Denver, Exclusives, Immigration, Uncategorized

Armstrong: The regulatory state undermines migrant success

Most people in Colorado, and indeed in the United States, either came here looking for a better life or descend from people who came here looking for a better life. Native Americans descend from people who crossed into the continent perhaps 20,000 years ago. True, many Coloradans descend from people brought to the Americas by force. Some people born into slavery, including Clara Brown and Barney Ford, came to Colorado searching for a new life.

However you slice it, every single one of us either is an immigrant or the descendant of immigrants. My name carries traces of my Scottish-area roots. You’d think, then, that newer immigrants might find a little more understanding among those whose immigrant roots go back a few more generations.

Something strange has happened in the immigration debate. Whereas leftists such as Bernie Sanders used to oppose immigration either on labor protectionist or environmentalist grounds, now leftists and Democrats generally express support for immigrants. However, contrary to right-wing propaganda, the Biden administration has ramped up border security.

Meanwhile, you might think that capitalism-loving conservatives would love for immigrants to come here to engage in, you know, capitalism. You’d think that conservatives would be especially sympathetic to refugees fleeing the socialist hellhole of Venezuela.

Instead, many conservatives succumb to racist fantasies about immigrants trying to “replace” “us,” when really all most of them want to do is work hard and find their slice of the American dream. Or conservatives, knowing full well that only citizens can vote, complain about immigrants voting for Democrats, as if the Republican Party has nothing to offer to hard-working conservative Catholics.

It makes logical sense for leftists, obsessed as they are with the “oppression” of capitalism and locked into the fixed-pie mentality, to oppose immigration. It makes logical sense for people who say they champion free markets to welcome peaceable, hard-working immigrants with open arms and to topple the hurdles that prevent them from finding success here.

But we are talking about politics, not about what makes logical sense. It seems that Republicans badmouth immigrants because Democrats praise them, while Democrats praise them because Republicans badmouth them. We are locked in this bizarre tribalistic dance, and the victims of the resulting policy failures are the immigrants and would-be immigrants, yes, and also the rest of us “natives” who would benefit enormously from integrating more industrious immigrants into our society.

‘Open the doors so that we can work’

The Denver Post published a tragic article by Megan Ulu-Lani Boyanton and Saja Hindi to the effect that the migrants currently flooding Denver want to work but are legally prohibited from working. Instead of blaming foolish leftists for imposing these regulatory barriers and demanding free markets, conservatives demonize the immigrants.

One woman profiled used to be a police officer in Venezuela, but left with her two-year-old daughter “after facing threats within her own police agency for doing her job amid pervasive corruption,” the Post reports.

What does this woman want? She tells us clearly: “We hope that (the city) can help us. Not give us free stuff, but help us to . . . open the doors so that we can work.”

Here is a capitalist who fled socialism, trying to be a capitalist in an allegedly capitalist country, and the alleged “capitalists” here are telling her that we’re going to legally prohibit her from working, such that she is instead forced to survive on the dole or live in a makeshift encampment. This is insanity.

The Post indicates some of the legal barriers, starting with the need for a “work permit.” How did we allow ourselves to reach the point where our default demand for someone seeking a job is “papers please”? This is shameful. We are, quite simply, no longer a free-market economy.

What I want to know is, where is the conservative outrage over these overt violations of our economic liberties? Forbidding immigrants to work means forbidding “native” Coloradans to hire them. Conservatives can get pissed off about the “liberals” trying to take their AR-15s (and I agree they should be pissed), but they can’t raise so much as an eyebrow to protest our frankly fascistic labor regulations? I’ll take the Greeley cow fields over the stench of conservative hypocrisy any day.

A black market in labor

What we do have, as the Post indicates, is a black market in labor in which some immigrants, formally locked out of the job market, work “for cash.” Let me repeat this point for emphasis: Here in the “capitalistic” United States of America, land of the free and all that, we have, through our fascistic labor regulations, created a black market in labor, akin to what the Soviets used to have. In this context, I say an unjust law is no law at all.

Another immigrant, reports the Post, “has inquired [for work] at salons, but she needs to study for eight months to get a license in her new country.” I bet you didn’t even know that Colorado has a state-run Office of Barber and Cosmetology Licensure. Let me repeat this point for emphasis: We have an entire bureaucratic agency in this state devoted to how people cut your hair and the like. And it doesn’t matter how experienced you are in the field; you can’t get a job if you don’t meet Colorado’s arbitrary requirements, which obviously exist largely to “protect” people from free-market competition. (You’ll notice that Phil Weiser gets his knickers in a bunch only when it involves government forcing more government-managed “competition,” never when it involves removing government barriers to actual competition.)

The Post doesn’t mention various other regulatory barriers to immigrants finding success. Local housing and occupancy controls limit the supply of housing and artificially drive up costs, thereby turning a housing crisis into a housing catastrophe during a demand shock.

Denver’s minimum wage currently is $18.29 per hour. Go ahead ask these migrants and refugees, many of whom are learning English, if they’d rather be “oppressed” by an employer at $12 per hour or “saved” by government by being priced entirely out of a job.

I cannot summarize the point better than this: “Open the doors so that we can work.”

Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.


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