Democrats Are the Anti-Immigrant Party

Tyler Cowen:

In essence, SB 50 was a pro-immigration bill. By turning it down, California lawmakers essentially engaged in restrictionist immigration policy, whether or not that was their intent.

There are striking parallels between the philosophies of Trump and NIMBY urbanists. Trump asserts that America is “full” and so wants to restrict the flow of immigrants. The urbanists, who tend to be Democratic and highly educated, assert that their cities are too crowded and so want to restrict the supply of housing. The cultural valence of the two views is quite different, but the practical implications have a lot in common — namely, a harder set of conditions for potential low-skilled migrants to the U.S.

Note that most cities in “Red America,” especially those in Texas, have fewer building restrictions than San Francisco or Los Angeles. These red cities and counties, and by extension states, are relatively pro-immigration in this regard.

The minimum wage is another tool of anti-immigration policy, at least for less skilled immigrants. Say a city sets a minimum wage of $15 an hour. That means a potential migrant whose work is worth only $12 an hour won’t be able to get a legal job in that city. That will deter migration, both legal and illegal. Furthermore, a worker in, say, Honduras may not find it possible to improve his or her skills to be worth $15 an hour, at least not without arriving in the U.S.

So higher minimum wages are also a restrictionist immigration policy, at least for the poorest class of migrants. This is one of those truths that is inconvenient for people at both ends of the political spectrum. Many Republicans want tighter immigration, but they are not so crazy about higher minimum wages. Many Democrats face this dilemma in reverse.

It turns out that one of the leading anti-immigration thinkers is in fact quite perceptive on this issue. Ron Unz has argued the “conservative case for a higher minimum wage,” in part on the grounds that it would limit illegal migration. In particular, if minimum-wage laws were truly and strictly enforced, employers would not and could not court illegal workers for the purposes of lowering their wage bill.

A somewhat recent local issue.