U.S. Republicans conveniently pivoted away from the old “they’re taking our jobs” standby at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). They’re focusing their ire on crime and drugs instead, with some participants going as far as to blame the fentanyl crisis on immigrants. Former U.S. President Donald Trump upped the ante during his address by promising mass deportations if he is re-elected.

But decades of anti-immigrant sentiment have already hurt the labor market and played a huge role in why many U.S. employers are desperate for workers. What’s worse, the current shortage of adult workers is fueling an explosion in child labor. And it’s only going to get worse if trends continue. Between falling birth rates, the baby boomer retirement cliff and the wave of immigrants returning to their home countries after decades of working in the U.S., a shrinking labor force threatens to exacerbate and even entrench the problem of child labor. Fortunately, there is a solution: robust and proactive immigration reform.

From stolen jobs to fentanyl

Anti-immigrant attitudes may be a mainstay of conservative politics, but their justifications appear to be much more flexible. Trump’s 2015 invocations of “They’re taking our jobs, they’re taking our manufacturing jobs, they’re taking our money, they’re killing us,” might ring hollow now — and maybe even prompt some to question their political loyalties in light of an actual labor shortage. But extreme conservatives have no problem pivoting to a different excuse.

The latest: fentanyl. Republicans blamed President Joe Biden’s mythical “open border” for the uptick in fentanyl deaths in the U.S. “Pick up a dollar, and it’s got fentanyl on it, and you’re dead,” Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee said at CPAC. He declared every American to be at risk.


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