Here’s an idea that should appeal to left and right both. Double the minimum wage for all illegal immigrants in the United States.
That is, guarantee them double the minimum wage of American citizens. By setting the minimum wage for illegal immigrants at a handsome $14.50 an hour, several problems would be solved.
* It would encourage foreigners with more education and training to come to the United States. If they’re going to sneak in illegally, it wouldn’t hurt anyone if they bring high-level skills.
* It would encourage foreigners who already are here illegally to get more education and training. Otherwise, they know, few employers would be willing to hire them at such a high minimum.
* It would encourage employers to check thoroughly whether their employees are illegal immigrants. If an employer pays the American citizen’s minimum wage and then the worker turns out to be an illegal immigrant, the employer would have to pay the missed wages and heavy penalties, and worse, he might have to go to jail for theft.
* It would help foreigners who are here illegally to pay for the medical coverage, education and retirement security that, because of their illegal status, they aren’t entitled to from the U.S. government.
* It would help foreigners who are here illegally to pay for legal advice on their illegal status and on how they might comply with all U.S. laws.
* It would end forever the stereotype of illegal immigrants taking only low-skill jobs, as if they were somehow unworthy of better jobs with better pay.
Addition: * It would encourage U.S. citizens to take the dirty, heavy jobs once considered too painful for the pay. America would no longer have “jobs Americans won’t do.”
10-year limit. There would have to be a 10-year limit to each illegal immigrant’s 200 percent minimum wage. The time limit would encourage the immigrant to take steps toward legal status and U.S. citizenship.
Congress is about to raise the minimum wage for Americans to $7.25 an hour, in three stages over the next two years. (Right now, the minimum is $5.15 an hour.) The House has passed the increase. The Senate has not yet voted.
Before it’s done with this legislation, Congress should add a section phasing in a $14.50 an hour minimum wage for illegal immigrants. This would pay off big.
Commenter JJ Mollo asks:
Not to belabor the obvious, but if we can't get them to pay illegal immigrants the minimum wage, how are we going to get them to pay twice the minimum wage? How about enforcing the laws against hiring illegals?
Well, JJ, the obvious is that there are some laws too unpopular to enforce, and some laws too popular not to enforce.
Generally, the case has not been that employers hire illegal immigrants to pay less than the minimum wage. The argument has been that, at the minimum wage, “Americans won't do” certain kinds of work. That will change if the minimum wage is higher. (That's a benefit I initially neglected to list.)
The fact is, minimum wage laws are much easier to enforce than laws against hiring illegal immigrants. No employer wants to be caught paying less than the minimum age. Government agencies enforce the minimum wage laws with gusto.
Economics for politics. A 200 percent minimum wage for illegal immigrants applies solid economics to the unfortunate politics of law enforcement. This would work in many good ways.