Jeremy Beck's picture

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  by  Jeremy Beck

The New York Times offers a creative argument for continuing chain migration:

About 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, and more than half will need long-term care, according to the Pew Research Center. Already, home-care agencies and elderly-care facilities are struggling to recruit."

A labor shortage story! Without the rising wages, of course (as always).

Something else is missing: actual evidence that Americans can't be lured into these jobs.

Let's say 425,000 more personal care and heath aid jobs will need to be filled by 2026. That's a lot. Home health care is one of the country's fastest growing industries.

'Where are all these workers going to come from?' asked Patricia Will, the founder of Belmont Village, a Houston-based network of upscale facilities that employs 4,000 people in several states."
Anyone who reads the New York Times could offer an answer -- it just isn't an answer that fits a story crafted to defend chain migration.

According to the Times, there are over 5 million Americans living in poverty, plus millions more who are out of the labor force but could be brought back in if the market is allowed to tighten. "Employment may still have further room to grow if the tight labor market continues," Ernie Tedeschi wrote in the Times two weeks ago.

"...hundreds of thousands of people streamed into the job market, confounding analysts who have insisted that the pool of potential workers has been depleted," the Times reported earlier this month.

And yet, they persist in insisting.

The New York Times rightly celebrates the "confounding" discovery that millions of working-age Americans aren't lost causes after all. But there is a downside: if we aren't going to give up on these Americans, we've lost a major justification for continued record levels of immigration.

The economists and employers who serve as the primary sources for "When the Elderly Call for Help, a 'Chain' Immigrant Often Answers" (a headline crafted to shame Baby Boomers who agree with the majority of Americans who want immigration reduced) insist that all of the New York Times reporting above is wrong. Millions of those Americans really are lost causes, they claim.

"'In any plausible future scenario, the U.S. needs far more new low-skilled workers than high-skilled workers,'" one economist tells the Times.

What if they were paid a living wage?

'Wage is not the main issue,' [another economist] said. 'There are also expectations and status. Not everybody wants to work with their hands touching people; not everybody will do dirty work.'"

Why not let the wages rise and see what happens?

"Indeed, more people would do blue-collar work they now shun if wages were higher -- but not enough of them would, according to [another economist]."


The Washington Post ran a strikingly similar story from Kaiser Health News over the weekend: "As Trump targets immigrants, elderly and others brace to lose caregivers".

The "central question," writes the reporter, is "how many Americans are willing to fill the arduous, low-pay positions that immigrants often work?"

The story acknowledges that three quarters of direct care workers are U.S.-born citizens. None of the academics or employers quoted discuss the possibility of raising wages.

Kaiser Health News does give David Ray of FAIR an opportunity to make the case for better wages and conditions, but instead of following up on that theme, the reporter quickly shifts back to the claim that Americans won't take the jobs under the current wages and conditions:

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports more restrictive immigration policies, disputes such dire scenarios. Since three-quarters of direct-care workers are U.S. citizens, spokesman David Ray argues, then "these are clearly not 'jobs that Americans won't do.'" He does the math this way: The country has 6.7 million unemployed people, and if the health-care industry can't find enough workers to replace those who lose TPS and other protected statuses, "then it needs to take a hard look at its recruiting practices and compensation packages."

Yet nursing homes in Massachusetts are already losing immigrant workers who have left the country in fear, because of the White House's immigration proposals and public remarks, according to [the president of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association].

Like Lupa in the Times, Nirva has an important job caring for the elderly. Like Lupa, she earns very little for her trouble. She works 70-hour weeks and three different jobs. The Times and Kaiser Health News describe Lupa and Nirva as happy immigrants (Lupa is a citizen who was granted amnesty under the 1986 bill; Nirva is a non-immigrant from Haiti who has temporary permission to work in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status) while suggesting that most Americans would not be happy under the same conditions.

As the media rallies behind immigration levels of more than one million per year, there is another question we should consider: Are we building an economy where poor foreigners are expected to live under conditions native-born Americans would refuse?


JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Program for NumbersUSA

Updated: Mon, Apr 9th 2018 @ 2:35pm EDT

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