The Associated Press noted on Monday that Ron Utz, a Silicon Valley businessman and former publisher of the American Conservative magazine, is pushing a ballot initiative in California which would raise the state’s minimum wage from $8 an hour to $12. As similar initiatives spearheaded largely by Democrats spring up across the United States, the initiative might seem to put Utz in league with odd company. But his motives would seem to gel nicely with another prominent conservatives political aim: not only would it reduce government spending by getting more workers off welfare benefits, he thinks, but it would also curb illegal immigration in the state.

Immigration has long been an issue of interest for Utz, who in 1998 authored a successful ballot initiative abolishing bilingual education programs for English Language Learner (ELL) students in California, who as a result of the law are now placed in English immersion programs for a short time before joining English-language classrooms. He also backed similar measures which passed in Arizona, Massachusetts, and Colorado. In a 2011 article published in the American Conservative, Utz made his case for combating illegal immigration by “attacking the employment side of the equation”, saying immigration sweeps of the sort made famous by Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio would “engender enormous fear and anger and also deter immigrants from reporting crimes, while constituting a massive violation of traditional civil liberties.” 

In that article, Utz also dismissed fears linking immigrants to crime and inflated welfare rolls before pointing out the fiscal trouble with illegal immigration: “Most immigrants, especially illegal ones, work at relatively low paid jobs,” he wrote, “and the various taxes they pay simply cannot cover their share of the (extremely inflated) costs of America’s governmental structure, notably schooling.” A hike in the minimum wage, in Utz’s view, would rid the economy of service-sector or agricultural jobs which are often held by undocumented immigrants. “Eliminating those jobs is a central goal of the plan, a feature not a bug,” he wrote.