I want to have a discussion about immigration. It seems like half the country is either all for it and the other half is all about getting rid of just about any kind of immigrant. Well that is how it seems, my guess is that the majority of the people out there actually fall in the middle somewhere. They probably believe that we should allow people into the country, but at the same time, illegal immigrants should not be given any special treatment (except kids, because it is not their fault for being brought here). I am just guessing, but that seems like the average viewpoint. You may lean more or less on one side or another, but most people are not at the extreme ends (no one in whatsoever vs. fully open borders).
I should also mention that for the sake of this discussion, we are going to just lump all immigrants together. Illegal aliens, legal aliens, refugees, students, migrant workers…etc. We are just going to treat them all the same and refer to them as immigrants for this post. I also should mention that I am very liberal, so my views may be tainted a little bit. However, I do think there are some valid points made by the other side and I may even agree with them on a few issues.
Open vs. Closed Borders
I recently wrote about how we should just allow President Trump to have his wall. I was half joking, but also there were some valid points in there. Also though, you either have a border or you do not. This idea that the United States is a nation without borders is a little weird. We would not be the first country to put up a wall between nations. You can argue about the cost and all of that stuff, but at the end of the day, the government is going to spend enormous sums of money on things, so why not build a wall. Yes, I get that it may have little affect on the actual immigration numbers, but it is our border and we can do with it what we want.
So we close our borders and limit the number of immigrants we allow into the country. I am not sure I agree with the idea of it being merit-based, but again, we would not be the first country to implement such border controls (Canada has a merit system). However, that means we are going to have to take a look at our identity as a nation (which may not be a bad thing). We would no longer be that country that offers hope to the rest of the world, where anyone can come to America and build the American dream. Maybe we have reached a point where it is time to change. That means we no longer get to brag about being the Melting Pot of the world anymore, we used to be, but now the ingredients have been added and it looks like we are just slowly simmering (terrible analogy, I apologize).
This is where my liberal sensibilities kick in though. If you want to have closed borders and admit only a handful of people, fine. I am okay with it. Unfortunately, you cannot base who you let in by race or religion or some other discriminatory practice. When the President asks why we cannot have more people from Norway come here and less from those shithole countries (or whatever he said), that is where I cringe. You cannot have a policy that says “we will admit only white folks from Europe; no blacks, browns, Muslims, etc.” That is the line that I will not cross and will have to push back against your closed border ideas.
Change in Work
If we close the borders, then it means we should probably expect a few changes. I believe I have read before that produce prices would increase dramatically as farmers would have to pay American workers. I know what you are thinking: “well they come here and work for less than minimum wage.” And that is where you are wrong. Strawberry pickers make around $10-$12 an hour, which is a seasonal job. However, the work is hard. Out in the sun, stooped over picking strawberries.
See, the misnomer is that immigrants come here and steal American jobs. However, it is not that simple. I am sure every farmer out there would gladly pay some American $12/hour to pick fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, those workers are not around. They work for one day and say “screw this, it is too hard.” They quit or they demand more money. So we have to pay American’s $25/hour to entice them to do the work (maybe more), which then raises our produce prices, which then causes the prices at restaurants to go up, and so on.
I have been paying attention to a story about a meat processing company wanting to open a new plant in a certain town. Now the meat company said there would be like 200 jobs created, all around $15/hour. The people of the town discussed it (I stumbled upon these discussions on Facebook) and the people had some serious reservations about having this plant in their town. They kept saying that another town had a plant like this and the company brought in a bunch of immigrants from somewhere like Somalia and paid them less. Eventually this idea picked up enough steam and the company had to address it. They said that when they opened up in that town, they hired from the townspeople, but after six months most of the people quit because the job was too hard or too gross (being on the kill floor is not for everyone). So they started expanding their search and even their starting pay. However, they could not find the employees, so they looked at Somalians, who had just arrived in the country (I believe refugees) and needed work. They were able to pay them the original $15/hour instead of that later $19 or $20, and they had almost zero turnover.
So it was not the immigrants stealing the jobs, but more that Americans were just not willing to do that type of work. I see this all the time in my profession as a restaurant manager. People come in needing a job. You hire them and then after a few days they see how much work the job entails and they quit. Recently one person told me “I can go back to the call center and sit on my ass for more than you pay me here.” That person had come to me looking for a job because they hated working at the one call center because people were so rude when you called them. Well okay, that is the trade off. That company probably pays a little more because they know they have to in order to attract/keep people.
Another problem is education. If we are going to close the borders, then we should probably really take a long look at our education systems. I saw a statistic that said 25% of doctors in America are foreign born. I would imagine that number is going up, I feel like most of the doctors here in the Johnstown area have foreign names (my doctor is from India). The same goes with other fields too, such as engineering, computer science, and anything else STEM-related. I do not know what the answer is and how to fix the educational systems, but there needs to be some change. And those are not the only areas. We need to push trades on young kids. If someone does not want to go to college, do not force them, HVAC/plumbers/welders…any of those jobs pay well and are in demand.
I have another quick story. I read a few years ago about a company, I think it was Caterpillar that was doing very well and decided to build a new engine plant (if that is what they make, I cannot remember) somewhere in the Midwest. They wanted to hire a bunch of locals to work at the plant and they were willing to pay them very well. We are talking $20-$25/hour to start. Unfortunately they could not fill many of the jobs because most of the people applying could not pass the basic math exam that was needed. We are not talking about binomial theorems or understanding game theory. These were basic algebra questions and most of the people could not answer them correctly.
Finally, if we do close the borders, people are going to have to start moving around more. They will have to go to where the jobs are instead of wanting the jobs to come to them. I remember reading about the gas boom in North Dakota and how they could not get people to move there. The fracking companies had their people, but it was the other jobs that were lacking. For example, Wal-Mart could not hire enough people (which is crazy because when do you ever see someone actually working at Wal-Mart?), despite offering high starting wages. People are just not willing to move anymore to find work. That was not always the case. And yet over the past fifty years (maybe?), it seems like the idea of moving for most people is ludicrous.
I know what you are thinking. “That is crazy Josh, if I needed a job badly enough, I would go anywhere!” Would you though? If you lost your job tomorrow and you went to Monster to look for jobs, what search parameter would you put in? 25 miles from home? Remember those vocational jobs I mentioned before? They are out there, but you have to be willing to go get them. For example, I just typed welder into Monster and a radius of 20 miles, there are 13 jobs. But when I changed it to 200 miles? 1000+ jobs available. You cannot complain that there are no jobs out there, if you are not willing to look for them. I can tell you that those immigrants, they are willing to go where the jobs are located.
So there you have it. I am not anti-immigration. Nor am I against any kind of immigration reform. Hell, I am not even against trying this closed border stuff. I just hope that if we do go down this road, the American people are willing to take a hard look at themselves and see the flaws, and then figure out how to fix them.