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Horowitz: Florida roofer admits wages rising in construction following DeSantis’ immigration enforcement

Cheney Orr/AFP/Getty Images

For years, our government has pursued two concurrent labor force policies that have devastated many non-college-educated Americans and have contributed to a declining workforce participation rate. They have increased the welfare state side by side with importing millions of low-skilled immigrants and workers from parts of the world that have a very different standard of living. The amalgamation of these two factors has disincentivized work and has kept millions of potential American workers on the sidelines. Florida’s new immigration enforcement law is actually showing the potential blueprint for reversing this vicious cycle of wage decline and the increase of working-age unemployed males.

Florida’s mandatory employment verification law took effect in July and, among many other enforcement provisions, prevents companies from hiring illegal aliens. There are a few other states that have broad employment verification laws on the books, but Florida is the first one where there is a serious expectation that the law will actually be enforced. This is why illegal aliens are already leaving the state.

In comes the New York Times and propagates the conventional wisdom about this law creating a labor shortage. Except, as the article quotes a Jacksonville roofing company president, the reporter lets the unspoken but salient counterpoint out of the bag:

Tim Conlan, president of Reliant, a roofing company in Jacksonville, said a subcontractor had recently turned down a project after his workers refused to travel to Florida, preferring to stay in Georgia and the Carolinas. He also said that hourly rates for jobs had increased about 10 percent since the bill was signed into law in May.

“This law isn’t getting to a solution,” said Mr. Conlan, who has visited the state capital Tallahassee to press for policies that would allow his industry to legally hire the workers it needs.

So even the law’s opponents admit that hourly wages for roofing jobs have increased 10% as a result of the law, which has only been in place for a few weeks!

Eureka! And notice how this roofer talks about going up to Georgia and the Carolinas. Ironically, those three states also have private employee E-Verify requirements, but everyone understands that they are a joke and not enforced. In Florida, they expect it to actually be enforced and therefore reset the market wages to where they’d be without an unnatural flow of slave labor pouring over the border.

It’s one thing to admit you want illegal aliens to drive down wages. But don’t sit and tell us there aren’t people willing to do the jobs for higher wages. It’s not just about wages, but about ensuring we get the millions of Americans of working age back into the workforce and reverse the trend of the societal decline – from drugs, crime, suicide, and welfare dependency – being ignored because we always fill the gap of labor with the band-aid of mass migration.

The share of non-college-educated men of working age in the labor force declined from 88% in 1960 to 80% in 2000. Then, in roughly half that time span, it decreased to 71%, where it sits today. The decline hasn’t been as pronounced among the college-educated, but has still decreased from 83% in 2000 to 78% today. If the same share of working-age U.S.-born men – college- and non-college-educated – were in the labor force in 2023 as in 1960, there would be 9.5 million more U.S.-born men in the labor force. Even if the share returned only to the 2000 level, it would still add 4.8 million men to the labor force.

That’s an awful lot of men of working age who are on the sidelines and not looking for work. Enforcing immigration laws that will benefit society in a multitude of ways anyway will also have the effect of raising wages. This will make it much easier to reform welfare and disability programs so that they are not constantly used as band-aids because there will now be greater opportunities for these people in the workplace.

It's quite evident that the labor shortage in low-skilled jobs was always the result of the tail wagging the dog – with mass low-skilled migration lowering wages to the point where no American wanted the job (especially with the welfare crutch in place). “Well, Americans just don’t want to do those jobs” is the typical mantra from purveyors of mass migration. The problem with that assertion is that our willing suspension of disbelief dissipates the minute these same people suddenly demand more giveaways for Indian workers in IT and nursing. Really? Americans can’t or don’t want to pursue basic white-collar jobs like that? So they don’t want blue-collar or white-collar jobs?

This is why DeSantis was correct to assert that H-1B visas are designed to bring in people to work for lower wages, not to fill inherent labor shortages.

A whopping 1.5 million foreign nationals, overwhelmingly from countries with a lower standard of living, resided in the country in 2022 to fill white-collar jobs.

What Florida is demonstrating on the low-skilled side is that just like the college-educated jobs are clearly being farmed out for lower wages, so too the clamor for non-college-educated jobs to be taken by illegal aliens is all a matter of wages. In life, there are can’ts and there are won’ts. It’s not that we can’t cut off mass migration; it’s that our politicians don’t want to. One at least believes his own talking points and is willing to seriously implement them. As for the rest …
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