And as long as powerful forces in business — including the agriculture, hospitality, and domestic industries, among others — perceive that it is in their best interests to hire illegal immigrants, those immigrants will not be systematically prevented from coming nor ruthlessly rooted out once they are here.
A timely example of this manner of economic self-interest comes in the form of a speech delivered yesterday by chairman and chief executive officer of hotel chain Marriott International, J.W. "Bill" Marriott, Jr.
Speaking at a global tourism and travel conference in Washington, Marriott asked, "Do you industry executives think of yourselves as felons?" He continued, "We need to stand together to include everyone in our very diverse work force. It is the diversity of our workforce that makes us great, yet some in Congress want to criminalize the undocumented and their employers."
Marriott said that the U.S. faces "long-term labor shortages, especially at the entry level," and that hospitality industry employment was at "near-record highs." Naturally, the industry needs workers from other nations to fill necessary jobs.
Marriott acknowledged that there might be some issues with unfettered immigration. "Every country will want to regulate immigration for the sake of its security and citizens," he said, but then took to the moral high ground: "But we must pursue policies that allow people to seek the chance to build better lives for themselves and their families."
"And allows us to keep our labor costs down," he might have added but didn't have to — it went without saying.
Add to this perspective the fact that a number of Americans have suddenly realized that illegal immigrants are, um, actual humans, and you have a situation that is on the verge of a fundamental shift. But I wouldn't count on wage laws changing in favor of these shadow workers any time soon: "the chance to build better lives for themselves and their families" cannot be allowed to negatively impact Marriott's bottom line, of course.