The L.A. Times oped “Fixing Immigration” perpetuates the class myopia which often colors mainline media’s perspective on immigration. Once again, we’re told to “fix” immigration with another legalization scheme for the 11 million illegal aliens who are currently here (amnesty number 8), that Americans won’t do menial labor, that “self deportation” is a “fantasy”, that enforcing immigration laws is “draconian” and will cause our crops to rot on the ground, and that we need a “comprehensive” solution that leads to legalization (again) and more visas (again). Let’s examine the facts.
As the Pew Hispanic Center reports, illegal immigration from Mexico has significantly decreased. No surprise. Most illegal aliens came to America to get better paying jobs. When the jobs dry up, many go home and tell their families not to bother coming. Just like Americans left the rust belt when they lost their jobs. The illegal population has always been in flux, traveling back and forth. Since 1980 millions of illegal aliens have returned home (self deported). Living in a country illegally is stressful and inconvenient, and that's appropriate.
The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that 8 million illegal aliens held American jobs in 2010, even as 20 million unemployed/ underemployed Americans sought work. When the federal government briefly enforced immigration laws with worksite raids during the last years of the Bush administration, Americans lined up to take those jobs, even before the recession. After the federal raid at Crider Poultry in Georgia 2006, wages increased $1 an hour. Employers were forced to raise wages to attract Americans, and native-born black workers rose from 14% to 65% of the workforce. After the raid at Howard Industries, Mississippi 2008, blacks again became the majority of the workforce. After the raid at Swift Meats, Colorado 2006, the line of applicants hoping to fill jobs vacated by illegal workers was “out the door”. After the raid at Smithfield Foods, North Carolina 2007, blacks again became the majority of workers, and after 16 years of struggle, workers were finally unionized.
Who says Americans won’t do those jobs? But Americans couldn’t get the jobs until the government enforced our laws. Many journalists focus on illegal-alien communities feeling “targeted” and “distressed” after enforcement operations, describing enforcement legislation as “harsh” and “anti-immigrant”, and they commonly ignore the beneficial impact of enforcement on native born workers, legal immigrants, and refugees who flocked to those jobs after the raids.
Our highest unemployment rates today are among unskilled blacks and native born Hispanics with the same skill sets as most illegal workers. Well educated Americans, like the newspaper editors and politicians who incessantly call for “fixing” immigration by passing more legalization schemes, don’t compete for those jobs. They hire immigrants to clean their houses, mow their lawns and paint their nails. And they’re oblivious to the distinction between who hires and who competes.
So what about the rotting fruits and vegetables? Do we need to legalize 11 million illegal immigrants to get our crops harvested? Not really. The federal government has created a guest worker program (the H-2A visa), specifically for agricultural workers, with no limit on the number of workers an employer can sponsor. That’s right. There’s no excuse for anyone to be illegal. But employers prefer illegal workers because it's less paper work; they don’t have to pay minimum wage, overtime, sick pay, observe safety regulations, provide housing, or pay social security taxes. Illegal workers are wonderfully compliant, and their employers enjoy a huge advantage over competitors who play by the rules. And their advantage is protected by federal policies that continually reward those who thumb their nose at the law, like the so called “comprehensive” immigration legislation the L.A. Times promotes.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, only 4% of illegal aliens work in agriculture. The rest work in construction, maintenance, cleaning, repair, manufacturing, food preparation and service. Is it true that Americans don’t want those jobs either? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of workers in each of those fields are native born. But the number of illegal workers flooding those labor markets drives down wages. And that’s why President Clinton’s U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform advised Congress to reduce legal immigration and strictly enforce laws at the worksite, not more legalization schemes.
If illegal aliens were competing for jobs with journalists, editors, congressmen, and university professors, driving down their wages and forcing them to compete against each other, one wonders what plans for “fixing” this system would percolate among the educated classes.
JONETTE CHRISTIAN is a NumbersUSA volunteer and works with Mainers for Sensible Immigration Reform
Updated: Thu, Jun 14th 2012 @ 11:04am EDT