Sunday, March 01, 2015

Trying To Hit That Sweet Spot

John Ellis Bush has been all over the map on illegal immigration.

As Politifact has noted, in 1994 he opposed a border fence, but was for deportation.   In 2006, he supported a broad guest worker program and citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.  In 2009, he was in favor of legalization and citizenship, but in a separate statement, supported only legalization.  In 2012, it was a path to citizenship "or a path to legalization." The following year, he advocated "a path to permanent legal resident status" because "A grant of citizenship is an undeserving reward for conduct that we cannot afford to encourage."

Now an all-but-declared candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, John Ellis Bush may have settled on the latter position. On Friday in a question-and-answer format (Bush, below) at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he remarked

The plan also includes a path to legal status. I have not seen anybody- and I know there's disagreement here. Some of these people are angry about this and look, I kind of feel your pain. I was in Miami this morning- it was 70 degrees, so.   The simple fact is there is no plan to deport 11 million people. We should give them a path to legal status where they work, they don't receive government benefits, where they don't break the law, where they learn English and where they make a contribution to our society. That's what we need to be focused on.

Legal status, legalization, residency: all terms used at one time or another by John Ellis Bush, and each a (slightly) different way to say: "you can come here and work but you're not going to be able to vote or get any benefits of American citizenship because you're just not up to our standards."

That's John Ellis Bush trying- thus far unsuccessfully- to thread the needle. The popular base doesn't want any concessions whatsoever to illegal immigrants (Laura Ingraham, below) and Bush thinks they will be mollified if he wants to deny them under all circumstances the right to vote (Democratic). Meanwhile, he knows that his numerous big money donors like the idea of letting immigrants (legal and illegal) in and having them compete with American citizens for jobs.

It's hardly surprising that the former Florida governor, the preferred candidate of the 1%, is sympathetic to increasing immigration as long as the entrants don't gain the dignity or the bargaining power of citizenship. In an article in Salon, Philip Cafaro explains the task for progressives to chip away at growing income inequality:

Harvard’s George Borjas, a leading authority on the economic impacts of immigration, contends that during the 1970s and 1980s, each immigration-driven 10 percent increase in the number of workers in a particular economic field in the United States decreased wages in that field by an average of 3.5 percent. More recently, studying the impact of immigration on African-Americans, Borjas and colleagues found that a 10 percent immigrant-induced increase in the supply of a particular skill group reduced the wages of black workers in that group by 4 percent, lowered the employment rate of black men by 3.5 percentage points, and increased the incarceration rate of blacks by almost a percentage point....

In recent decades, mass immigration arguably has harmed poorer workers and increased economic inequality in the United States. But this should not surprise us. By importing millions of poor people into the United States and setting them in competition with other poor people for scarce jobs, we drive down wages and increase unemployment among those who can least afford it. Our current era of gross economic inequality, low wages and persistently high unemployment seems like precisely the wrong time to expand immigration.

Arguably, today, progressives concerned about American workers should advocate reductions in legal immigration. After all, immigration can go up as well as down. Just as Congress increased immigration levels in the 1960s, 1980s and 1990s, it could decrease immigration levels today, at a time when tens of millions of Americans are unemployed and the majority suffers from stagnating wages. Perhaps a moratorium on non-essential immigration is in order, until the official unemployment rate declines below 5 percent and stays there for several years in a row, or until real wages for the bottom half of American workers increase by 25 percent or more. Tightening up labor markets worked post-World War II, during the golden age of the American labor movement. It can work again today (just ask the American Medical Association, which lobbies vigorously against accrediting foreign doctors).

There is good reason the AMA lobbies against bringing in foreign doctors, and a good reason John Ellis Bush is in favor of bringing in people to perform work for low-wage work in farming, building maintenance, food preparation, and other fields. They have good reason- for themselves and for the people they represent. For the rest of us- especially if immigrants don't get a clear, streamlined path to citizenship- it's a bad deal.

And in St. Louis today, it was 37 degrees. So.

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