Liberals Beware: There is a High Cost to “Cheap” Labor

January 1, 2003 | Richard D. Lamm

There is a liberal case for controlling illegal immigration that is seldom articulated. As the issue heats up and sides are drawn, both objectivity and civility seem to be in short supply. Armed citizen groups travel to the Border as self-appointed border guards, setting the stage for worrisome and perhaps violent conflict. Defenders of illegal immigrants call any and all concern about this issue “racist,” and attempt to take the issue completely off the table. The wise words directed at another subject by the late John Gardner seem to apply; the issue is “caught between unloving critics and uncritical lovers.”

Dialogue is particularly difficult when addressing issues that deal with, or are claimed to be motivated by, race. In a strange way, this is a compliment to America. The struggle for civil rights, even now not completely resolved, was so overdue, so right for its time, so glorious in its accomplishment, that it required the vast majority of Americans to inoculate themselves against all forms of racism. Unconscious insensitivities that had developed over the 100 years since the Civil War had to be changed or at least made into a faux pas. We all step gingerly around the subject of race, and have even taken innocent words like “niggardly” out of our vocabulary because they might accidentally offend. All revolutions have causalities, and by a large margin the small costs are eclipsed by the large gains in justice. But you can’t solve an issue you don’t talk about, and a problem ignored just grows worse. It is time for an honest discussion about illegal immigration. Not out of a narrowness of heart to newcomers, but because illegal immigration is hurting U.S. taxpayers and the poorest Americans for the benefit of a few. A coalition of “cheap labor conservatives” and “open border liberals” reinforced by political correctness has kept this debate off the table too long.

It almost seems naïve to start out the argument that we are a nation of laws, and that people should come here legally. This is not a mere formality as some imply, or a tiresome technicality: remember that there are millions of people patiently waiting to come to America, and illegal immigrants skip the line. To continue to tolerate this practice is not only a legal issue; it is morally unfair to those waiting to come legally. The argument should stop there, but it doesn’t, so let’s look at some of the public policy reasons against the institution of illegal immigration

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