Jorge Ramos is a journalist and works for the Spanish-language news organization, Univision. He was interviewed on NPR following President Obama’s decision to push for immigration reform.
According to Señor Ramos, the jobs held predominantly by immigrants, both legal and illegal, are jobs that Americans are not necessarily clamoring for. It’s a sentiment expressed by former Mexican President Vicente Fox that got him in trouble a few years ago:
“There is no doubt that Mexicans, filled with dignity, willingness and ability to work, are doing jobs that not even blacks want to do there in the United States.” (May 2005)
In his example, Jorge Ramos cited tomato and orange pickers, presumably referring to the high number of migrant farm workers in California. He supports a path to citizenship which is pretty clearly based on the immigrants’ sense of entitlement. What I hear in his words (and the words of others) is a philosophy that they were entitled to enter this country to seek a better life and that if they had to do so illegally, never mind that. They’re here, they’re entitled to stay, and we should all get over it and make it happen for them. It’s like saying robbing a bank is illegal but if you can make it out the bank without killing anyone or being killed, and you can make it back to your house with the loot, the police should let you keep the money and say “nice job!” It’s literally a sense of “safe at home” being applied to crossing the Rio Grande.
Well, here is where I think Señor Jorge Ramos esta muy incorrecto:
1. Non-US citizens are not entitled to move to this country. If that were so, I’m sure there would be thousands if not millions of poor and destitute, persecuted, and entrepreneurial spirits around the world who would love to be here tomorrow. But because Mexico shares a largely indefensible border with the US—or perhaps because so much of our country used to belong to Mexico—there seems to be this idea that crossing the border into the US should be as casual as crossing a street. Not so and the laws of this country prohibit that undocumented immigration. Shame on illegals for feeling entitled, and shame on the Federal government for doing nothing to uphold the law of the land—except in those instances when it’s easier— or convenient—like holding a few hundred passengers on a plane on the tarmac because Customs and Immigration officials aren’t available.
2. Illegal immigrants need to acknowledge their illegal status and face the consequences under the law, whether there are 12 of them or 12 million of them. The numbers should not sway the legal process but rather should intensify the need for a solution.
3. It may be so that immigrants take the low-paying and menial jobs that many Americans would not want. But why is that?
a. For one, it’s because the jobs are low paying. And the jobs are naturally low paying because of the low skill level required to accomplish the job—and because of the high numbers of eligible workers.
b. Being undocumented, illegal immigrants become easy targets for those who prey on the illegal labor pool for their own financial gain. These business owners will pay the illegals lower-than-market wages because they can. The exploited illegal has no choice but to accept whatever pay he or she gets and cannot go to the local labor office and complain. Being illegal, they have no voice or advocate for higher wages or better conditions.
c. You should realize that once these workers become legalized (if and when), they no longer fall into the same cheap labor pool. Because businesses cannot take advantage of them, they become less of a victim and are no longer attractive laborers. If a business has to pay them minimum wage and/or provide benefits, there’s no advantage in hiring them over any other American who wants a job. Their competitive advantage in that job is gone.
d. On the point of wages being higher if there were fewer available workers, it’s an economic fact that when demand is high and supply is low, the value of that supply goes up. The more eligible workers there are in the illegal workforce, the lower their pay will be. The fewer there are, the higher the demand and the higher their pay. When pay for illegals achieves parity with pay for legals, the advantage is gone and the attraction for undocumented workers goes away with it.
e. In communities where immigrant labor is not rampant, businesses exist and employ non-immigrant labor in menial and low-paying jobs. One cannot support an argument that Americans (by birth or naturalization) do not hold jobs as roofers, landscapers, cleaners, and pickers. What can be supported is that businesses that use legal laborers have a financial disadvantage when competing with those that use illegal laborers to the point that they do suffer financially. Illegal and undocumented workers DO hurt the American economy. <STORY>
My position is that Jorge Ramos misunderstands something about the American economy and workforce dynamics. Making the immigrants legal and trying to put them to work in the same jobs they’re in today is not realistic. There’s a flaw in his logic that overlooks the economic differences and realities when employing documented and undocumented workers.
He might also enjoy reading The Grapes of Wrath. Not that I did but then again I was in 9th grade at the time. Anyway, he would do well to remember that there was a time in this country when the typical White American formed a good portion of the labor pool in migrant farming, yes, even in California. I believe that if such jobs were once again available under good labor conditions including good wages, we’d see Americans happy to take them. But in a depressed market where an illegal can come along and do it for half the money and be happy, why would business owners hire a documented worker with his/her high demands for good pay and fair treatment?
Illegal and undocumented workers DO hurt the American economy.
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