There's only one way to prod employers to hire the long-term unemployed: super-tight labor markets. In the late 1990s, when the unemployment rate tumbled to the lowest levels since the mid-1960s, employers became interested in categories of workers they usually rejected: former welfare recipients, the disabled, and so on. In the late 1990s, the black-white wage differential closed at the fastest rate since the civil rights era.
The Great Recession has hit almost all Americans hard. But -- no surprise -- mass unemployment has had its worst effect on the poorest and most marginal. A 2013 study by the Urban Institute found that before the recession, the typical white family had four times the wealth of the typical black family. Since the recession, the gap has widened to six-to-one.
The only thing that can close this gap is to tighten the labor market. And yet the Senate plan is a plan to slacken labor markets, and keep them slack for decades. That's not a bug. That's a feature. Not only will the plan legalize the formerly illegal, but it will hugely increase future immigration flows of both permanent and temporary workers: agriculture workers, technology workers, even ski instructors.
The labor market is subject to the same laws of supply and demand as any other market. If supply is dramatically increased at a time when demand is already low, expect wages to steeply fall. That's not an unintended effect of the immigration bill. It's the intended effect.
America's legacy of racial oppression casts a long shadow. That legacy is not yet anywhere close to overcome. Yet it's more than a little astonishing that the proponents of the Senate immigration bill would claim the banner of anti-racism to justify a measure that will deepen and prolong the subordination of those American ethnic groups already most deeply subordinated.
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