Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

E-mail Me

Twitter: yourlyingeyes

13 February 2013

The Minimum Wage and Immigration

Ron Unz has proposed a large increase in the minimum wage, for various reasons, but among them their presumed salutary effect on our illegal immigration woes. He argues:
After all, the primary force which originally drew those 11 million illegals to America was the attractive availability of so many millions of low-wage jobs in our country, and unless this suction force at the bottom of the economy is eliminated, more border crossers will eventually come to take their places once the current ones are legalized...Raising our minimum wage to $12 per hour as part of the proposed amnesty legislation would probably do more to solve future immigration problems than would any sort of electronic fence or national ID card.
While this appears to make a lot of sense, I don't think raising the minimum wage to even the $12 Unz proposes will deter illegal immigration. It certainly won't discourage the immigrants themselves, for whom the resulting higher wage base will be an even stronger lure. But will it discourage employers from seeking out the illegals? I don't think so.

First of all, regardless of what the minimum wage is, many will still be paid less than minimum wage since they will be paid under the table. Illegal immigrants and off-the-books employment are a perfect combination as the employee likes it (cash right up front, no un-redeemable deductions) and the employer likes it of course (usually a below-minimum wage, no forms and other regulatory hassles, and with an illegal immigrant no fear of the employee reporting the violation). So there will still be a strong incentive for hiring illegal immigrants. It's just not clear how many now work under the table vs. are on the books with a phony SSN.

But more important, employers simply like the Mexican workers. (They're probably generally from Central America and  Mayan - many of these workers I see look like they could have stepped right off a frieze at Chichen-Itza -but for simplicity we can say Mexican). I have talked to a number of employers about this, and without exception they extol the virtues of this class of workers - hard working, competent, compliant. In particular, they highlight how much better they are compared to the alternative - spoiled part-time high-school students and - well, you know, we needn't go into who that other disfavored group is, do we?

Certainly part of their effectiveness as workers is their illegal status itself - constantly living on the edge of deportation is an encouragement to keep one's head down, nose to the grindstone and to do what one's told. But they do seem generally quite competent from my observation, and I wonder if there isn't some stronger cultural or even deeper factor that makes these folks just plain good workers? After all, their ancestors did build some impressive structures away back when.

Overall, I support Unz's proposal. It will cause some unemployment, but the current minimum wage is so preposterously low I can't imagine the dislocation will be that great a loss to already marginal workers. But I have strong doubts it will do much to deter illegal immigration. We still need stronger border security (Build that wall!) and in particular strong employer sanctions and verification (to clamp down on the meat-packing factory-type frauds). But, at pretty much any wage, low-skill employers will still prefer the Central-American illegal worker  to - well, you know who.


Anonymous jth said...

Do you mean Germans or Irish?

February 14, 2013 5:08 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

Irish?! Even Irish people won't hire Irish.

February 14, 2013 7:25 PM  
Blogger Steve Sailer said...

A big question is how much different the cost of living is in different parts of the country? Fifty years ago, the minimum wage was a big political issue because the South was using low wages to lure factories south and the North wanted to stop that. The South was really poor back then.

But I don't know how big the differences in cost of living are and how much of the workforce competes in non-local businesses.

February 15, 2013 4:56 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home