Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Democrats' conundrum: If you want less income inequality, does that means fewer illegal immigrants?

Mickey Kaus makes a very interesting observation. It will be interesting to see if the Democratic party even tries to square the circle on this issue or just ignores it:
If you're worried about incomes at the bottom, though, one solution leaps out at you. It's a solution that worked, at least in the late 1990s under Bill Clinton, when wages at the low end of the income ladder rose fairly dramatically. The solution is tight labor markets. Get employers bidding for scarce workers and you'll see incomes rise across the board without the need for government aid programs or tax redistribution. A major enemy of tight labor markets at the bottom is also fairly clear: unchecked immigration by undocumented low-skilled workers. It's hard for a day laborer to command $18 an hour in the market if there are illegals hanging out on the corner willing to work for $7. Even experts who claim illlegal immigration is good for Americans overall admit that it's not good for Americans at the bottom. In other words, it's not good for income equality.

Odd, then that Obama, in his "war on inequality," hasn't made a big effort to prevent illegal immigration--or at least to prevent illegal immigrration from returning with renewed force should the economy recover. He hasn't, for example, pushed to make it mandatory for employers to use the "E-Verify" system, or some other system, to check the legality of new hires, preferring to hold that reform hostage (sorry!) in order to try and achieve a larger "comprehensive" bill that included a conditional amnesty for the 11 or so million illegals already here. (In Washington, if something's obviously desirable that means it's a bargaining chip.) True, Obama has tried to make a big deal of his administration's deportation numbers, but only as a nose-holding effort to placate the right sufficiently to get a mass legalization bill through. And the deportation numbers themselves are suspect.

Income inequality has become a big issue on the left. And as the job market continues to stagnate, I wonder to what extent the blue collar parts of the Democratic base will put pressure on the party to do something about immigration reform.


Among Mormons, a deep divide on immigration

Two leading Utah activists embody opposite views on the issue – and both cite the church's teachings as the core of their positions.

At the Sandstrom family table on the edge of the Wasatch Mountains, eldest son Stephen listened carefully as his parents talked about politics, the divine nature of the nation's founding and the importance of the rule of law.

Sandstrom held fast to those tenets of his Mormon faith years later as a state representative. They led him to write a bill modeled on a controversial Arizona law that would require police to determine the immigration status of people they lawfully stop and also suspect are in the country illegally.

"This country is the greatest nation on Earth because God had a hand in its formation," said Sandstrom, 47. "A lot of that is because … we obey the rule of law. Turning a blind eye to illegal immigration jeopardizes the rule of law."

At the Yapias family table in Peru, eldest son Tony felt the strain of a family divided. His father labored seven years in the United States as a sheepherder in Idaho before the family won permission to join him when Tony was 14. The separation ultimately destroyed his parents' marriage.

When he became an adult, Yapias joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, drawn by the religion's emphasis on family. The intersection of the church and his childhood led the 44-year-old to a very different position on illegal immigration than Sandstrom's.

"Every immigrant understands the pain and suffering of any family that's separated," Yapias said. "When Sandstrom or anyone else starts talking, it just opens up wounds.... What I don't understand is how Sandstrom doesn't get it — how two people of the same faith can be so far apart."

Stephen Sandstrom and Tony Yapias embody the conflicting viewpoints on illegal immigration among church members — and both sides cite core LDS principles.

Illegal immigration has been a combustible issue across the country this year, but in normally tranquil Utah it has roiled the state's politics and highlighted a deep divide among Mormons. [The writer has given no evidence that the "divide" affects Mormons who are not of immigrant origin]


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