Saturday, January 17, 2004

Tackling Immigration

Mark Krikorian weighs in opposing the President's "guest-worker" plan in the January 26, 2004 print issue of the National Review (as well as here and here). I share the sentiment that we should not reward law-breaking and should pay close attention to the stress that immigration puts on local resources. His concern about potential terrorists slipping in is also a valid one. However, he does not address the fact that this is an issue already, not one created by the plan.

Krikorian also trots out the old labor arguments for why immigration is bad for the poor and for productivity.
A tight low-skilled labor market can spur modernization even in the service sector: Automated switches have replaced most telephone operators, continuous-batch washing machines reduce labor demand for hotels, buffet-style restaurants need much less staff that full-service ones. As unlikely as it might seem, many VA hospitals are now using mobile robots to ferry medicines from their pharmacies to various nurse's stations, eliminating the need for a worker to perform that task.

Medicine robots... sure, that makes a lot of economic sense.

Lastly, Krikorian complains about the lack of a "prevailing wage" safeguard in the proposal. Now, this is straight out of Dean. Why in the world the National Review would publish it as a "conservative" position escapes me.

Tamar Jacoby has a much more compelling case for the proposal in The New Republic. I don't think that "earning citizenship," as he suggests, is a viable option though. It looks like it would open the gates to an incredible new wave of immigration, which would hardly be politically palatable these days, although it was certainly true before the closing of the Western frontier. I imagine that some sort of solution for "temporary" workers who would like to stay can be found, similar to procedures already in place for work visa holders.

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