The Wage Depression Argument Against Immigration Morally Fails

A very common argument among both Republicans and Democrats against easy immigration is that allowing more people to come in would cause a decrease in wages and available jobs for natives. The basic theory is at least plausible: an increase in the supply of labor would tend to decrease the price of labor (i.e. wages) because more laborers (relative to employers) would be able to “bid” down their offered price of labor. And, a corollary effect could be less jobs for natives. But, it turns out that economists have found that these negative effects don’t actually happen on a net overall basis… for several reasons I won’t get into now. But, never mind that, let’s say for argument’s sake that these negative effects from immigration do actually occur. What then? Would it justify restricting immigration to protect the jobs and wages of natives, who are typically much wealthier than immigrants? Morally speaking, the answer is certainly NO.

Remember that an immigration restriction is ultimately the action of some people (govt) using guns and coercive force to block other foreign people (often poor) from entering a marketplace within US borders. This prevents immigrants from living and trading here. Let’s use a simple analogy. What if Bob’s applying for a job? He hopes that there’s not a lot of applicants at the time so that he’ll probably be able to negotiate a good wage. But, then, he notices that a poor person in his town (who is a native US citizen) also wishes to get a job and is about to apply, competing with him, and he may “bid” down the wage and undercut Bob because he may work for less wages out of his desperation. Is it morally permissible for Bob to then get his gun, wait outside the company building, and use coercive force to block the poor person from applying and going to the interview, or working there if hired instead of Bob? I think we would all agree that such violence to prevent market labor competition from poor people, or anyone, is immoral. This is because poor people also have human rights to trade and work with people voluntarily without coercive interference from others, i.e. Bob or the govt. And, if Bob can’t compete with that, that’s just too bad for Bob. That’s fair competition. At least the job went to someone who’s more desperate than Bob.

Now, what if that poor person is not a native US citizen, but instead Juan from Guatemala who wishes to immigrate here to apply and possibly obtain that same job? Does that change anything? No, because natural human rights do not only exist for US citizens, but all humans, regardless of where they’re born. There is no justification for treating US citizens as inherently more “human” or rights-bearing than non-citizens. Know that I’m not advocating for the US to spend more money and take more action to actively help people around the world; the problem is not one of failing to offer aid to outsiders. The problem is that we (through our govt) are actively using coercive force to harm poor people by preventing them from entering the US marketplace and trading with willing partners. We should stop this, both for moral reasons and because it costs a lot of tax dollars to enforce all of our grand scale immigration restrictions.

Once again, we don’t have to worry about wage depression and job loss from immigration because these don’t actually occur on a net basis, but I wanted to argue on moral grounds just in case you believed otherwise.

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