Consider the events that are developing in the US with regards to labor-intensive manual work and migrant workers. If more and more migrant workers are banished from the work pool, it remains a highly contested topic as to whether US nationals will able to pick up the slack. Let's say we're presented with both sides of the argument:
(These are of course generalizations to a certain extent, and I don't pretend to speak for everybody; I'm just simply trying to highlight some of the major concerns of both sides of the aisle)
Liberal: "Rethink your judgment on migrant workers. Americans are too soft for dirty jobs. Why else would so many unemployed people turn down the opportunity to work during a recession?"
Conservative: "It's not that we're too soft to work, it's just that the current labor market has a systemic bias against us. Why should we work for wages that are not fair?"
Liberal Americans put forth a compelling case that migrant workers are not stealing jobs from anybody, they are simply filling the jobs that Americans don't want to do. While in the past, Americans worked in labor-intensive industries like steel and manufacturing, but today's technologically-integrated America is different. Essentially, saying Americans are too soft for dirty jobs. Recent agriculture labor shortages in California illustrate a point along these lines.
Meanwhile, the conservatives also have a strong case that migrant workers are competitors for low-skilled US nationals. The low-skilled demographic are often considered the losers of globalization, as they are out-competed by migrant workers who will work harder on the job for less pay. Conservatives also cite net income flows from local communities. Many migrant workers send the bulk of their earnings back to their home countries, and at the macro level, it all adds up, their local communities lose economic vigor and deteriorate.
My question is: Is there anything in theoretical/empirical economics that can be brought to bear for this debate?
That is my question, although I realize some readers may find it rather broad, so I've included a few optional specific questions that you may answer if you feel so inclined.
- Are there moral hazards in place? i.e. People would rather rely on welfare than work in an orchard?
- Is it a case of too much/too little regulation? i.e. Due to burdensome regulations, it's too expensive to hire legit workers, and the cheap but illegal migrant worker is preferred?
- If there is a "fair" equilibrium price that attracts local Americans, will that even be affordable to agriculture / other relevant industry companies? Might they not just mechanize?
Note: If possible, please do your best to criticize both views in the answer, so that political affiliation bias will be weeded out a bit and it also will not make it appear as though one is "better" than the other.