Monday, April 17, 2006

The Jobs No Americans Will Do

Undocumented workers are needed to do the jobs that no Americans are willing to do.

That still seems to be one of the top arguments used by the President and the myriad senators and congressmen who support his proposed plans for amnesty and "guest worker programs" for Latin American immigrants who are here illegally. But many — from both sides of the political spectrum — refuse to believe that argument. In a recent speech to AFL-CIO union leaders, Sen. John McCain was booed when he put forward that very point:
McCain responded by saying immigrants were taking jobs nobody else wanted. He offered anybody in the crowd $50 an hour to pick lettuce in Arizona.

Shouts of protest rose from the crowd, with some accepting McCain's job offer.


"Most of us don't agree with him on immigration, but I give him credit for trying," said Chris Schoenbeck of Milwaukee.
One of the problems with this "conventional wisdom" so espoused of late is, as highlighted by Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams, that it does not take into account the segment of our citizenship who has the most to lose from this argument: the lower class and uneducated, who traditionally have been the ones to perform such menial jobs, and the majority of which is still made up of members of the black community.
Conventional wisdom is often wrong. Concerning immigration reform it definitely is wrong. That hasn’t stopped everyone from President Bush, Vicente Fox, members of Congress, Latino leaders and even my mother from suggesting that illegal immigrants “do work that Americans won’t do”. Doing work that Americans won’t do suggests that illegal immigration is akin to what former Los Angeles Laker legendary play-by-play announcer Chick Hearn used to say about minor contact, “no harm, no foul”. Somehow illegal immigration isn’t so bad because immigration is not only inevitable, but necessary.
Commissioner Williams points to this recent report for proof:
The argument that America needs illegal aliens and high levels of legal immigration only makes sense if one ignores the plight of less-educated native-born Americans. We find little evidence that immigrants only do jobs natives don’t want. Detailed analysis of 473 separate occupations shows that there are virtually no jobs in which a majority of workers are immigrants, let alone illegal aliens. The overwhelming majority of workers in almost every single occupation, even the lowest-paid, are native-born.

We find some direct evidence that immigration has adversely impacted natives. In areas of the country with the largest increase in the number of less-educated immigrant workers, less-educated natives have seen the biggest decline in labor force participation. Native unemployment also tended to be the highest in occupations with the largest influx of new immigrants. While it would be a mistake to assume that every job taken by an immigrant represents a job lost by a native, it would also be a mistake to think that dramatically increasing the number of less-educated immigrant workers has no impact on less-educated natives. This study calls into the question the wisdom of proposals to allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country, or to increase legal immigration still further. The plight of less-educated Americans has generally not been an important consideration for most political leaders in the ongoing debate over immigration. The findings of this report suggest that it should be.
Of course, this idea is nothing new, as it was an issue that plagued Barack Obama in his 2004 Senate campaign.
The Democrats need the votes of both Latinos and Blacks to win in November, yet this victory may be brought at the expense of Black Americans. Barack Obama cannot talk about this, because to do so he will have to alienate one group or another.

The fact of the matter is, illegal immigration, especially illegal immigration from Mexico, is hurting Black Americans. If Democratic candidates ever getting around to speaking the truth, they will have to tell Black voters that illegal immigration is taking jobs away from Black Americans, cutting into resources available for welfare, and restructuring public schools and many urban areas. In short, the votes of Latinos are brought by the Democrats at the expense of Black America.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters recently touched on the problem in an interview with NPR's Ed Gordon:
...Mexican immigrants, for example, take jobs where they're exploited and their employers are paying lower than minimum wage. African-Americans do want jobs. It is not that immigrants are taking jobs that African-Americans don't want, but African-Americans know what is a fair wage. What is minimum wage? They know the law. And so they want these jobs to pay a decent wage, a livable wage and, you know, comply with minimum wage laws and all of that. It's not that they don't want the jobs, they just want what they have ... which they should have coming to them.
What Ms Waters was so ineloquently trying to say is that the problem is not that Americans will not do these jobs. It is that Americans have come to expect a certain level of pay (at the very least minimum wage, which the Democrats continue to try to raise year after year) and a decent working environment. It is not the jobs that Americans refuse, but the job conditions that they are unwilling to accept.

Unfortunately, too many so-called black leaders are unwilling to look at this aspect of the illegal immigrant issue. Rep. Waters herself offered the following argument against tougher immigration laws:
You have, you know, some right wing conservatives who are digging in at this time with crazy bills like the Sensenbrenner bill that literally talks about making felons out of all of the undocumented.
[Of course, the opponents of this idea all seem to forget that until the unholy reign of President Jimmy Carter, illegal entry into the U.S. was a felony. But I digress...]
That is not realistic, that's not gonna happen! We don't have the money, the jails, the personnel, none of that, to deal with it that way. And then they talk, kind of, you know, about somehow just punishing the employers so the jobs will dry up. Many of these jobs are in the underground economy. You have Mexican workers and other immigrant workers who don't go to, you know, the traditional places to find jobs. They clean out the yards. They paint for, you know, Ms Jones down the street. They put up fences. They do all kind of work. And a lot of that money is in the underground economy. So when you talk about you're gonna drive the jobs from the employers, you know, they're thinking about the traditional employers, but many of the employers are, you know, the lady down the street, the man, the church around the corner. So, you know, immigrants learn how to survive and they earn money doing all kinds of jobs and that's not gonna go away and they're not gonna go back because somehow you gonna fine Wal-Mart for hiring immigrants. They're gonna still be here.
Interestingly enough, those were the exact same kinds of jobs that my brothers and I did during our teenage years, and my older kids have done as well, to earn a little money and experience during the summer months.

Other black leaders have put their mark of approval on the ideas of amnesty and the "guest worker" program, and some even on the recent immigration rallies that have flooded our nations streets in the past weeks — some have even gone so far as to equate the illegal immigration issue with the civil rights uprising of the 1960s — including Sen. Barack Obama, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the NAACP, and even such fringe groups as the New Black Panthers.

For more on the effects of illegal immigration on employment opportunities for blacks, see this excellent post from The Independent Conservative.


Blogger samrocha said...

Hi! I found your Blog and BlogSearch, I think the dialogue on immigration is very important and must be discussed from all perspectives.

With your insights I would love to have you take a look at a mini-series I wrote on the subject and, if you want to, join in the dialogue…

My url is:

4/17/2006 3:26 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home