Orange You Glad We're Having an Immigration Panic?

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Via frequent Hit and Run commenter Jennifer comes this account of a shortage of labor to pick Florida's crop of delicious, refreshing, healthful oranges. (This moment brought to you by the Florida Citrus Product Research Advisory Council.)

An AP account of the story, which doesn't really stress anti-immigrant panic. It merely dryly noted toward the end that "labor supply was tight from the beginning of the season in October, but grew worse by the middle of May when a large segment of the Hispanic labor force seemed to leave the state."

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  1. I would be more apt to blame this on the increase in the minimum wage that occured this year ($6.40 an hour). Unless one is advocating, in addition to being illegal, the workers are working for sub-minimum wage, then I see no reason to first fault the anti-immigration crowd (maybe second or third, but not first).

    They could attract workers if they were willing to pay a decent wage. Even if all the migrants disappear, there will still be a labor supply provided their proper remuneration is offered.

  2. My God, Mecha has gotten to the citrus growers, too!

    BWT, D, agricultural labor has long been exempt from minimum wage laws.

  3. Of course, Reason has failed to look into this matter in a bit more depth and with a bit more intellectual rigor.

    The current article is simply the latest in a very, very long line of similar articles stretching back decades. Examples at the link.

    For an example from the 60s, see my entry #905. For examples of how having cheap labor has stalled innovation in the orangegroves, see my entry #1133. And, my name’s link as well as my entry #4682 show just how badly the Bush administration is on the side of serf labor and not on the side of innovation.

  4. Lonewacko – just because Bush and his cronies would rather use “serf labour” instead of innovation still does not address the fact that people should be able to hire whomever they want, people should be able to work where they want, and as long as you aren’t coming here to blow up a power plant, rape my sister, etc, etc, people should be free to move about, most importantly, and live wherever they want, without undue government restrictions or oversight, for that matter.

  5. I don’t understand. Aren’t there thousands of American-born teenagers just waiting to work in the orange groves instead of hanging out at the beach?

  6. “labor supply was tight from the beginning of the season in October, but grew worse by the middle of May when a large segment of the Hispanic labor force seemed to leave the state.”

    Who is Juan Galt?

  7. Help me out here, Lonewhacko – Are you saying lack of innovation (caused by too cheap of labor) for decades on end in the orange grove industry is the fault of the Bush Administration?

  8. Doesn’t anyone see the positive side of this. If illegals stop working in the farms and the farmers need to pay higher wages, that would send prices of the crops up, which would make foreign crops more appealing. This would in turn cause the farmers to ask for more subsidies and perhaps, finally, we could cut out this agriculture subsidies and allow foreign growers to compete allowing them to make more money and pull themselves and perhaps their country out of poverty.

    Just thinkin’

  9. This would in turn cause the farmers to ask for more subsidies and perhaps, finally, we could cut out this agriculture subsidies and allow foreign growers to compete allowing them to make more money and pull themselves and perhaps their country out of poverty.

    Or perhaps the gov’t will just give them more subsidies? Who wants to be known as the congressman who voted against the american farmer?

  10. Lack of innovation keeps illegal immigrants employed in jobs that would otherwise be automated. If we get rid of illegal immigrants, orange groves will be automated, and the American orange pickers displaced by illegal immigrants will get to be unemployed without so many filthy illegal in the country.

  11. Who wants to be known as the congressman who voted against the american farmer?

    Ron Paul probably wouldn’t mind.

  12. …without so many filthy illegal in the country

    But we have nothing against immigrants, right? No hint of racism here, oh, no…

  13. Hey, examples, I have been saying the same thing. Low cost labor stifles innovation, mechanization and efficiency.

    No one here seems to think of all the inventors whose inventions never go anywhere, nor of those who could be building and servicing the machines instead of drawing unemployment.

    The late Jean Francois Revel commented that reliacne on cheap abundant labor instead of efficient labor is the way to porverty for societies. I can dig out the comment in a couple of days.

    And of course, when people say “no one wants to work at these jobs” what they mean is “no one wants to work at these jobs for what we want to pay”, because once it became clear we would tell them that the market is telling you to raise your wages, so please do so and do not whine.

  14. I see technology as the only thing that will allow a libertarian-like existence- home generated power, communication/data over mesh networks, home 3-D printers, cheap automation(road building robots, etc.). No need for all of these giant corporations and monopolistic utilites(which include the damn Telco’s and ISP’s).

    Anything thing which slows technological adoption/progress is anti-libertarian(wink)

  15. We never had a problem with labor until the negroes got so uppity.

  16. FCB,

    HAHAHAHAHAHA

  17. uppity

    That made me chuckle, too…

  18. I can just imagine ASIMO’s made up to look like Mexicans.

  19. Adrianna,

    If you’re so concerned with the ability of employers to exploit immigrants for cheap wages, why target the exploited immigrants, rather than the laws that make them so easily exploitable?

    In fact, if I understand correctly, you want to make those laws even more punitive, which would give sleazy employers even more power in coercing this labor, which would further reduce wages.

    I think you need to think through the relationship between immigration laws, the exploitation of immigrants, and the effect of that exploitation on American workers, because the solution you seem to be endorsing would only make the problem worse.

  20. I don’t expect to get an answer from Adrianna.

    In my experience, the people making the economic nationalist argument couldn’t be bothered to so much as walk around a picket line six months ago.

    Then the immigration debate flared up, and they’re suddenly concerned about how much money working-class people are paid. Yeah, sure.

  21. Gee, I hadn’t fully realized the benefits of just opening the borders up to all comers until now. If we did that, then every we really want in life would be so cheap that it’s almost free.

    Epecially oranges.

    I for one am ready to open the borders, stop asking for background checks, shit-can the health inspections, disband the Border Patrol, and all that. Because I like oranges.

    Maybe we should start running a free bus service from Mexico to the US for anybody down there who wants to just hop on and go pick oranges for a while.

  22. I for one am ready to open the borders, stop asking for background checks, shit-can the health inspections, disband the Border Patrol, and all that.

    Your sarcasm is three-quarters strawman.

    No one is arguing to stop background checks or health checkups or to disband all forms of Border Patrol. Rather, your opponents believe that once someone’s background and health are proven clean, he should be permitted to cross the border freely.

    In other words, limitations due to being a threat to security or to public health are legitimate. Limitations due to any quota or length of stay requirement are not legitimate.

  23. Your sarcasm is three-quarters strawman.

    I don’t like straw. I like oranges.

  24. To repeat what I said around here a couple days ago, I give up. Y’all win. [white flag waving in the breeze]

    See, there’s about 300 million of us here now. And life is pretty good, actually. But Oz knows that it wouldn’t hurt a thing if we let another 300 million in over the next 12 months. Or maybe 600 million immigrants, or how about 900 bazzillion gazzillion?

    Why not? The Economists on High have told us that everything will be cheaper and better. The immigrants will all be “integrated” and “assimilated”. No worries. Our infrastructure, our culture, our society, it can take anything. And we all know that the existence of the welfare state (which we all know isn’t going away no matter what Oz decrees) is no excuse to be a “racist”.

    And we all know that you if aren’t in favor of opening the borders wide, to any bazzillion number of immigrants who feel like coming in, then you’re just an ignorant racist.

    Far be it from me!

    Me, I don’t worry about the economists anymore. I just want cheap oranges. How many Mexicans do we have to let in so I can have cheap oranges? Whatever number you come up with, you better add some margin to it in case somebody dies in a car accident.

    To hell with the straw. I want my cheap oranges.

    btw,

    your opponents believe

    I won’t confuse you with my actual beliefs, because past experience indicates they’re entirely too complex to be grasped. Well, I guess beliefs are just like that.

    That’s why I’ve given up straw and taken up the cause of cheap oranges. Cheap oranges forever!

  25. Genghis (Which, as well all know, is properly pronounced “Jen-gis”),

    There are about 12 million paperwork-deprived America-joiners (heh) in the country right now. How many of them got background checks? How many of them underwent health inspections?

    One of the reasons I support reforming immigration laws to bring them in line with reality is because doing so would increase our ability to make immigration safer and more orderly, for us and for the immigrants.

    Prohibitionist immigration laws are doomed to fail, and to create a dangerous black market, just like prohibitionist alcohol laws. Except this effort is even more doomed to failure, because the desire to get ahead in the world and to provide for one’s family is even stronger than the desire to become intoxicated.

  26. Also, Genghis, people who are legally allowed to function as part of society tend to assimilate better and faster than those forced to live in a secretive, culturally-isolated demi-monde.

    FWIW, I haven’t seen anything that makes me think you’re a racist. A bit of a paranoid conformist, maybe.

  27. I always wondered how many illegal immigrants is too many. We may never know. Also, economics tells us if something can be produced cheeper at another location the jobs go to that country. I guess Brazil will be the Orange supplier.

  28. See, there’s about 300 million of us here now. And life is pretty good, actually. But Oz knows that it wouldn’t hurt a thing if we let another 300 million in over the next 12 months. Or maybe 600 million immigrants, or how about 900 bazzillion gazzillion?

    How many people in this country is too many, do you think? Is there a difference here between natives and immigrants, i.e., five native-born American children equals the same overpopulation potential as one immigrant kid? If in the next few years our population increases by another 50 million, is that bad under all circumstances, or is it bad only if the majority of the growth comes from people whose last names end in suspicious foreign letters like “z”?

  29. joe,

    I agree with everything you said, except this

    A bit of a paranoid conformist, maybe.

    The anti-immigration crowd things I’m pro, while the pro- crowd thinks I’m anti-. They’re both misunderstanding me.

    No one, in all the years of my life, has ever before accused me of being a conformist. I’d take that as in insult, but you don’t know me very well.

  30. Is there a difference here between natives and immigrants

    If the influx is fast enough then yes, there is a difference.

    Let’s take the open door policy literally, and throw the gates open to Asia. Suppose over the following 12 months, about 100 million of them came here. I maintain that this could, in fact, pose a problem for us. It would put a huge burden on our infrastructure that we’re not prepared to deal with.

    [it should go without saying that our native population by itself is unlikely to go from 300 million to 400 million in 12 months]

    joe should understand the fact that as population density goes up, the cost of providing infrastructure also goes up. That’s one of the reasons it costs more to live in places like NYC than it does on the Kansas praries.

    I’ve talked with lots of Mexicans, heard stories about the horrible conditions in Mexico. I empathize and would love to throw our borders open to the whole world. I’m not a phobic and I’m not a racist.

    But if you open the doors to Mexico, why isn’t it fair to also open the doors to everybody else?

    I don’t see that y’all understand the potential human mass that could arrive here from Asia if we did that. I’m also not sure y’all are seeing the fact that there is, in fact, an upper limit on how many of them we can assimilate at any given instant in time.

    I’m not sure what the right answer is. I’d love to be able to say “come one, come all”. My wife is Vietnamese and immmigrated here.

    But I also am not so foolish as to believe the hype that says we can take on any number of immigrants, instantaneously, and not have any serious problems result from it.

    From a practical standpoint I think we may very well need some kind of limit, rather than a wide open door. If our native population gets too diluted in too short a time we won’t be able to assimilate anyone. And there is a limit as to how much our infrastructure can handle.

    I also don’t believe the crap that says massive loads of immigrants will have zero impact on our welfare state. If only we could kill that beast….

    Not that I have any idea what the limit ought to be. But I can understand the argument for some kind of restrictions, and not because I’m a racist phobic.

    Gotta go work now.

  31. PS, there’s a big black market for fake paper work and IDs around here (AZ), the Mexicans will tell you about it if you just talk to them. The paper work is good enough that the Feds can’t tell if it’s real or not.

    There’ve been articles in the local paper about the Feds walking into employer’s offices and telling them to fire a bunch of hispanics, because [quoting the Feds] “we can’t tell if their paper work is legit or not, but we think it isn’t”. Get a load of that BS.

    Now try telling me there are no Mexicans who’ve been able to come in here and partake of the welfare state. Nobody has any idea what the truth here really is. But it’s like drugs, if you ban it there will be a black market. I haven’t seen anybody at all discuss this at the national level.

    Sure, an open immigration policy would reduce the fraction of “illegals”. But that doesn’t offset what I said above. Nor would it fix the problem of the black market ID problem.

    And don’t tell me that open immigration is how we’re going to kill the welfare beast. We’ll go down in flames before this country kills the welfare state. We’ve absorbed entirely too many European attitudes (and yes I’m biased against European philosophy, in any number of ways — Europe is NOT libertarian).

  32. Let’s take the open door policy literally, and throw the gates open to Asia. Suppose over the following 12 months, about 100 million of them came here.

    Why would I suppose anything of the sort? An understanding of economics and human behavior would lead me to conclude anything but what you suppose here.

    Nothing is zero cost. Nothing has infinite value. Nothing is instantaneous. And there are always margins. Immigration under open borders will never swamp the capability of the economy to accept the new laborers, just as it didn’t before 1920 when the borders were open. People simply don’t behave that way.

    As a case in point, ask yourself… Why is the poverty rate in Mexico not 0%? Why haven’t all the poor people in Mexico not already immigrated to the US?

  33. “Nothing is zero cost. Nothing has infinite value. Nothing is instantaneous.”

    “Immigration under open borders will never swamp the capability of the economy to accept the new laborers”

    So when someone else makes an absolute statement it’s ridiculous but when you do it’s OK?

    “Why haven’t all the poor people in Mexico not already immigrated to the US?”

    Could it be because we don’t have open borders?

  34. “just as it didn’t before 1920 when the borders were open”

    Let me see… how are things different now? Transportantion, large difference in how non-whites are treated, free emergency rooms, etc.

  35. Opus wrote, “I always wondered how many illegal immigrants is too many. We may never know.”

    Actually, you may want to check in with the Native Americans. They have a pretty good idea.

  36. So when someone else makes an absolute statement it’s ridiculous but when you do it’s OK?

    ??? I don’t think I called anyone’s absolute statement ridiculous. But I shall rephrase…

    Given economic theory, empirical evidence, and the history of humanity, immigration under open borders is extremely unlikely to swamp the capability of the economy to accept the new laborers.

  37. “Why haven’t all the poor people in Mexico not already immigrated to the US?”

    Could it be because we don’t have open borders?

    What, then, distinguishes the 10 million who have immigrated from the 45 million who haven’t?

    My guesses would be things like ability to work, willingness to take risks, desire to live around the comforts of one’s native home, and connections to people already in the US.

    I would also guess that the nominal legality of immigration is pretty far down the list.

    In any event, different people have a different ordering of the importance of these and other factors. The marginal immigrant finds the expected benefit of immigrating greater than the expected cost of immigrating. The marginal nonimmigrant finds the opposite. Legality is just another factor to consider, and I doubt it is even close to the most important for most people.

  38. Genghis,

    Actually, as population density goes up, the per capita cost of providing infrastructure goes down. If all the single family homes on your street are converted to two-families, they don’t need any new road, maybe a little widening of driveways. If someone builds that many single families a block away, however, you double your infrastructure costs.

  39. MikeP,

    “My guesses would be things like ability to work, willingness to take risks, desire to live around the comforts of one’s native home, and connections to people already in the US.”

    Well with an open border there will be very little risk, ability to work will not be required and the more people that immigrate the more connections everyone will have in the US- which will also make it more like home. Sounds like ingredients for a huge wave of immigration.

    Either no one is able or I’ve missed some post but how long will integration take per number of immigrants and how will residents be affected during the interval? Is the cost borne during this leveling period less or more than the predicted benefits?

  40. joe:

    If a one-family home converts to two-family homes, the water usage doubles, as there are more people that need to take showers and flush toilets. The sewage outflow doubles. The trash doubles. There are now two refrigerators to supply electricty to instead of one, two cooking ranges, two washing machines, two driers. There are now two cars that need parking spaces when they go downtown instead of one (I have lived in a place with not enough parking and watching the City Council was an enlightening experience. You could watch conservatives spout virtuously about the dangers of relying in the Government, and then, without batting an eyelash, go on to complain about the lack of parking downtown and that THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD DO SOMETHING. It did wonders for my budding cynicism).

    Yeah, some costs go down by density, but some are too stubbon, unless people change their habits in ways that you’d find unacceptable.

    Then there is law enforcement and the need to call police. Let’s say that the misdemeanor/crime rate is a percentage of the population. Double the population, with the same percentage rate, double the misdemeanor/crime amount. Where you had 10 police incidents a day, you now have 20.

  41. joe:

    I did not answer before because I had trouble connecting.

    I already pointed out that the freedom of contract between worker and employer that you invoke forgets about aggrieved third parties.

    Any employee who is paid less than what is needed to live in a certain area will end up being subsidized by the other residents. The other residents have every right to resent this, and to refuse to pay the bills for an agreement that no one consulted them.

    Bring in people who cannot afford to pay for trash collection, but who still produce trash, – at the same level as the current residents – who cannot afford to pay for running water, but who still flush toilets and wash themselves. Who cannot pay for health care – but still are treated, no matter how good or bad, at hospitals. These costs will have to be paid by a lot of people who have nothing to do with either the employeer or employee, but get stuck with the bill nevertheless.

    So, if the labor costs are too high, you can a) automate – the machines are there, welcome to the 21st century or b) get out of the business – it is inefficient and you cannot ask us to subsidize inefficiency. We are not cash cows for incompetent businessmen.

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