(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed) — Thanks to President Donald Trump’s very passionate push for more immigration restrictions, which include support for more taxpayer dollars being allocated to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the unpractical erection of a “great wall” between the United States and Mexico, one would think we never discussed immigration policy like we do now.
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But the debate over immigration restrictions in America is as old as the country itself.
When penning the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson explained that one of the reasons for the founders’ rebellion was that King George III of England was hindering the growth of the country by “obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.”
By discouraging immigration, Jefferson wrote, the king sealed American borders by stopping immigration from England and elsewhere. That, he explained, hindered the growth of the country. Among other trade burdens, immigration restrictions made it harder for America to grow its economy, making the lives of locals much more difficult.
As you can see, by breaking America’s ties with England, the Founding Fathers were looking to expand the country’s economy substantially not only by trading “with all parts of the world,” but also by allowing immigrants to provide the necessary skills and support that would fuel local production of goods and services, boosting American commerce.
Prosperity, they seemed to recognize back then, required freedom, because only in liberty could employers be free to hire whomever they wished.
Immigration In The Trump Era
But the times have changed, proponents of more immigration controls from both sides of the aisle in Washington will argue. Giving employers the freedom to hire whomever they wish is “dangerous,” and at best, a thing of the past.
Unfortunately, American producers — and consequently, consumers — are the ones hurting considerably because of the most recent restrictions on immigration flow.
As agricultural migrant workers see the doors closing on them, more Mexican immigrants have been leaving the United States than arriving. And the problem agricultural leaders have been facing for years thanks to California’s agricultural worker overtime and minimum wage laws, which have been raising the cost of production to employers, is only getting worse. After all, migrants are simply too scared to even try to take on the available jobs.
To wine grape growers like Brad Goehring, life has been hard. When he noticed Mexican immigrants weren’t taking on agricultural jobs in California like they used to, he tried to focus on hiring Americans. That, he told CBS, was a total failure.
“No one’s ever lasted through lunch on the first day. They just walk off the job and we don’t hear from them again. It tells us Americans simply don’t want the jobs,” he said.
Without American workers, farmers can’t rely on anyone but immigrants. With the added costs tied to California laws and the tension caused by Trump’s threatening immigration plans, finding workers willing to do the job has been nearly impossible.
There’s Only One Feasible Solution: Freedom
Considering farmers are having a hard time finding Mexican migrant workers to pick grapes, they might as well boost the California economy by simply hiring laborers from other central American countries. Producing more wine locally, more workers will feel inclined to come, and more local business will also flourish as a result as more workers will have more money to spend locally on other businesses. Farmers in need of labor could arrange for workers from El Salvador or Guatemala to find employment if they only had the freedom to do so legally (and if Mexican migrants simply don’t want to make the trip anymore).
But as it stands, applying for work visas is a bureaucratic and laborious task that adds cost and time to the process of finding employees. If employers had the freedom to hire whomever they wished and on whatever terms both parties agreed upon — without the fear of backlash from either California regulators or the feds — unskilled laborers willing to work longer hours for a lower wage at first might find a reason to migrate to the United States again, fleeing a life of utter misery and gang-related violence back in their home countries.
While the very idea of nations ruled by governments is and forever will be attached to the idea of borders, focusing on the end goal (prosperity) may give us the tools we need to craft better policies that work for everyone. No government-backed policy will ever match freedom, but we can still move toward a freer society once we understand how economics works and that prosperity can only be achieved when property rights are finally respected. After all, a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., is incapable of knowing what’s best for a farmer in California or an unemployed Guatemalan. Only the employer knows what works for him, and only the employee willing to do the job can say what terms he’s willing to work with.
Unfortunately, logical solutions are frowned upon in Washington.