If you live in California and follow politics, you may recall Ron Unz, who became politically prominent in 1994. That year he challenged Republican incumbent governor Pete Wilson, who was championing the ballot initiative Proposition 187, which sought to ban unauthorized immigrants from access to state services such as K-12 education. Unz disagreed, and campaigned vigorously against the measure. Unz lost the primary election, of course, but managed to garner more than 700,000 votes, amazing for someone with essentially zero prior name recognition. (Prop. 187 passed, but was immediately challenged in federal court, and Wilson declined to mount a real defense of it.)
Unz is a libertarian, a philosophy whose adherents tend to interpret as meaning very liberal immigration policies. Some even advocate completely open borders. At a conference at Stanford in 1996, I recall Unz speaking with an academic (can’t remember the name), a fellow libertarian. Unz said, “Illegal immigrants are fine…” and the academic finished his sentence for him “…because they don’t use welfare!” They had a good laugh over that, which I found disturbing.
Then in 1998, Unz launched a ballot initiative, Prop. 227, to greatly curtail bilingual education. Note that this does not refer to something like Spanish Immersion Programs, but instead to the then-practice of keeping Spanish-speaking kids in classes that were close to Spanish-only for many years. This measure did pass, but in the process Unz went from a hero to a goat among Latino community activists.
In promoting his language initiative, Unz emphasized that he was still highly pro-immigration. And regarding H-1B, he was strongly in favor of it (he is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur). In fact, I was one of Unz’s debate opponents in a panel discussion on H-1B at that Stanford conference. I don’t know what his present stance on the issue is.
Currently Unz is running in the California primary election to replace retiring senator Barbara Boxer. He says his primary motivation is to preserve Prop. 227, which the legislature has been trying to overturn.
But his stance on immigration has changed radically. He is now in favor of tightening immigration, both legal and illegal. Interestingly, this morning’s California Report, in reporting on a debate between the major Senate candidates in San Diego, noted that Unz advocated reducing immigration as an alternative to raising the minimum wage. Citing supply-and-demand principles, he said that reducing immigration would reduce labor supply at the low end, thus raising wages without legislating a wage floor directly.
It would be interesting to know whether this change is yet another example of how Trump, for better or worse, is changing the conversation on immigration.
By the way, those who advocate both maintaining/increasing yearly immigration levels AND raising the minimum wage are missing the economics of things, as far as I can see. Something’s got to give in such a scenario. Presumably the results would be higher unemployment, fewer benefits, more abuse from employers and so on.