You hear it all the time from those pushing for restrictive immigration policies, “Americans will take the jobs” left by undocumented immigrants who leave the country. The notion being that the only reason that U.S. citizens don’t have the jobs is because an undocumented immigrant took it away from them. Some proponents of forcing undocumented workers to leave believe that wages would naturally rise as the immigrants return to their countries. Nativists, those that want closed borders and all immigrants out, believe that the only problem facing the country are the undocumented immigrants. They believe that expelling them would solve the job problems for U.S. citizens. But it is all a lie.

Time and time again, when undocumented immigrants are forced out of their jobs, U.S. workers aren’t willing to fill the vacant jobs. When opponents to immigration realize that the citizens aren’t stepping up to fill the jobs, they begin arguing that the wages are too low because of the undocumented immigrants who took the jobs. But what happens when the wages are competitive and a U.S. company tries to fill their jobs by following the law?

The Washington Post published such a case scenario last week. It proves that U.S. workers aren’t willing to do the jobs that require back-breaking tasks and long hours, even at prevailing wages.

In “A landscaper’s ‘hire American’ plan ended with bringing in Mexican workers to finish the job,” (October 5, 2017) by Tracy Jan, the experience of one U.S. company proves that the U.S. economy needs immigrants to keep it going.

This is the reality that proponents of closed borders fail to realize – that the U.S. economy is strong because of the immigrant labor. The Washington Post article details the experiences of Jesus “Chuy” Medrano, the owner of CoCal Landscape, who recruited and processed the work permits for 39 Mexican workers to work for his company. Medrano offers $14 an hour in Colorado as the starting salary for his employees. Colorado’s minimum wage is $9.30 an hour. As you can see, $14 an hour is above the minimum wage. Additionally, according to the MIT Living Wage calculator, one adult needs an hourly wage of $12.24 to have a living wage in Colorado.

The wages offered by Medrano is not the problem. But when he recruited U.S. citizens to fill his job slots, he found few takers and those that did start work left after a few weeks. Medrano told the newspaper that U.S. workers do not want “the type of jobs he offers.” Medrano added that “he went to great lengths this summer to recruit Americans to mow lawns, plant trees and fix sprinklers.” Medrano told of how some prospects “showed up to orientation only to say, ‘I’m not going to do that for $14 an hour’”. Of 222 workers he hired, only 73 remained, forcing him to spend $32,000 recruiting and processing visas for the Mexican workers he brought in to keep his business operating.

So much for the notion that U.S. workers are willing to do the jobs that the undocumented immigrants perform.

Some would argue that this is one-time phenomena. But, even the loudest anti-immigrant advocate, Donald Trump, has had to rely on immigrant labor visas to fill jobs at his resorts, thus, this argument becomes moot. Or, are we to believe that Trump pays slave wages or that he simply can’t fill the job slots he needs?

The debate over immigration has little to do with the job market and everything to do with keeping immigrants out of the country, regardless to the cost to the U.S. consumers and the country’s economy.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

2 replies on “Americans Will Take the Jobs”

  1. While what you say is true to a point. The other half of the story is that immigrants are competing with skilled workers. It’s no longer just Mexicans waiting for a job in front of the local lumber stores, it’s Americans as well.

    So in some cases they are taking jobs. They’ve learned that skilled workers in construction, auto maintenance, horse care, etc. pay better and have better conditions.

    Reimplement the Bracero program only pay the workers directly.

  2. Enforcing legal immigration into the country is not nativist or anti-immigrant and should support employers’ hiring needs.

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