February 14, 2018; ColorLines
A recent op-ed in Politico drew ire from commentators because it proposed a system of immigration that disturbingly resembles indentured servitude. The proposal has many troubling aspects, but nearly all of them stem from the simple fact that it does not acknowledge immigration as a human problem, choosing instead to see it as solely an economic issue. The article also ignores the racist underpinnings of American immigration policy and the problematic history of employment structures based on race.
Authors Glen Weyl and Eric Posner explain, “The problem posed by migration is that the benefits are not evenly distributed. They flow to the migrants themselves and the corporations that hire them.” Weyl and Posner propose a program that would divert all the benefits from the immigrants who work hard to make it to the US, and to the white working-class population whose favor has become the political holy grail.
The proposal boils down to this: “Working-class natives” would have the opportunity to sponsor an immigrant to the US for employment by them, much the way companies do now with H1B visas. The program would permit US citizens to pay sub-minimum wages; in the example provided by the authors, “Mary” provides “Sofia” with “a room in her basement, meals, and $5 an hour” while Sofia does the legwork of Mary’s new dog-walking business.
Wendi Thomas, a fellow at Harvard’s Nieman Lab, offered this acerbic summary:
Mary is going to build low-paid labor into her business model because she’s a good American!
And because she’s a Christian, she’s going to let her low-paid labor live in her basement, like a house n*g