The economic benefit for free trade between the US other nations is obvious making me free trade supporter. However, there is an area of trade that we refuse to free up.
The radical idea: let’s have free trade in labor. I’m a firm believer that we keep our borders secure and that we get to decide who and how someone enters the country or becomes a citizen. But our neighbors want to come here to work, and to do the kind of work we don’t want to do. So I say let ‘em.
Farmers historically hire ‘under-the-table’ workers at low wages. That source of labor is drying up due to our tighter borders. Tie in the possibility of a raid by immigration enforcement that could end your harvest in the middle of a 6 week season that produces ALL of your income. Farmers are in a tough spot. So government to the rescue. The H2A visa program is designed to address the seasonal requirements of agriculture. But it is so burdensome that the H2A visa amounts to a tariff on labor. Tariffs are bad, let’s get rid of them. The H2A visa requires farmers to pay a higher rate than typical for farm labor, advertise for a month for local people (in a newspaper no migrant worker would read) to do the work, then pay $2400/year to the immigration service, another $300 for each visa, $200 or so for round trip transportation, and provide onsite housing that meets federal standards. The costs are so burdensome that many farmers with labor intensive requirements have chosen to plant only an amount crop they know they have laborers for. See a typical story.
The current system is broken. "la tira" (throwing cash) pay method keeps illegal farm laborers poor and evades taxes. Likewise, for the other common method to employ illegals - through an intermediary who actually does the hiring and paying. There is plenty of evidence for troubled times for farm and other low wage jobs. California, Washington, Colorado are all experiencing tough times. Keeping labor trade restricted means we don’t get to tax those employees and hey unless they become citizens they’ll pay social security and never collect it – a good deal for me.
Free trade and illegal immigration addressed in one leap.
The entry barrier for Mexicans in particular is high, even for tourists. We need to eliminate those barriers. To do this 'work visas' need a complete overhaul that allows easy movement of labor across the borders with our neighbors. Let's keep it simple, arrive at the border, prove you have transportation back to your country of origin, we verify with your country that you are not a felon, then come on in with your 6 month work visa.
To stay in the country should be kept simple too, go to the closest immigration service, renew your visa, and go back to work. The whole solution can be managed by the current immigration system, with some additional funding to keep track of so many more visa holders. Add to that the craziness of not enforcing our current out-of-date laws would be less tempting, resulting increased collection of taxes and this solution could be much cheaper than building a fence.
I’m not suggesting a NAU (North American Union) or even a European style free movement of a Schengen arrangement. But the current system is broken and forces masses of immigrants and employers to break the law while we mostly look the other way because the labor is desperately needed. That is bad law.
Maybe with free trade in labor we could make our own cheap plastic toys.