Illegal immigration has been in the news daily during the Republican primary campaign, even though a depressed economy here, stronger border enforcement, and vast new finds of petroleum in Latin America may soon radically curtail the number of illegal entrants into the United States. But for now, conservatives are warned that coming down hard on illegal immigration (i.e., enforcing federal statutes) would lose them the all-critical Hispanic vote. Meanwhile, in California, some legislators want to grant de facto state amnesty to illegal residents. But lost in the continuing furor, pro and con, is the moral dimension. The strange notion has developed that supporting something as immoral as illegal immigration is somehow ethical. It is not, and there are several reasons why.
1. Entry-level labor. Real wages for the working poor in the United States have been stagnant for decades, especially in the Southwest — largely because of the influx of millions of illegal aliens, who, at least for a time, will work for considerably lower wages than Americans. In the last three decades, we have written off an entire class of Americans on the premise that “They won’t do the work.” Here in a California of 10 percent–plus unemployment, everyone from farmers to landscapers complains from experience that the citizen poor cannot or will not work manually. But in theory, why should they, when employers have a constant option of undercutting their wages, and when expanding entitlements make entry-level work an unattractive alternative, both financially and socially? We have expanded social services and decreased workers’ incentives, and then we wonder that a subsidized welfare class lacks the spunk of people crossing the border illegally from an impoverished Mexico. Yet there is something abhorrent about the present American notion of giving up on incentives to promote American labor — among which would be the prevention of cheaper foreign workers entering the country illegally and undercutting wages. Advocacy for illegal immigration is now a de facto lack of concern for the American underclass.
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