Undocumented Immigrants Are Absolutely Essential to Our Economy


[Updated 10/21/19]

The simple and undeniable truth is that undocumented migrants are essential to American business and all the talk about an illegal immigration crisis is political posturing meant to appeal to a Republican base that doesn't understand their contribution to our economy or has other motives. Moreover, almost everyone in Washington knows it, which is why they seem so conflicted on the issue; should they play along with Donald Trump's anti-immigrant nonsense or should they acknowledge economic reality and help businesses in their district get the employees they need to survive.

There are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, down from a peak of 12 million in 2007. About 8 million of them have jobs making up almost 5% of our overall workforce, up to 9 or 10% in states like Texas, California and Nevada. Moreover, they constitute more than 50% of US farm-workers, 24% of maids and cleaners, and 15% of our construction workforce. In other words, they are filling positions in some of America's most physically demanding and unglamorous occupations.

In one particular study of the dairy industry researchers found that more than 50% of US dairy-workers are immigrants [most believed to be undocumented], and that the total elimination of immigrant labor in the industry would reduce milk production by 48.4 billion pounds, reduce the number of farms by 7,011 and increase milk prices by 90 percent. Moreover, eliminating immigrant labor on dairy farms would reduce overall US employment by 208,208 jobs because of losses "in input supply sectors and services provided to U.S. dairy farms."

The Houston Chronicle recently documented the construction industry's dependence on undocumented immigrants and the worker shortage that has developed as immigration has declined.

Houston Chronicle: "A prolonged shortage of construction workers has the Associated General Contractors of America calling for immigration reform."
“We recognize it’s important to have safe borders,” said Kenneth D. Simonson, the group’s chief economist. “But it’s also really important for the growth of the U.S. economy to make sure that we have a large enough workforce.”

Even more telling, if Congress really wanted to substantially reduce the number of undocumented workers in America, they could accomplish that fairly easily by making the E-Verify system mandatory for all businesses and by increasing the penalties for hiring illegals. Today, most businesses that hire undocumented workers use I-9 forms instead of E-Verify because they know very few of the i-9 forms will ever be checked. The employers then certify that the documents provided by the applicant "appear to be genuine" and essentially that's it.

And conservatives in state government who claim to support tough measures to decrease illegal immigration have done little to reduce the hiring of undocumented workers in their states.

Bloomberg Business: "In 2011 states across the Southeast passed laws that threatened private employers with dire consequences—including losing their license to do business—if they didn’t enroll with a federal data service called E-Verifyto check the legal status of new hires. Modeled after 2008 measures in Arizona and Mississippi and billed as a rebuke to a do-nothing Obama administration, the laws went further than those in the 13 states that required checks for new hires only by state agencies or their contractors."
"Seven years later, those laws appear to have been more political bark than bite. None of the Southern states that extended E-Verify to the private sector have canceled a single business license, and only one, Tennessee, has assessed any fines. Most businesses caught violating the laws have gotten a pass."

Anti-immigrant Americans wonder how it's possible for so many illegals to get jobs, but its not a mystery; its how the system is meant to operate in order for business to get the labor force it needs to survive.

So, why don't we have a rational conversation about immigration and the number of foreign workers we need for America to be successful? Well, Congress tried to have that conversation back during the Bush administration when Democrats and Republicans got very close to passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill in Congress. The bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 was passed overwhelmingly in the Senate by a 62-36 vote. The bill included provisions to strengthen border security with fencing, surveillance technology and more personnel; a new temporary worker visa category; and a path to legal status for immigrants in the country illegally if they met specific criteria. Conservatives in the House, at Fox News and in talk radio killed it, however. Since then, it's been almost impossible to have a reasonable conversation about immigration reform, and Trump's "immigration crisis", "Mexican rapist", "its an invasion" nonsense has just made the situation worse.

So, for now, we are stuck in a loop in which businesses keep hiring as many undocumented workers as they can get their hands on, Congress winks and nods to them, and Republicans demagogue immigration as a wedge issue to win elections.


By: Don Lam & Curated Content

#immigration

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