Three seemingly unassociated events occurred last week. First, on Jan. 7, President Bush revealed his immigration plan. The plan would offer three-year work visas for illegal immigrants holding American jobs; after that, the registered immigrants could return to their home countries or pursue green cards. These temporary workers would be subject to United States labor laws.
Then, on Jan. 10, The New York Times reported on John F. Kerry's floundering presidential campaign. Kerry has sidled up to Sen. Edward Kennedy, hoping to use Kennedy's popularity and connections to boost his chances. In order to gain Kennedy's support, Kerry began stumping for a "living wage." "I support increasing the minimum wage by $1.50 over the next year," Kerry told the Associated Press.
Finally, on Jan. 12, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union ended secret negotiations with West Coast grocery chains. With the union demanding increased health benefits and higher wages, grocery workers have now been on strike for three months. There is no end in sight.
An immigration plan, a flailing presidential candidate and an immovable union. What's the connection? Follow the money.
Let's start from the beginning. In order to expose the root of illegal immigration, we have to ask: Why do people keep coming? Government social programs surely entice the world's poor to seek our doorstep. But more immigrants come here to get jobs. Most illegal immigrants are hard-working men and women who take jobs at wages no one else would take.
John Kerry and his "living wage" ilk foster illegal immigration. With higher minimum wages, businesses have a huge financial incentive to hire illegal immigrants. There is little to lose. The government will not pursue them for fear that prosecuted companies will hop the border, taking with them American jobs and tax revenue. From 1992 to 2002, the number of companies fined for hiring illegals dropped from 1,063 to just 13.
And there is much for those companies to gain. California, the national home for illegal immigration, sets the state minimum wage at $6.75 per hour. Health care and workers' compensation costs have already scuttled hundreds of business enterprises. Businesses save a fortune by hiring illegal immigrants.
It's no wonder, then, that unions like the UFCW fear illegal immigration. Raising member benefits is the raison d'etre for unions. With the labor pool available to U.S. businesses in the form of illegal immigrants, unions are put at a bargaining disadvantage. Lou Dobbs writes in U.S. News and World Report that "over the past 10 years, more than 2 million low-skilled American workers have been displaced from their jobs."