Immigration Reform: Bad for the Working Class?

So eventheliberal has a new piece out, a #slatepitch by T.A. Frank on why liberals should actually oppose immigration reform — at least as it’s currently designed. The article’s on the longer side, but the essence of Frank’s argument is that illegal immigration is bad for the working class, and the bill moving its way through the Senate does very little to guarantee the influx of undocumented immigrants will decrease (he cites a CBO report indicating the law will reduce illegal immigration by only 25 percent). The studies I’ve read about the impact of immigration on wages runs counter to this theory; but I’ll defer to readers who know more than I about immigration policy as to whether Frank’s concern is justified.

What interests me most about the piece, however, is Frank’s plea for liberals to, basically, stop being so damned self-centered and bourgeois:

If I have a plea to my fellow liberals more broadly, it’s that they focus more of their empathy on fellow Americans being left behind. Because we increasingly live in bubbles, many of us are at best only abstractly aware of how cruelly circumstances of unskilled Americans have deteriorated over the past few decades. Even as these Americans have lost their well-paid manufacturing jobs, Washington has looked the other way while millions of low-skilled unauthorized immigrants have competed with them for low-skilled service jobs. The insouciance of privileged Americans toward the effects of this on life among less-privileged Americans is, in my view, a betrayal of citizenship.

Another way to put Frank’s plea is to ask liberals to pay more attention to class. I’m not on-board with him, overall; I think new immigrants are a good thing and that his ideal number of yearly entrants (50,000) is too low. I also think that these new immigrants represent an opportunity to build a broader liberal coalition. But it is noteworthy that, throughout the process of this bill coming into being, most of the concerns about how it will affect the working class have not come from the Left but rather from the Right.

Anyway, what do y’all think? Is the Left’s enthusiasm for immigration reform a consequence of its retreat from class-based politics? Or are Frank and eventheliberal barking at the moon?

110 replies
  1. 1
    MomSense says:

    I honestly think WalMart does a lot more to drive wages down for the working class but I never hear the pundit class talk about this.

  2. 2
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    Well, he would be correct, except for the fact that he’s wrong. We liberals are focusing on immigration reform, specifically making the 12 million current illegal immigrants legal because they are currently abused by companies – low wages, poor working conditions, etc. – which depresses wages for other Americans and reduces the amount of money that is spent by those earning a living.

    Republicans don’t give a shit about immigration reform.

  3. 3
    gussiefn says:

    I think I’m the grandson of four immigrants–all of them legal, pretty much (one was on the lam, from what I understand, for stealing food in Austria-Hungary), but there’s no doubt in my mind that they would’ve snuck in illegally if that’s what it took. And I’d be even -more- in their debt.

    So I’ve got no moral standing to pull the ladder up after me. He’s right that I live in comfortable, privileged bubble. Thanks to my immigrant ancestors, I do.

    Also, I don’t understand the politics well, but I suspect what he’s saying is, “Let’s think harder about who gets the crumbs that fall from our masters’ tables.” I’m not sure that’s the wisest long-term approach.

  4. 4
    Baud says:

    Is the Left’s enthusiasm for immigration reform a consequence of its retreat from class-based politics?

    No.

    Or are Frank and eventheliberal barking at the moon?

    Just being contrarian, as good liberals are.

  5. 5
    gussie says:

    I think I’m the grandson of four immigrants–all of them legal, pretty much (one was on the lam, from what I understand, for stealing food in Austria-Hungary), but there’s no doubt in my mind that they would’ve snuck in illegally if that’s what it took. And I’d be even -more- in their debt.

    So I’ve got no moral standing to pull the ladder up after me. He’s right that I live in comfortable, privileged bubble. Thanks to my immigrant ancestors, I do.

    Also, I don’t understand the politics well, but I suspect what he’s saying is, “Let’s think harder about who gets the crumbs that fall from our masters’ tables.” I’m not sure that’s the wisest long-term approach.

  6. 6
    dubo says:

    I’m not really sure how “we should continue exploiting the Mexican underclass for the benefit of the American middle class” is a progressive take on class politics

  7. 7
    c u n d gulag says:

    It used to be, that every new group of immigrants occupied, for the most part, the lowest rung of the economic ladder. And that eventually they, or, more often, the off-spring of those immigrants, began to work their way up the economic ladder.

    Today, corporations see that desperate Americans are willing to occupy that lowest rung, and want to create an even lower one(s), for immigrants.

    My parents came here in the early 50’s.
    My father became a Machine Shop Foreman after many years, and we lived a lower-middle, to middle, class lifestyle.
    I went to college, and after graduating, it was expected that I’d do better than them.
    And for a while, I did.
    Not anymore.
    Now I live at home with my mother – my father having passed away last year. And I’m over 50, unemployed, and there are currently NO prospective employers out there that want to hire someone my age.

    What we need, is better compensation for American workers, while insuring there’s no abuse of immigrant labor. And that they have not only a clear path to citizenship, but pathways to better lives.
    And that ALL groups, have opportunities for better lives.

    Somewhere in the last 40 years, things broke down.
    I believe the cause, was Conservatism.

    We need to break the Conservative Corporatist movement.
    THAT, is the great fight of our lifetimes!
    Sadly, I’m not optimistic…
    But, fight, we MUST!

  8. 8
    Chyron HR says:

    he cites a CBO report indicating the law will reduce illegal immigration by only 25 percent

    I have a generous proposal for Social Security reform whereby wages above the current FICA cap are subject to an additional Rich Fuck Payroll Tax of ONLY 25 percent. The GOP may contact me via this site for further details.

  9. 9
    LittlePig says:

    @Baud: I’d have just gone with

    No

    Yes

  10. 10
    Rob in CT says:

    I actually do worry about the possibility that immigration hurts working class Americans (at least in the short to medium run), and as a consequence I’m much less gung-ho about high levels of immigration that your average liberal (or so I suppose).

    Of course, I understand there are studies that indicate otherwise (that immigration helps working class wages). So I very much accept the possibility (likelyhood, even), that my intuition is wrong.

    When I think of the pressures on working class wages, I think of these things, in this order:

    1) Globalization/outsourcing (cheap labor overseas + more focus here on fields that require high levels of education/credentials, like, say, financial wizardry)
    2) Increased automation. Increased mechanization has been a long-term trend, but it seems to me this has picked up steam (probably computer-driven).
    3) High levels of working-class immigration.
    4) Political choices that negatively effected unions and tax code changes that shifted the tax burden downward (mostly but not entirely in the 80s). I think this reflected the already-happening shift more than it precipitated it, but I think it’s helped magnify the effects.

    Speaking of tax code changes… I recall seeing a chart of government expenditure over time that showed nearly all of the increase coming at the local and state levels, driven strongly by public education costs. To the extent that’s true, given that state & local taxes tend to be regressive, unless it was strongly offset by federal money that’s another way in which the tax burden may have shifted down the income scale over time. Just a (half-baked) thought.

  11. 11
    Shakezula says:

    “Don’t let them take their jobs,” is just as obnoxious as “Don’t let them take our jobs.”

    The fact this dingleberry paints this as Rich Liberals helping the Poor Non-Liberal (or Non-Political) proles is another sign of intense class bias. Fuck that. Fuck that very much.

  12. 12
    Another Halocene Human says:

    More demotivating bullshit Blackshirt fascist crap to attempt to split the labor movement and the working class.

    AFL-CIO worked really hard on this bill. They didn’t get everything they wanted–we would need a better Senate for that.

    The biggest losers are those who must compete with H1Bs.

    The risk is not immigration but that they will be slave-like labor when they get here. That is the hope in immigration reform, that it will reduce the leverage bad actors have over their workers.

    As many have said already, we also need an increase in minimum wage. That would be the last piece in the jigsaw.

    We need EFCA too, but AFL has to sell that steak to the American people, fucking idiots. Their office is across from CoC and the WH. Why aren’t they in NYC? Lazy AND stupid, their outreach and coalition building has become.

  13. 13
    El Caganer says:

    I don’t think Frank is right, but it does look like our corporate overlords are sneaking some not-so-hot stuff into the bill:
    http://www.economicpopulist.or.....ion-reform

  14. 14
    Another Halocene Human says:

    In fact, why isn’t AFL HQ’d in LA? Oh yeah, because that “CIO” in their name is a joke. Keep losing union drives to SEIU/Teamsters/UNITE HERE, motherfuckers.

  15. 15
    Napoleon says:

    Putting aside what he thinks about immigration or his specific policy provisions, Frank could not be more right about liberals need to pay more attention to class.

  16. 16
    Betty Cracker says:

    To be more generous than eventheliberal and Frank deserve, I’ll stipulate that, yes, the faction designated as “liberals” contains some clueless trust-fund babies who haven’t thought through the broader effects of immigration reform and are just interested in it as a vehicle for sticking it to whitey on behalf of their brown brothers and sisters.

    But to ascribe that caricature to “liberals” in general is unfair and inaccurate at best and concern trolling at worst.

  17. 17
    Linda Featheringill says:

    @c u n d gulag:

    You got screwed by The System, didn’t you?

  18. 18
    Emma Peel says:

    Washington has looked the other way while millions of low-skilled unauthorized immigrants have competed with them for low-skilled service jobs

    Strange. That’s the exact same logic they used 150 years ago to explain why we should keep slavery. And then there was why we should kick out the Irish. And why we need to keep child labor. Everything old is new again.

  19. 19
    jibeaux says:

    It’s a false choice. There’s not really much doubt that industries such as meatpacking and to a lesser extent construction, the service industry, etc. are able to exploit workers more and pay lower wages because of a scared, undocumented, workforce. That depresses wages for everyone. Americans are simply not willing to get uncompensated carpal tunnel syndrome for minimum wage and absurd production quotas slicing up chicken breasts day in and day out. There’s a reason those companies recruited heavily throughout rural Mexico. But immigration reform is a huge part of STOPPING those practices. Meat processing employees aren’t scared to organize because they’re Latino, they’re scared to organize because they’re working illegally. Immigration reform is simply about acknowledging that we have a very sizable undocumented work force already here, and what are we going to do about that? Anything that fails to confront that issue or offers impractical solutions like deporting or “self-deporting” 12 million people is just asking for more of the status quo.

  20. 20
    Working Class Lib says:

    @Shakezula: `

    One thing i know for sure is that Congress only doesn’t give a shit about the working class or poor, so it doesn’t surprise me that they would enact legislation that would help the rich get cheap labor while continuing to grind the poor down to nothing.

  21. 21
    Another Halocene Human says:

    Not totally OT: my union’s international president has been hinting that he’d like to see a merger between our (AFL) union and our ancient CIO rival

    If those plans go public expect the predictable explosion from old white oldschool union guys who tossed their cookies when the bigcity units turned majority-minority after the 70s, who literally for some damn reason see the CIO guys as the enemy (cough, you want problems, they’re called the Teamsters, totally our friends until the shiv happens), and who love our antiquated structure where a 30-member unit head gets to style himself “president” instead of “chief steward” like it would be a fucking functional union, oh, like our CIO coworkers in AFSCME?!?!

    Grrrrr.

  22. 22
    Holden Pattern says:

    Gooollllleeee, the only solushun for the poor unskilled native masses is keepin’ the wetbacks out. Don’t have nuthin’ to do with the offshoring of manufacturing jobs nur the abuses of labor by service industries like the entire food service industry and Wal-Mart, nur the concentrated and continuous half-century-long attack on unions, the minimum wage, worker safety, and everything else that makes it possible to have a decent life as an unskilled worker.

    When in doubt, focus on the furriners. They talk funny, their food is weird, and you can always count on being able to gin up some hate.

    Liberals are pro-immigration reform because the current system is cruel, arbitrary, frankly racist and classist, and completely broken. It mostly results in a lot of undocumented immigrants being exploited and abused by business owners (er, sorry, ” glorious jerb-creaters”) all so we can collectively pay less for our food and residential construction services. That of course drives wages down for unskilled native labor, and even then, not by much according to the reputable studies.

  23. 23

    But it is noteworthy that, throughout the process of this bill coming into being, most of the concerns fear mongering and concern trolling about how it will affect the working class have not come from the Left but rather from the Right.

    FTFY. The Right doesn’t give a shit about what it will actually do; they care about using it as a political tool. So they’re trying to gin up immigrant hatred among the working class and discourage liberal elites with concern trolling. If the Right actually cared about the working class, they’d want enforcement against employers who use the availability of cheap, undocumented labor to drive down wages.

  24. 24
    piratedan says:

    why outsource your slave labor when you could in-source it and save yourself the shipping costs. R’s have one goal on behalf of their relationship with business, anything that they can do to cut costs gets them donations, be it supplying cheap labor, weakening labor/workplace rules, getting subsidies, reduced taxes, doesn’t matter what. If the R’s can create a feudal system of cheap labor, they’re gonna do it and keep depriving those folks of any recourse under our laws.

    Dems want to legalize thse folks, make them Americans and start to do away with the underground economy, it’s putting these people on the books, just like O did with the wars. They’re here and lets be realistic about the costs and potential benefits involved.

  25. 25
    Chris says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    To be more generous than eventheliberal and Frank deserve, I’ll stipulate that, yes, the faction designated as “liberals” contains some clueless trust-fund babies who haven’t thought through the broader effects of immigration reform

    I’ll leave it at that. Because in my experience, liberal trust fund babies who don’t care about the union and working class white brethren don’t tend to care about Hispanic immigrants either.

  26. 26

    The people who argue that the illegal immigrants should have just come here legally, like their great grandpa did, willfully or otherwise ignore the fact, that there is no path for someone performing manual labor to qualify for an employment based (EB) green card.

  27. 27
    Kiril says:

    His thesis only makes sense if you assume the total number of jobs never changes.

  28. 28
    negative 1 says:

    @jibeaux: I don’t totally disagree but there’s no guarantee they do organize or are able to agitate for better wages. Meanwhile, the effect Frank describes is real although probably overstated. I agree that if you’re that worried about the native-born underclass there are better ways to help than by f&*king over other people, but that said I do worry about the effects that immigration will have and will continue to have. After all, even if I believe that there are better ways to help it doesn’t mean I’m confident that anyone will undertake them.
    There’s a reason labor is so silent on the issue.

  29. 29
    Baud says:

    If I have a plea to my fellow liberals more broadly, it’s that they focus more of their empathy on fellow Americans being left behind. Because we increasingly live in bubbles,

    In my admittedly small corner of the tubes, liberals are often talking abut this issue. I wonder whether the bubble Frank inhabits has a different sort of liberal in it.

  30. 30
    Rob in CT says:

    Dems want to legalize thse folks, make them Americans and start to do away with the underground economy, it’s putting these people on the books, just like O did with the wars. They’re here and lets be realistic about the costs and potential benefits involved.

    And this is the argument I usually come ’round to, despite my reservations. Recognition of basic reality is kinda important. They’re here. Get ’em on the grid.

    Also, too: if we really want to bring down the level of illegal immigration, the crackdown has to be on businesses who hire them (setting aside the other option: induce a massive depression, which also seems to work but has unfortunate side effects like, you know, a fuckton of misery).

  31. 31
    danimal says:

    I completely concur with Frank’s opinion that we need to be more focused on class, but I disagree that immigration reform is a net negative for poor and lower middle class people. By reforming the shadow job market (think domestic jobs at sub-minimum wages), immigration reform will have the effect of boosting wages and fortunes for all workers at the bottom of the scale.

  32. 32
    Chris says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    Reminds me of Patton’s joke: “Our opponents are the Germans. Our enemy is the Navy.”

    More seriously and as someone who doesn’t follow union politics that closely… what’s wrong with the Teamsters? I know they used to be the Mafia’s pet – is that still the case?

  33. 33
    Kiril says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: What they are really ignoring is that for most of our history, all an immigrant needed to do is get here without obviously suffering from a contagious disease. The doc takes a look at you, the lady writes your name down and ta-da! — welcome to America!

  34. 34
    PeakVT says:

    I suspect Frank is right that the bill doesn’t do enough to target the real driver of illegal immigration – medium and large employers willing to hire such workers. The current penalties are not much more than a slap on the wrist, and it’s probably still cost-effective to take the risk. Unless that is changed I think he is right that the bill won’t do much to stop future illegal immigration. More border controls are not a substitute. Of course, Repukes don’t want more enforcement, and never have, because that might hurt profits. The militarization of the border is about providing pork for right-leaning government contractors, not-too-cleverly disguised as chest-thumping patriotism.

    Does that mean we should oppose the current bill? Dunno. Repukes will probably kill it for their own reasons, so the question may be moot.

  35. 35
    negative 1 says:

    @Kiril: That was easier when people could homestead and we hadn’t yet tapped out every natural resource (land included). Perpetual growth makes lots of things easy to deal with. We’re no longer at that point, so the comparison isn’t really a good one.

  36. 36
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Rob in CT: That’s exactly the argument I was trying to make. Your block sounds a lot better.

    @Kiril: Good point.

  37. 37
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Shakezula: Take on the rich man’s burden.

  38. 38
    jibeaux says:

    @negative 1:

    I don’t totally disagree but there’s no guarantee they do organize or are able to agitate for better wages.

    No, but there never is. I live in NC. We are going to have unions at a quarter to never. If you aren’t discussing immigration reform in good faith right now, then you are accepting a totally fucked up status quo, and that is exactly what Perdue and Smithfield want you to do.

  39. 39
    catclub says:

    I read a posting that stuck. Possibly at BJ.

    “If you had strong unions, you would have far fewer undocumented workers. Now, raise your hands all you meatpacking companies who want string unions!”

  40. 40
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Holden Pattern:

    This.

    It’s more divide and rule. Oldest trick in the book. It’s the damn furriners!

    Pay no attention to the Koch brother behind the curtain.

  41. 41
    Cacti says:

    Even the liberal T.A. Frank is making the same argument that was used against the Irish, Chinese, Italians, and pretty much every immigrant group in US history.

  42. 42
    jibeaux says:

    @PeakVT: You’re likely right about that, but enforcement against employers actually can be kind of tricky. There are employers who don’t ask any questions, and that’s straightforward enough. There are employees who present social security cards with English names on them that they can barely pronounce. But what if the employer asks, and is presented with a Puerto Rican identification card, with a photo resembling the person in question. Trying to conduct a genealogical inquiry on that person could easily be received as discrimination. So the law has always required a known or should have known standard for this hiring, and whatever loopholes the law allows, some people will find a way through. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try, of course.

  43. 43
    Kiril says:

    @negative 1: You missed the point, which is that people claiming moral superiority on the part of their grandparents’ immigration status are comparing two completely different situations.

    But you are also wrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.....t_analysis

  44. 44
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Rob in CT:

    the crackdown has to be on businesses who hire them

    This part always seems to be missing from any effort to deal with immigrants who aren’t “legal”. Somehow, they’re the ones breaking the law…but their employers are always, always as pure as the driven snow…be they meat packers or white middle class types who hire day labor to mow the lawn or watch the spawn.

  45. 45
    Zifnab says:

    Can anyone puzzle out the riddle that goes

    “Free trade irrespective of national borders is always good. But open borders which allow the free flow of people is always bad.” Because, as far as I can tell, this seems to suggest that we’re totally ok with employing Mexicans and Chinese and Canadians to do our dirty work for us. Jobs aren’t the issue. We just feel the need to pen them up in their respective countries, least they move to the US and try to do the same work for higher pay domestically.

    That just strikes me as dumb. But I keep getting told I’m wrong. So can anyone solve the puzzle?

  46. 46
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Zifnab:

    Shut up, that’s why!

  47. 47
    Console says:

    There are times when I think the “progressive” left runs head on into class issues that it doesn’t even recognize. The biggest one was the willingness to sink Obamacare over the public option. As though the war over the medicaid expansion and the subsidies were just immaterial.

    But immigration reform isn’t one of those situations.

  48. 48

    @jibeaux:

    So the law has always required a known or should have known standard for this hiring, and whatever loopholes the law allows, some people will find a way through. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try, of course.

    We don’t have to close all the loopholes to get a much better situation than we have right now.

  49. 49
    MomSense says:

    You know I have really had it with the pundit class/villagers. Having to suffer through Republican bigotry and stupidity is bad enough without hearing these contortionist justifications.

    I’ve decided to stop reading them and start sharpening my knitting needles.

  50. 50
    Kay says:

    Reflexively adopting the narrow frame Republicans choose is a bad idea. They chose it for a reason. They don’t have anything else.

    We don’t have to let them pick the parameters of the debate or the field. There’s absolutely no reason to battle Republicans on the “non-Latino working class”. THEY have to stick to “non-Latino”. We don’t. We have options they don’t have. He’s letting them determine how we talk about this, which is defensive and reactive. They’d LIKE to do something other than set one slice of the working class against the other slice, but they can’t. Why would we ever adopt the “liberal side” of what is their desperate strategy?

  51. 51
    El Caganer says:

    @Zifnab: This actually makes perfect sense if you’re one of the 1%.

  52. 52
    Patricia Kayden says:

    What does Frank want to do with the 11+ millions of illegal people who are already here?

  53. 53
    Shakezula says:

    @Working Class Lib: We’re still talking about poor people here, some of whom are legally in the U.S. and some of whom are not. What will employers do when the pool of poor people who can be exploited more readily than another group of poor people shrinks? Something ugly to be sure, but immigration reform won’t be to blame.

  54. 54
    Gustopher says:

    I don’t like the guest worker programs, or the H1B program — I want immigrants to come here, make a life for themselves and stay. The immigration reform proposal has way too much of an emphasis on work visas, and not enough on creating new citizens.

    Sure, some will use the temporary visas as a foot in the door, but all to often tying it to the employer just means the immigrant cannot negotiate for their wages and benefits because they cannot leave the employer for a better offer.

  55. 55
    c u n d gulag says:

    @Linda Featheringill:
    Yeah, like many in my generation.
    I’m in the middle-late Boomer group, having been born in ’58.

    Some people my age did fabulously well.
    Most of the rest of us, despite college educations, and good work habits, could never seem to get ahead of where our parents were.
    In some ways, many of us never even got on par with them.
    Maybe it’s because I never married, and never had kids. But I don’t know how that would have changed some things, except maybe make me less likely to leave dead-end jobs whenever I felt that’s what my job was turning into. And frankly, I don’t see how that would have helped me.

    It is, what it is…

  56. 56
    jamick6000 says:

    Is the Left’s enthusiasm for immigration reform a consequence of its retreat from class-based politics?

    yeah. think of all the totebaggers with an undocumented maid. Our immigration system lets in tons of unskilled workers and tightly restricts the #s of professionals (ie doctors). I believe Dean Baker says that our system subsidizes doctors having nannies.

    Imagine if it was the other way around — millions of lawyers flooding over the border and setting up shop everywhere. We’d have a mile-high wall at the border in 15 minutes.

  57. 57
    PeakVT says:

    @jibeaux: More enforcement probably would have a non-trivial negative effect on native-born Latinos. But I think if (!) our politicians worked in good faith it could be minimized. But I have no idea if what were about to get is anything like a good faith effort.

    @Patricia Kayden: Legalize them. His question is whether the rest of the bill will prevent us from having to do yet another amnesty for a massive block of illegal immigrants in 15-25 years.

  58. 58
    ChristianPinko says:

    I would say that EventheLiberal (great name!) is blowing smoke, based on the fact that the AFL-CIO and SEIU support immigration reform.

  59. 59
    patroclus says:

    New immigrants almost certainly would depress wages because of the increase in the labor pool. The immigration reform bill, however, deals with those that are already here, whose market impact has already been felt. Bringing them out of the shadows will likely increase wage rates because employers will have to treat them more normally, with labor protections.

  60. 60
    Kay says:

    @Cacti:

    I feel like Frank always does this. He looks at whatever they’re saying and says “let’s take the liberal side of that!”

    He’s always going to be fighting on whatever narrow field told him to fight on. I just think it’s a loser way to look at the debate.

  61. 61
    Alex S. says:

    Basic neo-classical economic models say that immigration reform is good for the economy as a whole, but that it shifts wealth from workers to capital holders. So from a static point of view, labor should oppose it.
    In the long run though, distributional measures should improv ewelfare for everyone, and let’s hope that the immigrants support them (which they usually do).

  62. 62
    Alan says:

    “And generous social benefits cannot coexist with an open border. (Nor can a more egalitarian society.)”

    That sentence does an awful lot of work in the article. Thankfully it isn’t true.

  63. 63
    liberal says:

    @Kiril:
    Immigrants could make a net positive contribution to the economy and still depress working class wages.

  64. 64
    jibeaux says:

    @Roger Moore: That’s definitely true. I was just pointing out one of the practical problems — there’s a huge hole left by the intent requirement, which lets too many employers use a strategy of asking for the minimum because they don’t want to know too much; but it’s a tricky hole to fill. If a person presents what appears to be valid work documentation, what is the employer’s further responsibility? It’s not a simple fix.

  65. 65
    liberal says:

    @jamick6000:
    Agreed, though a better example these days is doctors, not lawyers.

  66. 66
    liberal says:

    @Zifnab:
    It’s wrong because there are many jobs which can’t be done remotely. Like construction work.

    Not that I think free trade is such a great thing for the American worker either, of course.

  67. 67
    Tyro says:

    I feel that the only thing that matters is how to create a stable, large, prosperous middle class. That’s all. Anything that does not serve that purpose (or works against it) should be met with inherent skepticism.

    That includes immigration policy. Legalizing the employed law abiding longtime immigrants who have been here illegally is a good thing, because that shores up our middle class. But immigration policy itself should be focused on how we can create a larger middle class and shrink the low end of the employment spectrum. And that’s not necessarily going to result in an answer that a lot of the “let all the poor people come to the USA!” advocates want to hear.

  68. 68
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Patricia Kayden: And that is the problem. He is correct. The fact that it got to 11 million is a problem. I’m not certain what he mean, though – the bill will only reduce illegal immigration 25%. Does he mean that only 25% of the 11.0 million will be eligible or apply for the path to citizenship, or that the rate of increase in the numbers of undocumented will decline 25%?

  69. 69
    Joel (Macho Man Randy Savage) says:

    @Rob in CT: For me, #1 is the failure to implement fair wage laws over the last 40 years.

  70. 70
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @El Caganer:

    I don’t think Frank is right, but it does look like our corporate overlords are sneaking some not-so-hot stuff into the bill…

    I am shocked, etc.

  71. 71
    negative 1 says:

    @Kiril: I may have missed the point but you’ve missed the point of the article that Wiki references, and honestly I wish more people would understand that although Frank is saying it for the wrong reasons he’s not wrong. The same study that proved that immigration was good for an economy as a whole showed that it suppressed wages on the lowest rung of the ladder. Most people shrugged and said “good for the economy as a whole.” Those who didn’t shrug are the lowest rung of the ladder.
    I just had my house re-roofed. Our less-than-educated contractor pointed out that he had two crews, one whites, one Mexicans, “but boy they work like a son of a “. Charming, I know, but presumable those jobs that he was hiring immigrants for would have gone to unskilled people born in the country, who were now competing with folks who I will guarantee are working for minimum or less. There are studies that show that you can extrapolate the example. Than how does it benefit the economy as a whole? Because there are more people around, and they need new roofs too. Contractor’s business improves, but his workers wages go down. In my opinion people need to understand these facts so they can legitimately say “the good outweighs the bad” not “there is no bad”.

  72. 72
    Rob in CT says:

    @Joel (Macho Man Randy Savage):

    I think #1 is the natural result of the end of the cold war. For decades, you had a huge portion of the world’s labor supply under Communist rule, and therefore cut out of the labor market available to corporations. Companies could not go and build factories in China. Once that changed, of course they were going to do it (and it seems to me that from the standpoint of human welfare generally, it’s been a net positive).

    This doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do to mitigate the downside effects. But I think it’s silly to imagine that domestic wage laws could possibly have prevented off-shoring (seems to me they’d have simply accelerated the process).

  73. 73
    rikyrah says:

    Illegals are undercutting Americans.

    but, if they can step up and demand real wages…

    I don’t see it as a bad thing.

    I’m far more concerned about the number of HB1 visas being allowed. to be honest, I think those are a crock of shyt and we have far enough Americans for the jobs going to HB1 visa holders. I’d shut that shyt down quick and fast.

  74. 74
    mike with a mic says:

    One of the reasons the business wing of the Republican party wants immigration reform is that it’s good for many of them. More competition for jobs helps drive down wages and gets people to accept a less generous benefits package, plus more people means more people to sell goods to.

    Every great social equalizer comes out of the hide of the current middle class. Women competing for jobs helped drive down wages and enabled two people to work from one home to support the family and helped things change to where it required two people. Ending discrimination based on race and pushing affirmative action policies made whites have to compete harder and helped reduce their wages and benefits as well.

    It’s good for us as well. Liberals live in the richest areas in the US, many of which have the greatest income inequality. We tend to be better educated as well, so it’s not us who are at risk, but it reduces what we have to pay other people for their services. So it’s socially the right thing to do, and it will drive down what you have to pay your plumber, win fucking win.

  75. 75
    gene108 says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I actually do worry about the possibility that immigration hurts working class Americans (at least in the short to medium run), and as a consequence I’m much less gung-ho about high levels of immigration that your average liberal (or so I suppose).

    Of course, I understand there are studies that indicate otherwise (that immigration helps working class wages). So I very much accept the possibility (likelyhood, even), that my intuition is wrong.

    The issue with illegal immigration/migrant labor is we let them in to pick crops at dirt cheap prices and after a few decades people started coming here to do other things, because – I’m speculating here – there was a critical mass of Latino workers already here to have some sort of support network to do other things, like construction, food services, etc.

    I think the damage illegal immigration did to labor has already been done. They drove down wages in construction and other industries, because they were willing to work for less and employers didn’t give a damn.

    There’s no going back from what was done.

    What needs to be done is for a way to undo the damage.

    This is why we need immigration reform.

    So there’s a way for illegal immigrants to have legal recourse and get better treatment for the low-wage jobs they are doing.

  76. 76
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    Anyway, what do y’all think? Is the Left’s enthusiasm for immigration reform a consequence of its retreat from class-based politics?

    What retreat? The one that happened in the 1950s, or the one that happened in the late 1970s?

    The “left” has not given two shit about working folks since then.

    I could go on an extended diatribe about how the Left’s love affair with easy Hispanic votes is going to end as all affairs do, but fuck it, none of the fortunate sons and daughters posting here want to hear those inconvenient truths anyway.

  77. 77
    Mnemosyne says:

    @liberal:

    Immigrants could make a net positive contribution to the economy and still depress working class wages.

    They could, in theory, but most of the studies purporting to show that effect conflate legal and illegal workers.

    I think it’s very clear that illegal workers depress wages, because they can be paid less than minimum wage, which creates downward pressure on wages for legal workers. I think the effect of legal workers is not nearly as clear since they have more legal protections.

  78. 78
    mclaren says:

    Another way to put Frank’s plea is to ask liberals to pay more attention to class. I’m not on-board with him, overall; I think new immigrants are a good thing and that his ideal number of yearly entrants (50,000) is too low.

    That’s your mistake right there. You’ve never lived in a place like San Diego or El Paso or Calexico, so you don’t realize that in the American southwest, the trickle of legal Mexican/South American immigrants is absolutely dwarfed by the colossal flood of illegals. In places like San Diego or Albuquerque or El Paso, the entire local economy should shut down if American businessmen had to pay a living wage to hire legal immigrants. Walk into any restaurant or quick oil-change storefront or any garage or take a look at any painting contractor or construction site, and you’ll see nothing but illegals, and you’ll hear nothing but Spanish spoken on the job. The American Southwest has a pathological and deeply dysfunctional master-slave economy, where the white people who moved there 30 years ago have a great life and pay ridiculously low taxes while making vast amounts of money…while the illegals and young recent white college grads who move there today subsist on slave wages while paying insane amounts for rent, and remain utterly unable to afford to buy a house in those markets.

    I personally know people in San Diego who bought homes 40 years ago and today pay less than $300 a year in property taxes on those three-quarter-of-a-million-dollar houses. Back then, those houses were tiny little affordable cottages — today, they’re fabulously expensive pieces of highly desirable property. Those people are living a life of luxury even though they’ve got low-paying dead-end jobs, and you can tell who they are just by driving past their homes: those folks have always got 3 cars in driveway plus a flatbed trailer with two jetskis on it, plus a motorhome in the front yard, plus a garage stocked with off-road vehicles. Meanwhile, recent college grads live packed 4 into an apartment with one guy sleeping on the couch, paying $2500 a month rent for a single bedroom shithole in the worst part of town.

    Without a viable middle class to provide a consumer base for local businesses in the American Southwest, the entire mom-and-pop local economy would disintegrate if small businesses had to pay a living wage. So they scrape by paying pennies to illegals off the books. Go to MacArthur park in Los Angeles and you’ll find dozens of guys selling phoney I.D. to the illegals. Without this weird two-tier society where one slice of the population lives a life of fabulous privilege because they picked up stakes elsewhere in the U.S. and moved to Southern California/Nevada/Arizona/New Mexico/Texas 35 or 40 years ago when land was cheap and jobs were plentiful, while the rest of the population lives like peons and serfs in an insanely overpriced rental market where housing is priced far out of the range of affordability, the economy of the American Southwest would dry up and blow away.

    This is why “immigration reform” will never deal with the real issues of illegal immigration in America. Take just one example — did you know that the child labor laws in America have one exception? Children under age 16 are permitted to work in the hot hot hot sun for less than minimum all day long as long as they’re agricultural workers. Yes, the worst kind of child slave labor is alive and well in America, because without it the farmers of the central valley in California wouldn’t be able to harvest their strawberries cheaply enough to bring them to market.

    People who’ve never lived in Southern California or the border regions of the American Southwest (like El Paso) have no idea what’s really going on there in terms of illegal immigration. This silly talk about “50,000 entrants per year” is on the level of claiming that global warming means nothing more than earlier blooming season for flowers. No, global warming means creeping desertification, drowned coastal cities like Manhattan, and increasing drought turning cities like Atlanta Georgia into ghost towns. Likewise, illegal immigration doesn’t mean a few more busboys in Wendys fast-food joints in El Paso: it means the difference between the economy of Southern California existing, and shutting down.

  79. 79
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Don’t know enough to argue the merits, or the lack thereof, of immigration reform. Do know that if the Democratic party at the national level sits around on its haunches waiting for demographics to make them winners they are headed for a #9 fucking. Unless and until the party starts making a concerted effort to take over state-level elective offices, one by one, the effect of demographic shifts will be delayed for years by Republican voter suppression and gerrymandering. “Look at us, we elected a black president!” Yeah, an achievement all right – except that he plays hell getting anything done and a few more shifts in Congress will allow the Rs to undo those things he’s accomplished.

  80. 80
    dollared says:

    here in technology land, most of the liberals are wildly pro immigration reform. Especially the neoliberal executive types, who are very excited to add to the 30% of tech workers here who are/were H-1Bs. The 48 year old native born engineers who lost their jobs – and there are tens of thousands – not so much.

    Yes, Slate is right here.

  81. 81
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    Back in the early 80s when I was doing those entry level jobs the employers couldn’t get enough illegal aliens to work them so you do the math.

  82. 82
    Mnemosyne says:

    @negative 1:

    Charming, I know, but presumable those jobs that he was hiring immigrants for would have gone to unskilled people born in the country, who were now competing with folks who I will guarantee are working for minimum or less. (emphasis mine)

    I bolded that part because you don’t seem to realize that you automatically equated legal workers with illegal workers. By definition, legal workers cannot be paid less than minimum wage. They must be treated exactly the same as native-born workers.

    Again, the problem is the “shadow economy” that allows companies to pay less than minimum wage to illegal workers, not legal workers.

  83. 83
    Mnemosyne says:

    @dollared:

    here in technology land, most of the liberals are wildly pro immigration reform. Especially the neoliberal executive types, who are very excited to add to the 30% of tech workers here who are/were H-1Bs. The 48 year old native born engineers who lost their jobs – and there are tens of thousands – not so much.

    Honestly, H1-B visas seem like the worst of both worlds to me. They allow employers to drop wages drastically, claim it’s the “market level,” and cry that they must have immigrant workers because they can’t find Americans to work for those wages, and those visas keep the workers themselves in indentured servitude.

  84. 84
    cvstoner says:

    Even Cesar Chavez can around to support immigration reform at some point.

  85. 85
    cokane says:

    legalizing immigrants should drive some wages up, since many employers use that as a vehicle to get below the minimum wage

  86. 86
    dollared says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate: This. The rachet continues to lock rightward. State’s rights, VRA, tax cuts made permanent, Defense/NSA increases, everything is still moving to the right.

  87. 87
    The Moar You Know says:

    @mclaren: I would disagree as to only one thing you said; at least where I live in San Diego, most of our serfs are legal. Right now. The numbers vary, but the “illegal” portion is always a minority. But everything else you said is dead on.

  88. 88
    mclaren says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Honestly, H1-B visas seem like the worst of both worlds to me. They allow employers to drop wages drastically, claim it’s the “market level,” and cry that they must have immigrant workers because they can’t find Americans to work for those wages, and those visas keep the workers themselves in indentured servitude.

    Yes, but as usual you fail to back up your empty assertions with facts. Let’s take a look at the hard evidence that proves the alleged “shortage of STEM graduates in America” is a myth perpetuated by the U.S. tech industries in order to smuggle in tens of thousands of H1B visa workers who get paid much less than comparable American STEM graduates. Even better, H1B workers are effectively enslaved by their employers because the instant they lose their jobs, they get deported, and so H1Bs have absolutely zero bargaining power as green card workers with U.S. tech companies. If their employer demands that they work 100-hour weeks, they have to do it; if their employer demands they give up health care benefits or a 401K, they have to do it; if their employer demands they live in bungalows without air conditioning, they have to do it. The alternative is getting fired and immediately deported the next day by ICE agents who personally escort them to a flight home to Bangalore India or some impoverished farm village in rural China:

    “Researchers argue that shortage of tech workers is a myth.” Source: “Guest Workers in the High-Skill U.S. Labor Market,” a white paper from the Economic Policy Research Institute, 24 April 2013.

    It’s been in the news a lot: The U.S. has a shortage of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, workers. However, a new study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that, contrary to popular thought, this deficiency may be a myth. In fact, EPI, a left-leaning think tank, said the nation is producing STEM graduates at a rate in excess of the number of available STEM jobs, The Washington Post reported.

    This debunking comes at a time when companies have been saying consistently that the labor pool of STEM workers is too small. In addition, immigration lobbyists have been pushing for additional H-1Bs visas to allow STEM professionals outside of the U.S. to enter the country, and President Barack Obama remains committed to improving STEM education.

    EPI researchers agreed the number of U.S. students who earn STEM degrees is small, but said it is essential to see the post-graduation employment statistics of these students. Many of them, researchers found, cannot find work. Only half of the students graduating from college with a STEM degree are hired into a STEM job, the study revealed.

    Had the U.S. truly been facing a shortage of STEM workers, wages for these types of jobs would have risen, researchers argued, yet they haven’t in more than 10 years, The American Prospect explained. Rather, today’s STEM wages mirror those of the late 1990s, the study said. Flat pay and insufficient placement of these graduates in STEM positions signal the opposite of a shortage.

    The study showed, according to CNBC, that U.S. colleges graduate 50 percent more computer and information science and engineering students than are hired into those fields each year (IT jobs comprise 59 percent of the STEM workforce, according to the study). Of the graduates trained in computer science who didn’t end up with a job in the field, 32 percent said it was due to the fact that information technology jobs weren’t readily available. About 53 percent said they found better job prospects outside of IT.

    “These responses suggest that the supply of graduates is substantially larger than the demand for them in industry,” researchers added.

    Other articles, like “High Tech’s Dirty Little Secret: Silicon Valley’s Sweatshops” fill in the ugly details.

    Or if you want the down-and-dirty version, check out Robert X. Cringely’s column “Two H1B’s Walk Into A Bar: More of the Visa Scam” from 25 April 2013. Cringely has been reporting on this story for nearly a decade now.

    The evidence that the so-called STEM shortage in American graduates is a scam is overwhelming. But, oddly enough, the mainstream media maintains a blackout on this story. You just won’t hear it on CBS evening news or NBC nightly news or on CNN or on CNBC.

  89. 89

    @Zifnab: Free market in capital but not in labor, or at least not on terms that benefit labor.

  90. 90
    The Moar You Know says:

    H1B workers are effectively enslaved by their employers because the instant they lose their jobs, they get deported, and so H1Bs have absolutely zero bargaining power as green card workers with U.S. tech companies. If their employer demands that they work 100-hour weeks, they have to do it; if their employer demands they give up health care benefits or a 401K, they have to do it; if their employer demands they live in bungalows without air conditioning, they have to do it.

    @mclaren: My experience with H1B workers was outside of the tech field; they were subject to everything you state and then some. In at least one case, I suspected, but could not prove, that the employer was raping one of the employees. She did not want me to report anything as she’d be headed back to China the next day if I had.

    That’s what we sign on for when we sign on for “immigration reform”, folks.

  91. 91
    Rob in CT says:

    I don’t really see any difference between the H1B “scam” and allowing a huge amount of illegal immigration, other than H1B visa workers compete with educated, relatively well-off Americans and illegal immigrants mostly compete with working-class Americans.

    I’d prefer citizens to guest workers, generally. In my ideal world, the # of legal immigrants would rise dramatically, the number of illegal immigrants would fall dramatically, and the net result would be a modest decline in overall low-skill immigration. I’d be fine with bringing in more high-skill folks (doctors, etc). I’m not sure about the proposals I’ve see pop up periodically proposing we just let people buy their way in (provided they’re not criminals). On the one hand, I’d like the revenue. On the other, it feels icky (and there would probably be plenty of folks who werent’ *convicted* of anything but got the money via screwing others, like Russian Oligarchs or whatever).

  92. 92
    mclaren says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    By definition, legal workers cannot be paid less than minimum wage. They must be treated exactly the same as native-born workers.

    Again, the problem is the “shadow economy” that allows companies to pay less than minimum wage to illegal workers, not legal workers.

    No, Mnemosyne, it’s the legitimate above-ground economy that’s the problem as well. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here and assume you’re simply ignorant of the facts on the ground, rather than being deliberately deceptive — but the net effect of your provably false claim is to perpetrate a vast lie. Namely, that it’s only the off-the-books illegals we have to worry about, not the legitimate workers who are presumably protected from gross exploitation by law.

    Hundreds of thousands of children under the age of 18 work in agriculture in the United States. Under a clear double standard in U.S. federal law, children can toil in the fields at far younger ages, for far longer hours, and under far more hazardous conditions than children working any other type of employment in the United States. As they do so, child farmworkers risk their education, their health, and, sometimes, even their lives. This legal loophole also places the United States in violation its international legal obligations.

    Source: “Child Farmworkers in the United States: A `Worst Form of Child Labor,'” November 2011.

    If you can stand to look at it, watch this youtube video documenting the exploitation of child agricultural workers (most prominently in California’s central valley) who get exposed to toxic levels of pesticide and killing heat while not being required to get paid overtime for their 12-hour workdays.

    And then check out the pdf titled “Lost in a loophole: the fair labor standards act’s exemption of agricultural workers from overtime compensation protection” by Autumn L. Canny, 18 February 2006.

    There comes a point when the distortions and disinformation grow so extreme that the omissions from claims about labor laws protecting all American workers become tantamount to outright lies. The brutal fact of the matter remains that massive ongoing ICE immigration raids throughout the united states have documented a pervasive and ongoing pattern of giant agricultural and meat-processing corporations’ setup of underground railroads complete with fraudulent documentation factories designed to funnel vast numbers of agricultural and poultry and meat-processing illegal immigrants into the U.S. from Mexico and central America, provide them with company-sponsored fraudulent I.D., and pay them a sub-minimum-wage pittance to work at toxic jobs that keep those giant agribusiness and meat and poultry corporations’ profit margin sky-high.

    Immigration inspectors who pored over the records of one of those growers, Gebbers Farms, found evidence that more than 500 of its workers, mostly immigrants from Mexico, were in the country illegally. In December, Gebbers Farms, based in this Washington orchard town, fired the workers.

    Source: “Illegals swept from jobs in `Silent Raids,” The New York Times, 9 July 2010.

    Or see articles like:

    An immigration probe has forced Mexican chain Chipotle to fire hundreds of employees in Minnesota, over recent weeks, the Wall Street Journal reports.

    Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., which owns and operates nearly 1,100 restaurants around the country and employs 25,000 people, was told several months ago that it would face an audit of its I-9 forms, which verify workers can work in the U.S. legally, a Chipotle spokesman told the WSJ.

    As part of an audit of around 50 restaurants in Minnesota, Immigration and Customs Enforcement found “suspect documents,” forcing Chipotle to dismiss employees in 50 Minnesota restaurants. ICE will also audit 60 restaurants in Virginia and Washington, D.C., according to the WSJ. (..)

    “I believe that when you go to apply there, they know beforehand that you don’t have papers,” Tanya, a 35-year-old mother of four who was working at the chain illegally told Reuters.

    Source: “Chipotle fires hundreds after immigration raids,” The Huffington Post, 8 February 2011.

    I mean..c’mon, folks. Do you really think it’s just coincide that 500 workers all show up in the same factory, all from the same region of Mexico, all with the same kind of phoney I.D.s and social security numbers of legitimate U.S. citizens stolen from legitimate SSN databases?

    Seriously?

    Does anyone really believe that these giant corporations are going to fly straight and hire only legal U.S. citizens or legal green-card immigrants after these raids? Or do you instead suspect (as anyone with common sense does) that the week after these raids, these giant corporations just set their underground slave-labor railroad in motion again and import another 500 illegals from Guatamala or El Salvador or rural Mexico, complete with a database of another 500 phoney I.D. papered over with another 500 legit social security numbers filched from a database of legal U.S. citizens?

    Once again, it’s nothing but a dog-and-pony show. These agribusiness and meat processing plants couldn’t operate at the kinds of stratospheric profits they make if they had to pay U.S. citizens enough to work there. So the corporations ferry in hundreds of Guatamalan peasants at time and supply ’em with forged I.D.s, then if an ICE raid swoops in the company proclaims its ignorance and pays a token fine, then rinse, wash, repeat.

  93. 93
    Anna in PDX says:

    @Rob in CT: Yes, the issue is the businesses that hire them, not the people.

  94. 94
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @mclaren: Why would the big companies take the risk of running coyote/fake ID operations when there are hundreds of free agents volunteering to break the law for them?

  95. 95
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Mnemosyne: Employers lie. They used to game the job descriptions to try to claim that none of the oodles of Americans applying at the lowered wage levels qualified. Of course, a lot of times the credentials from the outsourcing co were faked (on top of being oddly specific). It’s all about having that ultimate power over an employee.

  96. 96
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @mclaren: You have got one thing right–in all of this GINI index disasters it all comes back to who owns the land.

    I once read that the problem with rural Pakistan was that the country had never had land reform. Well double-dog ditto for the American Southeast, Tex-ass, and, from what you describe, probably a lot of the rest of the Southwest. While the government subsidizes this shit!

    As for Atlanta, I’ll have you know they’ll cut off fresh water to the Gulf before they install low-flo’s on their showerheads. This is AMERICA and Alabama and Florida can go fuck themselves!

  97. 97
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Mnemosyne: This whole shit about depressing wages is a false dilemma. There is money everywhere but it doesn’t go into the economy because taxes are too low. Meanwhile, you could stop people coming in and we’d still have a massive labor force on the sidelines. IOW, bull fucking shit.

  98. 98
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Rob in CT: Wow, really? Tell Germany and Switzerland that industrial policy doesn’t matter. For that matter, tell that to any agricultural nation that’s found itself on the wrong side of US industrial policy.

  99. 99
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Tyro: maybe if we stopped fucking their countries they wouldnt be desperate to come here

  100. 100
    RaflW says:

    Frank’s argument seems to elide the huge role in wage suppression that the 1%ers have foisted on the working class. As the, uhhh, jrrrrb creators have gamed the system to move profits up and wages down via tax policies, labor dislocations like offshoring and technology, we’ve been sold a bill of goods about how immigrants depress wages. Its a circus to distract us from their profiteering and market manipulations.
    We need to be going after the fat cats, Frank, not the immigrants who (sometimes) hire them.

  101. 101
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Chris: Teamsters like to brag about how gud dey iz at organizing, but what they actually like to do (cause it’s cheaper) is to sit by the sidelines while some other union sticks their neck out an organizes, and then conduct a raid.

    The bigger the unit, the more likely they are to try to raid because $$$

    In my industry the Teamsters actually have shittier contracts, so, woo, Teamsters

    But I must give them credit for lobbying their asses off when the lege is in session. A lot of them work side by side teachers and when the teacher’s union is gearing up they get together and turn up, too.

    On another topic, their national leadership is corrupt as fuck. A lot of Teamsters want to change that but so far they’ve been unsuccessful since Clinton’s Labor Dept took out their democratically elected leader and installed a Hoffa.

  102. 102
    dmbeaster says:

    The article’s on the longer side, but the essence of Frank’s argument is that illegal immigration is bad for the working class, and the bill moving its way through the Senate does very little to guarantee the influx of undocumented immigrants will decrease (he cites a CBO report indicating the law will reduce illegal immigration by only 25 percent). The studies I’ve read about the impact of immigration on wages runs counter to this theory;

    How can anybody credibly contend that undocumented immigration in large numbers has no negative impact on wages for the lower class. It has had a negative impact for over the last century. Capitalists used to pay to bring more in so that they could assure themselves a steady supply of the cheapest labor (and pit different ethnic groups of workers against one another). Walmart and large meat-packing firms were doing this as recently as 20 years ago or so when undocumented immigrants in the Mid-West or South were still rare, and they wanted some of that cheap labor. Now those networks are self-supplying.

    Of course, not being happy that the current bill because it does not create enough barriers for new undocumented immigrants is hardly a good reason to oppose this bill. It suggests rather a need for further legislation to deal with that problem (like realistic sanctions on those who employ undocumented workers, which is still the prime source of the problem – no significant downside in doing so, and all profit). Frank is just being contrarian in that sense.

    But his underlying point – that its a bad thing that we have a lackadaisical attitude about the undocumented driving down wages for those Americans seeking work in low skill jobs. He’s right about that. And it is not the only source of the problem concerning the plight of the unskilled, but it is certainly a big problem.

    People bitch about the 1% shipping jobs overseas and denying work here – shipping the cheap labor here to do the work here instead is a similar problem; Americans are denied employment opportunities.

    As for pulling the ladder up, we did that starting in the 1920s, but have never meaningfully enforced the policy. Hence the need every 20 years or so for this type of bill to deal with injustice of so many undocumented here, which is a result of not bothering to police the workplace meaningfully.

  103. 103
    dmbeaster says:

    @mclaren:

    Another data point for your claims, this LA Times article about how only 42% of amounts awarded employees for labor law violations by government regulators (mostly wage and hour law claims) are actually collected. The lower wage workers get screwed even when the employer gets caught and the employee awarded back pay.

  104. 104
    AA+ Bonds says:

    Uhhh proper class consciousness doesn’t deign to respect bourgeois nationalism?

    Liberals, SMH

  105. 105
    AA+ Bonds says:

    The point of understanding class is to help bring about the dictatorship of the proletariat. Go big or go home

  106. 106
    AA+ Bonds says:

    LOL, it’s almost as if there’s an inherent contradiction within capitalism where de jure unrestricted mobility of labor assists capitalists while fomenting social unrest

  107. 107
    negative 1 says:

    @Mnemosyne: No, I do. You seem to feel that every contractor is on the up and up. But the key point is that you are implying that if recent immigrants are paid completely on the level it somehow doesn’t exert downward pressure on wages for unskilled work. I agree that the shadow economy is bad for people, specifically immigrants trying to work. Yes, it also exerts downward pressure on wages for unskilled work. But if the entire labor market suddenly becomes regulated to perfection, immigration will still put a downward pressure on wages. The question is really, in your mind does the good outweigh the bad? In my mind it does, but barely, and I realize that there are people who are going to get screwed by this. Pointing out other injustices or saying it shouldn’t come to this doesn’t mean those injustices aren’t real or mean it hasn’t come to this.

  108. 108
    Tyro says:

    @Another Halocene Human: what does this have to do with shoring up the middle class? I care about that in so long as it serves the purpose of helping the middle class.

    Unfortunately, some people seem to view immigration as “charity for destitute foreign people.” And it isn’t their job they’re giving away to someone else of their own wages that are being cut, so they’re all for it, basically handing out charity with someone else’s money.

  109. 109
    thibaud says:

    Frank (and Krugman, and Harvard economist George Borjas) is right. Swamping the low-end labor market with unskilled, uneducated immigrants inevitably crushes low-end wages.

    If you don’t get this, and buy the BS that “we need their labor,” then riddle me this: how does a decline in the real price of a good [low-end labor] co-exist with some alleged scarcity of that good? On what planet?

    The importation of a second underclass, when we had not even made a serious effort to remedy the misery of our existing native-born underclass, is nothing more than a corrupt bargain that benefits no one except cynical business elites and political hacks on both sides of the border.

    It has not helped the Mexican working class, which remains mired in poverty. It has devastated our own native-born working class, crippling their wages, trashing their schools, swamping social services and ERs and prisons and undermining working class support for a generous welfare state.

    No civilized social democracy on this planet would even dream of doing this to its working class. Canada and Australia are ruthless toward illegal immigrants. The French and other European socialist parties are tough on illegals as well.

    Why are doing this to ourselves?

    How the f— is it progressive to cripple our working class and crater their support for the welfare state?

  110. 110
    thibaud says:

    What public interest is served by swamping the labor market with cut-rate labor? None that anyone can articulate.

    So just who benefits from this colossal botchjob? That’s obvious:

    1) Sweatshop owners and the kind of lumpen small businessmen who scream against Obamacare.

    2) A nightmarishly greedy, rapacious and corrupt Mexican political class that would rather export the victims of its failures and plundering than actually reform Mexican agriculture and industry.

    3) US tech industry execs who will slip into this legislation their outrageously cynical and self-serving H1B scam, the indentured drone loophole that slashes tech wages and contributes to the massive unemployment in this country of over-45 workers.

    Why on earth are progressives aligning themselves with these vultures?

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