone back and forth across the river more or less at will for generations - it's part of the border culture and extremely damaging to forbid it.

Finally, I'm for amnesty because mass deportation would be a human rights crisis on the scale of some of the worst forced mass migrations in history. Mass detention is expensive and counterproductive. And many families have kids who are US citizens, and it's wrong to split them up.

It's not worth it to destroy the economy, break up families, and promote a policy (enforcement only) that even its proponents don't think will solve anything. NOBODY thinks you can actually deport 9% of Texas workers. I'm just acquiescing in the most realistic solution, as did Mr. Reagan.

rage said...

Rage, immigration laws are civil, not criminal, making your parallel with pardoning citizens a little silly.

It's not terribly silly when you consider that we've waged war on our own citizens for petty reasons but keep them locked up, when we're considering amnesty, be it civil or criminal the effect is the same, for citizens of other countries.

Amnesty is of course a conservative solution due to the business aspect. It is one issue for which people like me have no political alternative because both parties want amnesty. If your Republican politicos want amnesty because of their business lobby, what are you gonna do, switch parties and vote Democratic? Of course not, they're for amnesty too. So the average Joe has no alternative. The only thing I like about Cornyn, and I do mean only, is his stance on immigration.

Will it destroy the economy? I doubt it. Will things be more expensive? Probably. But when has business cared about that or failed to make a profit anyway?

I'm not trying to be a jerk on the issue, I just disagree with your A or B stance. I'm willing to pay for more expensive goods.

Has there ever been a decent poll on what Americans want? Do they favor amnesty, or enforcement?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Will it destroy the economy?"

What is "it," rage? You've granted it's impossible from a practical standpoint to deport 9% of Texas' workforce, so what's the real-world solution besides implementing half measures you already know won't work and living with the status quo? Is that really what you want?

People advocating mass deportation remind me of the politician who claims they'll solve the drought problem by legislating more rain. It's beyond their power, and makes no sense on its face, but if you tell people what they want to hear, however absurd, there are always many who are happy to believe it.

rage said...

"It" is catching them as you find them. I'm not talking about mass deportations, just increased enforcement against employers and workplaces and if you happen to run across someone from time to time (traffic stops, etc), deport them as well.

You know, enforcing the law. Not going to great lengths to round up every single illegal immigrant at once, just a decent effort at hitting the hot spots.

Take away the jobs by making it too risky for employers to hire them, and many will go back on their own.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Sounds to me like you prefer the status quo, rage. I don't see how that's any different from what's happening now.

rage said...

What's happening now is that ICE makes a raid only right before a Senate hearing or election. I'd like for them to be more consistent and hold raids more often.

I'm also for a wall and other measures to keep them from continuing to come over in large numbers.

I am also for (and this will never happen) amending the Constitution to limiting anchor babies only to those who are here legally, even if only on a work visa. Just as long as they're here legally. I do not want to alter it any more than the legal residence of the parents, however, as some do.

This is like any other law enforcement problem. There is rarely a single solution that will fix everything. But if you chip away at the edges diligently, sooner or later you've made an impact. It took decades to get into this situation, it may take a while to get out, although I agree we will never truly be "out."

And yes, I know amnesty would be your single solution. I don't see rewarding an illegal alien's continued disregard for the law as a solution, however. I don't want to throw them in jail, I just want to send them back.

Anonymous said...

Preservation and protection of national sovereignty are core conservative principles. Amnesty only breeds more illegal immigration. Grits, after being granted amnesty a lot of those people will want better jobs they can't currently access due to their status. I have heard them say 'I can't wait until amnesty because then I won't have to do this job anymore'. Even in the same job, as legals they will no longer accept unsafe conditions, exploitative practices, and sub-minimum wage. So guess what the employers do then? Happily pay more and treat workers better? Of course not. They'll just recruit the NEXT generation of illegals to exploit. Now, in your defense, theoretically you can do an amnesty and then deter that next generation of illegals from coming through tough employer enforcement but does anyone really think that will happen? The business open border advocates, ethnic power groups, ACLU, MALDEF's, are already opposing any and all forms of immigration law enforcement tooth and nail. Obviously business has considerable legislative influence. During the last 'Comprehensive Immigration Reform' discussion, Ted Kennedy ran everything by his 'stakeholders'--La Raza and the ethnic power lobby. La Raza is actually both a race and corporate shill group (that's where they get their money). Business neutered the '86 legislation and now there's this new influence whose power is growing. They won't stand for anything which will actually prevent the flow of cheap labor/favored ethnic group. Let's say by some miracle you get adequate law passed. In the courts, the ACLU and friends will attempt to delay, neuter, or outright overturn necessary laws and enforcement needed to prevent that next generation of illegals. They're already doing it so why would they change?

Anonymous said...

Why would business pay minimum wage to illegals? It is no a violation of the law to violate the minimum wage. The minimum wage is anti-business if that definition is to drive some businesses out of existence. Enforcing the minimum wage for illegals will force some businesses out of business; therefore, by the Grits definition, one would need to be against paying illegals minimum wage because it is anti-business.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@5:44 - you're staking out a position in the culture wars, not articulating a viable immigration policy. I can't tell what you favor, just who you oppose.

@6:00 - MANY conservatives believe that the minimum wage is anti-business, e.g., Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, etc. I disagree with them; my own free market economics has a more Keynesian, demand-side bent. But lots of people believe that, including much of the business community. The truth is that market wages already are above the minimum wage.

And rage, I don't think you've been paying attention to immigration enforcement patterns, which have NOT, at least in Texas sped up only before committee hearings, but magnificently overall. We've completely filled up available detention beds, and despite your wishes, you can't deport folks without a hearing, which leads to astronomical detention costs.

It just seems to me your position amounts to cutting off your nose to spite your face - supporting the status quo because any improvement might benefit somebody you don't like. We're bigger than that, aren't we?

rage said...

Grits, it's not a matter of not liking them, and I think your implication of racism is stretching it a bit.

I would agree, if measures have increased dramatically it would be a surprise to me. If it is causing a backlog for hearings, I would like to see courts set up specifically to fast track them out of the country. No need to keep them locked up, let's back a bus up to the border and drop them off. Increasingly, however, we're seeing people from south of Mexico, even, making transport expensive as well. But the cost of enforcement should only in the rarest instances prohibit enforcement. I, like many, are willing to pay for it.

Again, are there any solid polls on what Americans think about the issue?

Anonymous said...

Grits, Keynes is about as free market as Marx. You have to decide whether you are pro-minimum wage or pro-business. By your standards for conservatives, you can't be both.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Now who's making a false dichotomy?

rage said...

Me? I can't see it. all I've said is that I and almost everyone I know are willing to pay for increased enforcement in both cost of goods and cost of enforcement.