America's addiction to cheap labor

  • 10 January 2019
  • msell

President Trump made his case to the nation for the construction of a border barrier. Much of what the president said was not new, and some of his themes echoed statements he made as a candidate for the GOP nomination.

But behind the DC haggling over what to do about border security is a bigger issue, addressed in this this piece by Catholic University prof. Julia Young. Young's thesis? America has a decades-long addiction to the cheap labor (and resulting cheap product prices) illegal immigrants provide. Unless we are willing to accept and employ the harsh economic medicine required to end this addiction, no amount of new security measures may be able to overcome the powerful economic forces at work:

President Trump's proposed only the latest in a long line of efforts to control undocumented immigrant labor solely at the border. Like previous border control initiatives, however, it would do little to address the fundamental cause of undocumented migration: our economy's addiction to that labor flow. (Furthermore, since about half of all undocumented immigrants are now visa overstayers, it actually wouldn't even be enough to put an end to undocumented migration.)

Indeed, while we in the U.S. might claim that we want to kick the habit of undocumented immigration, American consumer spending habits say otherwise. We like to drink cheap milk, which would probably double in price without undocumented immigrant labor. We want to eat fresh strawberries, cherries, tomatoes and lettuce, much of which is picked by undocumented workers. We want our meat to be affordable both at home and at restaurants. When we do go out to eat, we don't want to shell out the extra money it would take to replace the undocumented dishwashers, cooks and busboys who work there. And we certainly don't want to pay more to stay at hotels, build new buildings, maintain outdoor spaces or even go to the carwash.

There's more at the link. And while we're on the subject of border security, this report from the Council on Foreign Relations discusses what agencies, methods and policies are currently used to secure the U.S. border with Mexico.