President Obama would like to legalize the vast majority of immigrants who came into this nation illegally. Indeed, his commitment is so strong that he appears to be considering suspending deportation and giving work authorization to a large number of them this fall. But the President’s immigration policy is in tension with his economic policy. Labor market restrictions and other burdens on companies – imposed and proposed – make it less likely that these immigrants, most of whom are relatively unskilled, will be able to find steady work. As a result, they are less likely to be assimilated into American society—a harmful result not only for immigrants but also for the rest of us.
For instance, raising the minimum wage makes it harder for the least skilled workers to find jobs, particularly in age when it is increasingly possible to substitute technology for unskilled labor. The President’s advocacy of a much higher national minimum wage is especially harmful. Many of the immigrants live in low cost jurisdictions, like Texas, where the distorting effects of a high minimum wage are the likely to be greatest. The disproportionate effect on low-cost-of-living states is no accident. The President was elected largely by states with higher costs of living, where the additional costs often stem from onerous regulations. These states want a national minimum wage to stem competition from lower cost jurisdictions.