Thursday, November 03, 2005

Illegal Aliens Revisited

My earlier remarks on illegal immigration seem to have stirred up a bit of controversy. It was my thesis that illegals do NOT pay their own way and because of the underground economy in which many of them participate, no one could possibly know if they did. Yet, we have experts from biology professors to news media types who reassure us frequently that illegals pay their own way.

It does not matter if they do pay their own way. There are enough other problems with illegal immigrants (such as the numbers of them in prison) that make them undesirable.

As one trained in economics and as one who has experience with major employers, I can dispel at least one myth about hiring of illegals. Large companies such as General Electric do not attract and hire illegals. These are companies who carefully examine records of people and who have a lot to lose by hiring people who should not be in the United States.

General Electric and other large companies pay the prevailing wage in a community. Or they are bound by union contracts to pay a certain wage. They hire the best people they can get for a pre-determined wage, not the lowest wage people available. It doesn't make sense for them to hire illegals.

Low wage people are not drawn to large companies, because such companies often have experts who can check fake documents. If wages are a problem, the larger companies move off-shore or they close down and buy from companies overseas. But they do not hire low cost people to save money, or any other rational reason.

It is already against the law to hire illegals; it has been that way for some fifteen years. Larger companies know they will be fined and vilified in public if they are caught, even though the hiring is an error.

No doubt there are some sweat shops who are experts in hiring low wage people. But they are not the larger corporations that make up the backbone of American industry.

As a side issue, we often associate illegals with poor Mexicans. But there are probably thousands of British and Canadians working illegally in this country. They get away with it because they are white, professional, and speak a fairly standard formof English. They are not in the low wage group. There is also a fairly large group of people from the Middle East who are professional people, graduates of US colleges and universities, who overstayed their student visas and who managed to obtain work permits. Some have been here for 20 years or more.

Some have said (and I do not know if it is true) that colleges and universities are in favor of a certain type of illegal immigrant because there are too many schools for the U.S. population. The colleges and universities can only stay in business if they have a large enough body of students. To maintain such a clientele, they have to draw from the illegal immigrant population. If the Government were to stop illegal immigrants at the border, the argument goes, some colleges and universities would have to shut down.

One of the larger problems with illegal immigrants is that many of them are nice people who work hard. Citizens hire them for day work and pay them cash for a few hours of effort. Somehow they earn a meager living doing this. When hiring day workers, the average household is providing a magnet. It would be nearly impossible for the U.S. Government to track down every household that hires illegal people and pays them in cash. Therefore, it seems easier and better to cut off the supply of illegals than it is to put heads of American households in jail or than to try to find them and impose fines.

No one said it was going to be easy to solve the illegal problem. But it is not so hard to stop the problem from growing. There is definitely a magnet or two drawing people into this country. One political persuasion says it is not the benefits we provide. Yet, it has to be part of the equation. They say that illegals take the jobs that no one else will do. This has yet to be proved. So far it is another urban myth.

Maybe illegals have it so bad in their own country that it is better to accept even a low wage in this one.

Certainly, people are dying to get into America.

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