The government looks the other way in immigration enforcement at times, maybe to keep industry supplied with cheap labor…
Those illegals are taking our jobs is the cry. And it is often oh so true. But there is more to the story but that does not take away from the fact that it is true.
I think the baffling thing about all this is that our own government seems complicit, even while immigration authorities make raids on various businesses from time to time and while unlucky undocumented or incorrectly documented immigrants accidentally come into contact with the law — a traffic stop perhaps. We all no doubt read of at least one incident where a father was picked up and subsequently deported after dropping off his child at school.
But how is it that whole industries, including that of farm labor and meat processing, depend upon illegals (I will use that term not as a pejorative but shorthand)? Those who hire illegals have to know what they are doing, despite the phony documents. And the government must have one outdated computer system if it cannot cross check the names and if it taxes the illegals and then in fact even sends them tax refunds.
The way that it works of course is that the politicians (some) make political hay by waging war on illegals to protect American jobs. But at the same time various companies and industries and lobbyists for interests who use illegals put pressure on and grease the palms of the lawmakers to force them to ignore or go easy on their supply of cheap (relatively cheap) labor.
Meanwhile, the hardworking illegals (no they are not thugs and rapists as Trump declares) have to live in fear of the law and cannot stand up to pressure to work in poor and unsafe conditions for fear of being turned in and deported and separated from their spouses, and their children, who in many cases were born here in the USA and are thus American citizens.
Except to allude to it briefly here I won’t go into the history of farm labor where American citizens and non-Hispanic white people actually used to do farm labor before the LBJ Great Society programs gave them a path out (while it did not necessarily lead them to the promised the land).
But what made me think of all this is some documentaries I watched recently about the plight of undocumented workers taking American jobs. Both dealt with Hispanics.
Basically, the markets have priced many American citizens out of their jobs. Their employers have either moved their production outside the country (sometimes south of the border) or have hired lower-paid workers.
This goes way back. In the 1980s Hormel Foods in Austin, Minnesota demanded pay and benefit cuts from their union workers who in turn went on strike. Hormel claimed that a downturn in the market for their Spam and other products and competition in the markets forced them to reduce costs. The union workers may have not thought Hormel was being completely honest and besides they had to pay for food and shelter themselves (and when is the last time you saw those prices go down?) and had worked up to a higher living standard than they had in the past (the American way). But after a while the union higher-ups told the Austin local to forget it and go back to work. Many did not and the union was swept out and replaced by mostly poor people from a poor region of Mexico. They needed the work and they saw the ads and they responded.
I think I watched at least three documentaries dealing with three different locales in the nation. At first there is resistance from the local populace. But over time it sinks in that these people are here to stay. And of course with their wages the immigrants pump money into the local economy. And while at times it takes the newcomers a little to adjust, they do, but of course bring their own customs with them and change the landscape of the communities in which they now reside. And that is America, a land of immigrants from various places throughout the world.
It is often charged that they bring crime with them. In a way probably so. Among any group of people there are bad actors. A simple increase in population, irrespective of ethnicity, might have the same effect.
In one documentary a Midwestern police chief said that although it was true that Mexican drug cartels were now doing business in his community, he did not blame it on Mexican immigrants. In fact, he claimed, those cartels were supplying drugs to the already-existing population of white people (as opposed to Hispanics or others) who were suffering from the ongoing opioid addiction epidemic. So the cartels would have shown up anyway.
(Of course I might inject that part of that opioid epidemic is the result of the hopelessness brought on by the loss of jobs and career opportunities that result from the importation of lower-cost labor.)
I’ll just try to wrap this up by saying we should all be realistic and honest about all of this. On the one hand, it is true that industry will do near anything to cut labor costs (that unfortunately is just a part of business) but on the other hand it would seem that industry has some responsibility to the surroundings in which it operates and to the people who pay the taxes to give it support and protection in the world.
Labor unions have lost a lot of clout over the years. They too have to be realistic. They have to be cognizant of business conditions and they have to work with management to make sure that all of their membership are up to the skills and that they perform them in an efficient and safe manner.
I in no way want to disparage union workers but as a non-union over-the-road trucker it often seems that you can spot a union warehouse over a non-union operation pretty quickly. The union operations tend to work more slowly and take a lot of breaks — but that is a generalization of course, and I just came from one where that is definitely not the case.
In working with management the unions need to create a cooperative atmosphere where they can negotiate for good wages and working conditions. But there should be no compromise on safety. And when unions are corrupted they sometimes enter into so-called “sweetheart contracts” that tend to represent the interests of management over the workers.
I was shocked to see how fast meat cutters have to work; it looked mighty dangerous to me.
Our government needs to quit being two-faced about it all. Making raids for show and then turning a blind eye to those who pay someone off needs to quit.
I for one would be for strong enforcement against hiring undocumented workers. With the computer technology we have now neither employers nor government has any excuse for the hiring of people with phony documents.
The enforcement should be against employers not workers. The workers won’t come if they know they cannot depend upon phony documents and employers who turn a blind eye.
And for those in desperate need of work I say why do we make it so hard for them to enter legally?
Part of the reality is that over the years the newer generations in our country have gravitated out of non-skilled and even semi-skilled labor or so-called blue collar work, in some cases for higher-paying jobs and in some cases to simply collect benefits from the government.
Simply putting a cap on the influx of labor might not do the trick. I think that once you over price labor industry finds a way around it — these days automation is the answer it seems, and nearly everything can be automated. And barring that, industry might just move on to something else.
I’ve mentioned this example before but I think it is true. In agriculture when farmers are faced with a labor shortage they find a way to automate (mechanical harvesters for example) and if that is not possible they plant something else, perhaps not as labor intensive. Somewhere in the world the replaced crops will be grown in existing labor conditions.
And I am a trucker and I will haul it to you, that is until they replace me with an autonomous truck.