Monday, March 11, 2013

Immigration's Winners and Losers

In the New York Times op ed piece, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, and Your Economists Too,  Harvard professor Gregory Mankiw gives three main reasons to support immigration to the US. While I, too, am pro-immigration, I find his reasoning another example of an academic mired in theoretical assumptions, disconnected from reality. 

For instance, Mankiw says, “If an American farmer wants to hire a worker to pick fruits and vegetables, the fact that the worker happens to have been born in Mexico does not seem a compelling reason to stop the transaction.” Of course not, especially when the worker has no health insurance, and the farmer has no obligation to the worker to provide a safe work setting, adequate cost of living wages, or any kind of employment security.

He continues that, “When thinking about immigration, there is little doubt that the least fortunate, and the ones with the most at stake in the outcome, are the poor workers who yearn to come to the United States to make a better life for themselves and their families.” True – to a point. Unfortunately, not all immigrants to America arrive with the same advantages, and once here, those who are disadvantaged may find it more difficult to obtain the American Dream. Without a visa, they may lack an easy road to citizenship, an obstacle to legitimate employment even if they have an advanced degree; they lack political power if they cannot vote; and they may suffer poor health if their socioeconomic status is low or their families far away and cannot provide socio-economic support when needed.