The above is, I'm sure, a gross over-simplification of the theory but the key point for me is the idea that in that second sector employers in developed countries want migrant labor to fill those jobs. And that means that business and native-born workers in the very same country will have very different views of immigration. Business wants to bring them in (or keep them in even if they are undocumented), and workers and unions want to keep them out (or kick them out) so that wages don't fall and employment doesn't become even more precarious than it already is.
The result of this conflict of interest is a kind of schizophrenia about immigration in the heart of a developed nation-state. The loud and strident calls of the native-born for restrictions on immigration are countered by powerful voices in favor of more immigration. Talk about mixed messages.
In David Frum's article The Great Republican Revolt he makes the case that the business versus labor conflict over immigration in the United States is being played out in one of the two major political parties just before the next US national elections. The Republican, the Grand old Party (GOP), is suffering, he says, because it cannot reconcile the very different interests of their party members when it comes to immigration.
On one side, says Frum, are the "Middle Americans" who are not happy with the state of the nation. These are Americans of European origin who don't have a college degree, who suffered greatly during the Great Recession, and who don't seem to be recovering from it as fast as their college-educated compatriots. Frum describes them as "middle-class" which I think is overly generous of him. There are fewer and fewer stable high-wage jobs available to Americans who have only a high school diploma (or less), and many do end up working unstable, low-paying jobs where the chances for social mobility are small. It should surprise no one that there is nostalgia in the US for a time when someone could do very well without having to go to community college or university.
Frum is absolutely correct when he notes that this phenomenon is hardly unique to the US. In France older members of my family loudly lament the passing of an era where a young person could aspire to a perfectly decent working life with nothing more than the bac (and in some cases just a brevet).
The argument is that this sense of precariousness ("losing ground") leads straight to support for right-wing parties with anti-immigrant platforms. That seems intuitively true but there is also solid evidence to back it up. A 2015 Pew poll found that Republicans strongly agree (53%) that immigrants have a negative impact on US society. A whopping 71% believe that immigrants have a negative impact on the economy.
So a clear majority of the Republican base thinks that immigration is a bad thing for America. They want fewer immigrants and they support better border control and the deportation of the undocumented.
But does the majority rule here? Not really. Frum points out that the Republican party also includes: "Owners of capital assets, employers of low-skill laborers, and highly compensated professionals..." who like immigration, or who aren't particularly bothered by it because they work in that stable high-paying sector of the American economy. They generally support immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented migrants, though there are differences of opinion about whether immigration should increase or remain stable at current levels.
Whatever the polls say, Republican politicians have to listen to the pro-immigration contingent because it includes party members who make substantial political contributions AND because some of those politicians run for office in regions that have large numbers of naturalized citizens or second-generation migrants. And to muddy the waters further, some of those right-wing politicians are themselves the product of very recent immigration to the US. In 2013, Frum notes, "A bipartisan 'Gang of Eight,' including Florida’s ambitious young Marco Rubio, agreed on a plan that would create a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants and substantially increase legal-immigration limits for both high- and low-skilled workers." In the end it didn't go anywhere, but they did try.
So the question is: How will the Republican party come to a consensus on immigration? How can it reconcile the interests of its working class (former aspiring middle-class) native-born base with the interests of the business community and the professional classes? One side has the votes, the other side has the money.
And, yes, it's starting to look very much like a class war.
And a hat tip to Curtis Poe for the link to Frum's article on Facebook