A Philosopher's Blog

Stealing Jobs

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on March 15, 2017
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One stock talking point is that illegal immigrants are stealing jobs from Americans. This point is then used as part of the justification for “building the wall” and escalating the enforcement of immigration laws. As with any talking point, it is reasonable to ask whether it is true.

One approach to this question is to consider what it would mean for immigrants to steal jobs. To facilitate the discussion, I’ll offer an analogy to another type of alleged theft, that of stealing someone’s girlfriend (or boyfriend).

While I will change the names to protect the innocent and not innocent, when I was in school Dick was dating Jane.  Jane was at my school and Dick was attending a school in a different state. Jane started spending a lot of time with John, and eventually John was dating Jane. An angry Dick showed up to confront John about “stealing his woman.” Jane’s response that she was not stolen because she was not anyone’s property—she chose who she wanted to be with. In this case, it was John. For those who are wondering, I am not John. And definitely not Jane, but thanks for asking. While there were certainly some moral concerns about how Jane and John had done things, Jane was right: she was not anyone’s property and could not be stolen. So, Dick’s charge of theft did not apply. If John had kidnapped Jane, then that would have been another matter entirely—but still not theft.

Turning back to jobs, a job is also not something that can be stolen. Yes, I can imagine scenarios where someone steals a person’s identity and thus steals their job, but I am focusing on the normal course of employment. Like affection, a job is something that is provided by someone else and hence is not something that can (typically) be stolen. So, when an illegal immigrant is hired by an American employer, the immigrant is not stealing the job. The American employer is choosing to hire the illegal immigrant rather than hiring an American (or a legal immigrant). Going back to the girlfriend analogy, the American worker would be like Dick—he thinks the job is rightfully his. But, the employer is like Jane—she is the one deciding who gets her affection (in the case of the employer, the job). So, the American did not have their job stolen; the American employer decided to give it to someone else. The job, after all, belongs to the employer.

This argument could be countered by going back to the girlfriend analogy. Suppose that Dick and Jane are engaged and are committed, but smooth John is willing to do so much more for Jane and ask far less in return, so he is much more appealing. It could be claimed that John is not playing fair—he should respect the special relationship between Dick and Jane and not outcompete poor Dick.

The easy and obvious reply that it would be morally problematic for John to intentionally move in on Jane when she is in a committed relationship.  However, it is still Jane’s choice whether to stay with Dick or move on to John. As such, most the responsibility would rest on Jane. It is fair to note that John did outcompete Dick, but Dick could have stepped up to compete if he really wanted Jane to stick with him.

In the case of the job, it is clearly morally problematic for illegal immigrants to seek jobs in America. However, most the responsibility lies with the employers. While illegals tempt them by being willing to work for less, it is up to them to stick to their commitment to the law or to break it. As such, it is not illegal immigrants that are stealing jobs. Rather, employers are choosing to hire illegal immigrants and if any wrong is being done, the majority of it lies on the employers.

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13 Responses

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  1. ronster12012 said, on March 15, 2017 at 9:40 am


    Since the illegal immigrant is by definition committing a crime by simply being in the US and the employer is committing a crime by employing them, the term shouldn’t be stealing as much as entering into a criminal conspiracy.

    Sure the Democucks are happy with that as they think that they are getting another potential voter and the Republocucks like to drive down wages(profits are privitized and social costs are socialized)but white american workers are getting stiffed in the process.

    So by characterizing it as stealing then dismissing it under the reasoning that the job wasn’t ‘owned’ by the american in the first place is to miss the bigger picture. Citizens have obligations to their society that interlopers don’t, therefore they have a preferential right to the benefits of that society.

    To go back to your analogy of Dick and Jane and John, if instead of dating, Dick and Jane are married. That is a closer analogy as they have mutual obligations as do employers and workers. Those obligations include a respect for the rules of the society(or marriage) and that includes a preference for those similarly obligated.

  2. ajmacdonaldjr said, on March 15, 2017 at 9:57 am

    The US lost 5 million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010. During the same period of time, 14 million people immigrated to the US legally from foreign countries.

    This is a recipe for disaster.

    We have both US citizens and an ever increasing number foreigners seeking an ever decreasing number of jobs.

    When I lived in Tucson I had two part time jobs and I was always on the hunt for a full time job. There was an apartment building not far from where I lived that was FULL of poor Somalis. These were poor immigrants who were competing for jobs with poor US citizens.

    Is this the way you would run a nation? Get rid of millions of job and bring in millions of foreigners?

    Not to mention the robots taking jobs away from poor workers.

    I think it’s all been done on purpose.

    It hasn’t been by accident, that’s for sure.

    But hey, pretty soon all the unemployed poor folks will be getting their guaranteed, universal basic income anyway, right?

  3. ronster12012 said, on March 15, 2017 at 10:26 am


    You are damn right that it was done on purpose and wasn’t some accident’ or ‘administrative error’.

    The anglo elite running the English speaking countries(and the world) are the most ruthless bunch of bastards imaginable. Pity is that most have not woken up to this fact.

    The export of jobs and the import of immigrants is to get the identity politics rolling, have us at each other’s throats and thereby control us all.

  4. TJB said, on March 15, 2017 at 10:33 am

    It is simply not sustainable to give everybody free medical care and also to have open borders.

    • ronster12012 said, on March 15, 2017 at 10:45 am


      Open borders means that countries themselves are unsustainable.

      How did we get to the stage of even thinking that there can be countries and normal societies with laws etc without borders.

      No borders means that every thirdworlder heads for western countries. Then all western countries become instant third world shitholes. then civil/race war. Then the survivors get to start it all again. Or am I missing something?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 20, 2017 at 6:45 pm

      I’m reasonably sure that everyone is not getting free medical care.

      • TJB said, on April 8, 2017 at 12:01 pm

        Mike, in your previous post you argued that the government has the responsibility to provide medical care for everybody. In this post you argue for open borders.

        I am just saying that if these views were implemented, it would not be sustainable.

        Was I really that unclear?

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on April 10, 2017 at 6:09 pm

          I don’t argue that the US government should provide free care to everyone or for open borders. I do think a good case can be made for the state protecting the health of its citizens, but this can be handled in various ways. I also think a good case can be made for more rational borders designed to address the reality of the economy.

  5. Bill said, on March 19, 2017 at 7:40 am

    But your analysis, as far as I can see, completely skips over the word “illegal” in illegal immigrant. Had you paused for even a moment on that word, I think your comparison would have broken down completely.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 20, 2017 at 6:47 pm

      The fact that they are here illegally does not entail that they are thus stealing jobs. They are breaking and entering, but when they get in, employers offer them jobs. So, B&E without theft.

  6. Tyson Buzza said, on March 27, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    While I agree with everything you have said here, I think you are focusing to much on the semantics with this one. “Stealing our jobs” does not literally mean stealing.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 31, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      But what does it mean? If it does not mean “stealing” why use the word “stealing”?

      • ronster12012 said, on April 7, 2017 at 8:14 am


        In answer to your question it is shorthand. There are many things we describe using a simple term because it generally bores people witless to have to listen to a 300 word nuanced monologue accurately describing something.rather than a shorthand description. You have it yourself in your descriptions of Trump.

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