Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Why no mass illegal immigration earlier in American history?

Hat tip Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal Best of the Web July 26, 2006

Reader David Hoffman makes an interesting point:

“How is it that there wasn't "mass illegal immigration" earlier in history if Americans aren't willing to do these jobs?

The answer, I fear, is one that liberals will not enjoy. While there was always some illegal immigration over the nation's southern border, it achieved the current order of magnitude only as the achievements of the civil rights movement began to be felt in the job market and as the welfare state expanded.

In the old days when "hotel beds were made, office floors were cleaned, restaurant dishes were washed and crops were picked--by Americans," many of those Americans were of African ancestry or otherwise the object of discrimination. And they did them, in spite of low pay, because getting a better job by investing in education was not a reasonable option, nor was collecting a welfare check.

From the British Raj in India to the apartheid era of South Africa to the American South in pre-civil-rights days, the recipe for getting plenty of workers into low-status jobs at an "affordable" wage has been to maintain a class of people for whom those jobs were the best available option. Today this is being accomplished via a porous southern border. It goes without saying that a guest-worker program would be a more humane alternative.”


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