Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Maybe This Wall Is a Good Thing

Arnold Kling points to some early signs of negative consequences of cracking down on illegal immigration.

Carnes ended up with less than 100 workers and fell two weeks behind, with bits and pieces of the fields unpicked. His income fell about $150,000, a significant loss.
...
Illegal immigrant workers who used to travel the country picking different crops as the seasons changed are hesitant to migrate for fear of being caught.
...
The problem is now reaching crisis proportions, food growers say. As much as 30 percent of the year's pear crop was lost in Northern California, growers estimate. More than one-third of Florida's Valencia orange crop went unharvested, Regelbrugge said.

This actually may be a good thing. People do not understand what they cannot see. Many (if not most) of the people that oppose immigration do so on the mistaken notion that immigrants take jobs away from native workers. Actually imposing the real costs of strict immigration could have two positive impacts.

First, it will (hopefully) illustrate the positive impacts of immigration. Importing low-skill labor means keeping costs low for the rest of us while the importer workers get a higher standard of living. A win-win if there ever was one.

Second, as rising prices or shortages start to cause real pain for consumers and growers alike there will be a push to liberalize immigration rules. Something that all supports of immigration would like to see anyway. Interestingly, we will see, in no uncertain terms, whether many on the right are really only concerned about the "illegal" part of illegal immigration.

A third, and I think highly unlikely, option is that low skill workers already in the US will flock to rural America to pick fruit when the wages start to rise. I'm not holding my breath.

Update: I missed another option, which is probably the most likely of all - the farmers will simply automate picking, replacing labor with capital. This mitigates my enthusiasm for a lesson to be learned by quite a bit.

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