No Thanks, I'd Rather Mooch

No need for illegals - just make citizens work.

The problem of illegal immigration has been a fiery issue across the United States for some time now.  It doesn't get much ink in America, but Europe has a similar problem.

As in the United States, Europe borders on very poor countries which have extremely different cultures (Turkey and Africa), and also has immigrants both legal and illegal from much farther afield (the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent).  The International Herald Tribune and the Economist, both publications of global renown, recently published articles discussing the situation.  They concentrate on different countries, but both recount fascinatingly similar points.

First, the Economist:

Cantering through the Berkshire countryside, the four racehorses could hardly look more English. It might not be surprising in these globalised times that Kingwood House Stables in Lambourn, where Derby winners have been trained, is owned by an Arab sheikh. But the labour, too, is foreign: Slim, a young rider teaching his horse the ropes, is Indian. His colleagues include Brazilians and Pakistanis; nearby stables employ Filipinos and Mauritians. Nearly a third of Britain's "work riders", the brave souls who take young horses on practice gallops, come from outside Europe. They have to: trainers can no longer find enough young Britons willing to start work at 5am on Sundays. [emphasis added]

And, the International Herald Tribune:

The Café La Jatte is in many ways a typical Parisian eatery. It has a menu full of culinary promise, a sumptuous wine list and a handful of illegal African immigrants working in the kitchen... Every time Caussade [the owner] advertises a job in the paper,

only Africans and Sri Lankans respond

, he said. [emphasis added]

Does this sound familiar?  We frequently hear illegal Mexican immigrants referred to as "doing jobs Americans won't do."  In fact, John McCain infuriated an audience by arguing that they would not be willing to pick lettuce in the hot Arizona sun at any price, even for $50 an hour - whereupon listeners surged forward shouting that they would love to do just that.

In the United States, at least, the job Americans simply won't do is nothing more than a myth: they won't do it for the starvation wages that illegals will, but if a reasonable middle-class paycheck is on offer employers have no trouble filling the ranks with native-born citizens.

If these articles are to be believed, however, Europeans truly will not do these jobs no matter the wages.  The Economist says that:

Horse-trainers have offered gentler hours, higher pay and more generous weight limits, to no avail. The Birmingham Royal Ballet tries to recruit from British ballet schools - but many of those students are themselves foreigners.

And in France:

Sylvie Brunet, head of human resources at ONET, a company in Marseille that provides cleaning services, said her business could not function without ample immigrant labor.

"Even French high school dropouts don't want the jobs we offer," she said. Stéphane Vallet of Bouygues, the construction company, concurred.

Are Europeans simply lazy?  Surely human nature is not so very different on opposite sides of the pond?

No, the reason for this discrepancy is as simple as it is obvious: Europeans don't have to work.  How often are we reminded of how much "more generous" European governments are to their poor?

There is nothing to make you feel like working like an empty stomach, and nothing to make you feel less like working than a full one.  As societies, we have decided that we do not wish to see people starving in the gutter or lining up for cabbage soup in Dickensian workhouses.  Thus, modern Western nations have created a "safety net" funded by tax dollars, providing a bottom limit to poverty.

Nobody literally starves to death in the United States or Europe.  Most of those who have no roof over their heads are homeless by choice or as a result of lunatic decisions driven by drug-addled or otherwise handicapped brains.  So it's quite possible for citizens of Western nations to live out their entire lives without ever lifting a finger, as long as they don't mind some minor indignities.

However, the standard of living for European welfare recipients is far higher than that of American ones.  Sure, no Americans starve, but life on American welfare is not exactly pleasant.  In Europe, it's rather cushier; and that's not including all the ways of acquiring welfare by other means, such as the permanent college student and the "disabled".

It's simply common sense that the nicer a life you have if you don't work, the more people will choose not to work and the pickier they will be about what job they might be willing to accept.  In France, it's quite likely that the citizen who is not working has a nicer life than the illegal immigrant who is working a grunt job in a restaurant kitchen; in America, that's more improbable.

The reason illegal immigrants are willing to take those jobs is straightforward: since they are illegal, they don't get welfare!  They aren't entirely without a safety net, as charity soup-kitchens and homeless shelters will still service them; but they aren't going to get any food stamps, welfare checks, or electronic benefits cards in most cases.  So their "floor" is much farther down than for any citizen; thus, they are more likely to be willing to accept an unpleasant, badly-paying job.

This is a problem overlooked by those who demand amnesty.  If we wave the magic wand and allow anyone who is currently in the United States illegally to suddenly get a green card, that doesn't just give them freedom from worries of deportation.  It also allows them eventual access to the welfare system - so, over time, they'll wind up in the same situation as the non-workers we already have.  How is this helpful?

The right solution, for both the US and Europe, is to start by securing the border and aggressively deporting those who are on the wrong side of it.  Then, one of three things will happen.

As we've already seen in poultry-processing plants, companies may increase wages until they reach a level where American citizens will accept them.  This raises the cost of chicken somewhat, but it also provides good jobs for working-class Americans without the government having to meddle in the market.

Or, companies may make investment in automation so as to not need the cheap labor.  This is what happened after the famous "Operation Wetback" in 1954, when the INS removed millions of illegal farm workers from the Southwest.

The farmers protested that their crops would rot in the fields.  The Feds ignored these arguments and deported the illegals anyway.  Guess what?  The crops didn't rot - instead, farmers invested in new technology like the mechanical cherry harvester that reduced the need for unskilled labor but increased the need for skilled American manufacturing jobs to make the machines.  Isn't that what politicians say they want?

There's one other alternative which has already been taking place: Reduce welfare payments.  When Bill Clinton signed welfare reform in 1996, he was assailed as a moral reprobate for throwing starving orphans into the street.  By 2006, even the Boston Globe had to admit that the reform accomplished everything it was advertised to do:

The results speak for themselves. Since peaking in 1994, the nation's welfare caseload plummeted by 60 percent, falling from 5 million families to fewer than 2 million. Welfare recipients went to work in droves. The employment rate among those who had been likeliest to slip into long-term dependence -- young mothers who had never been married -- soared by nearly 100 percent. And as more and more mothers left welfare and got jobs, more and more of their children were lifted out of poverty.  Far from throwing a million kids into the streets, welfare reform sent the child poverty rate tumbling, from 20.8 percent in 1995 to 17.8 percent in 2004.

Those who are particularly concerned about the economic well-being of minority groups would do well to note that

In black communities, where welfare had done the most damage, the decline was even more dramatic. "Black child poverty plummeted at an unprecedented rate, falling to 30.0 percent in 2001," Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation testified before Congress.  "In 2001, despite the recession, the poverty rate for black children was at the lowest point in national history."

We have (it is said) jobs requiring unskilled labor, which are currently filled by illegal immigrants being paid less than the market rate and in many cases less than the legal minimum wage.  We also have a large number of citizens, particularly minorities, who are unskilled and do not have jobs.

Why should we care more about the citizens of some other country being able to find work than we do about our fellow Americans?  If liberals truly cared about the poor, they'd support a tight immigration policy and aggressive deportation efforts.

And then, you might just be surprised at the all-American workers who come out of the woodwork.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Immigration.
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