I am fundamentally opposed to taking wages out of marketplace valuation; however, too many employers are willing to take extreme advantage of unskilled laborers, replacing long-term employees with teenagers or illegal immigrants who work for near nothing, causing harm to the individuals as well as the overall economy. My argument is that the United States needs to close its borders to illegal immigration and increase the number of visas available for unskilled labor. In making this argument, I will use two hypothetical examples: Carlita is a 42-year-old Mexican national who paid her way across the border, lives in California, and works in various live-in domestic positions, usually general housekeeping, which often childcare. Cory is a 28-year-old white male, born in Texas, who lives in and around his hometown and is a chronic pot smoker.
Carlita is very responsible and, despite being a lawbreaker through her illegal entry into the United States, absolutely trustworthy. She is paid between five and six dollars an hour for forty hours of work each week and most of that money is sent by Western Union back to her parents and teenaged children in Mexico City. Minimum wage in California is $8.00 an hour, but because she has no legal status, Calita is paid lower wages than required by law and is seldom paid for the overtime she works almost daily. Once raped by her employer, she was too afraid of deportation to go to the police and continued to work in the home until she found another position.
Carlita’s family is in no position to support itself and depends on income for survival. However, the situation is unfair to her as she can never build up any retirement, creating a situation wherein her children will eventually make their way across the border as well.
Cory works construction, farm, or fast food positions as he gets them, makes minimum wage or a little more. He is dependable for a few months of each job, but once he has a regular income, he begins to party on a regular basis, which in turn causes him to miss work and, eventually, get fired or quit because he is about to be fired. If no other options are available, several of his employers will hire him back after a period of time, knowing that while straight Cory is a hard worker who gets along well with others. Cory, because of his poor choices, will remain in poverty, but he still pays into the social security system, allowing him to create a retirement fund for himself.
While Carlita is clearly the better employee, she is taken advantage of because of her immigration status. Cory has a small pool of possible employers; however, this pool of temporary work could be expanded if illegal immigrates were not taking the low-rung positions for which he qualifies. Cory, as a citizen, has a right to the kinds of jobs being taken by undocumented workers even if his level of dependability is lower than that of someone like Carlita. Furthermore, Carlita deserves the respect, protection, and pay due a committed employee.
The problem with illegal immigration employment is that it creates a false bottom wage—employers can hire from the black-market labor pool (of which Carlita is a part), leaving the lowest rung of the citizenry, such as Cory, without employment options. If the United States will close its borders and increase the number of visas available to unskilled laborers, those coming to this country will be able to compete fairly for those jobs and receive the benefits employees in the U. S. deserve.
I don’t have all the answers, but I think these ideas need to be part of the conversation.
What do you think?