The Immigration Conundrum, Part 5

Brian of Liberty Pundit (where I cross-post when Brian needs a right-handed pinch-hitter) has an article on what he sees as the solution to illegal immigration:

    The Solution To Illegal Immigration, But Nobody Will Do It
    Wednesday, December 26, 2007

    Reuters has an article up that vindicates what I’ve been saying for the past three years, that if you make it impossible for illegal immigrants to get a job or drain our social programs, they’ll self-deport:

    Mexican illegal immigrant Lindi sat down with her husband Marco Antonio in the weeks before Christmas to decide when to go back to Mexico.

    She has spent three years working as a hairdresser in and around Phoenix, but now she figures it is time to go back to her hometown of Aguascalientes in central Mexico.

    “The situation has got so tough that there don’t seem to be many options left for us,” Lindi, who asked for her last name not to be used, told Reuters.

    The couple are among a growing number of illegal immigrants across the United States who are starting to pack their bags and move on as a crackdown on undocumented immigrants widens and the U.S. economy slows, turning a traditional Christmas trek home into a one-way trip.

    In the past year, U.S. immigration police have stepped up workplace sweeps across the country and teamed up with a growing number of local forces to train officers to enforce immigration laws.

    Meanwhile, a bill seeking to offer many of the 12 million illegal immigrants a path to legal status was tossed by the U.S. Congress, spurring many state and local authorities to pass their own measures targeting illegal immigrants.

    The toughening environment has been coupled with a turndown in the U.S. economy, which has tipped the balance toward self deportation for many illegal immigrants left struggling to find work.

    Put aside the article’s economic Chicken Little message (”the sky is falling!”), take a good, hard look at what this is saying. It says, in a nutshell, that if they can’t find work, they go — voluntarily — back home. That’s the solution to the illegal immigration problem, but nobody has the guts to follow through on it.

    The article does mention that not all of the illegal immigrants are going home, though. Some are headed to states that are more welcoming to illegal immigrants. I have to believe, though, that it’s only a matter of time before these states say “enough is enough” and follow the lead of the other states.

    Fighting illegal immigration is a two-step process. Step one, you secure the border and stop the flood of illegals coming in. Then you crack down on employers who are hiring these people and giving them the incentive to coming here illegally. You dry up the jobs, they’ll stop coming, and those that are already here will go home. Those that don’t will be easier to find, arrest, and deport (they’d no longer be the proverbial needle in a haystack).

    Only then, after those two things are done, can we start talking about immigration reform. I’ve said it so many times on this blog that I’ve lost count, but I have zero problem with people wanting to come here, as long as they do it legally. Fill out the papers, go through the process, and I’ll be happy to call you “neighbor”. But if your first act in coming to this country is breaking the law, then sorry … you’re s.o.l. with me, there.

I tend to think that my perspective on illegal immigration is different from most conservative bloggers, because I’ve been involved professionally in trying to get these lazy, good-for-nothing Americans to do some not particularly fun jobs.

I was running a concrete plant for a company in the Philadelphia suburbs, and this plant had a room underneath three aggregate hoppers. When you move aggregate (sand and crushed stone) out of a hopper up a conveyor belt, you get a small amount of spillage. Occasionally is a gate jams open (as would happen sometimes on the 57 stone hopper at that plant), you could get several tons of stone spilling. The only way to get the material out of that particular room is to shovel it up and onto the belt, to carry it out of the room and into the aggregate bins on the plant.

I’ve done that kind of work before, and it’s not a lot of fun. During the last construction recession, in 1991, the company for which I worked decided that they didn’t need two quality control technicians, and I happened to be the junior man. The company laid me off from the QC position, but gave me the yard laborer’s job. (They were, in effect, “storing” me until business picked up again.) As it happened, the plant hadn’t been well-maintained, and I spent two whole days shoveling out underneath a conveyor belt, into a wheelbarrow, and pushing it out the one door to dump it. Like I said, it wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t killing me, either.

If I can do it, any man who isn’t physically handicapped can do it. But just try to find an American who will these days. When my company in the Philly ‘burbs tried to get Americans to do that work, nope, just wouldn’t happen. Some would say that they’d do it, but when actually put in the hole, wouldn’t do squat.

When we put a Mexican down there, he took his time about it, but he worked steadily, and when he was done you could eat off the floor.

There’s an organization called the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, and if you go to their website (which I accessed this morning), you’ll see as one of the photographs in their banner, a man in a protest march carrying a sign which reads “VOTE NOW! $7.15,” referring to the goal of raising the minimum wage to $7.15 an hour. The mission statement in the right-hand sidebar of their home pages says:

The Philadelphia Unemployment Project is a membership organization of low-wage workers and the unemployed. PUP has fought for jobs and for economic justice since 1975. We are also an unemployed workers center that helps people win unemployment cases, save their houses, and get access to health care.

Well, the company for which I worked in the Philadelphia suburbs (close enough that many of our employees had Philadelphia addresses) was paying more than $7.15 an hour, almost twice that, but couldn’t get any Americans who lived in Philadelphia to do the freaking work. It would have been nice if the Philadelphia Unemployment Project tried something radical like getting its members to actually work for a living. There are jobs out there, and the only reason that Mexican immigrants are doing them is because Americans are just too freaking good to have to shovel out a pit.

Philadelphia has a huge drop-out problem, especially among black males; half of them don’t finish high school. That’s a career-killing move; you aren’t going to become a doctor or a lawyer or an executive if you drop out of high school. Yet in the metro area, the jobs which don’t require a high school diploma, but which do require a willingness to do physical work, are being filled more and more by Hispanic immigrants, for one simple reason: the Hispanic workers (including Portuguese; there are a lot of Portuguese workers in the concrete construction industry in the area) go to work every day and do the jobs they are hired to do, and far too often good American citizens won’t.

It doesn’t even have anything to do with money. The immigrants in the Philadelphia area aren’t taking away the near-minimum wage jobs (though they hold some of those, too); they are taking the $12 and $14 and $16 an hour jobs because they have enough of a sense of honor and a willingness to work that they will actually do the jobs they are hired to do.

And that’s why Brian’s solution:

    you crack down on employers who are hiring these people and giving them the incentive to coming here illegally. You dry up the jobs, they’ll stop coming, and those that are already here will go home,

isn’t realistic, because it doesn’t address why employers hire immigrants. Any reasonable employer would rather hire Americans, if he could get them to come to work every day and do the jobs they were hired to do. It only makes sense: it is easier for American employers to communicate with American workers, it easier to document their eligibility to be employed, the risk of being caught using illegal labor is eliminated, and you don’t have to worry that your work force might simply disappear due to an immigration raid. The only logical reason to hire the immigrant workers is that they’ll actually work — and that happens to be the sole reason any employer hires anyone, because he has work that has to get done.

The real answer to the problem of illegal immigration is to get Americans to work. That might just come down to saying that if they don’t work, they don’t eat, but right now, I’d be happy to trade our good American citizen malingerers for the illegal immigrants who will actually work for a living.

6 Comments

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  2. I can hear both you and Brian’s idea Dana, tho “self-deportation” is a little comical when you first think about it, it does end making sense and seems to work. But getting Americans to work some menial jobs esp. when they have more than one mouth to feed to feed, is a whole ‘nother subject altogether.

  3. My brand of reform would be simple.

    Thise who wish to come as ‘guest workers’ would apply and in their home country. Permits would be granted in response to requests submitted by prospective employees and the fees paid on both ends would cover the admininstrative costs. Permis would be for a fixed, multi-year period.

    Any illegal entry after the date of the legislation would mean permanent debarment of entry or application for citizenship. Those already here would have an opportunity to report their whereabouts and be allowed to work for a fixed period, and then return. Future legal entry, and application for citizenship would be possible. Those failing to register would be subject to immediate deportment.

    Ability to read and speak English would be a requirement for entry.

  4. GG: I have to admit, I don’t understand what you meant by”

    But getting Americans to work some menial jobs esp. when they have more than one mouth to feed to feed, is a whole ‘nother subject altogether.

    Obviously if they have the skills to step up to a better job, that’s fine, but I have little sympathy for the American who says that he’d rather have no job than a menial one, especially if he has more than one mouth to feed.

  5. Obviously if they have the skills to step up to a better job, that’s fine, but I have little sympathy for the American who says that he’d rather have no job than a menial one, especially if he has more than one mouth to feed.

    About10 years ago, I found myself in an unusual state: unemployed.

    I actively sought an ‘appropriate’ position. My part-time adjunct faculty job was gone as a result of budget Clintonian cuts for technical training at a certain agency.

    The emphasis was being shifted to AIDS quilts.

    My day job had involved training foreign military personnel and it involved a nice paycheck.

    My age was agains me and I did find a few companies that were wiling to pay me peanuts. There was also a matter of racial quotas. This was a problem in two cases.

    So I took on a variety of menial tasks, including working at a musical instrument shop doing repairs, building a test fixture for a small electronics company where duties included carpentry and plumbing. Times were roughbut just as the last of savings were gone, I got hired as a consultant on a very interesting program and then was brought on full time at an even better salary.

    I could have drawn unemployment but my irregular sources of income would have required me to re-file every few weeks and I would have gotten maybe $500 for the effort.

    I had drawnone unemployment check two years earlier when I had been ‘retired’ by a big defense contractor that shut down operations after utterly mismanaging an ongoing money-well that delighted our customers and kept us busy. I decided to see how the other half lived and spent the entire amount on a case of bourbon. I still have one bottle.

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