There are two major issues driving the debate about limiting immigration to the country. The first is the cultural identity of the country. Some fear that the changing cultural face of the country brought on by an influx of immigrants into the community. English as the official language of the country is part of this issue. The other issue is the debate about job losses. As today, is Labor Day, we will focus on the issue of labor in the United States, specifically Mexican labor.
The debate about labor centers on the notion that Mexican labor depresses the wages in the country. This argument ties directly into whether U.S. workers can fill the jobs where Mexicans traditionally labor in. The argument being that once wages rise, U.S. workers will fill the job ranks previously held by the deported Mexicans.
Obviously rising wages equals higher prices for consumables, but this part of the debate is generally ignored by the proponents of keeping Mexican labor out. When pressured, proponents of higher wages argue that rising wages allows for price increases because the higher wages gives more disposable incomes to the workers filling the void. Because Mexican labor has not been eradicated from the U.S. since World War II, the debate about the affordability of higher wages is theoretical.
However, the question of whether U.S. workers are willing to take the jobs that deported Mexicans previously filled can be addressed by looking at how certain industries are reacting to the Trump administration’s targeting of undocumented immigrants. Three of the major economic sectors in the country are the agricultural sector, the home building sector and the service industries, such as hotel and restaurant workers.
Agriculture is one of the top five economic drivers of the country. For those looking for entry-level work, the service industries is their gateway to a job. The service industries encompass many different types of jobs, ranging from sales positions to waiters at restaurants. Within the service sector there is one section where U.S. workers excel, traditional sales positions. Hotels and restaurants are dominated immigrant labor, both documented and undocumented.
The building industries relies on immigrant labor for the building work force and on the native-born for managerial positions and higher technical positions.
It is true that wages are held down by immigrant labor.
What remains debatable is whether native-born workers are willing to take the jobs that immigrants traditionally hold.
Immigrant labor is currently in turmoil because of the fear of deportations brought on by the Trump administrations focus on deportations. Additionally, the issue of immigrant visas and enhanced immigration scrutiny has put pressure on the availability of immigrant labor in the traditional immigrant economic sectors.
How are they responding? Are native-born workers filling the gap?
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told Connecticut farmers on August 31, 2017 that irrespective of what the “national perspective is about the president and immigration” that the administration understands the “contribution that the immigrant has made to the agricultural sector.” Perdue commented that a “new visa system” is in the “works” for the agriculture sector to recruit foreign workers.
Clearly, the agricultural sector is clamoring for immigrant labor, especially Mexicans.
Farmers were complaining that they are seeing fewer workers willing to come work the fields from México and Central America. The farmers are looking for “access to a good, reliable labor force.” U.S. workers are clearly not interested.
But Purdue’s statement about immigrant labor demonstrates that certain U.S. industries are demanding that foreign workers be allowed into the labor force. Purdue told the audience,
“What we’re hoping, that agricultural guestworker program can maybe lead the way to comprehensive immigration reform…People I think are more willing to accept agricultural workers than maybe in other sectors, and we’re hoping to thread the needle there where it can be publicly palatable to do that.”
Note the three specific phrases, “maybe lead the way to comprehensive,” “people…more willing to accept agricultural workers,” and “thread the needle”.
Like the wall issue, Donald Trump has made promises to his base about immigration labor based on lies. Trump is now having to deal with the reality that foreign labor is necessary and important for the U.S. economy while trying to placate his political base by making them believe that he will stop immigrants from taking U.S. jobs.
In other words, his base is being misled to believe that immigrants are not needed in the U.S. workforce and that Donald Trump is eradicating them out of the country.
As Perdue stated, the agricultural workers are more palatable for the country because it ties directly into the cost of food on U.S. tables. However, Trump’s own hotels are asking for permission to bring in foreign workers. The building industry is also asking for more foreign workers. This will become even more noticeable as the rebuilding of Houston begins.
Although Trump’s base continues to be oblivious to the contributions immigrants make to the economy of the United States, they will continue to applaud Trump’s lies about deporting immigrant workers while secretly allowing them in through the back door. That is the nature of immigration in the United States and the reason why it continues to be a lightning rod, because neither political party wants to take ownership of the realities of immigrants in the country.