A continuing political problem for the restrictionist movement is the relative absence of what should be a logical set of allies: African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans, union members, the disabled, and perhaps gays.
Members of these groups — all to some extent discriminated against in the job market — benefit from tight labor markets, and perhaps the most important byproduct of restrictionism is the reduction of alien workers in the workplace, which would lead to a tighter labor market.
As a youngster I was aware of the side effects of the tightest labor market in America's history, during World War II. Suddenly, there were ample jobs for women and blacks, ceiling-bursting jobs in places where those workers had been previously unknown — symbolized at the time by posters of Rosie the Riveter, rolling up her sleeves before she went to work in the shipyard.
So why aren't African-Americans et al. taking up the cause of less competition in the labor market? I think there are three related reasons for their coolness toward more limited immigration:
- Lack of solidarity of the dispossessed;
- Identification with other underdog groups (such as illegal aliens) rather than the unemployed and the under-employed as a whole; and
- Organizational ties and generally leftish loyalties that ethnic and union leaders have to each other, and thus to Hispanic entities.
On the first, contrary to Marx's teachings, in the United States at least, legal workers do not coalesce around central issues. Were they to do so, the Republican Party would be thrust into a perpetual minority role and the more migration people crushed at every vote. My sense is that people have narrower self-definitions than simply "worker"; they see themselves as black males, as single mothers, as disabled, as statisticians or plumbers, or as unemployed Puerto Ricans, but not under any all-purpose umbrella like "workers".
Further, and this has proved damaging to the restrictionists, if one senses that one is a member of an underdog group, one tends to sympathize with other underdogs; hence many black people regard Hispanics as fellow minority members and lose track of the devastating impact on their job opportunities created by large numbers of Hispanic illegals.
Finally, the leaders of these dispossessed groups are generally leftish in their approach to life and tend to identify with other leftish leaders, not with the basic economic position of their own people. A good example of this can be seen every time the House Judiciary Committee gets together and the black and the Hispanic members all take the same more-migration view on issues, even though it runs directly counter to the interest of the black rank and file.
I have some insights into the disabled community, as well, with a stepdaughter who is a full-time lawyer on disability rights issues and with my own work in vocational rehabilitation in the past. Though disabled workers have a strong, vested interest in a tight labor market, I never see this truth being expressed as a support for less migration. The focus is usually on narrower issues, such as those that relate directly to the workers' disabilities.
What is the answer? I am not sure, but continued outreach to potential allies is always a good idea, and a conscious effort to heighten the concept and desirability of tight labor markets, as such, should be something we talk about all the time.