A Brown New Deal

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Even reliably liberal pundits and media outlets now admit we’re in the midst of another immigration crisis. Too many poor and unskilled foreigners are flooding our borders, threatening to steal millions of low-paying jobs. I say “steal” because those low-paying jobs are the sole birthright of our millions of poor and unskilled citizens.

Clearly something must be done.

A columnist for The New York Times recently suggested we “reduce, or at least hold constant, the level of immigration by people who would compete for lower- and middle-wage jobs while increasing immigration among people who would compete for higher-wage jobs.” A decent enough idea. But limiting the number of immigrants we accept, under any rubric, isn’t what made America great in the past, and it won’t be what makes America great again in the future.

Besides we live in a democracy, the greatest ever, and placing a padlock on our Golden Door is simply a bad look.

Still, we can’t have the wretched refuse of foreign lands competing for jobs with our own downtrodden. Given half the chance, the typical U.S. employer will gladly hire a poor, unskilled Mexican or Honduran alien over a poor, unskilled U.S. college grad any day of the week, and twice on Sunday. Poor and unskilled immigrants, especially those from Latin America, are far superior to our own poor and unskilled citizens. Immigrants work harder and longer, for one, and they require less in the way of wages, benefits, and rights. 

But if we must welcome the tired, poor, huddled masses of the Global South — and we must, because have you seen the places these people flee from? — then new policies must be put in place to level the playing-field between all workers, immigrant and citizen.

Since it is un-American to tell businessmen whom they can and cannot hire, we could either lower the value of hiring an immigrant worker so that it is on par with hiring a homegrown worker, or raise the value of hiring a U.S. worker so it’s on par with hiring an immigrant. I would suggest imposing an immigrant-worker tax on employers, but taxing businessmen is nearly as un-American as telling them whom they can and cannot hire.

Enacting labor laws requiring that all workers, alien or not, be paid equally and given equal benefits would also go a long way toward placing U.S. workers on equal footing with immigrants. But then again, telling businessmen what they must provide for their workers is the most un-American thing imaginable.

If there is no way to make hiring a U.S. worker as attractive to an employer as hiring an immigrant worker — and clearly there isn’t, not without trampling on a businessman’s human rights — then we must implement ways to ensure some of the profits from immigrant labor are used to offset the economic hardship suffered by poor, unskilled citizens outworked by immigrants.

Since it too is at least taboo to trespass on a businessman’s profits, one viable alternative would be to reinstitute a form of indentured servitude. Even before they leave their countries of origin, all immigrants would be granted Green Cards and Social Security numbers, under the condition that they sign contracts with the Labor Department agreeing to forfeit 70 percent of their gross wages for a period of seven years. A contract would also place each immigrant in a businessman’s employ, thus ensuring no immigrant goes jobless and mooches a single penny from the welfare system.

In fact, I propose adding a clause stipulating that no immigrant be allowed to be unemployed for any period of time or receive welfare benefits whatsoever. An immigrant in need will be an immigrant in need of some other country to go to.

Funds raised by the program would be converted into Unskilled Broke Individual stipends paid out on a monthly basis to any U.S. citizen who qualifies. And since many U.S. citizens will indeed qualify for said benefits, we will need to take in every immigrant who signs up. When it comes to indentured servants from other countries, the more the merrier.

Some readers might bristle at the proposal I’ve outlined above, deeming it a form of involuntary servitude. I would only point out that involuntary servitude isn’t exactly unconstitutional, per the 13th Amendment, as well as stress that the servitude isn’t involuntary in the least, merely forced under contract. Plus any immigrants who refuse to sign can easily stay in their home countries or go someplace else, like Europe or, worst case, Canada. And any immigrants wanting to back out of their contracts once here can just go back to wherever they came from.

Other readers may believe indentured servitude to be un-American, but I assure them forced labor is what built this once great country. And while the Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly bans indentured servitude as a form of slavery, I’d also point out that you can’t spell un-American without the UN.

In closing, I believe this Brown New Deal presents the perfect compromise for both immigrant and U.S. workers. Each side wins as much as the other loses, and thus both sides win and lose equally. It’s a win-lose-win-lose for our country, and the clearest path toward making America great again.

Hector is the editor and publisher of Enclave. A Chicago writer now floating on the edge of Las Vegas, he is also the former deputy editor for Latino Rebels, as well as the former managing editor for Gozamos, a Latino art-activism site based in his home town. He has contributed to RedEye, a Chicago daily geared toward millennials, and La Respuesta, a New York-based site for the Puerto Rican Diaspora, plus a number of publications, including The Huffington Post. He studied history (for some reason) at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where his focus was on ethnic relations in the United States.

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