Monday, November 16, 2009

Jobs That Americans Wont Do?

During immigration debates we frequently hear demagogues like Luis Gutierrez (D - IL) claim that undocumented immigrants do jobs that Americans won't do. While there are some good
arguments for liberal immigration policies, the aforementioned statement is incomplete to say the least. This has become painfully obvious with the unprecedented willingness of Americans to fill labor positions that were until recently (virtually) the sole domain of undocumented immigrants, including positions in the agricultural sector.

So, a more accurate statement would be "undocumented immigrants work for wages and under conditions that most native born and legal immigrants would not do. Improve the wages and working conditions and the positions will be filled by native born workers and legal immigrants. Or in a sufficiently depressed job market, there are few jobs that the said groups won't take."

That would be the starting point for a serious of questions that would allow us to formulate economically rational immigration policies:

"Are there certain industries (like fruit producer) that could not compete if they were forced to offer wages and working conditions that the majority of American workers require?"

"Would the benefits of having American workers fill these positions (for higher wages) be offset by increased costs of goods and services, such as food and construction? In other words if agricultural workers were paid higher wages would the cost of hamburgers rise to $10?"

"If the answer to last question was "yes," we must ask if the said industries could respond to higher costs of labor by shifting from labor intensive to capital intensive methods of production? In other words could they, like Japanese companies respond to a tighter labor market and higher labor costs by developing and integrating new labor saving technologies?"

"On a more general level we could ask if our current policy of seeking to improve our competitiveness via cheap labor constitutes a viable strategy or perhaps it would be wiser to focus on educational and immigration policies that increase our general level of human capital."

"Once we factor in the cost of government services (food stamps, medicaid, etc.) required by many low wage, low skill workers and their families, is "cheap labor" really such a bargain for the public?"

"If the answer to the the last question is "no," the next question is "should we conceptualize cheap labor as a commodity that the public subsidizes for the benefits of select business owners?"

"If we restricted the use of these costly public services would we reduce the economic incentives that fuel a high rate of undocumented immigration and help remedy distortions in the labor market?"

"If we reduce welfare for native born Americans and modestly increasing wages and benefits in certain industries, would we be able to offer sufficient incentives to have populations that are chronically unemployed and dependent on welfare fill positions in the said economic sectors?"

"How much does the use of undocumented immigrants reflect the legitimate need of employers to circumvent costly regulation and liabilities that the use of American labor implies?"

I am troubled by the fact that these crucial economic questions are so rarely debated. Pundits mostly focus on meaningless soundbites. The left asks us to "celebrate diversity" and
xenophobes like Pat Buchanan seek to instill fear of non-white immigration, neither of which will help us achieve economically rational policies that will benefit native born and immigrant workers alike.

Unemployed Americans Looking for Farm Work

Tuesday, July 14, 2009,

With the nation's unemployment rate rising above 9.5 percent and almost 15 million American workers looking for a job, many of them are turning to fruit orchards and vegetable fields to make ends meet. Farmers report that former farm workers and first-timers are filling up some of the seasonal jobs.

Open borders groups claim that the federal government needs to import foreign workers because farm work is a job Americans won't do. But in the current job market, U.S. citizens are looking for any way to make money.

"We're having a great many more applicants this year than we have had in the past," said Dan Bremer, president of AgWorks, in a USA Today artcle.

A report from the Colorado Department of Labor reveals that only 39 U.S. workers applied for 171 farm opening last summer, but this spring, 1,799 U.S. workers applied for 726 openings in the state.

"With the higher unemployment rate, we have workers who are willing to consider jobs that in the past they might not have been willing to do," said Larry Lemmons who works for the Colorado labor department.

The number of American workers applying for these jobs is unusual. According to Craig Regelbrugge of the American Nursery and Landscape Association about 70 percent of the nation's 1.6 million farmworkers are likely in the country illegally and using fake documents to secure the jobs.

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