Democrats and the Cheap Labor Trap

What I want to know is why are so many liberals and Democrats supporting pro-corporate immigration reform policies that increase poverty and erode wages for native low-skilled workers?

Like the Republican elite, the reform rhetoric parroted by many liberals and Democrats blur the distinction between legal and illegal immigration. While legal immigration strengthens our society, illegal immigration divides it by race and economic opportunity. Conflating the two places liberals and Democrats in the untenable position of vanquishing the hope of economic justice for the most vulnerable members of the native workforce.

According to a new report by the Center for Immigration Studies, "illegals are overwhelmingly employed in only a few occupations done mostly by workers with only a high school degree or less. In these high-illegal occupations, native unemployment averages 10 percent -- twice the national average."

This finding among the less-educated native workers puts the lie to the discordant claim by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that illegals are needed to fill low-skill jobs that over-qualified natives are unwilling to take.

Yet, liberals and Democrats are lining up behind immigration reform policies that subsidizes corporate America's growing appetite for imported cheap labor.

The large inflows of illegal laborers into the U.S. is a problem caused by Mexico's negligence to provide sufficient employment opportunities for their citizens, and by corporate America's desire to drive down the cost of labor by any means necessary.

The real danger of enacting current reform proposals favored by Democrats is to help corporate America build a bigger, better cheap labor trap, which reduces fair-wage opportunities that enable working- and middle-class citizens to pursue their own personal goals and dreams.

Helping corporate America widen the cheap labor trap is unfair to working- and middle-class natives who do not now earn enough money to afford health insurance, or buy a home in a safe, healthy community, or send their children to a good school, or save for retirement.

We need reforms that place the interests of working- and middle-class families ahead of the economic interests of corporate America.

Common sense reform must first turn off the corporate magnet attracting the foreign laborers to enter the U.S. illegally. This means heavy fines and the threat of long jail time for company owners who repeatedly hire illegal laborers.

Second, we need policy objectives that motivate Mexico to get off the dime and use their common wealth for the common good to create employment opportunities for their citizens.

Third, illegals who are in the U.S. should not be granted immunity or "guest worker" status, but be allowed the same opportunity to apply for legal status as those who play by the rules.

Tags: cheap labor, corporate, Democrats, immigration, native (all tags)

Comments

9 Comments

Excellent diary

My father retired 10 years ago from the construction industry. He only had a high school education and never made it to management, but was pretty well paid at about $27/hour.

Today, all the non-management laborers at the company are illegals. They make less than half of what my father made 10 years ago.

Whenever some office-park elitist spouts off the usual "nobody wants those jobs" line, call them on their bullshit. Very, very recently those jobs were ALL held by Americans, who are now being undercut by immigrants who have no salary standards whatsoever.

by OfficeOfLife 2006-03-26 01:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Excellent diary

Indeed. Another myth repeated by all sides in this very narrow debate is that we need "guest workers," who are low-wage, less-educated laborers, to fill future vacancies from retiring baby boomers. Excuse me! The so-called guest workers and baby boomers don't play in the same occupational sandbox. In 2004, 60 percent of  the low-wage immigrant workforce from Mexico and Central America lacked a high school degree. These workers would be poor replacement choices for native boomers where only 6 percent lack a high school degree.

by fafnir 2006-03-26 02:26PM | 0 recs
No, no...

How can those boomers retire to luxury condo communities if labor costs were high? They might have to do what their parents did and mooch off the kids. They don't want to do that!

It's much the same as the recent coverage in the Post about the DC housing market. Everuyone wants the finest in materials for their homes...they just don't want to pay for the labor. And if they had to pay Union rates for the abor, it would mean they'd have to give up the stainless steel Sub-Zero fridge/freezer combo!

Can't have that.

by ElitistJohn 2006-03-26 07:34PM | 0 recs
Because

For much of the party elite and the vocal activist base, they have little to no practical experience in the working class. Ergo, they view it as some vague "we are the world" songfest, making no distinction between foreign and domestic labor. In fat, many of them have the flathead view of domestic labor as lazy and unwilling to accept their lot of being "outworked" by the global poor.

Of course, if upscale sinecures were every standard of living arbitraged globally, they'd change their tune...but that ain't gonna happen. So the worst case for them is an ever cheapening kitchen remodel.

by ElitistJohn 2006-03-26 01:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Because

I agree, and it's one of the reasons the party elites avoid engaging in an open, honest discussion about the issues. I was furious watching Katrina vanden Heuvel and the other panelists on This Week with George Steponallofus today massage the myth that more immigrants are needed to fill jobs that natives don't want to do. What these disconnected elitists were really saying is that these are jobs that they and people in their class do not want to do.

by fafnir 2006-03-26 02:40PM | 0 recs
Ding!

You win the kwepee doll. I used to be one of them, but with age came disgust.

by ElitistJohn 2006-03-26 07:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats and the Cheap Labor Trap

Its a lot more complicated than just saying that the party is caving to big business' demand for cheap labor.  As the son of legal immigrants, but with family who didn't come here legal, the reality of the immigration debate is racism.  Those on the right (Tancredo, Minute Men, etc.) use immigration as their symbolic protest of the browning of America.  Its because of this racist attitude that so few work visas are granted to people from Latin America and the US uses policies nearly equivalent to slavery in our trade agreements with Latin governments.

The reality is that Republicans are using this issue to rally racists in their base.  Unfortunately for liberals, we are stuck sounding off talking points very similar to big business because we can't necessarily make arguments related to the effects of bad trade policy, international poverty and the reality that this is a country of opportunity and many of these immigrants will do anything they can so their children can at least have a chance at the opportunities available in this country.  

Alot of Americans aren't necessarily able to comprehend the deeper reasons behind immigration, so liberals have to use pragmatism as the defense of the reality of illegal immigration instead of striving for higher ground.  This is especially the case when Republicans try to remove immigration from its connection to the several issues surrounding poor people in this country and overseas.  I wish we would call the government and business on their terrible behavior toward poor people and attempts to circumvent minimum wage, at the same time, the fight for today really is to stem the tides of racist right wing rhetoric and open the American dream to many who have made significant sacrifices for the opportunity to see some improvement in their life.

by SamInDC 2006-03-26 04:36PM | 0 recs
Bull

The average working class person could care if people coming in were purple with orange polka dots. They simply want to keep their standard of living, and amazingly don't plan to volunteer to lower it in a society where Paris Hilton's wander about with millions.

As Sulla said in Raider's..."Asps...very dangerous...you go first". Every yuppie flinging guilt should step up and start voluntarilly take 25% of their income and spend it raising the living standards of the global poor first, and then start mouthing off on this.

by ElitistJohn 2006-03-26 07:30PM | 0 recs
There was a farmer had a dog...

and BINGO was his name-O...

Racism is the driver for the right-wing extremists, but most people oppose illegal immigration because it is denying jobs to millions of Americans.

If it was actually enforced that businesses could not hire illegals, who would they hire? Americans. Americans who could unionize and earn a decent wage. Americans who would all uniformly pay taxes, and who would not create property code violations and dangerous living conditions because of their legal status.  

by OfficeOfLife 2006-03-26 08:10PM | 0 recs

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