Immigration, the Law, and the Free Market
Guest Posting by Mike DePinto
Immigration, employment, and entitlement laws have created a massive black market for labor in the United States. These policies have undermined the rule law as officials have, in many cases, chosen to turn a blind eye to immigration violations. As the Congress debates how to reform immigration laws, they should keep one thing in mind – an unenforceable law is not a law at all. The demonstrations from students and immigrants in past days stem from the knowledge that America has given a tacit wink and nod to the millions who do the jobs most American prefer not to do. Illegal immigrants have come to understand how to play the game and have staked their livelihood on those rules. Ronald Reagan’s amnesty decree in 1986 sent a message loud and clear to those sneaking over our borders – ignore U.S. law if you want to work or live here and eventually America will ignore the law too. This is the wrong message and it needs to change.
Immigration has allowed America to prosper more than any other country on earth. Illegal immigration has real benefits and has helped our economy, but it is still ILLEGAL. The Congress should change our too often disregarded rules by increasing the number of legal immigrant workers allowed to enter the U.S. through a guest worker program and by creating tighter border security. However, this will not solve the real problem.
The ability for an employer to negotiate with an employee for a fair wage no longer exists under current law. Minimum wage laws force those companies unwilling to accept a floor on pay to skirt the law and hire illegal workers. The illegal immigrant problem grows from the tenets of the free market system. Illegal workers have shown us that two consenting parties can determine a fair wage for agreed upon work better than the government can, and that they will even in the face of consequences. Millions have risked their lives for employment in this country to better their income and as a testament to the free market. Creating policy on immigration that does not address this core issue will not solve the problem regardless of the size of the wall.
Policy makers should focus on eliminating the incentives for a black market in the labor market and on implementing laws that will not be ignored. The incentives for following the proper procedure for entering the U.S. must be greater than those to cross the borders illegally, and workers and employers need the freedom to set their own compensation. Most importantly, the new laws must be vigorously and uniformly enforced by officials with the means to do so. William T. Gossett said, “The rule of law can be wiped out in one misguided, however well-intentioned, generation.” The Congress now has an opportunity to move us a notch away from that generation.
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