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Rich Lowry Strikes Out When Discussing NYC’s Nail Salons

Here’s a letter to the New York Post:

Horrified by the recent New York Times report on the low pay and poor work and living conditions of New York City manicurists, Rich Lowry draws the wrong conclusion (“The truly dirty secret of New York’s nail salons,” May 12).  The problem is not, contrary to his suggestion, lots of low-skilled immigrants.  The problem is Uncle Sam’s refusal to make it easier for these and many more low-skilled immigrants to come to, and remain in, America with appropriate documentation.

Many – perhaps most – of the tribulations suffered by these immigrant manicurists are artifacts of the byzantine and cruel burdens that our government piles onto foreigners who wish to live and work in America.  Lack of official documentation not only artificially increases these workers’ difficulties of finding and switching jobs, it effectively robs them of access to legal recourse against abusive employers.

Yet despite these handicaps the supply of such workers remains high – which is compelling evidence that the options open to these workers back in their native countries are even worse than those that they now experience in Gotham’s nail salons.  Stricter immigration enforcement would, therefore, only condemn these workers to worse hells in their native lands – hardly a policy that anyone with a shred of humanity would support.  So if he truly sympathizes with these workers, Lowry should call, not for stricter immigration controls, but for much more open immigration.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

Yet as the conclusion of his essay makes clear, Lowry’s real concern seems to be less for these poor immigrant workers and more for better-paid American workers who he (being economically in error here) assumes are dealt unfair and economically unwarranted blows by their having to compete for jobs against immigrants.