November 24, 2005


Target Employers: For comprehensive immigration reform to work, employers need to feel the heat. (Maria Echaveste, 11.10.05, American Prospect)

While people choose to risk life and limb to enter this country illegally for many reasons, the vast majority come to seek employment -- and they find it. What would happen if employers were effectively penalized for hiring the undocumented? Would there be fewer job opportunities for those who should not be here and, consequently, fewer people trying to enter illegally?

Our current immigration policy is dysfunctional, partly because business’ demand for more workers has interacted with the intertwining forces of racial and ethnic prejudice and the legitimate concerns of existing workers to protect their livelihoods. This pattern has a long history. Early threats to some U.S. workers by increasing numbers of new immigrants quickly became platforms for racist and nativist voices, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The 1917 literacy tests and the 1924 national origin quotas, enacted with support of organized-labor leaders like Samuel Gompers, aimed to stop or slow the flow of immigrant workers from southern and Eastern Europe -- partly because of bigotry, partly because they pulled down wages.

Historically, however, immigration policy has rarely focused on the pull of the labor market or the working conditions of workers (domestic or immigrant), but rather on the immigrants themselves -- their race, their country of origin, their numbers, and their ability to become “American.”

Most anti-immigrationists of the Left and Right are at least opposed to free trade, so they do want to damage the economy enough to make America unattractive to folks looking for jobs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 24, 2005 9:44 AM
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