With the recent influx of migrants into America, state and local policy-makers have felt the effects of the crisis on our border much closer to home. Even in deep-blue New York City, Mayor Eric Adams worries that “this issue will destroy New York City,” calling for President Biden to urgently act on border security. The situation is so critical that it prompted Elon Musk to make a visit to the border. During his visit, he put out a tweet saying, “Illegal immigration needs to stop, but I’m super in favor of greatly expanding and simplifying legal immigration.” While Elon is spot on in his assessment on illegal immigration, he’s only half right on securing the Southern Border, and he’s entirely wrong on legal immigration. Elon is half right in calling for a border wall and increased military presence, but he doesn’t address why illegal immigration is such an important issue: the economic impact. Furthermore, expanding legal immigration will only exacerbate the problem. The current illegal immigration crisis will never be solved with this thinking. Just replace the word illegal with legal, and that is the situation we will be in if we simply expand legal immigration. A truly secure border is an immigration system that works for Americans. Immigration must never be used to drive down wages.
The border wall is good, military presence is better, but E-Verify is the best. Immigrants, for no fault of their own, often live in nations in which they lack economic opportunity, and so come to America to improve their lives. However, the fact that they are doing what is most often right for themselves and their families does not mean we have any particular obligation to let them live and work in our country. Just because there are people suffering across the border in Mexico and Latin America doesn’t mean that they have a right to work in America. Does America have an obligation to house those struggling in Cambodia? What about Mozambique? How about Djibouti? In other words, proximity to America does not guarantee a right to work, and borders and citizenship exist to define who is and who isn’t entitled to a government’s protections and benefits.
While physical barriers on the border certainly decrease illegal immigration, they do not solve the root of the problem. The invasion at the Southern Border can only be properly addressed by taking away that economic incentive for illegal immigration through E-Verify. E-Verify is a free government-run program that employers use to immediately verify the legal status of potential employees with 98% accuracy. By matching social security numbers to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security information, illegal workers are prevented from using stolen social security numbers in order to gain employment opportunities. In order to fight against the strain that illegal immigration places on America, E-Verify must be mandated. While traffickers can dig tunnels under the wall, and illegal workers can fly over the national guard, the technology of E-Verify overcomes the physical issues of physical defenses. With E-Verify, illegal immigrants are deterred from entering America, and they are prohibited from working if they do.
The Labor Supply
Progressive policy makers hate the free enterprise system and cry about the evils of neoliberal economics on every issue except on immigration. Pro-immigration economists and progressives often argue that illegal immigration grows the economy. They claim that stopping illegal immigration would hurt the US economy and slow down GDP growth. All of a sudden, workers and their wages don’t mean as much and GDP is a wonderful indicator of the economic health of the country. As progressives should know, GDP growth doesn’t always mean workers are better off. Any pro-worker party that wants higher wages must favor reigning in the labor supply. And how does a country control the labor supply? Immigration.
Furthermore, the pro-immigration lobby claims that easing immigration restrictions will help reduce inflation due to the labor shortage. While the labor shortage may sound like a big problem, it’s not. All that “labor shortage” means is that the equilibrium price of labor is higher than what businesses are willing to pay , and so businesses are pressured to raise wages. Labor shortage is often code for businesses saying “we don’t want to pay a fair wage.” As the supply of labor decreases, the price, or wage, rises. In other words, big business wants more illegal immigration in order to “solve” the labor shortage by increasing the labor supply, lowering the price of labor as a result. Politicians, especially Democrats, love this idea. They can please the globalists by opening the border, please the big business lobby by allowing them to pay lower wages, and please consumers by claiming that they are reducing inflation. Instead of cutting spending, red tape, and taxes to alleviate the impact of inflation, they want to lower wages so that TVs, iPhones, and avocados are cheaper. In reality, this allows them to claim to be pro-growth, while implementing destructive economic policies such as increasing the national deficit, implementing job-killing regulations, and levying high taxes on small businesses and families instead
A tight labor market is key to increasing wages, and E-Verify is the key towards a tight labor market. Mandating E-verify will force businesses to only hire legal workers at their market wage. If businesses can only hire legal workers, and if as a result of that there are fewer workers, the pressure on wages is pushed up. George Borjas, an economist at Harvard Kennedy School, finds in his study that illegal immigration reduced the wages of native workers by around 19 billion dollars each year while increasing gains for firms who hire these immigrants by around 21 billion dollars each year. The study shows that while immigration has a potential to cause economic growth, this only happens if wages decrease. In other words, a wage decrease is necessary for immigration to benefit the economy. Without E-verify, illegal immigrants are incentivized to cross the border and work in America, and companies are incentivized to lower wages on people with legal status and exploit illegal workers with low wages and protections.
Many economists, however, will argue that immigration lowers the cost for consumer goods and food prices. Why does it matter if the worker’s wage has decreased if he used to be able to buy 10 burgers with his 50 dollar wage but can now buy 12 burgers with his 30 dollar wage? Even if we accept that this could happen in many situations, this thinking is problematic since it views people solely as consumers of tangible goods. Society is not simply an aggregate of individual consumers who will all be happy if they can buy cheap things. Rather, society is made of families and communities that are bonded by a shared identity, faith, and purpose. Sure, lower prices benefit these families, but they should not be the primary measurement of success. But the argument fails even on its own merits, because it does not consider other costs for families such as education and health insurance, which are primarily driven up by big government rather than labor costs. In summary, increasing low-skill immigration in order to decrease the price for goods helps the wealthy, since their wages are not negatively affected, but it harms workers in low-skill sectors since they are affected by the wage decrease and must still purchase goods and services that are outside of the sectors in which price is not affected by low-skill immigration.
Thus, policymakers must still have the debate of whether high-skill worker visas should be increased. Should high-wage earners have to compete with high-skilled immigrants, which could benefit the majority of the country, or should high-wage earners have their wages protected? This is a legitimate debate that should take place within immigration policy. But policy makers must reject the idea that the working poor should take a pay cut so that avocados and lettuce can be cheaper.
The Problem with Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Mandating E-Verify has been proposed by Congress, but it is usually part of a larger immigration reform package. On October 4, 2023, the University of Texas at Austin, along with the Clements Center for National Security and the Strauss Center for International Security and Law, held a discussion on the state of foreign affairs with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Former NATO Ambassador and Former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas. Along with the internationalist and pro-Ukraine sentiments, Secretary Blinken argues for comprehensive immigration reform which would, in theory, give concessions to Republicans’ on border security while creating a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Even though no Republican members of Congress co-sponsored President Biden’s original plan, Republicans seem open to the possibility of amnesty, or some sort of legal work status, for illegal immigrants if it is packaged with border security. Even though measures such as E-verify, a physical border wall, and increased military presence are often proposed, the benefits of such border restrictions are diminished. When millions of illegal immigrants are granted legal work status, the labor supply increases swiftly while in the short term the demand for labor stays fairly stagnant. As a result, there is a downward pressure on wages, making both native and immigrant workers worse off. So-called comprehensive immigration reform accomplishes all that the liberals and libertarians want: a pathway to citizenship and cheaper labor. But does nothing for the conservative and nationalist agenda: promoting law and order and higher wages. Republicans and conservatives must never give in to amnesty, and any politician who will trade border security for amnesty is not for secure borders at all.
Take the Plank Out of My Own Eye?
When a child of immigrant parents, like me, argues against increasing immigration or open borders, somebody will always accuse us of hypocrisy and being selfish for benefiting off of immigration while not wanting others to enjoy the same benefits. In reality, I’m not selfish at all. I believe immigration restriction will lead to a more prosperous future for current citizens and future immigrants. I want nothing to do with the white nationalist immigration restrictionists who want immigration policies because “demographics is destiny” agenda. The open borders lobbyists are the selfish ones who want to use immigrants to do jobs that Americans don’t want at unfair wages. But Americans will do those jobs— if employers pay a fair wage. All I and what most other immigration restrictionists want is a fair immigration system that puts natives and naturalized citizens first. In order for future immigrants to achieve the American Dream, that Dream must still be a possibility. Without an E-Verify and a merit-based system with higher standards, illegal immigration will contribute to the demise of the American Dream for low-skilled workers by decreasing wages and making housing more unaffordable.