For too long, both parties have bickered back and forth over immigration solutions that either won’t work or don’t address the core problems of our system. It is time for conservatives to put forward an immigration plan that works and rests on sound economic principles, a respect for the law, and a dose of reality.
Jeff Sessions was partially correct when he said that that more immigrants will drive down wages but only in the short run. In the long run, legal immigrants (who have to be paid at least minimum wage) do not drive down wages. In some ways, foreign workers are similar to foreign products: when they can enter the country freely, they drive down the price (or wage) of domestic products. Unlike inanimate products, however, foreign workers spend money back into the economy by purchasing goods. Immigrants also rent apartments or buy houses, shop at stores and buy gasoline, just like any other resident of the United States.
It’s an economic fallacy to believe that an influx of immigrants will permanently drive down wages, since those immigrants will also buy products here and could help the economy in return. However, to help mitigate the short term effect of an influx of cheap labor, an immigration reform package must start with at least some economic reforms. Otherwise, the flood of cheap labor will have a devastating short-term effect on American labor and wages. A good immigration reform plan, therefore, must take steps to help grow the economy by increasing opportunities, encouraging wage growth, and cancelling out wage depression.
Conservatives should offer an immigration package which includes cutting the corporate tax rate, approving the Keystone Pipeline (and expediting the process for all future pipelines), rolling back EPA regulations on carbon, and implementing real spending cuts–not just reductions in planned increases. There are plenty of other economic steps the U.S. could take, but these are at least a few which would help grow the economy. President Obama and the Democrats should accept these offers as reasonable concessions if they are truly dedicated to achieving immigration reform.
However, these reforms will not allow for growth overnight. In order to allow the economy a chance to grow and prepare for the influx of new workers, immigration reform should not fully kick in for at least two or three years.
Immigration reform must include a way to stop illegal immigration in the future. Otherwise, it is a waste of time to even consider it. Since liberals seem to love infrastructure projects, we should make them happy and build a fence across the border. It is pointless to even talk about immigration reform if we do not have a plan to stop illegal immigration in the future.
That being said, we need to accept that we have been screwing up immigration for years: we have failed to keep illegal immigrants out of the country. (Yes, the term is illegal: it differentiates between people who followed the law and those that did not.) Illegal immigrants should have the opportunity for a few years after the signing of the bill to come out of the shadows, start paying back taxes, take a citizenship test, take a language test, and start becoming a citizen. After that, any illegal immigrant will be deported back to their country, with the penalties increasing every time they are caught coming back illegally. It is unfortunate we have to have harsh penalties for illegal immigration, but many illegal immigrants have gotten a free ride for years now with de facto amnesty. It is time that we start following the law.
I am opposed to blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants. People who broke the law should be punished for cutting the line in front of legal immigrants; not rewarded. It is, however, reasonable to expect illegal immigrants to pay their taxes and go through the same citizenship requirements as legal immigrants. Conservatives should push a growth-friendly, fence-friendly immigration reform over the moderate Republican and liberal Democrats current immigration bills.
Matthew Lamb | Loyola University | @mlmb24