The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Immigration and Wages

Wages are partially determined by supply and demand. The tighter the labor market, the higher the wages. There is a very direct relationship.

People who dislike immigrants for economic reasons think that if there are less immigrants, there will be less people competing for jobs, and therefore wages will be higher.

The alternative argument is that immigrants spend money. They are consumers. The more money being spent, the more demand there is for goods and services. Therefore, the more demand there is for workers, and therefore wages are higher.

Which of these is true varies by society and time period, but also depends on what jobs you’re talking about. Immigrants compete for low-end jobs, and they compete for some high-end jobs as well (in particular various tech jobs, especially in programming, engineering, and science). The latter tend to come in visas, often worker visas which give them limited rights. The former are often undocumented; these are the folks Trump wants to deport.

A lot of older programmers (coders) can’t get hired. If there were fewer work-visa immigrants, perhaps they could.  If there were fewer undocumented workers, perhaps there would be higher wages for low-paid manual labor jobs.

I support immigration, but I recognize that making immigration work means having policies which generate domestic work from domestic demand. If an immigrant makes money and spends most of it on Wal-mart goods made in China, it might well be that he or she is producing less local demand for workers than the job or jobs that immigrant has.

There are ways of making it so that immigrants produce more jobs than they consume, but this takes political will, and it hasn’t been a priority for most nations for decades. Heck, it hasn’t even been a consideration, much less a priority, because policy has been run to keep wages from increasing as fast as inflation, let alone as fast as productivity.

In this environment, it is not unreasonable for low-wage workers who are directly competing with undocumented workers to see them as competition. They are competition.

The right way to fix this, as with almost everything, is to make sure it’s a clear win/win, and not questionable which way it goes. Low-wage workers, and tech workers, need to see a tight labor market where there’s plenty of work and wages rising faster than inflation. In such an environment, they won’t care about immigration.

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  1. Creigh Gordon

    I’m finding your implication a bit murky. Are you saying that importing consumer goods is the real problem, not immigrant labor?

  2. Effem

    I would argue that this is further complicated by having robust entitlement programs. If you are productive and therefore earn money to spend that is far different than spending money from the state.

  3. highrpm

    Dwight Eisenhower saw that problem, and chose to go to the well he knew best, a fellow general, Joseph Swing, to head the INS and, more importantly, to solve the problem of Mexican illegal immigration, not only at the border, but in the interior.

    Federale: Scaring Illegals Away

  4. Pelham

    You’re considering only the narrow aspects of immigration that come under the umbrella of neoclassical economics, a largely disproved soft science that selectively excludes vast areas of the human experience.

    In this case, economics leaves out a wide range of effects that immigration has on the various connective tissues essential to functioning communities and society. Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam explored this issue a number of years ago and found cultural diversity (in part due to immigration) to be a profound negative. The more diversity in a community, the greater the dysfunction, and the longer a community was diverse, the more dysfunctional it was.

    Beyond that, even the neoclassical, neoliberal economic arguments typically served up in defense of immigration are transparently biased in their selection of factors. In the end, though, immigration presents such a tangle of issues and considerations — including the elemental subject of what a nation is and should be — that no observer, expert or elected government servant is competent to render a judgment.

    In the end, a nation is a home. And all the occupants at any given point in time should have an equal voice in determining who comes in and who is excluded without having to explain or justify to anyone the reasoning (or lack of reason) behind that determination.

  5. Some Guy

    “The right way to fix this, as with almost everything, is to make sure it’s a clear win/win and not questionable which way it goes. Low wage workers, and tech workers, need to see a tight labor market where there’s plenty of work and wages rising faster than inflation. If they do, they won’t care about immigration.”

    This is partly right for sure, but I don’t think it is the whole story. The Immigration Act of 1924 was passed during relatively good economic conditions, but following a period of huge immigration.

    Economic conditions matter, but so too does the rate of immigration, above a certain rate it seems to anger people and produce a backlash, regardless of the economic implications. Still, it seems that the elite would rather blow up the entire world than put the slightest limits on immigration, so they are getting what they ask for.

  6. Shh

    “In this environment, it is not unreasonable for low wage workers who are directly competing with undocumented workers to see them as competition. They are competition”

    A great, complicated topic. As with most such things, the current conversation tends towards debilitating levels of conflation. It is important to parse accurately.

    In one regard, there’s job competition. The pet theory of the neoconned that immigrants are stealing jobs is misguided.

    Migrant “illegal” workers from Mexico, Central and South America by and large work in three or four significant areas: migrant agricultural harvesting, custodial services, kitchen staff, and construction.

    Arguably, no white or black American will ever touch farm work. There may be some small competition for low wage jobs in custodial work, and real competition in kitchen and construction depending on the community.

    Another example, India has done a remarkable job of churning out huge numbers of almost decent programmers who completely out-compete US workers. European and other Asian immigrants, generally, are not hugely impactful outside of some specialized areas.

    Another consideration is wage impacts. If all the migrant farm workers were replaced with noble WASPs exercising their god given to compete, we could expect $30 lemons and $9,000 bottles of wine. No one wants that. No one seriously expects that, yet “immigrants are ruining the country” is repeated constantly.

    Now if you replace all the Indian misogynists that are overrunning the Bay Area with inner city kids (who currently have no real education), then the country might see positive feedback loops in demand. As it is, a significant portion of wages are sent “back home” for all classes of immigrants and you end up with demand destruction.

    I recognize the limitations of the thoughts I expressed here. it is a very nuanced conversation, one well worth having. Good work in broaching the topic, Ian.

  7. Some Guy

    “Arguably, no white or black American will ever touch farm work.”

    No, there is no argument, supply and demand will ensure that the wage is high enough for people to do it if it is worth doing. Hell, people work on Wall St – just goes to show that if you pay enough you can get people to do anything, no matter how awful.

    If that makes food more expensive, so be it. A saving built on paying someone less is not a saving, it is a redistribution, from labour to capital, where the accumulation of all the wealth and power by capital is the root cause of so many of our problems.

  8. StewartM

    A lot of older programmers (coders) can’t get hired. If there were fewer work-visa immigrants, perhaps they could. If there were fewer undocumented workers, perhaps there would be higher wages for low paid manual labor jobs.

    Where I sit (and I work in a STEM field) the principle dynamic at work lowering wages doesn’t involve immigrants at all. Instead, it’s employers finding ways to push the older workers with higher-pay and benefits out the door and hire in kids (American-born, and largely white, mind you!!) fresh out of college at lower pay and worse benefits. If there were no HB-1 visas granted, none at all, from where I sit they’d just ramp up the latter process and wage/benefit decline would continue; because the kids come in burdened by crushing college debt so they’re just as desperate for a job, any job, as much as the immigrants. As long as we have low taxes on the rich, deregulated financial markets, and a Fed hell-bent on crushing wages we will have a shitty economy, period, immigration or no.

    Other than that, I agree with everything you say except I’d also point out that not only does blaming immigrants serve as a huge political distraction from the real reasons why we have a shitty economy for most people, that the Masters of the Universe don’t want illegal immigration to really stop They want to thunder against illegal immigration as a ‘red meat’ issue, yet wink at its continuance, because illegal workers can be abused even worse than legal ones and be used to drive down wages even more.

  9. nihil obstet

    There are some other issues.

    How fast do we want our population to increase, presuming that we want it to increase at all? The “more consumers” approach is part of the growth=good ideology. While we clearly don’t need a Chinese type “one child” policy, I’m not convinced that we wouldn’t be better off letting population growth at least level off. While more populous nations have some history of overrunning less populous nations, I don’t see that as a current danger for the U.S. A high population now seems to pose problems of sustainability.

    Politics is another issue. Higher populations pose problems of democratic governance and accountability. A member of the House of Representatives represents on average 700,000 people. That makes them pretty much out of reach for constituent discussions of the type I see on TV occurring in other countries. This is a problem. In addition, there’s the issue of a significant number of workers who do not have full participatory political rights. To the extent that we believe in a government of, by, and for the people, we should not be willing to put up with many “guest workers” or others who will be ruled but cannot participate in the ruling. This is especially an issue for those who plan to work here and then return to their birth country.

    Whatever, the crucial issue that I see now is making sure that employers abide by labor laws so that immigrants cannot be used to undercut the rights of workers, either native workers or the immigrants themselves.

  10. StewartM

    No, there is no argument, supply and demand will ensure that the wage is high enough for people to do it if it is worth doing.

    Not necessarily. It’s not just wages per se, it’s the ability to physically do the work. The reason that it’s harder to get native-born people to do this work is that our native-born population is aging (without immigration, the number of European-Americans would actually be in absolute decline), and with these kind of jobs (including construction trades) after a while you just can’t physically do the work any more (save as someone supervising younger workers).

    We actually need immigration because it helps our demographics. The world doesn’t need more babies, and having a good balance of old versus young is helpful, and immigration, intelligently done, is the best solution. Immigration as being done now may being make a shitty economy marginally worse for some workers, but it’s nowhere close to being the top reason why we have a shitty economy. Outsourcing is a much bigger reason, low taxation on the rich is a much bigger reason, financial deregulation is a much bigger reason, and you could throw the drag of our healthcare and higher education systems on top of that, plus more.

  11. Ed


    There’s both immigration and age biased effects.

    I used to compete against a “Little China” shop that abused the visa program to get programmers. The rules state that if no American applies for a given job, they can sponsor someone for a Green Card holder. So this shop would put the salaries in their ads, at 20-30% below market, to ensure they couldn’t get US born applicants. Then they’d sponsor Chinese nationals, whom they worked like slaves (can’t afford to have that sponsorship revoked!) until said nationals got their Green Cards and quit.

    I’m sure such shops still run in a lot of the tech industry hubs in the country.

    At the same time, my current employer has fallen into the trap of looking at the hourly rate they pay workers rather than the productivity those workers achieve. So a twenty something looks cheaper than a fifty something because the number of hours required to accomplish the same task isn’t considered. Stupid, I know. But it’s happening and it’s creating ageism within the workforce.

  12. Again the (private) market does get paid to take chances – unfortunately the public free market in the US wants to invest in military spending – a lot of military spending. that means that there is a large volume for private market under the table spending – such as picking food.

    The problem is you need to invest in public spending – which current generation does not even know what it is, though our large private market forces understand at least in part that infrastructure is part of it. They just want free money to enforce, which is bad (see: the private market does not take chances)

    ( Fon d’parikulur 15)

  13. Shh

    “Hell, people work on Wall St – just goes to show that if you pay enough you can get people to do anything, no matter how awful.”

    lol, yeah, but Wall Streeters ard sociopaths. different animal altogether.

    Consider: prior to the industrial revolution ~98% of all labor was agricultural and essentially all agricultural products were not exportable, spices and dry goods excepted. Large civilizations universally used slavery to produce sufficient comestibles. Now less than 2% of labor is involved in producing foodstuffs and a significant percentage of that is traded.

    One thing no society has ever done is reward those at the bottom of the food chain (pun intended).

    There are exacerbating factors in play as well. In addition to some of what’s already been mentioned, “globalization” has created opportunities for externalization that essentially masks – seemingly indefinitely – the true costs of production, and as long as it is’t on CNN, it might as well not be happening. Also, the computer age enables both unprecedented control over supply chains, but also enables unprecedented fraud. Think trading algorithms or about all the goods still sitting on Hanjin ships, or about the vast amount of oil sitting off the coasts of England waiting to settle out under more favorable puts.

  14. Will

    Wow this one will break 100 responses for sure. :p

    So all we have to do is figure out a way for us to import lots of workers w/o hurting those who are already working in the affected sectors? In an economy that has been moribund for the better part of 2 decades now? Burdened with a mammoth debt overhang from our last bubble? Distorted and mutated like the star in an old Hammer Film Productions classic?

    Is that all?

    I don’t know. It sounds a lot like the insistence that free trade will work just fine if only we can talk the winners into compensating the losers. ~snort~ All for a supposed efficiency improvement that that probably borders on statistical irrelevance.

    Why on earth would the winners agree to such a bargain? It seems to me that assuming the position of “winner” was the only impetus TPTB had to start the project in the first place. They have no interest in compensating the losers. Hell they spent decades deriding them as unworthy slackers. JFC, Hillary said nothing that many other “winners” on the right and left have said about them.

    Immigration and trade are the two main hammers that the “losers” feel have been used to pound them into the ground. The time for sensible restraint was about 20 years ago. That little thing we spoke of yesterday, trust, is now missing. The people who feel they’ve been destroyed by these policies have no interest in hearing of how we can maybe, perhaps, if things break right and the creek don’t rise, moderate some of the damage that has been done.

    Exactly how long were these folks supposed to hang economic fire and wait on the tender mercies of the rest of the populace to save them?

  15. Peter

    I don’t think it’s useful to conflate illegal aliens with legal immigrants and certainly not with a small number of high tech immigrants. In general legal immigrants are better prepared to work at higher skilled jobs and usually have some English language skills and often come from a different segment of society than illegals.

    The job competition is a problem but it seems to be mostly in the construction industry where illegals can work as subcontractors for cash under local or legal contractors. In my area they have taken over much of the tire repair shops, small car lots and repair shops hiring illegals to do the work. I hired a local contractor to do some concrete work and about nine illegals showed up to do the work, I asked them if any had green cards, none did. This has put local contractors and their employees out of business or at least they can’t afford to pay local wages.

    The jobs concerns may be useful to some people but I doubt we’ll see aging unemployed IT workers packing pickles or changing tires.

    The more important aspect of this problem is that we don’t have control of our southern frontier and to function as a nation state you must control your borders. This is especially true with a neighbor like Mexico using easy migration to reduce pressure for change in their system.

  16. Shh


    I used to own a construction company about 15 years ago. Even then I predominately used pick up labor for shit jobs that “decent, hard working” Americans wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. I kept a couple of permanent Americans on staff for client interaction, and site oversight, but the work was done by Mexicans. By the way, even the best white folks I could hire all did time in prison and couldn’t find any other gig, except short order cook or coke dealer. I paid the migrants above minimum wage but didn’t incur any labor burden (workers comp, taxes, etc.) I am constantly amazed at the work ethic of Hispanics. They bust their ass and rarely have the prima donna attitude of the typical American.

    One thing people need to understand about competition is that not all jobs are competitive. White people, by and large, poor included, do not want to do menial labor. It offends them. Makes the feel like a puta.

  17. StewartM


    From where I sit, in admittedly a high-skilled labor market, the age discrimination bias is whooping the immigrant bias. We have HB-1s, true, but many of these are young too, so there’s overlap there. There seems to be certainly no pay discrimination between the new workers and the HB-1s.

    Complicating matters is that there’s also an educational pedigree upgrade going on (PhDs replacing BS/MS people, BS techs replacing AS techs, etc) so the salary per se may not be that much cheaper (benefits are much cheaper though for the young people, they get nothing). That doesn’t obscure the fact that no matter what one’s educational pedigree, the person with 30 years experience knows a lot more and is far more efficient a worker than new people; so you’re absolutely right about that, and in fields where knowledge is all-important that’s egregiously short-sighted. Moreover, the people with high educational pedigrees often hire in expecting to become chiefs not Indians.

    Like many tech companies, my company was once managed by people with a technical/engineering background, who knew all this and moreover knew that there were cost control knobs which one should never touch. The current leadership is now all Wall Street guys; it’s all numbers in Excel spreadsheets. And yes, despite all the talk by neoliberals about “restoring competitiveness” they only mean that when it comes to slashing pay and benefits….from where I see, company after company is being gutted of its internal knowledge base and its ability to do things and actually BE competitive by this.

    On the other end of the labor market, while I don’t know farm workers, I do have close friends who work in the construction field. There there is competition with illegal immigrants, but there also I can see the problems with an aging workforce which does hard physical labor (like, people in their 40s start becoming increasingly unable to physically do the job, something progressives complained that people like Bowles-Simpson who want to raise the retirement age, fail too see). You also have a problem that much of the native-born workforce in the construction trades is there because they have substance abuse issues and construction is one of the few places you can still get somewhat good pay with no drug or alcohol testing. One of my close friends (who used to complain about “the Mexicans”) would still say things like “Well, at least the Mexicans show up every day and work” while the people with substance abuse problems would not show up several days after payday until they had blown it all on pills.

  18. Billikin

    It is worth noting that the current immigration hysteria in the US is the result of fear mongering and race/ethnicity baiting. A wall on the US-Mexican border would be symbolic, of next to no practical significance. We had 30-40 years of a strong influx of Mexican immigrants into the US, but, for whatever reasons, that has stopped.

  19. Some Guy

    “One thing people need to understand about competition is that not all jobs are competitive. White people, by and large, poor included, do not want to do menial labor. It offends them. Makes the feel like a puta.”

    Sure, of course, that’s why if an automaker advertises well paid union positions available, they get thousands of applicants (from white people) for a handful of jobs.

    It’s not the work, it’s the conditions and the pay. The world has billions of hardworking desperate people – if you want a job done by a desperate, hardworking person willing to work for pay and conditions the locals won’t, you import them, obviously. Then denigrate the locals who won’t accept the ‘new normal’.

  20. Peter


    These are strange times and even the Mexican workers are avoiding the drudgery jobs. The last stucco crew I had working looked like an AARP meeting, the same as the roofers. There aren’t enough pickers showing up in southern NM to bring in our chile crop so mechanical pickers are in use.

    I’m not in business but I do need a helper occasionally and the young Anglos I hire last about two days until the work gets a little dirty or difficult then they run to their mother but one did send me an email resignation.

  21. Shh


    nice. I know NM well. funny that only old gringos are doing work.

    So there are multiple vectors in play. “market” is a wonderfully vague word as the comments clearly show. This is a feature not a bug.

    As some guy notes, conditions and pay impact decision making in smaller geographical distributions, but the overall market dynamics are an amalgam. It’s very hard to extrapolate population characteristics from a sample.

  22. S Brennan

    If we compare wage growth, sorted by percentile, by decades since 1972:

    With total US immigration during and preceding the 70’s:

    A pretty clear picture presents itself, the top 20% gain, the bottom 80% lose.

    That is the reality, not some economic theory wiped from the ass of some “freshwater economist”. Saying it “should work this way if Americans would only do [x-y-z]” is the soft white tissue that the brown stuff is wrapped in.

  23. Peter


    You may be right about extrapolating too much but some conditions would seem to be consistent wherever they live. I don’t think it would be easy for people without documents to work in payroll jobs anywhere and even those with illegal documents would be found out eventually. This leaves them tied to the cash jobs available which as you showed can be a grey area tied to construction work or some other business that can pay for labor in cash.

    I could be wrong and small manufactures and others may have ways to get around the government checks and requirements on employment.

  24. Hugh

    I oppose most immigration on population grounds. The US will have a population of 400 million by 2050. Essentially all of our population growth is being driven by immigration and the first generation of families of immigrants. 15% of the US population is foreign-born. The current trends are not sustainable. A long term sustainable US population is probably around 150 million, 400 million is not. Even at 320 million, we are seeing plenty of cracks and faultlines opening in our societal structure. Trump, after all, did not appear out of nowhere, but is a product of this process.

    Wages have been suppressed over the last four to five decades by Fed rates policy, anti-unionism, offshoring, and illegal immigration. Illegal immigration also tends to worsen working conditions since these are abusable workers. Industries with large numbers of illegals are construction, meatpacking, hotels, restaurants, and farming. H1-B types are mostly in tech, but because of the relatively few number of American medical graduates produced each year, a small number of immigrants skews their representation among physicians.

    If American employers wanted to hire American workers, or to put this another way, if we as a society decided that American employers had to hire American workers, then they could do so by offering better wages, benefits, and working conditions and/or training them to fill the positions they needed.

  25. Ann

    “From where I sit, in admittedly a high-skilled labor market, the age discrimination bias is whooping the immigrant bias. We have HB-1s, true, but many of these are young too, so there’s overlap there. There seems to be certainly no pay discrimination between the new workers and the HB-1s.”

    I’m not sure how you separate ageism and visa abuse. H-1Bs and other visa workers are used to cull the older citizen workforce, and are frequently brought on in lieu of Americans of all ages. They are usually cheaper than US workers and pretty much immobile. A seasoned US worker might expect to receive benefits of some sort, so there can be a cost savings on that front as well.

  26. Hugh

    I should add that if you want to stop illegal immigration, you don’t need a wall. You simply punitively fine employers who use them and above a certain level jail the employers. For balance, you would need similar fines and penalties against employers who discriminated against say, those with Hispanic names and backgrounds.

    According to the USDA, the current number of hired farmworkers is just over 1 million. Even if you take into account, a fair amount of fudging, this is still below 1% of the US labor force. So the specter of aging Boomers out in the fields is something of a stretch.

    Not that I think he is, but if Trump were serious about repatriating large numbers of American jobs from abroad, older workers would be important in the process since they are the ones who still remember how these industries and industrial processes work. The downside is this knowledge is dying off with them.

  27. Willy

    Interesting how a kid in the Willamette in the 70’s could only see the very rare undocumented crop picker. Yet the business “cannot function” without them today. The same seems to go for almost anything produced or manufactured. Our parents had no problem paying what they did for all their stuff. Yet today we’ve all become so addicted to cheap consumables that cheap labor is almost a given.

  28. Willy

    It’s a pickle. It’s easier to gradually ‘induce the opiate’ of cheaper stuff into a culture, than it is to suddenly tell everybody they need to buck up and get patriotic and pay higher prices to help support American workers they don’t even know. The exceptions might be during times when feelings of patriotism are running high (such as in the middle part of the last century), or when everybody is coming to know somebody who’s been shafted by that system (perhaps… now?).

  29. StewartM


    Just for proportions, I’d say that there are 10 native-born “kids” being hired to one HB-1 from what I am seeing at my company. If you stopped hiring HB-1s, there’s enough “kids” to hire to more than take up the slack, so downward wage/benefit pressure would continue. True, the kids may be native, but the HB-1s are often more talented and skilled, and that should count for something too.

    The biggest drivers of the shitty economy from where I stand is the way-too-low tax rates on the rich, coupled with financial market deregulation and outsourcing. My company used to have a policy of “no layoffs”. My company used to give ordinary workers bonuses in good years that were big enough to buy inexpensive automobiles. My company used to routinely spend 10 % of its earnings on R&D, and used to keep current with the latest technology in its capital. But now that the rich get to keep the loot untaxed (low marginal tax rates!) and now that deregulation allows fraud, ponzi schemes, and gamed markets, even though we’re still very profitable (in fact, we’ve posted some of our largest-ever profits the past few years), our profits get largely sucked up to Wall Street to gamble with. We spend like 2 % on R&D, we only fix things when they break, keeping things running with duct tape and bailing wire, our capital outlays aren’t enough to meet mere anticipated replacement needs, let along new technologies. My company, like America in general, is being managed by its stock price and is being looted like a cash cow for the short-term profits of hedge fund managers. You want to know why America is becoming less competitive? You have it right there.

    Almost none of this decline is traceable to immigration, HB-1s or not. One big reason why “America was great” back then was that high tax rates on the rich kept them from giving the loot to themselves–because they were deterred thusly, the money had to go somewhere, which is why our ordinary workers got bonuses that they could buy cars with, why companies spent more on capital and R&D, with companies like Kodak and Bell Labs even doing pure–not even applied–research. Trump may (or may not) do something to address the outsourcing problem but he’s headed in exactly the wrong direction on taxes and regulation. In our current low-tax deregulated economy, not even Pharma invests in R&D (as Ian has pointed out).


    The US population growth rate is currently 0.77 % even given our current illegal and legal immigration . The world population growth rate by contrast is 1.11 %, so we’re still considerably well under that. I’d say that an overall population of 400 million in 2050 is far more manageable than having a population distribution that is top-heavy with the aged. While I agree with you that a lower world population and US is an eventual, desirable, end, I don’t see any way to get any soft landings locally without young people moving to countries with aging populations and maybe vice versa (and both are happening, Westerners are choosing to retire outside the West).

  30. atcooper

    That’s really the dirty secret of immigration. It’s making a few folks awfully rich, and in the structural dependencies, impossible to tackle without effecting economies somewhere. For instance, restaraunts depend on this gray market labor, and while there are likely a few factors on why resteraunts are undergoing a correction, the loss of easy illegal labor available is one part.

    My favored action would be to do what Hugh proposes, start holding the businesses accountable. I know in my hometown in Dallas the same businesses that benefit from illegal labor tend to run the city and counties too, so it’s a taller order there. I wonder how else other right-to-work states, as they say, are the same as Dallas that way. Cities with union history, I hope, would have an easier time getting traction.

    A sweetener would be to make the path to citizenry smoother and less arbitrary. There’d still need to be a monitored quota because integration takes a few generations.

  31. Has anybody talked about bringing in more family doctors? The AMA keeps them out I read. So shouldn’t we let immigrants in who we really need like Family Practice docs?

  32. Ann


    Thanks for the civilized and thoughtful response. I’ve had some unpleasant experiences working with H-1Bs and that probably colors my view. Sounds like yours have been better. Communication with them has been a big factor for me; they are mostly young men, and I am a middle-aged American woman so there’s some level of discomfort; culturally, we just don’t have much in common. Men probably do have an advantage when it comes to these situations.

    A backdrop to all of this is that US workers, when they are hired, are more and more often hired on a contract basis. This has really accelerated since the crisis, and I do feel that certain companies pit different kinds of temporary workers against each other. Battles are won by whoever is wilier politically, but in my experience, the H-1Bs outnumber the native-born freelancers by a substantial margin, so it’s easier for them to “gang up.” Of course it doesn’t help that companies use the threat of employment insecurity to ramp up demands on everyone.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the rich, the looting, and the unpleasant changes in corporate culture. My father worked for Bell Labs, and it ain’t his world anymore, that’s for sure.

  33. Chaz

    I’ve known immigrants who are highly educated in low pay jobs who are weary pursuing the same careers so as not to draw attention to themselves or their families and there immigration situation. Perhaps who should offer an amnesty and that may in turn stimulate the economy by making more immigrants tax payers and able to pursue more high paid jobs. I am no economist but it is just a thought.

  34. Tom W Harris

    Gobble gobble said the offshore turkey.

  35. This just came to me. I married (the last time. First time a son of an architect, English major who couldn’t fix anything) a third generation cattle rancher. Without my income, during the 1990s it was really hard to break even. All he does is manual labor and it’s hard. Knees going now after tackling too many ornery cows and crawling under tractors and fixing fence. So I don’t think it’s about manual labor or hard labor. But he has pride. He’s a “land owner”. Maybe, you have to have skin in the game. Maybe, there is labor and then there is being a “laborer”.

  36. Synoia

    Wages are partially determined by supply and demand. The tighter the labor market, the higher the wages. There is a very direct relationship.

    True, as England discovered with the Black Death in about 1430.

    The shortage of Vassals made people more valuable and broke the back of the Norman Feudal system.

  37. Hans Meier

    At least the immigrants in the US are working.
    Here in Germany they are not. They receive full social security from day 1 (free housing, free health care, and an allowance for discretionary spending).
    We took in about 1 million people in 2015, and a few 100000s are coming every year. Almost all of them Muslims. Next they will be allowed to have their whole family join them. After 3 years they have the right to stay permanently.
    I don’t see this ending well.

  38. Tomonthebeach

    I think Ian is barking up the wrong tree. Employment and wages is a political ruse. Recent surveys of Trump supporters show they are far more likely to attribute their support for Trump’s anti-immigrant policies because they threaten American language and culture than they do people’s livelihoods. Se habla Espanol. Of course, much of that cultural preservation argument masks deeply-rooted bigotry and racism.

  39. Hugh

    StewartM, everytime I hear about how there will not be enough workers, I am reminded of how automation is supposed to put us all out of work. Of course, manufacturing employs relatively few Americans. Most are employed in service industries. Even so, there are tens of millions of these who are engaged in activities with no or negative societal benefits, and there are also tens of millions who are not counted as working available for caregiving. So there really is and will be a large pool of people available for caregiving in the future.

    Montanamaven, I believe it is Hannah Arendt’s Human Condition where she goes on at length about the difference between labor and work. She showed among other things that many languages have a word for “labor” which is related to pain while work has a more affirmative meaning.

  40. V. Arnold

    I find it very strange you talk about “care giving” as a work option; have you any idea about care giving? No, from your statement.
    My sister is a certified care giver; and I can tell you it’s not a job/work for just anybody.
    It takes very special people to be effective care givers. People needing care would be better served by robots than the average person…

  41. Tom

    @ Tomonthebeach

    It is not bigotry to want people to speak English in a English Majority Nation or to protect jobs, these are existential issues for people after all.

    I have zero sympathy for Illegals. They all need to be rounded up and sent back and permanently banned from returning. People who employ them need to be arrested and tried, then sent to Maximum Security Prisons to make examples out of them and cow the rest into towing the line.

    Come here legally or don’t come at all.

  42. Working Class Nero

    One problem not mentioned is that many immigrants send remittances back home which is a total loss to the American economy.

    The only time we should have immigration is for a truly tight job market. And these immigrants should be chosen for, among other things, their likelihood of integrating. If immigrants are filling key roles and integrating there will be no problem with immigration.

    Until recently Canada has very sound immigration principles. Many liberals, seeking to flee the Trumpening, recently found out, as they jammed the Canadian immigration website, that in many ways Canada still has stricter and more nationalist-oriented immigration policies than even Trump is proposing.

  43. realitychecker

    I guess it takes an old guy to remind folks that the reason we are “a nation of immigrants” is because in the past we desperately needed more people to help fill up a vast, empty (of Europeans) continent so we could more effectively manage and exploit it.

    In addition, all that immigration took place with the assumption that those immigrants would ASSIMILATE into the American culture, NOT the other way around. Does anyone remember the term “melting pot,” which we all used to use automatically to describe that expectation and rationale for our welcoming attitude toward immigrants? Not surprising if you don’t recall that term, since nobody ever says it anymore. (The neoliberal globalists dance with delight at this great propaganda success.)

    One can have a serious debate about the pros and cons of immigration today, but anyone who simply says “nation of immigrants” and expects that to settle the debate is counting on the ignorance of the listener/reader, and should be dealt with accordingly.

  44. Every discussion of immigration must include the cause. As reality checker reminds us, we needed the tired and the weak to build our railways and dig the copper and coal out of the mountains. But we don’t need that kind of worker anymore. Since we bombed the heck out of countries in Africa and the Middle East, the rebuilding is there if we just declared a ceasefire and got the heck out. If there were sanctuary/safe cities in the places we destroyed with bombs wouldn’t people rather stay? If it really is all about gas and oil, then build the pipelines there and create jobs. If the Chinese and Russians want to build a new Silk Road without it being “Hell on Wheels”, then let them.

    But no, the globalists want to control it all. They don’t recognize cultures. They just see people to exploit. They don’t want to trade. They want to steal it all. It’s not progress. It’s going back to colonialism.

  45. Will

    That is a good point realitychecker, and one that has too seldom been raised.

    I think my attitude about so many of these problems we face is that is can best be described as the results of hubris. On so many fronts we have jumped onto economic and political bandwagons that have absolutely no historical track record of success. And some of them (like that of this discussion) have distinguishing characteristics that preclude any comparison at all to what has previously been tried.

    Maybe it is my scientific background that has made me cautious. But it seems to me that if you want to see how a certain theory on economics (or politics or immigration or whatever) performs in real life that you would set up a SMALL experiment and see how it goes. Maybe it works and can be expanded. Maybe it fails miserably and you have to make adjustments or even abandon the theory altogether. But to undertake massive, system altering experiments on the sayso of the kinds of coin operated economic and political actors we have running things? We should rethink that paradigm from the ground up.

    Maybe even that hope is unsupported. It isn’t like there aren’t enough red lights and warning sirens going off to warn us even now that we are on dangerous ground. And still an obstinate refusal to acknowledge the feedback that the systems are giving us.

  46. Robert McGregor

    @ Some Guy
    Re: “If that makes food more expensive, so be it. A saving built on paying someone less is not a saving, it is a redistribution, from labour to capital, where the accumulation of all the wealth and power by capital is the root cause of so many of our problems.”

    We resist the idea of more expensive food, because we’re already financially tapped out. But a more natural, more equitable redistribution might be more money going to food, and less to less-deserving, more rentier categories like Real Estate and monopolistic areas like telecommunications. The result would be more money going to labor, and less to capital.

  47. Well so much for the idea of rebuilding Syria. The Russians have asked for money from rich countries to rebuild, but doesn’t look promising.

    Talk about good experiments in governing. Check out these “kick-ass socialist feminists” in Syria.

  48. S Brennan

    To the H1-B argument; please read through, because the end of the quote surprised me. BTW, 3/4ths of trained engineers work outside of their profession for economic reasons [can’t get a job/can’t get paid enough].

    “Leading academic researchers and from respected research organizations concluded that U.S. higher education produces far more science and engineering graduates annually than there are S&E job openings–the only disagreement is whether it is 100 percent or 200 percent more.

    Were there to be a genuine shortage at present, there would be evidence of employers raising wage offers to attract the scientists and engineers they want. But the evidence points in the other direction: Most studies report that real wages in many—but not all—science and engineering occupations have been flat or slow-growing, and unemployment as high or higher than in many comparably-skilled occupations.

    Because labor markets in science and engineering differ greatly across fields, industries, and time periods, it is easy to cherry-pick specific specialties that really are in short supply, at least in specific years and locations. But generalizing from these cases to the whole of U.S. science and engineering is perilous. Employment in small but expanding areas of information technology such as social media may be booming, while other larger occupations languish or are increasingly moved offshore.

    High-skilled professional occupations almost always experience unemployment rates far lower than those for the rest of the U.S. workforce, but unemployment among scientists and engineers is higher than in other professions such as physicians, dentists, lawyers, and registered nurses, and surprisingly high unemployment rates prevail for recent graduates even in fields with alleged serious “shortages” such as engineering (7.0 percent), computer science (7.8 percent) and information systems (11.7 percent).

  49. Willy

    I’m skeptical about the cultural assimilation thing. Sure, we’ve all seen some foreign born parents struggling with the change. But their children are usually pretty much Americanized. I’d think radicalization of any children is more their own rationalized and misplaced reaction to their inability to succeed in our current corporate-corrupt culture.

  50. Willy

    And the H1B situation evidences a systemic breakdown – a culture where actual value is less important than apparent value.

  51. Peter


    The Russian arms industries have made a nice profit supplying the bombs and rockets that destroyed much of Syria and now Putin wants assistance in rebuilding. It seems they are getting more like the US daily. If their construction contractors get these projects I hope they have learned to build something other than the Stalin era drab grey apartment blocks or we may see another refugee crisis.

  52. soullite

    I don’t know why anyone is politely debating with some cunt who puts square quotes around ‘illegal’ and ‘decent, hardworking’ Americans.

  53. realitychecker

    @ Montanamaven

    Sorry I triggered your idiot response.

    Yeah, the pioneers were all weak and tired. What an idiot you are.

    One pioneer had more backbone and courage than all the modern snowflakes combined. Suck on it. You are enjoying the benefits of living in a country that was built by people who never heard of a microinvalidation. Show some fucking gratitude, mewler.

  54. marku52

    It really surprises me how unusual the US condition is, but how normally it is regarded. If I go to Germany on a visa, and overstay and look for a job, and get found out, what happens?

    I get deported. Here in the US illegal employment is regarded as some kind of a normal condition. And the deportations are regarded as abnormal in some regard.

    I don’t see why.

    Obviously, the key is to penalize employers, and then the problem solves itself.

  55. S Brennan


    Your disinformation is weak and your fabrications already proven to be false.

    Nothing new, it’s what you do.

  56. S Brennan


    Your disinformation is weak and your fabrications already proven to be false.

    Nothing new, it’s what you do.

  57. Shh

    Wow, it took nearly 50 comments before it degenerated into name calling and other trolling. Proud of us!

    Maybe next time we can get through a whole conversation without it turning into a food fight.

  58. A1


    One thing people need to understand about competition is that not all jobs are competitive. White people, by and large, poor included, do not want to do menial labor. It offends them. Makes the feel like a puta.”

    Sorry but this is bullshit. Pure anecdotal propaganda. There are 325 M legal Americans. 200 M white people. Some are lazy and some are hard working. Some are smart and some are stupid. If you only found lazy people the problem is likely you. You are like the women who complains that all the men she dates are drunks but doesn’t think to stop dating guys she meets at the bar.

  59. Z

    Yeah, our country would collectively starve to death without illegal immigrants because no Americans would ever lower themselves to do those farm labor jobs regardless of the wages.


  60. MojaveWolf

    Hey Ian, excellent post as usual (after a whole series of excellent posts; been too busy to write thoughtful comments but thank you for this blog!); will try to get in a longer response later.

    But for quickie– @RealityChecker–I liked your initial comment, but I thought MontanaMaven did too (and honestly, it was a good comment, what was idiotic about it?), and MM’s “tired and weak” was a paraphrase of the Statue of Liberty quote “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” or something like that; they weren’t dissing the laborers who built the country, unless I was reading very wrongly.

    Also, MontanaMaven linked to an article that appears to be about the YPJ, who really never got enough attention over here, and who I think you would like too. I always wondered why more leftists over here didn’t make them (and the Kobane Kurds in general) a cause celebre.
    but that’s sort of off topic, so bailing now till I have time to figure out whether and with what to jump in on the main topic.

  61. realitychecker

    @ MW

    I read MM’s comment to be dripping with bias, sarcasm and disdain for regular Americans, and responded accordingly.

    I get tired of all the cowardly comments that don’t dare to say what they mean straight out; it seems to me that cloaking rage and hate behind sarcastic phraseology has become the preferred attack mode of too many on the left. I resent the cowardly dishonesty of that mode of attack, just on general principle; it seems to me to be a way to take a cheap shot without being held accountable for the sentiment expressed.

    (If one would just speak straight out, I would not have to go to the trouble of trying to untangle their unexpressed thoughts, would I lol.)

  62. V. Arnold

    S Brennan
    February 23, 2017

    Agree, Peter yet again, is mis-informed at best; but as wrong as two left shoes.
    His Russophobic POV has once again outted itself…

  63. realitychecker

    @ MW

    OK, OK, out of respect for you, I just re-read MM’s comment.

    Now I’m not sure what she was trying to say lol.

    My comments as to the left generally stand, nevertheless. 🙂

  64. Claudia Egelhoff

    An interesting commentary on NPR Planet Money about the impact of the 80,000+ Cuban immigrants that arrived in Florida in the 1980’s.

    Quoting economist David Card, the conditions for good integration of a large number of immigrants: a strong economy and community/organizations/businesses that quickly help immigrants get jobs.

  65. MojaveWolf

    Ok going back it *could* be read that way; and I’m kinda distracted (“kinda” meaning=driven to insanity levels of distracted) and skimming here so would be easy to miss stuff; not having access to tone or expression can be like having Asperger’s in online comments if you don’t have a feel for a particular person’s mode of expression. (speaking of skimming–the linked article I referred to above was about more than just the YPJ but still well worth reading if not familiar w/the Kobane Kurds)

    But as yourself and others have pointed out, we really DON’T need an influx of manual laborers right now; there are plenty of native-born Americans willing to do these jobs if they are both paid and treated reasonably well. So I took their comment as an interestingly-phrased way of saying this. We have plenty of people (too many!); more than enough to exploit all our resources to death; don’t need an increase to fill needs in either production or demand, point of diminishing returns long past on that score, etc.

    One thing I can’t recall right now if anyone covered in depth is the issue of how people are treated as well as paid; back during my unskilled manual labor phase of employment, I once took the place of someone who had been fired and then came back & seriously sabotaged the sprinkler system, requiring many many thousands of dollars in replacement costs. After I quit to take a different job at the same pay, another guy who started right before I left was fired for threatening to pummel the employer. If someone can get their visa yanked or turned in to be deported, they will put up w/more crap from their employers than others. The person doing the hiring and supervising had a serious issue with how they talked to people, and how they perceived others. Seriously, every other job I’ve ever had working for someone else, people have commented on the vast difference in how much BETTER I do (at practically anything, highly skilled, unskilled, inbetween) when on my own vs being closely supervised. I’ve had people ready to fire me after just starting, they leave, come back, and are patting me on the back. This guy? I also worked twice as well when he was gone, but he’d leave, come back, and “is that all you’ve done? what have you been doing?” He did this to everyone. Would also say, when asked about a raise, that there were illegal immigrants who could do the same work better and faster for less money (we’re over minimum wage here, but not much). The job? Was not bad. Kinda fun at times. The pay was bad for the hardness of the work but beat being unemployed. The being constantly talked to like we were fucking idiots and criticized for not working well enough? Being told we were lucky to have a job at all because hypothetical other people out there were better? That was not ok. He had a hella time keeping employees.

    I suspect there is something similar w/HB1 visa’s and the clear preference of some employers for immigrants (and more to the point, I have read accounts of people in these work environments who have said this is the case)–even if they are entirely legal to be here, if you can threaten to yank their job and send them back at any time, you can insist on longer working hours without extra pay, constant willingness to be on call during off hours (which is sadly getting to be expected in a lot of jobs for everyone), and lord it over people and talk to them like a condescending ass, and they are going to put up with it, or at least be more willing to put up with more of this sort of thing. It ain’t JUST the lower wages.

    When you hear about people paying good wages and getting hundreds of non-immigrants showing up and supposedly EVERY SINGLE ONE of them either fails a drug test or can’t show up to work on time, it’s hard not to think that the employer just wants someone he can treat like crap. That’s not Americans (of any skin color, this is NOT about race for most people, really it isn’t) won’t do the job, that’s “Americans won’t do the jobs under certain conditions”.

    Which doesn’t mean I’m in favor of deporting people who came over here to work their butts off. I’m not. I’ve worked alongside some of them and one of the few stereotypes I will happily endorse is that people who come up from Mexico (whether legal or illegal; I think most of the ones I worked with were legal but I don’t know for sure and don’t think it matters for this purpose) to work do indeed work hard and well. I genuinely like the ones I know or knew and have no issues with them at all. Which makes finding a quick fix solution to the immigration-effect-on-wages difficult. I mean yes, of course it drives wages down. I’m less inclined than Ian to think we are going to find a system in our current world where large scale influx of workers in a given field will NOT drive wages down. The best solution is to insist on fair trade provisions and protections for workers in other countries and, if it’s not too late, start trying to undo some of the horrible effects of NAFTA on Mexican agriculture. Or, we can keep on our current course of corporate approved trade policies, which will ensure wages are eventually sufficiently low that no one will want to come here and they will maybe even tick up a bit after having bottomed out, but I don’t think anyone likes that idea.

  66. ultra

    Brennan: “That is the reality, not some economic theory wiped from the ass of some ‘freshwater economist’.”

    If only life was so simple. The growing divergence in income across social classes probably isn’t as closely related to immigration numbers as you believe because many things have changed during the past 40 years. For example, corporate taxes are lower and income taxes are less progressive than they used to be. The maximum income tax bracket under Harry Truman was 94%. Since then, it has gradually declined to about 30-42%. Furthermore, exclusion of capital gains income from taxation is more accelerated than it used to be, pushing the maximum tax rate for the rich who rely on investment income to about 14%.

    There has also been a big reduction in various income support programs for the poor, which have been either eliminated or reduced. Meanwhile, the cost of health care and college has exceeded the rate of inflation, eating way at the standard of living of the middle class.

    Similarly, the labor market is less unionized than in the past. After World War II, about 35% of the labor market was unionized, now it is about 8% and still falling. The decline in labor unions is the result of employers moving jobs, especially unionized manufacturing jobs, from large northern cities to more rural areas and the Deep South, where labor laws and the local culture are less labor union friendly. Then, employers moved jobs out of these areas to foreign countries where labor and business costs are far lower. This has made U.S. trade deficits worse, causing job losses.

    And then there is the matter of protective tariffs and free trade agreements. In the past, there were higher tariffs on various imports to protect U.S. jobs, but a succession of free trade agreements have reduced or eliminated those tariffs on imports. This puts downward pressure on U.S. wages. In addition, these free trade agreements, if anything, have increased U.S. trade deficits with its leading trade partners (for example, Mexico and Canada), causing additional job losses.

    Conclusion: Because of the preceding changes in economic policies, taxation, and labor conditions, it is doubtful that increased immigration is primarily responsible for the decline in wages and jobs for many working-class and middle-class Americans. Instead, there seems to be a multitude of factors at work here.

  67. Willy

    Virtually everything our past governments have done is responsible for the decline in wages and jobs. The Founders themselves financed their new government with tariffs, an already old practice way back then. Somehow in recent times economic wisdom from past lessons learned got lost. It’s like something out of a sci-fi movie where the President is told to try some new cool radical thing that’ll surely benefit everybody, and then all hell breaks loose. Except it’s been real and not sci-fi.

  68. ultra

    I’m less convinced that immigration has decreased the availability of U.S. jobs and lowered wages.

    First of all, the U.S. has an aging population. Many jobs, particularly those involving hard physical labor, require younger workers with healthier bodies. Furthermore, the percentage of retired elderly persons in the U.S. has been growing by leaps and bounds. Who is going to financially support all of these old people and pay for their health care? The magnitude of this problem can be reduced by importing younger immigrant workers.

    Secondly, immigrants to the U.S. have a slightly greater tendency than native-born U.S. citizens to start their own businesses. When immigrants start new businesses in the U.S., they hire other people, including native-born U.S. citizens. Furthermore, the businesses that immigrants create tend to niche markets that often complement, rather than compete with, the businesses that native-born U.S. citizens create.

    Thirdly, in order to have a world-class economy, you need to hire the best and brightest people in world. When you import such people into the country, they are likely to create more jobs than they take. If we don’t import such people into the country, then they will find jobs abroad and they will ultimately compete against us, and probably prevail. The U.S. has long benefited from the brain drain of other countries. Furthermore, when immigrants start businesses in the U.S., they are often able to export their products and services abroad to their countries of origination because of their family and business contacts abroad and their understanding of the local culture.

    Fourthly, because of the racial and ethnic diversity of the U.S. population, we are a world leader in the arts, entertainment industry, professional athletics, fashion, and other culture-related businesses. The economic importance of these professions should not be underestimated. Hispanic culture, Black culture, Jewish culture, Oriental culture, and people representing other cultures have all made distinctive contributions to this professional industry. Consider the role of Black culture in American music: the blues, jazz, soul, rap, hip-hop, and rock music have all been strongly influenced, or even created, by African-Americans. This music has been exported all over the world. I believe one reason the U.S. economy is relatively robust, dynamic, and diverse, compared to other developed countries, is because our population is more racially and ethnically diverse.

    Therefore, slamming the door shut on immigration may be less beneficial to workers in the U.S. economy than many people believe.

  69. Willy

    The way things have been going, and especially with this administration, they may just give ending immigration a whirl to see what happens. Or more likely, claim that only good things have happened after, regardless. Such is life in an alternative fact world.

    Personally, I’m bothered by illegal immigration and an H1B policy that favors cheap over experienced labor, personally knowing good people who were not well-replaced. Theoretical doesn’t automatically mean practical. We need credible figures to be better informed.

  70. S Brennan


    Your tired idiotic ideas have been trotted out many times and have been shot down, labor participation is down, not at the old end, but at the young end, which reflects immigration patterns EXACTLY, you are a 1]moron; 2]troll.

    Look at the chart and notice that the Bureau of Labor Statistics clearly states with absolute clarity; you [Ultra] are an idiot.

  71. Immigrants only add to consumer demand if they bring money in from outside thereby reducing the trade deficit. Most in fact send money back home, thereby adding to it. An increase in the trade deficit destroys jobs on balance, which is what happens if you agree new free trade agreements on top of an existing deficit (everything goes up in proportion).

    PS. Pedant’s corner I know, but ‘fewer’ not ‘less’!

  72. I am late to this party, but there are two basic questions here, which are often conflated, but they are separate

    Q1: Does immigration have a negative impact on local wages and economic well-being?

    A1: Yes, under certain conditions. Many of those conditions are created by policy choices in other areas which were bad anyway, independently of immigration.

    Q2: Does immigration enforcement that targets individual migrants alleviate the economic costs to the population, when the aforementioned adverse conditions apply?

    A2: In practice, probably not, and in any case, it involves a lot of cruelty and arguably requires a
    “flexible” approach to human rights, so to speak. But even leaving aside those issues, it seems to have real effects not dissimilar to the drug war.

  73. V. Arnold

    February 24, 2017

    Well, che’ surprise; I agree 99.9% with your post.
    Aw shucks, make that 100%…

  74. brian

    Reminds me of this quote:

    Just as you can look at an arid terrain and determine what shape a river will one day take by assuming water will obey gravity, so you can look at a civilization and determine what shape its institutions will one day take by assuming people will obey incentives.

    But that means that just as the shapes of rivers are not designed for beauty or navigation, but rather an artifact of randomly determined terrain, so institutions will not be designed for prosperity or justice, but rather an artifact of randomly determined initial conditions.

    – Scott Alexander

  75. Peter


    The roundup/deportation of criminal aliens is just the first stage of a new immigration policy being developed by the Trump regime. I haven’t seen anything about banning immigration but it will probably be curtailed and limited to much lower numbers.

    During the age of growth there was a need for more people from immigrants and natives but with the onset of the end of growth a new direction is needed.

    In the last 45 years the US has added about a 100 million people to its population and fed, sheltered and employed most of them, no small task.

  76. montanamaven

    I was trying to compose a reply to reality checker, but realized that I should wait until I got back to my desktop. When I use my I Pad, I get sloppy. I should have put “tired and weak” in quotation marks and should have looked up the actual Statue of Liberty quote. So apologies to all for sloppiness. I appreciate Mojave Wolf stepping in and trying to make sense out of my post.

    And, yes, I was agreeing with reality checker’s great point. What I meant to say was that the Statue of Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your poor….yearning to be free.” Sounds good. But what the builders of railroads and owners of mines and the US government needed were laborers and pioneers to, as realitychecker points out, “fill up a vast and empty (of Europeans) continent” And that involved back breaking work like my husband’s family who go back 5 generations of cattle and sheep ranching in Nebraska and Montana and my grandfather on the Ford assembly line.

    And I’ve never liked the idea of a melting pot. Sounds too mushy. My business involves preserving distinct regional dialects. The farm to table movement is also breathing back life into the concept of different cultures with different cuisines that make places special.

    But there I go again all ADHDing again.

  77. realitychecker


    Practice makes perfect, but, also, I understand ADHD lol.

    “Melting pot” may not be a personally beneficial concept for you and your business, but I submit that it was essential to the idea of welcoming everybody into our young country.

    It still makes more sense than encouraging Balkanization within our borders, IMO.

  78. A1

    Claudia – the 80,000 is a relatively small number compared to the population of Florida (around 10 M 1980) so integration is easier. In a similar note in Canada the Hungarians in 56 and Czechs in 68 are mentioned but again the overall numbers are small. Like the Cubans these two groups were culturally very similar to the host culture so it is no surprise the integration worked well.

    Ultra – your comments are more of the New York Times garbage. For example the best and brightest – maybe the best and brightest stay home and you get the most aggressive instead? Maybe you get the dumbest? There is much anecdotal evidence for this and using small samples of elite athletes or scientists does not make the larger point.

    As far as diversity Obama was half black and what did he do for the African American Community? Nothing. Moral support for Black Lies Matter does not really count for much. What you need is not diversity of race but of thought. If America’s ruling class are all over educated Ivy Leaguers then they will all have been selected to accept the specific molding that comes with that and racial cultural differences will mean nothing as they will all think in the same manner with the same models.

  79. Billikin


    “It really surprises me how unusual the US condition is, but how normally it is regarded. If I go to Germany on a visa, and overstay and look for a job, and get found out, what happens?

    I get deported. Here in the US illegal employment is regarded as some kind of a normal condition. And the deportations are regarded as abnormal in some regard.

    I don’t see why.”

    There are at least a couple of reasons. 1) The US is comparatively sparsely populated. We no longer have a frontier to speak of, but we are not a crowded country. We have more room for people than a lot of other countries, like Germany. 2) Employers want to hire illegal immigrants. Several years ago Iowa was concerned about the number of illegal immigrants in their state and asked the INS to come in a crack down on them. But soon they asked the INS to stop the crackdown, since they needed the illegal immigrants to keep the Iowa economy going.

    marku52: ‘Obviously, the key is to penalize employers, and then the problem solves itself.”

    Well, the problem, if problem it be, seems to be solving itself anyway. The illegal immigrant population has been decreasing for some years now.

  80. Yes, part of the “cultural” issue is the belief that there’s an unlimited flood of humanity waiting to drown a mostly-white-European successful First World in its brown, filthy poverty, but this is not the case. Oh, there’s lots of people who might *want* to or fantasize about it, but the barriers to doing so are more than just borders, enforced or otherwise.

  81. Hugh

    In 1893, Frederick Turner delivered his “Frontier Thesis” about how the American people had been molded by the existence of a frontier, going somewhere new, starting over. This was at a time when he noted that the frontier was closing or already closed. That was more than a century ago, and when the country’s population was much smaller, around 63 million. Now our population is 5 times that, and while we are much better positioned than most countries in the world, we are still showing the strains. I would submit that a lot of this is because we still haven’t come to terms with the closing of the frontier. We still act like endless growth is not only possible but desirable, that there need be no limits on our population, that we can trash this or that bit of the country and simply move somewhere else, that a culture of guns, guns, guns is a sign of societal disintegration, not strength, and that Marlboro men don’t stand tall and alone, they just wheeze and die of cancer.

  82. S Brennan

    Billikin; why the casual lie that’s easily revealed:

    “Well, the problem, if problem it be, seems to be solving itself anyway. The illegal immigrant population has been decreasing for some years now.”

    And there is this untruth:

    “The US is comparatively sparsely populated…We have more room for people than a lot of other countries, like Germany.”

    Here’s a satellite photo of the world’s deserts…”hav[ing] more room for people” is not the same as sustainable [room for people].

    Again; why the lie..when only a few seconds of search reveals the fraud?

  83. nihil obstet

    The seemingly endless resources fueled growth mentality. It also supported the belief that life would always get better for everyone and especially for everyone’s children. This belief depended on having someone else to do the unpleasant, low-paying work. First, there were indentured servants. Then, a largely slave-based economy. And then, immigrant labor, where the first generation of immigrants started working hard in poverty, and they and their children rose financially and socially as subsequent immigrants lifted them off the bottom rung.

    This belief lingers and gets a large segment of the American population to accept abusive immigration policies to get the cheap labor rather than developing labor policies that mean even low-status work returns a decent wage. It’s not just through direct competition that immigration affects labor; it’s also through supporting a hierarchy that prevents working class solidarity.

  84. Peter


    I think you missed an important fact and embraced another fallacy when you stated that new immigrants lifted the older immigrants off the bottom rung. The older immigrants lifted themselves by acquiring skills or education to be able to move up into better jobs and were replaced by the new arrivals.

    The fallacy you appear to embrace is that without the better paying jobs for these people to aspire and strive for a government policy should make them more comfortable in careers that lead nowhere for most stuck in those positions.

    The economy can’t be pushed up from the bottom by policy that will inflate costs and probably reduce jobs, there is no new productivity gains to cover the costs. Concentrating on increasing higher skill and wage job growth will produce the opportunity for people to move up and spend their increased income to support the lower service level jobs and maybe even pay some taxes.

  85. Willy

    I know a guy who came here in his youth as an H1B, did well and stayed, then rose in that name brand company. All of a sudden, he had to take a years sabbatical “to travel”. After, he sold his three houses (landlorded as he moved up) and is now making a go as a life coach. He’s not talking, but it’s easy to read between the lines of that one to get the gist of how our cowardly new corporate culture operates.

  86. nihil obstet


    Even if everyone has advanced skills, tomatoes still have to be picked and toilets cleaned. The belief that everyone can advance with hard work and skill depends on someone else to pick the tomatoes and clean the toilets. In the U.S., immigrants have been the someone else, and that has affected our labor policies.

  87. Peter


    Tomatoes are mostly picked by machines today and toilet cleaning robots will soon be taking those union jobs but I understand your point. I think we already have enough unemployed or underemployed to meet much these needs but logistics, culture and perceptions make a match difficult.

  88. Willy

    I thought this was about immigration causing underemployment for natives.

  89. Peter


    There is nothing that can be done about the legal immigrants in the country so the question about it causing underemployment can only be applied to new immigration. I’ve read reports that Trump wants to reduce legal immigration as much as 50% for some groups but that will be a big fight if it reaches congress.

    The more immediate test of these ideas is what will happen when about a million criminal aliens are deported. I don’t know how many of them actually work at jobs but many must and those positions will be open. There is also the app one million criminal legal aliens who are undesirables that once deported would open up more jobs. In a few years we could have some actual data to debate.

  90. Kaleberg

    This seems to ignore that actual reason immigrants have hurt low wage earners in the US. It’s not supply and demand. It’s about economic power. There was an equilibrium born of the labor movement and liberal politics that allowed a broad variety of low skill workers in the US to make a decent living, almost always because they belonged to a union and the threat of a strike. A good example was the meat packing business which has always been harsh, nasty work, but it paid well and offered decent benefits. Then the employers took advantage of the immigration boom that started in the 1970s and brought in bus loads of illegal immigrants to serve as strike breakers. Wages went down, conditions got worse, and the low skill US citizens were forced into low paying jobs.

    This happened repeatedly. It has happened with hotel workers, in manufacturing and in agriculture, and once the key unions are broken, the prevailing industry wage drops. You’ll see this with Boeing’s move to South Carolina where unions are opposed on ideological grounds. For now, South Caroline workers have decent pay and benefits, but as Boeing continues to shut down its Washington operations they will find themselves facing pay cuts, benefit cuts and then backing candidates who promise to bring back the good old days.

    You can think of it as a phase change. Bringing in a new supply of workers with limited rights and willing to accept lower pay melts the ice. Immigration enabled the change in equilibrium, not by direct competition, but by changing the playing field.

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