According to the Washington Post, Luis V. Gutierrez quoted Paul Ryan as saying ““You’re a Catholic; I’m a Catholic; we cannot have a permanent underclass of Americans exploited in America,” Ryan is absolutely right, which is why Gang of Eight-style immigration reform is such a bad idea.
The CBO estimated that the original Gang of Eight bill would have only reduced future illegal immigration by twenty-five percent. They estimated a reduction of around one-third to one-half. That would still leave up to seven million or more illegal immigrants in the US ten years from now even if the bill passes and the enforcement provisions are fully implemented. That is still a large permanent underclass.
It is worse than that. The CBO assumes that internal employment enforcement will be implemented by the Obama administration. The Senate bill grants legal status first. The structure of the bill means that there would be no incentive for the Obama administration to implement employment verification. Employment verification could be “delayed” (like other portions of laws that President Obama finds inconvenient), and this would likely increase the size of the illegal immigrant population. Mandatory and universal employment verification needs to come before any amnesty.
It is worse than that. The CBO estimates that a major channel for future illegal immigration would be low-skill guest workers who overstay their visas. The guest workers would work here, they would not have access to the American welfare state, they would not be eligible for citizenship, and they would face deportation if they underwent a spell of unemployment. The Senate immigration plan actually plans to create a brand new exploited underclass. So now we get two exploited underclasses.
It is worse than that. The Senate bill enormously increases low-skill immigration. Low-skill American workers and current residents have been enduring declining wages for thirty years. This has coincided with declining labor force participation and family disintegration. The unemployment rate for low-skill workers is currently is currently 10.7%. That understates the problem as the labor force participation rate for low-skill workers is 44.5%. For workers with a bachelor’s degree, the labor force participation rate is 75.6%. Expanding the pool of low-skill workers is likely to drive wages down even lower for that population.
There are those who look at the high unemployment rates and low labor force participation of low-skill American workers and current residents and see a labor shortage. It turns out that current low-skill American workers and current residents do not live near those places in America where the low-skill jobs are located (so the low-skill workers have to come from out of country – obviously.) Low-skill American citizens and current residents are more likely to have had chemical dependency issues or legal trouble. They have access to the welfare state. In the words of a Marco Rubio aide, those American citizens and current residents who have been facing declining wages, declining labor force participation, and collapsing families “can’t cut it”. They too will be an underclass as they are even more cut off from the labor market due to declining wages.
There are those who stand to benefit from expanding underclasses. In the short-term, employer-interests benefit from maximizing their leverage over low-skill workers. In the long-term, statist ideologues benefit from the discontent of millions who are blocked from full participation in society. The country loses.
Opposing the existence of “a permanent underclass of Americans exploited in America” should be our highest priority in immigration policy. It is why Gang of Eight-style immigration policy must be stopped.