What’s more, it’s a completely pointless discussion to have given the current inability of the government to do anything about levels of illegal immigration. I think the data is clear: Low-wage migrant workers temporarily depress wages in their specific sector, but raise them in the long term through the aggregate effects of economic growth. But that debate is beside the point: Markets are already dictating where people move despite the laws. Arguing about legal immigration levels is like debating whether you should change the oil at 15,000 or 30,000 miles in a car that is currently on fire.
The safest Republican position on immigration heading into the general campaign is one that highlights the weaknesses of Democrats on the issue as opposed to catering too much to either the base or the business community. Don’t be Steve King, and don’t be the Gang of Eight. Instead, make the case for steps to secure the border, based on our need for health, safety, and security, as a necessary prerequisite for any reforms; and outline a path to legal status – not citizenship – for those who are already here. This is, as it happens, pretty much what I understand Marco Rubio’s position to be now, where he ended up after getting burned by going too far in one direction. But all the candidates face a challenge here: they will need to convince voters they aren’t just telling donors one thing while saying something else on the stump. This could prove difficult, particularly if it’s exactly what they’re doing.