Sunday, April 02, 2006

Illegal Immigration Protests

Thousands of protestors marched from coast to coast this week in favor of illegal immigration. Well, many marched in favor of immigration, period, but by embracing illegal immigrants, they support violation of US law.

Flying the Mexican Flag in Houston....

Reagan High School Principal Robert Pambello was ordered to remove a Mexican flag Wednesday morning that he had hoisted below the U.S. and Texas flags that typically fly in front of his school — a symbol he agreed to fly to show support for his predominantly Hispanic student body.

"It is appropriate to fly the flags of the United States and Texas over schools in the Houston Independent School District, since we are a public entity of the state," HISD spokesman Terry Abbott said. "It would not be appropriate for the school district to advocate allegiance to a country other than the United States. Therefore, it is not appropriate to permit use of school district flagpoles for the purpose of flying flags representing other countries."

Better cancel that St. Patrick's Day parade, too.

Meanwhile, economic issues overshadow the arguments flying back and forth over what do about illegals. Andrew Cassel of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes:

Take the argument over immigrants and employment. One side asserts newcomers take jobs from those who (or whose ancestors) got here first.

The other side counters with the (by now) cliche that immigrants "do the jobs Americans don't want."

Who is right? You won't find the answer on cable TV or radio talk shows. It turns out there's almost no consensus on immigration's impact, even among the learned and dispassionate ranks of economists.

But maybe both sides miss the point.

Here's a way to think about immigrants and the economy that you don't hear in the rhetoric, but that makes a lot of sense. I got it from Berkeley labor economist David Card when he spoke here last year.

Immigrants increase the labor pool, Card said, but the effect isn't mainly to drive down wages for other jobs. Nor is it mainly to do jobs Americans prefer not to do themselves.

Rather, immigrants do work that otherwise would be done by machine, or not at all.

Take the wine industry. In Australia, vineyards are harvested by machines. In California, Mexicans do it.

The same comparisons can be seen from construction to car washes. Abundant labor simply makes it cheaper to hire people than to invest in more machinery.

Does that mean the economy could survive with fewer immigrants? In some areas, probably so.

But immigrants also do valuable jobs that otherwise wouldn't get done at all - because they can't be automated, because labor is too expensive, or because there simply aren't enough eligible bodies to hire.
And besides, too many of them work for Republicans.


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