by Gabriel Valdez
There’s an article in Politico that somehow exists. It was initially titled, “What If You Can Get Your Own Immigrant”. It pretends a person is something you can own, like a Furby or a Magic: The Gathering deck or Politico’s dignity.
Since then, they’ve re-titled it, “Sponsor an Immigrant Yourself”. That’s a much more innocuous title for an article that suggests migrants should be legislated as indentured servants.
Now, first off we’re introduced to the phrase “working class natives” as inherently opposed to immigrants.
Eric Posner and Glen Weyl wrote the article. I want them to sit down for this. It’s going to be difficult to break this news to them. Um, so Eric and Glen, most of the working class natives are dead. We killed nearly all of them, ghettoized the survivors, intentionally destroyed what their economies were based on, and now we invite foreign companies to build on what few lands they have left to call their own. Let’s ditch “working class natives” before it goes to your head as some weird newspeak identity you think is real.
I only bring this detail up because the article leans on this phrase. Without it, it can’t argue that people here already uniquely have the right to end family-based immigration that their own families very likely relied upon.
In other words, today’s immigrants are tomorrow’s “working class natives”. And today’s struggling, victimized “working class natives” were yesterday’s immigrants. Pretending anything else is being arbitrary as fuck in order to normalize someone’s own cultural narcissism.
Forgive the technical term. I’ll be using a few more.
Causes of Food Analogies
I don’t want to delay the meat of the article, though. It goes on:
“So, immigration expands the economic pie but gives too meager a slice to ordinary people. The goal must be to retain, and in fact expand, immigration while ensuring that its benefits are distributed fairly. The current system does the opposite: channeling the benefits of migration to immigrants and domestic elites. Right now, special classes of citizens—mostly corporations (and in practice, big corporations) and family members—can sponsor temporary or permanent migrants, benefiting shareholders mainly, as well as ethnic enclaves.
“This system should be wiped away and replaced with a system of citizenship sponsorship for immigrants that we call a Visas Between Individuals Program. Under this new system, all citizens would have the right to sponsor a migrant for economic purposes.”
This flies in the face of what is well worn and repeatedly proven economic knowledge at this point. Immigration typically boosts economies and creates jobs. The investment spent now is repaid several times over within the space of years.
Immigration doesn’t take a slice of the “economic pie” away from others. It just bakes bigger fucking pies.
In fact, stagnancy in economies is linked to low immigration. For a model that’s close to what the U.S. faces, we can look to Japan’s recent woes: an aging population without enough younger workers to support them. This is primarily linked to a lack of labor force growth driven by low birth rates and anemic immigration.
The United States also has an aging population without enough younger workers to support it. Birth rates are declining, as tends to happen in economically stagnated countries. The problem is that you can’t improve birth rates without improving the economy first, and you can’t improve the economy without improving birth rates…AND THEN WAITING 20 YEARS for those babies to grow up and hit the labor force.
Steady and accessible immigration is by far the more optimal choice. It improves the economy faster by building out the framework that supports and expands a healthy middle class. It helps an economy bridge troubles and results in more buying power across every bracket of income.
You don’t end up with a labor force competing for more jobs or – as is the problem already – a labor force shortage in the places that have jobs, and a labor force surplus in the places that don’t. Instead, you have an injection into the labor force that begins turning into real, local spending within years.
However, where I ended that quote above sounds like a pretty generous idea, right? Let anyone sponsor a migrant. That would seem to agree with what I say here, doesn’t it?
You gotta wait for the beat to drop.
Human Traffi- wait no, Indentured Servit…Get Your Own Immigr– er, Sponsor an Immigrant!
Want to know how Posner and Weyl’s program would work?
“Here’s how the program would work: Imagine a woman named Mary Turner, who lives in Wheeling, West Virginia. She was recently laid off from a chicken-processing plant and makes ends meet by walking and taking care of her neighbors’ pets. Mary could expand her little business by hiring some workers, but no one in the area would accept a wage she can afford. Mary goes online—to a new kind of international gig economy website, a Fiverr for immigrants—and applies to sponsor a migrant. She enters information about what she needs: someone with rudimentary English skills, no criminal record and an affection for animals. She offers a room in her basement, meals and $5 an hour. (Sponsors under this program would be exempt from paying minimum wage.) The website offers Mary some matches—people living in foreign countries who would like to spend some time in the United States and earn some money. After some back and forth, Mary interviews a woman named Sofia who lives in Paraguay.
“Sofia, who grew up in a village, has endured hardships that few Americans can imagine. She is eager to earn some money so that she could move to her nation’s capital city and get some vocational training. A few weeks later, Sofia arrives in Wheeling, after taking a one-week training course on American ways. If things don’t work out, the agency that runs the website will find a new match for Sofia, and Mary will find someone new as well.”
This raises a lot of questions, each of which I will discuss with increasing rage.
The Victimization of Women
How many Sofias would find themselves indebted, unable to pay it off, dependent upon their sponsor for basic living needs, and subsequently abused or sexually abused with no protective structure to seek recourse? And how many children would be put in that situation?
This would be a disaster for women because every form of the structure suggested here would create imbalanced power dynamics that favor the sponsor. Abused migrants would fear coming forward because of the power to keep them in the country or send them back that could be exercised by sponsors and by such a program itself.
Yes, abused migrants are already fearful of coming forward in our current system, but that’s because THEY’RE SCARED OF US ALREADY. The solution isn’t to further delegate that fear into granulated power structures that have even less accountability.
Unless you’re also going to form one of the largest federal departments ever conceived in order to protect people under the suggested program, all you’re doing is creating a caste system for whom human rights are neither prioritized nor enforced.
The lack of thought put into this aspect of it is abominable and ignorant, especially given how necessary these kinds of considerations are and should be in 2018.
This aspect of what they suggest doesn’t just make this indentured servitude. It places it closer on the caste system to slavery.
The Middle Class Couldn’t Afford It
Furthermore, it’s not something that middle class families would use. The middle quintile of earners has been racking up more yearly debt than income since 1999. They don’t have disposable income for investment. In order to sponsor migrants, they would have to take out a loan.
You’re not talking about a middle class family sponsoring a migrant for business purposes. You’re talking about wealthy people spending what to them is insignificant in order to create servants who are working off a debt.
The working class this article claims to champion would be on the hook for feeding, housing, moving, and paying a migrant worker, if not their family. They also forget:
Health Care, You Fuckwits!
If a migrant becomes ill or injured, the sponsor will do one of two things:
- Deny care to the indentured migrant in order to save money, resulting in more costly long-term health concerns and increasing the chances that as a citizen they’ll have to claim Medicaid or disability. Eliminate their ability to claim Medicaid or disability and you just push bad debt to the hospitals, who are in turn relieved of that bad debt through the taxes we pay.
- Spend money for the care and tack this on to the debt the migrant worker already owes, thereby extending the term of indenture for what may amount to years. And if in those years the migrant worker becomes sick again, that indenture is once more extended. Age brings more likelihood of illness and injury – this is a recipe for effectual lifetime enslavement.
Banks Exist. You Know This, Right?
Because the middle class is so severely in debt, in order for the middle class to utilize this, they’d have to take out loans. This would mean migrants would owe their sponsors, and sponsors would owe the banks.
What this creates is a human trafficking pyramid scheme. If bringing a migrant in is a business expense, then it’s assignable to the business. The article suggests a sponsorship would cost $6,000. You can recognize this as a very low estimate if you, say, live in the real world. But whatever, let’s just take Posner and Weyl at their word and go with $6,000.
Do you think banks providing loans would simply roll over and let a $6,000+ business investment walk out the door without getting value from “it”?
If a business fails – as they often do – you have a dilemma as to whether a migrant could be re-assigned through the federal program, sold off to the bank at a pro-ration of remaining value to settle a debt, or bid upon at liquidation auctions like other hard business investments.
If it’s the first, then banks would have to be compensated by the federal government. This would shift the financial risk of hiring a migrant onto the taxpayers at a cost that’s equal to the “value” remaining in each migrant worker’s debt. This cost doesn’t currently exist because we’re usually not paying migrant workers for their trip over. The costs that do exist are handled much more efficiently because they’re handled as procedure at a macro level.
If you trade a person as debt in part of a settlement, then you’re trading rights to a human being in exchange for debt settlement.
And if you simply put a migrant worker contract up for bid, well then, we’ve kind of been through that as a country before.
And that’s assuming the banking economy doesn’t go to the stand-by they repeatedly go to with everything else it doesn’t know what to do with. They’ve blind bundled bad mortgages, life settlements…you don’t think they’ll blind bundle returns on something that’s already codified as a business investment?
Politico’s Article is Shitty Because it Lacks Accountability
Sorry, technical terms. Yet how am I supposed to be polite when talking about this article? THIS IS 2,300 WORDS IN REACTION TO WHETHER WE SHOULD INSTITUTE A CODIFICATION OF INDENTURED SERVITUDE, SLAVERY, AND SEX TRAFFICKING.
These are the kind of real-world concerns that need to be thought about and addressed before making a suggestion like Posner and Weyl have. Looking at the background of the writers, I’m sure some due diligence in economic theory was done here. But no due diligence in real world application was done.
People don’t look at sociological application as being necessary to economics, but it’s what gives economic theory context for how it will actually be applied by a society. They present a theory, already deeply problematic, but moreso because it takes no time whatsoever to consider how it would be applied practically.
There’s no consideration for how people would be protected – health-wise and from their sponsors. There’s no consideration for who would be financially capable of using this and why. There’s no consideration for how people-as-business-investments would be contextualized as property in a financial system that’s not going to let $6,000+ business investments regularly walk away.
Vulnerable People are Tired of this Shit
I wish I could dismiss this article as lazy, because that would at least be kind. But it’s not. It’s vastly irresponsible. It’s not accountable. When you’re talking about people as direct business investments, that kind of irresponsibility is damaging and deadly.
This article approaches this free of consideration of the real-world application when everyone reading is going to be doing their version of real-world application and what it means. You have got to be responsible for engaging that.
When you don’t, you forego responsibility for how your theory is applied. When you don’t take that accountability on, other people will assign it for you, and that is breakfast for white supremacists who want to view people as property. When it’s plain theory that no real world contextualization goes into, then you’re responsible for the real world contextualization that people recognize in it.
When it comes to how this would be applied within context, there was no intention. It’s theory, and they didn’t think about the practical applications beyond just being able to discuss their theory. When you forego your own accountability, you are accountable for what that theory leads to.
Their article is a playground with no thought for the lessons people will take out of it, and no thought for how the world we live in would functionally apply and monetize this. This is the worst application of ally-ship because it takes the people I’m sure the authors would claim to be allies to, and it puts them in more jeopardy. It normalizes their de-humanization. It normalizes the perception that migrant workers belong at the bottom of a caste system.
This article is such a phenomenal disappointment, whose authors either don’t realize or don’t care the damage it will justify in people’s minds, and the danger their theory would pose if ever applied in the real world.
The featured image of immigrants becoming citizens comes from PBS here.