Thursday, March 15, 2007

Immigration fills the gaps

In looking at the supply-and-demand scale for lower-wage workers, the supply is shrinking, but the demand is rising. So a comprehensive immigration reform is at the front of the table. However, the conservative majority we had in Congress before January voted to keep immigration in check. Thus, the supply side was lacking.

Since January, the momentum had shifted to the left, and so immigration reform is about to change, and not a moment too soon. But today, the anti-immigrant laws still stand in all 50 states.

Take Colorado for example. According to the Rutland Herald, prison inmates in Colorado will replace immigrants on Colorado farms. Why? Because the immigrants are no longer coming to Colorado because of stringent anti-immigrant legislation enacted by the state. I suppose the convicts are the people whom the anti-immigrant crowd feels have had their jobs stolen by illegal aliens.

Isn’t it ironic? Prior to the anti-immigrant legislation, there were two willing participants to employment contracts — the farm owner and the immigrant. Both sides were willing to enter into a labor agreement with each other because from their own individual perspective, they both benefited from the exchange. While we do not know the precise reasons each of them entered into the exchange, we do know that they each gave up something they valued less for something they valued more. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have entered into the exchange.

The farmer valued the work he received from the immigrants more highly than he did the money he was paying them. This is not surprising, given that immigrants are customarily very hard workers. The immigrants valued the money they received from the farmer more highly than they did the time and energy expended in doing the work. They customarily would use the money to support their families back in Mexico.

Now, as a result of the state’s anti-immigration legislation, the workers are going elsewhere in the United States where their labor is more appreciated, causing no small amount of pain for Colorado farmers who now don’t have enough workers to harvest their crops. As Colorado farmer Joe Pisciotta Jr. put it, “It’s very frustrating. I’m definitely going to lose customers. We’ve never had an issue like this. With all of us trying to get enough workers on our farms, I’m worried this is going to turn into farmer against farmer.”

But hey, surely those Colorado convicts, who will be paid at the generous rate of 60 cents a day, will be just as hard-working as those Mexican immigrants, right? And perhaps Colorado officials can persuade federal officials to help out. Isn’t Colorado where Zacharias Moussaoui, Ramzi Yousef, Terry Nichols, and Theodore Kaczynski are incarcerated? I’d bet that they’d love the opportunity to pick crops on those Colorado farms.

Why don't we repeal the anti-immigrant laws Congress had just enacted, both Colorado and nationally. Then, the supply-and-demand scale would be back on balance.

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