One way to treat illegal workers
By Bruce Walker
The controversy over illegal immigration would be seen more clearly if we viewed the illegal immigrants as convict labor. Although convicts do work in jobs within the American economy, many of those jobs outside of prison, there is – or should be – a general consensus that the best solution should be to have as few convicts as possible and consequently as little convict labor as possible. Why? There are several reasons.
Illegal immigrant workers, like convict labor, are people who have broken our law. While it is true that American governments (federal, state and local) have enacted entirely too many laws and criminalize entirely too much behavior, most of the people who wind up in prison or on probation have committed real crimes, like theft or assault or burglary.
Illegal immigrant workers have effectively committed the crime of burglary by entering illegally the nation of another. Making people into criminals or law-breakers is not in the interest of any society that desires to live by the rule of law. The habit of law breaking spreads easily, as we learned during Prohibition.
Those who work in the underground economy undermine those who play by the rules. It is not just illegal immigrants but businesses who have become criminals by our failure to enforce immigration laws. The very market forces that have made America affluent penalize honest employers and reward criminal employers. The moral authority of laws is thus doubly weakened: by illegal immigrant workers and by illegal native employers.
Because illegal immigrant workers, like convict workers, can work – or can be pushed into working – more cheaply that legal workers, the consequence of illegal immigrant workers is the same as the consequence of convict labor: the law-breakers will work more cheaply than the law-abiders; the criminals will economically undercut the legal workers, operating outside of prisons or outside the immigration laws of our nation.
What would Americans think if construction jobs and farming jobs in much of America were done by prison inmates instead of law-abiding citizens? There would probably be a serious public outcry, and not just because law-breakers were taking jobs from law-abiders. Consider the salient economic considerations in the movement to end slavery: free workers in the North and Border states felt that free workers should not have to compete with slave laborers. Slavery, like illegal immigrant workers, artificially depresses wages and working conditions.
There is no reason to believe that illegal immigrant workers are more productive than American workers, but only that, like slaves and convict laborers, their legal status artificially depresses their wages. This not only genuinely exploits them (unlike the phony Marxist notions of exploitation) and it not only genuinely hurts law-abiding American workers, whether citizens or legal immigrants, but it even deprives Mexico and other nations from which these workers emigrate from a significant portion of their real wages: legal Mexican immigrant workers will earn more, and send more money home, than immigrant Mexican immigrant workers.
What can America do to help clarify the nature of this comprehensive problem? Why not provide that any illegal immigrant can work in the United States, but only through the state correctional system in which he resides? The worker would be considered like a convict on probation who could only work through prison industries or through contracts supervised by the state or local correctional system with periodic reporting to a parole officer. This would add a real, albeit imperfect, measure of security and monitoring of illegal immigrant workers – a genuine Homeland Security issue.
Convicts earn less than what illegal immigrants earn which is below what legal immigrants and citizens earn. Illegal immigrants who did not register with the state correctional system would be doubly illegal and employers who used such workers serious criminals. This would create an incentive for illegal immigrants to register as convict laborers. State correctional systems are imperfect systems for monitoring vast numbers of people at large in society, but they are experienced at the process and as close to good as we are likely to get.
Those who found convict labor in America more lucrative than working in Mexico would have a system for working in America. The letting of state correctional contracts for labor is public, competitive and equal, so employers who used these workers would not be criminals. The economic incentive to use illegal immigrant workers to unfairly compete with other American businesses would vanish, and all American businesses would be place on the same transparent and equal playing field in using illegal immigrant workers.
Bruce Walker has been a published author in print and in electronic media since 1990. He is a contributing editor to Enter Stage Right and a regular contributor to Conservative Truth, American Daily, Intellectual Conservative, Web Commentary, NewsByUs and Men's News Daily. His first book, Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie by Outskirts Press was published in January 2006.
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