British citizens just voted to pull their country out of the European Union. These “Brexit” supporters knew that leaving would be risky — the decision has already rattled financial markets — but they felt it was the only way to reduce excessive levels of immigration.
The vote is a wakeup call to global elites that their populations will no longer accept high immigration policies that depress wages and limit job opportunities for ordinary citizens. Let’s hope progressive leaders in the United States heed the message.
Ordinary British citizens have suffered economically due to high immigration from European Union countries — especially lower-wage ones in Eastern Europe. Last year alone, a record 184,000 EU citizens moved to Britain. Many were attracted by the opportunity to earn higher wages and work better jobs than they could find in their home countries.
Of course, that creates quite a problem for British workers, who need those same jobs. So it’s no surprise that three-quarters of Britons support reducing immigration.
Middle and working-class Britons have long pressured their leaders to curb the number of new arrivals. Back in 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron, who is now stepping down due to Brexit, had promised to limit immigration to 100,000 people per year. But he never fulfilled his pledge.
So the people of Britain finally decided their only option was to leave the EU.
Many American progressive leaders worry that the same economic frustrations with high immigration policies will lead working-class citizens to vote for Donald Trump in this fall’s presidential election. These leaders are concerned what a Republican victory would mean for a whole host of progressive causes.
Instead of continuing to ignore these frustrations, progressive leaders would be wise to change course and adopt the immigration views that guided the progressive movement for decades. Civil rights leader and Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, for instance, chaired a commission in the mid-1990s that recommended cutting legal immigration to 550,000 — about half today’s level. President Clinton endorsed that proposal.
A generation before them, labor activist Cesar Chavez argued vigorously for deporting illegal aliens. He understood that working Americans would never be able to secure pay raises and better working conditions as long as employers could exploit a ready supply of cheap, illegal, labor.
British leaders, including progressives, ignored their citizens’ demands for economic justice and a fair chance to find decent paying jobs in their own country. Let’s hope American progressive leaders don’t make the same mistake.