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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Immigration Reform to Take Big Step Toward Federal Wage Controls

Immigration reform focuses on what should be done about the flood of illegal immigrants swarming into this country from Mexico and about the estimated 11 million already here, right? Bet you didn't know immigration reform is also about putting federal bureaucrats in charge of deciding who gets paid how much for what jobs.

It's true, the 600+ page immigration reform bill now making its way through the U.S. Senate with support from President Bush includes hundeds of provisions that most Members probably will never read, even though they are casting repeated votes on the measure and proposed amendments to it.

Fortunately, other people are reading the legislation, including Dr. Tim Kane of The Heritage Foundation. Kane just published a quick summary of what he found when he looked over the guest worker provision in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act. What Kane found is shocking:

"The Senate has devised a guest worker program that would extend bureaucratic control over some 5 percent of the labor force, via wage controls on the private sector. Rather than establish a simple cap on the number of temporary visas issued each month (which could be distributed fairly in a simple monthly auction), the Senate bill would create of a new Department of Labor bureaucracy that would be nothing less than a central planning agency for the U.S. labor market."

This is classic Washington politics, with a problem that at first glance has nothing at all to do with how much people should be paid becoming the leveraging point for vastly expanding the power of the federal government to regulate more and more of our daily lives.

Under the bill as it is currently written, according to Kane, the Secretary of Labor would be authorized to decide which occupations have need of additional workers coming into the country via the guest workers program and to insure that occupations in which those workers become employed are covered by the Davis-Bacon Act.

Don't remember Davis-Bacon? It's one of Big Labor's most prized achievements from the Great Society. Davis-Bacon requires all workers in a given industry to be paid the "prevailing wage" of that industry i.e. it imposes union wage scales on all affected employers, thereby driving up the cost of doing things like constructing new homes. So much for illegal immigrants providing needed labor "to do jobs Americans won't do."

The bill also imposes costly new red tape on businesses, including 10 new forms for certifying that hiring a migrant worker won't impact wages in their chosen occupation. Given the imposition of Davis-Bacon requirements, it appears the bill would thus require employers to submit false certifications.

Once the government is controlling wages in occupations in which migrants are employed, how long before the special interests like Big Labor and Big Business start demanding expansion of the regulations? The slippery slope here is easy to envision - five percent of all wages controlled today, tomorrow yours, mine, his, hers, everybodys.

There is much, much more that Kane found and you should read it all here on the Heritage web site. Frankly, the Senate immigration reform bill is beginning to look like one of the all-time legislative nightmares because it appears to be stuffed with Blackmarks like this guest worker wage-setting bureaucracy.


The Washington Examiner's Thursday editorial addresses the Obama provision of the immigration reform bill, which may be brought to the full Senate for a vote today. If it is, the odds that even half of the senators or any members of their staffs will have read the entire text of the proposal are slim and none.