The overwhelming victory of Proposition in California shows that the public opposes immigration Myth Immigration is a problem Myth Countries need to control who goes in and out Myth We need to protect our borders to prevent criminals and terrorists from entering the country Myth If people break our laws by immigrating illegally, they are criminals and should be deported Myth Rate this:.
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The Immigrant Has a Right to Compete for Your Job | Open Borders: The Case
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I con-clude with an attempt to imagine what a humane immigra-tion policy would look like, and how creating a humaneimmigration policy would connect to other changes at a na-tional and global level. Immigrantsare blamed for causing or exacerbating a wide variety ofeconomic ills, from unemployment to low wages to theunderfunding of government services. But what role does immigration really playin the larger picture of the U.
There are two main fallacies inthe argument. They are fallacies that serve a purpose. In thepages that follow I will explain the two fallacies, and explainwhy, although they are so problematic, so many of us none-theless believe them. In many industries, employers seek to reduce costs byemploying the poorest, most vulnerable people. They dothis by moving to parts of the world where poverty and in-equality create a vulnerable labor force, and by supportingpolicies that create poverty and inequality at home—includ-ing immigration policies that keep immigrants coming, andkeep them vulnerable.
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In 3 Most analyses point to two major structural develop-ments in the U. Deregulation of ma-jor sectors of the economy and cutbacks in federal socialspending under the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and hissuccessors went hand in hand with a rise in plant closuresand outsourcing. Not only did jobs disappear in this period, but the natureof jobs in this country underwent a shift. Again, this is part of a larger structural change in the U. Immigration makes up just a very small part of this big-ger picture. One way of doing this is by moving workers, and movingproduction, around the globe.
In the early days of the indus-trial revolution, factories brought workers to the point ofproduction.
Some came from local rural areas to the new in-dustrial cities, while in the United States some came fromhalfway across the globe. In the postwar restructuring, the industries started tomove to the south to take advantage of the low wages there. People in the south still produced items for export to thenorth—but now they exported manufactured goods as well asraw materials. By the end ofthe century, the trend had spread to almost all industries.
Just as the U. As early as the s, the U. The Puerto Rican program was so successful—for busi-nesses—that it was soon extended to Mexico. The Border IndustrializationProgram went into operation in It was an ingenious move. Since it was getting harder andharder to deprive workers of rights inside the United Statesbecause of popular mobilizations, unions, and laws protect-ing workers and their right to organize, companies found itmore and more attractive to move the jobs across the border,to where U.
It worked so well that bythe s the U. Workers in these countries gain in some ways whenNike, Liz Claiborne, or Dell opens a factory there. But it is unsustainable, both morallyand practically. The NewDeal tried to remedy this by restructuring the division ofresources and putting more money into the hands of theworking class. Industry responded by accelerating its moveabroad. As for the second fallacy—that the number of people de- 7 By this theory, periods of population growth would also seerising unemployment rates, while periods of population de-cline would see falling unemployment.
When the population declines, stores, schools,and hospitals close, and jobs are lost. This pattern has beenseen over and over again in the United States: growing com-munities mean more jobs. Somepeople work in jobs that directly service the local commu-8 But many jobs produce goods and ser-vices that are consumed elsewhere. Automobile plants inDetroit, or fruit farms in California, or garment factoriesin El Salvador, or call centers in Bangalore, depend onglobal, not local, markets.
A factory mayprovide jobs in Detroit for a decade, or a century, and thenclose and move elsewhere for reasons that have nothing todo with the size of the population in Detroit. Pretty much all of us live, work, and consume in both alocal and a global economy. The local economy may be morevisible, but we eat grapes grown in Chile, drive cars assem-bled in Mexico, and pump them with gas from Kuwait orColombia.
And people in the United States produce goodsand services that are sold abroad. Between and the s, the unemployment rate inthe United States generally hovered between 4 percent and6 percent. The exception was the Depression in the s aperiod of very low immigration , when unemployment sky- 9 The rate dropped again by thes with the Second World War.
Immigration rates, though, do not appear tohave any direct relationship at all with unemployment rates. During the period from the s to the s there wasa very high rate of immigration into the United States. WorldWar I, and restrictive immigration legislation in , ,and , cut way back on the number of arrivals. TheDepression of the s, with its devastating rates of unem-ployment, occurred when hardly any immigrants were com-ing into the country. Un-employment during the Depression, like unemploymenttoday, simply had very little to do with immigration.
Whydid this happen? If you look only at the small picture, it indeed seemsto be the case that immigrants and low-skilled citizens arecompeting for the same jobs. And, businesses argue, low wageskeep prices low. Clothing and electronics are two good ex-amples of how manufacturers and retailers have been ableto use low wages and deregulation—both inside the UnitedStates and outside—to keep prices down. And U. Most of the clothesand electronic devices we buy are produced outside of theUnited States in factories that pay low wages, in places wheregovernments keep taxes and other expenses low.
A lot ofthe things that are getting more expensive are basic humanneeds—things like health care, housing, and education. And what does it have to do with immi-gration? Study after study has shown that since the late s, thedistribution of wealth in the United States has become moreand more skewed. But this does not prove that immigration wasthe cause of the growing inequality. Rather, the same global economic re-structuring that exacerbated inequality in the United Statesalso contributed to increasing immigration.
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Rising inequality, concentration of wealth, and cheapproducts all go together. Inequality helps them keep costs down inseveral ways. First, when workers are poor and lack legal protections,they are more willing to work long hours for low wages. This is one of the reasonswhy early industries relied on immigrant workers; why agri-culture in the United States has used slavery, guest workers,and immigrants; and why businesses tend to oppose restric-tions on immigration today.
It also helps to explain why 13 Racial slavery was one means used to do precisely that untilthe s. Temporary guest-worker programs, Jim Crowlaws, and other forms of legalized discrimination—in theNorth as well as the South—were other methods that kept asupply of workers without rights available until the s. In the western United States, legal restrictions against U. Sociologists have used the concept of the dual labor mar-ket to explain how this system has worked throughout thehistory of the United States and other industrialized coun-tries.
The primary labor market refers to jobs that are regu-lated. Their jobsare long term and secure. Their right to organize unions isaccepted and protected by law. The secondary labor market consists of jobs that are gen-erally not regulated. Notonly are the jobs unpleasant and poorly compensated, theyare also dead end: there is little or no room for advancement. Often they are notcitizens. Until the s, most factory work fell into thiscategory. Why would people acquiesce to working under thesesubstandard conditions?
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Inequality helps to provide theanswer, in some obvious and some less obvious ways. Inequality maintainsa population of poor people who lack access to resources,and who may have little alternative but to accept jobs underthe worst of conditions. But inequality works on a regional and global, as wellas a local, level. First, the dollar is worth more in the home country than itis in the United States.
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Immigrants tend to believe that theUnited States is a country of fantastic wealth, where hardwork can bring unbelievable reward. Of course, the cost of living in Mexico, the Philippines,and Nigeria is much lower than the cost of living in theUnited States. This brings us to the second piece of the puzzle: immi-grants are willing to accept conditions abroad that they wouldnever accept at home.
Many people immigrate planning tospend a brief period of time working abroad, living underthe most onerous conditions, and earning money that can beused to help those who remain at home, and then to returnhome themselves to purchase a house, buy land, or start abusiness. Their frame of reference is their much16 Some do return home with their savings,but others begin to set down roots in their new land andbring or establish families here.
World War I, and the sub-sequent immigration restrictions, accelerated this pro-cess for European immigrants, who could no longer returnhome. As they begin to assimilate into the new society, im-migrants are no longer willing to work for substandardwages and conditions. They begin to struggle to better theirconditions in their new home. For the European immigrants in the early part of thecentury, this process was in general successful. The growingstrength of labor unions, combined with federal legislationthat began to regulate the conditions of work, changed theconditions of factory work during the s and s.
Instead of being dangerous and underpaid, the assemblyline became the basis of a middle-class lifestyle. Industrialworkers could buy houses and cars, take vacations, and sendtheir children to college. Some sectors of the economy were excluded from theNew Deal reforms of the s and 40s, though, and re-mained in the secondary labor market.
The main areas leftout of the reforms were agriculture and domestic service. As of the National Labor Relations Act still excludesagricultural and domestic workers. Since these were thesectors where most of the workers were and are people of 17 Other federal reforms of the middle of the century alsocontributed to hardening preexisting racial inequalities. The GI bill of , for example, helped millions of peoplefrom the working class get access to higher education—butmost colleges and universities in the United States still ex-cluded blacks.
Federal housing loans and mortgage policiesalso exacerbated racial inequality, since racial covenants,written and unwritten local codes, and lending policiesclearly excluded nonwhites. When southern and eastern European immigrants cameto the United States in the late nineteenth and early twenti-eth centuries, they were not considered white—at least notfully white. They went to work in the factories and in themines under abominable conditions.
Because they werepoor, because they were marginalized as noncitizens and asnewcomers, and because legislation protecting the rights offactory workers was in its infancy, businesses were able touse them as a secondary labor market to build their indus-tries. African Americans and Mexican Americans were evenfurther legally marginalized because racial segregation anddiscrimination were widespread and encoded in the law. People of Mexican origin—including many who wereU. And ex-clusion guaranteed the continuing existence of a pool ofworkers for the secondary labor market. The bracero program established in created a newlegal way for Mexican workers to be used as a secondarylabor market.
The Voting RightsAct, moreover, acknowledged that blacks had been excludedby administrative means from full citizenship. According to a former U. For some immigrants, rights alsoslowly expanded, and opportunities for citizenship opened. Explicit racial exclusion of blacks from citizenship was dis-mantled through a series of steps beginning with the Four-teenth Amendment in and continuing through theVoting Rights Act in And the new wave of globalization of labor, begun by Oper-ation Bootstrap in Puerto Rico in the s and 50s andexpanded with the Border Industrialization Program inMexico in , created new mechanisms for corporationsto have access to workers who were excluded from demo-cratic rights.
Both of these U. But people of color who were citizens were still subjectto social barriers, and people of color who were immigrantsfaced new structures, like the national quotas still in placetoday, that shut them out. Many new post immigrants20 The law dismantled the national origins quotas,which were by then universally seen as discriminatory. Intheir place, it created a uniform quota system of 20, percountry for the Eastern Hemisphere, and a , ceilingfor the Western Hemisphere—that is, Canada, the Carib-bean, and Latin America. This was changed in toimplement the 20,per-country quota for WesternHemisphere countries as well.
Preference went to familymembers of people already in the United States. The family preference system reinforced the phenom-enon of chain migration from poor countries. It meant that immigrationbecame structured by circles of relationships with individ-uals in the United States. The uniform quota system also embodied its own formsof discrimination. Add a gift card to your order! Choose your denomination:.
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