Sunday, June 3, 2007

Thoughts on Immigration

I am for finding a mechanism for providing those hard workers here illegally now to quickly and simply achieve legal status which works toward citizenship and requires some basic level of English language capability. I believe that these workers should commit to becoming citizens with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities associated. If a person is not willing to commit to this, they should go back to their home country. This will create an additional administrative burden for the government. However, I have not heard a proposed solution that does not create an additional burden.

Now I have some comments on the latest fad for how to deal with the illegal immigration problem. Crack down on the employers of illegal aliens.

If we crack down on the employers of the illegal immigrants, they will stop employing illegal aliens and theoretically the illegal aliens will just leave because they can’t find a job in the U. S. anymore. If we were able to cut off demand for illegal workers by throwing enough employers in jail that all employers of illegal workers would fire all to their illegal employees, I think the following would happen.

First, most would leave because on the whole they are good people here to provide a better life for their family. Since that would no longer be possible they would go back to Mexico or what ever country they came from and make the best of it. As for the rest, well as in any community there is probably a small percentage that as long as they have a job they are likely to stay out of trouble. But without a job they may be willing to steal or do other illegal things in order to make a living. In short, I think we would be likely to loose the “good” folks that are just here to work hard and better their family and keep the less scrupulous folks that are willing to turn to less ethical ways of generating income.

Let’s turn our attention to economic impact. I hear that there are from 7 to 20 million folks hear illegally. The most common number I hear is 12 million. For the purpose of this thought let’s go with the 12 million. Our current employment is around 135 million ( ). That means that if all of the illegal work force gets let go we will loose around 8.9% of our work force. Now this would not happen but if all of our currently unemployed (4.5% ) took those newly open jobs around half of the jobs would go unfilled.

Let’s take this a step closer to home. I live in Central Iowa. My guess is that most illegal aliens in Central Iowa are either working in meat processing plants or construction. What would the impacts be of eliminating half or so of the illegal work force in the meat processing industry? Retail prices of meat products would likely go up as supply would drop precipitously as the capacity to produce meat products would drop. Also for a short time livestock prices for farmers would likely fall because the processors would buy less because they would not have as much capacity to process the livestock. In the long run the processing facilities would likely move to Mexico. Retail prices would likely remain slightly higher than they are now to compensate for the added transportation costs associated with processing beef, pork, and poultry. Also food safety would likely suffer because Mexican processing standards are probably lower than the U. S. standards although that may be debatable.

My point is that many have the feeling that having all these people here from Latin America is bad. It is not bad it is good. What is bad is that we have laws and policies that make coming here legally prohibitive for good hard working people. Any policy or proposal designed to have all the illegal workers leave is not grounded in reality and does not make economic sense. What makes sense is to implement policy that makes in possible for workers in demand by our economy to have a way to legally work and move toward citizenship in our great country.

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