Friday, March 25, 2011

A simple solution

A number of states are increasing their efforts to enforce the Federal immigration laws that the Federal government has failed to enforce for decades. This includes my state of Indiana. The Wall Street Journal ran a piece today talking about the reaction this is getting from farmers who are not in favor of stricter immigration laws: Immigration Bills Rile Farmers

Here is the argument that is made all the time to excuse lax immigration laws:

"Nobody wants illegal immigrants, but when you get down to the reality of the situation, farmers have to have workers to do the job," said Al Pearson, a peach and pecan farmer in Roberta. He said he hires only federally approved guest laborers to work his 3,600-acre farm, paying them $9.11 an hour plus benefits.

But the current federal system, involving approvals from multiple agencies, is slow and can't process enough legal workers for the state's large agricultural industry, he said. A bureaucratic glitch held up approvals for 100 Mexican workers for two weeks in February, setting back his tree pruning and other preparations for peach-picking season. "It frightened me because I didn't have a plan B. I don't have domestic workers," he said.

"There is no farm in this county that could continue without Mexican labor," said Robert Ray, a Crawford County farmer who for years led the agriculture committee in the Georgia House.

This argument boils down to: no one will do this work for low pay and people demand cheap food. What else are we going to do?

That is a bogus argument. The reality is that people make choices. Many people choose not to do the very difficult labor that immigrant farm workers do is hard. It is backbreaking, it is hot and it is boring.

There is another factor to consider. An awful lot of people are on the government dole and there is little incentive for them to get off said dole. Some may say there simply are no jobs but the huge number of illegal immigrants working in America shows that to be a lie. There are jobs, they probably are just not jobs a lot of people want to do.

With millions of illegal workers in this country and a corresponding huge number of people out of work or on perpetual government assistance, isn't the solution obvious? I get that no one "wants" to work in farm fields, or landscaping or janitorial services or meat packing plants but if the incentive for not working (i.e. public transfer payments) is severely curtailed, all of a sudden plucking chickens doesn't seem that bad. Americans used to do these jobs in far less pleasant conditions but as we disincentivized work, more people choose to not work. Eliminate welfare and clamp down on illegal immigration and kill two birds with one stone!

That probably is too common sense though, better to keep wasting money maintaining a porous border, not enforcing immigration laws and paying people to not work so that we need illegal immigrants to do the work instead. Brilliant.
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