I disagree. The left shouldn’t support immigration controls, for six reasons:
1. They are economically wrong. On average, immigration doesn’t hurt the native economy, and might even help it. Granted, there’s some evidence that immigration has a small adverse effect upon low-wage workers. But the solution to this is to have a more redistributive tax system, not to limit immigration.
If the left opposes things that are a net aggregate benefit for the economy but which hurt a minority of workers, it would have to oppose a lot of technical progress - and that would be silly.
2. Limiting immigration wouldn’t necessarily help low-wage workers. Imagine foreign workers were prevented from migrating to the UK and instead worked in their home countries. This supply of labour would bid down wages there, which would reduce the cost of the country’s exports. British workers would then lose their jobs, or face wage cuts, as a result of greater foreign competition. Standard economics - factor price equalization - says foreign workers reduce wages here, whether they migrate or not.
3. It’s fiscally expensive to control immigration. The Border Agency spends £1.4bn a year failing to do so, and would require a massive rise in its budget to limit immigration effectively. But this is money which could be better spent elsewhere. £1bn, example, would finance a 10% rise in Jobseekers’ Allowance. Shouldn’t the left prefer this?
4. It’s bad electoral politics. If the left were to say - wrongly - that high immigration is a problem, it would merely find itself outflanked by the right, who’d say “They talk tough on immigration but do nothing. We offer real solutions.“
5. It serves a reactionary function. To see immigration as a problem merely divides the working class. It also deflects attention away from the real reasons - which are many - why the white working class suffers insecurity and (relative) poverty.
Let’s concede that there are some individual white workers who do suffer from competition from immigrants. What does it tell us that someone can spend 11 years in the state education system of one of the world’s richest countries, and yet lose out in the labour market to someone who can barely speak English? Shouldn’t we be addressing the causes of poor job prospects for “indigenous”workers, not the symptom?
6. Immigration controls are profoundly anti-leftist in principle. For me, being on the left means wanting to improve the lives of the worst off. And this applies globally. Worsening the freedom and job opportunities of poor workers, whatever their nationality, cannot be a Leftist aim.