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NYT Op-Ed: Build the Wall – but Import More White-Collar Workers

TIJUANA, MEXICO - JANUARY 28: Construction of the U.S. border wall is halted after a car rolled down an embankment and landed against the wall on the Mexican side of the border on January 28, 2019 in Tijuana, Mexico. The U.S. government had been partially shut down as President Donald …
Scott Olson/Getty Images
NEIL MUNRO

The New York Times‘ leading establishment writer says he supports a border wall — but only if companies can legally import the workers they want.

“There has to be a compromise,” says establishment author Thomas Friedman, who has just returned from a long-delayed tour of the chaotic, overwhelmed, overrun border with Mexico.

“We need new walls,” Friedman admits, adding, “we need to rethink who is entitled to asylum, so people fleeing economic dislocation don’t overwhelm our borders.”

But Friedman’s April 23 compromise is just window dressing — because he wants companies to be able to import migrants legally, not via the existing chaotic, aesthetically displeasing cross-border crush. He writes:

We need to encourage legal immigration of people who can help our country thrive in the 21st century; and we need to partner with Mexico on a Mexican-American plan to manage the flow of migrants through Mexico to our border.

In fact, Friedman says his offer of a border wall and reform is just intended to muffle public opposition to massive levels of legal immigration. Friedman writes:

Without a high wall, too many Americans will lack confidence that we can control our borders, and they therefore will oppose the steady immigration we need.

He is also worried that chaotic migration might damage his political allies when more voters back politicians who will implement a pro-American reform. He says:

Indeed, if you are pro-immigration as I am, you have to acknowledge that this haphazard “system” has overwhelmed the Border Patrol and our immigration courts and contributed to [President Donald] Trump’s election. A May 2016 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic found that 48 percent of white working-class Americans agree that “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.”

And in an era when more and more countries will fracture under environmental, population, criminal and technological stresses, we simply cannot take everyone who shows up at our border.

There has to be a compromise. As David Frum put it in his smart essay on immigration this month in The Atlantic, “If liberals insist that only fascists will enforce borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals refuse to do.”

But the public is not merely objecting to the chaos of semi-legal migration from Mexico.

The public is objecting to the many economic consequences of imported labor for themselves, their children, and their neighbors. It is mass immigration — not just untidy immigration — that transfers voters’ wages to Wall Street, moves business investment from the heartland to the coasts, explodes rents, shrivels real estate values in the midwest, and rewards investors for creating low tech, labor-intensive workplaces.

Frieman does not object to this economic damage done to ordinary Americans.

Instead, he calls for more foreign graduates to take the jobs sought by debt-burdened U.S. graduates. Today’s patchwork immigration system “tells so many foreign students who come here legally — to learn computer science, medicine, design or engineering — to get out after they graduate … [but we should] celebrate the essential contribution that a steady flow of legal, high-energy and high-I.Q. immigrants make to America,” he writes.

Friedman does not make any reference to the capabilities, contributions, and rights of U.S. graduates, nor does he mention any limit on the annual inflow of salary-cutting foreign graduates.

Friedman’s offer of a one-sided compromise is a step forward.

Despite the shock of Trump’s 2016 election, establishment business groups — and progressives — have refused any immigration concessions with Trump’s 63 million voters. Some business leaders say higher wages are needed to restore public faith in Washington — yet oppose the migration reforms that would make higher wages possible.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is refusing any immigration concessions, according to an interview with the chamber’s president, Tom Donohue. “The fundamental issue is that the United States of America is out of people,” Donohue told the Washington Post, according to an April 25 article.

In February 2018, pro-migration Senators in both parties blocked Trump’s “Four Pillars” immigration reforms.

Meanwhile, Trump is trying to establish a compromise immigration policy that helps business and protects Americans’ wages.

Each year, roughly four million young Americans join the workforce after graduating from high school or university.

But the federal government then imports about 1.1 million legal immigrants, refreshes a resident population of roughly 1.5 million white-collar visa workers — including roughly 1 million H-1B workers — in addition to approximately 500,000 blue-collar visa workers, and also tolerates about eight million illegal workers and the inflow of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants.

This federal policy of flooding the market with cheap foreign white-collar graduates and blue-collar labor is intended to boost economic growth for investors.

This policy works by shifting enormous wealth from young employees towards older investors even as it also widens wealth gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, hurts children’s schools and college education, pushes Americans away from high-tech careers, and sidelines millions of marginalized Americans, including many who are now struggling with fentanyl addictions.

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