Policy

They Took Our Jaaarrrrbs!

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Kerry's post on immigration and abortion is a howler.  But it's still only the second most ridiculous argument I've seen from the anti-immigration camp.

The first still belongs to National Review's Mark Krikorian, or as I like to call him, "all John Derbyshire's bigotry, with none of his charm."  Krikorian complained a couple of years ago that immigrants who take jobs at fast food joints, landscaping companies, and the like are too dependable.  Because they have families to feed and such, they work hard, and they're quite reliable — which makes them more valuable to employers than, for example, native-born, part-time teen workers.  Thus, Krikorian argued, immigrants are stealing a precious right of passage from spoiled American teenagers — the right to half-ass it at your first summer job.

I'm not kidding.

A recent Boston Globe story makes clear that immigrant colonization of the low-skilled job market is not the result of decadent American teenagers opting to shop at the mall rather than work. Quite the opposite — immigrant competition is elbowing teenagers out of jobs they would otherwise be filling. One economist said employers "like the fact that immigrants can work more hours and more shifts than teenagers." A job counselor said "Typically when kids apply for a summer job they might want a week off to go to camp or do something else. I tell them, 'You can't do that. You are up against someone who is going to be there every day and you need to deal with that.'" As a result, the percentage of teenagers holding jobs is the lowest it's been since statistics started being compiled in the 1940s.

Is it healthy for the future of our society to freeze our children out of low-wage, rite-of-passage jobs? When I was younger, I washed dishes in restaurants, packed tomatoes, did lawn work — this kind of thing is essential if we are to preserve a middle-class society that values work, rather than the Old World model that mass immigration is pushing us toward, where only inferiors ever get their hands dirty.

Sometimes you don't even need to argue with the anti-immigrant crowd.  Just let them keep talking, and they'll usually beat themselves.