Well, not in so many words. But you may recall that a few months ago, when the illegal immigration debate was particularly hot around here, I floated raising the minimum wage – and then really enforcing it – as a way of stemming illegal immigration. I thought that might make those low wage jobs that Americans supposedly won’t take more attractive to Americans, and therefore unavailable to illegal immigrants. I also noted the fact that Republicans, who tend to complain the loudest about illegal immigration, are generally also the obstacles to raising the minimum wage. I was, as I recall, roundly ridiculed.
Well, not so fast! Apparently, Mike Dukakis and one Daniel Mitchell, “a professor of management and public policy at UCLA,” have been catching up on their back issues of BMG. No doubt inspired by my work, they write on the op-ed page of today’s NY Times (sub. req’d):
There is a simpler alternative. If we are really serious about turning back the tide of illegal immigration, we should start by raising the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to something closer to $8…. Once the minimum wage has been significantly increased, we can begin vigorously enforcing the wage law and other basic labor standards….
Americans will work at jobs that are risky, dirty or unpleasant so long as they provide decent wages and working conditions, especially if employers also provide health insurance. Plenty of Americans now work in such jobs, from mining coal to picking up garbage. The difference is they are paid a decent wage and provided benefits for their labor.
However, Americans wonât work for peanuts, and these days the national minimum wage is less than peanuts….
Curiously, most members of Congress who take a hard line on immigration also strongly oppose increasing the minimum wage, claiming it will hurt businesses and reduce jobs. For some reason, they donât seem eager to acknowledge that many of the jobs they claim to hold dear are held by the same illegal immigrants they are trying to deport.
But if we want to reduce illegal immigration, it makes sense to reduce the abundance of extremely low-paying jobs that fuels it. If we raise the minimum wage, itâs possible some low-end jobs may be lost; but more Americans would also be willing to work in such jobs, thereby denying them to people who arenât supposed to be here in the first place. And tough enforcement of wage rules would curtail the growth of an underground economy in which both illegal immigration and employer abuses thrive.
Raising the minimum wage and increasing enforcement would prove far more effective and less costly than either proposal currently under consideration in Congress. If Congress would only remove its blinders about the minimum wage, it may see a plan to deal effectively with illegal immigration, too.
Ah, if only ideas could be copyrighted. Anyway, my idea (and let’s be clear on that, Mike and Dan: I thought of it first!) might still be wrong – but at least now it’s wrong on the NY Times op-ed page!
Hat tip to Jay for seeing the op-ed.