Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., should be commended for his honest and sincere efforts to engage conservatives about his bipartisan comprehensive immigration plan. Unlike past Republican immigration reformers, Rubio has declined to build his own moderate brand by accusing conservatives who oppose amnesty of being xenophobic. Instead, he has addressed their objections head on thereby advancing everyone’s understanding of a difficult issue.
His thoughtful response to Erick Erickson’s critique of his plan is instructive. Rubio writes:
[Erickson] objects to the notion of “jobs that Americans won’t do”. He correctly points out that the more accurate description is “jobs that Americans won’t do at that price point”. The fact is that, as Americans, we have reached a certain standard of living that requires us to make a certain amount of money before we will do certain jobs. The problem is that, in a free market, the cost of production is always passed on to the consumer. That is one of the reasons why I object to tax increases – because the cost is always paid by workers and customers. The same is true for labor costs. There is a price point at which our farmers simply won’t do business because they will not be able to offer products at an affordable price.
Erick’s final objection is that the plan does nothing to address the real problems with immigration – in other words, the black market for low skilled labor, long delays in the system and so forth. This is not accurate. Our principles call for the creation of a guest worker program that, when effectively implemented in conjunction with a workplace verification system, would wipe out the black market for low skilled labor.
These two points are connected. Many U.S. employers (far more than just farmers) are operating on business plans that include labor costs well below what is necessary to entice enough Americans to work. Instead of innovating their business plans to incorporate higher labor costs, these businesses find it easier to tap the existing black market in labor thus increasing the demand for illegal immigrants here in the United States.
The Rubio solution to this problem is to create a government-run program that will manage all employers’ low-cost labor needs. The 5-page framework is short and vague about how this government program will work, but here is what it does say:
Our legislation would:
o Allow employers to hire immigrants if it can be demonstrated that they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position and the hiring of an immigrant will not displace American workers;
o Create a workable program to meet the needs of America’s agricultural industry, including dairy to find agricultural workers when American workers are not available to fill open positions;
o Allow more lower-skilled immigrants to come here when our economy is creating jobs, and fewer when our economy is not creating jobs;
What happens if an employer wants to hire an immigrant but this new government entity rules that they failed to demonstrate they could successfully recruit an American? Does anyone doubt that these employers wouldn’t just keep hiring illegal immigrants?
How will this new government entity determine when there are not enough American workers available to fill all agriculture industry needs? How will it determine how many “lower-skilled immigrants” will get guest-worker status “when our economy is creating jobs” or “not creating jobs”?
Do you trust a government entity to successfully anticipate labor market demands? What happens when the economy turns and these guest-workers don’t want to leave? Will Rubio deport them?
Rubio’s plan is entirely contingent on this new government run guest worker program working perfectly. The core of his amnesty promise is that we will never have to deal with illegal immigrants again. “And so our point is if we’re gonna deal with this, let’s deal with it once and for all and in a way that this never, ever, happens again,” he told Rush Limbaugh Tuesday.
That is a lot of faith in top-down central planning of the labor sector of the economy for a conservative to buy into.