My Turn: More work visas, not more concentration camps

For the Monitor
Published: 7/21/2019 7:00:12 AM

The U.S. national debt is now about $22.5 trillion. This is the “official” debt, which doesn’t count obligations for Social Security, Medicare, federal pensions, military commitments to the Saudi monarchy, etc. Trump’s budget adds more than a trillion dollars to this debt every year.

Federal Reserve monetary expansion (what used to be called “inflation” when there were still a few Republicans instead of Trumpicans) has kept interest rates artificially low. This allows Trump to pretend that we can afford to carry a debt that is not only bigger than our GDP but is growing much faster. Math, however, disagrees. And math always wins arguments, as previous investors in Trump projects can testify.

So, what is the U.S. doing to close the gap between economic fantasy and reality?

Far from trying to restore healthy markets, Trump has raised tariffs to block the market in goods, and is rounding up immigrant workers to block the market in labor. Trump is implementing North Korean economics in the U.S. – using arbitrary government orders to determine the “correct” prices of goods and the “correct” number of immigrant workers.

Economically, the two actions are similar – blockading goods and blockading labor has the same effect on an economy. Pew Research estimates that there are about 7.6 million workers in the U.S. economy who can’t get work visas, and so are working to hold our economy together – illegally.

For comparison, the arbitrary quota for low-skilled H-2B work visas is 96,000 this year (which is 30,000 more than the previous administration allowed). The H1-B program is capped at 65,000 (it used to be 87,000, the limit was lowered under Obama), plus 20,000 more in a special advanced-degree category.

So we are providing well under 200,000 work visas for close to 8 million foreign workers. Whether these workers are fixing roofs, picking tomatoes or maintaining a Ruby On Rails database, they are doing things that won’t get done without them.

Things weren’t always like this. During World War II, the U.S. managed to issue work visas for the “braceros,” and even in the anti-immigrant 1930s we let in the refugee nuclear scientists from Europe. Imagine if instead we had crippled our domestic economy by keeping out vitally needed agricultural labor, and forced the nuclear scientists to stay in the dictatorships.

Without immigrants, the Allies would have had to fight with a labor-short, crippled U.S. economy, against nuclear-tipped Nazi missiles.

The contributions of immigrants are just as critical in peacetime. Forty percent of U.S. tech companies were founded by first- or second-generation immigrants.

The fact is that governments can’t know the “correct” number of immigrant workers. Only the workers and employers can negotiate a market-based number. ICE isn’t just attacking “foreigners” with their raids, they are hurting Americans who are trying to fix their roofs, take care of their aged relatives, and maintain our ever-more-complex technical infrastructure.

If every “undocumented worker” had documents, then they’d just be “workers.” There would be no need for exciting political photo ops, Gestapo-style raids on homes, no need for nationwide surveillance to prevent illegal tomato picking or computer programming – and most of the immigration “issue” would simply disappear.

If the nearly 8 million “illegal” workers suddenly weren’t illegal, then they could freely switch jobs to more economically productive work. They could pay more taxes (to be spent by Trump on military support for the Saudi puppet regime in Yemen, I suppose – no plan is perfect).

They could buy homes and raise property values. They would be inside the normal legal system, so crime both against and by them would drop. They could freely leave the U.S. to visit their families. The Border Patrol could spend its time actually looking for real criminals instead of floundering in masses of millions of legitimate agricultural and construction workers.

Building “more humane” concentration camps for eight million people won’t solve immigration problems. Neither will handing out driver’s licenses to “illegals” – and then backstabbing them by turning over the records to ICE, as Vermont does. Neither will any other sort of feel-good handout program that doesn’t allow immigrants to work.

Any politician who talks about “fixing immigration” without talking about work visas is a fraud.

(Bill Walker works for medical-imaging database company M2S in West Lebanon.)


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Concord Monitor, recently named the best paper of its size in New England.

Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301


© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy