Tags: The | 'Jobs | Americans | Won't | Do' | Myth

The 'Jobs Americans Won't Do' Myth

Friday, 13 February 2004 12:00 AM

It's hard to understand how illegal aliens would not consider such a program a reward, but maybe the president and the accompanying bipartisan open borders chorus of lawmakers in favor of this catastrophe in the making were really talking about American workers instead, because another amnesty sure won't be a reward for them.

The big lie in this jobs-for-illegals debate is the contention Congress must approve such a program to ensure all the jobs Americans won't do still get done. As I document in my new book, "Illegals: The Imminent Threat Posed by Our Unsecured U.S.-Mexico Border," such jobs exist, but only because the open borders crowd has created them. If we open the door to more illegal workers, wages will only decrease further. I'll explain.

Over time, the massive influx of poor, uneducated laborers from south of the border has already worked to depress American wages, especially in areas where illegal immigration is the heaviest.

While researching "Illegals," several people told me they used to do the "jobs Americans won't do" until local employers figured out they could get illegal aliens to work for less than half the same amount. As an example, a young landscaper in Sierra Vista, Ariz., who used to make $15 an hour 10 years ago, can't get a similar job now for more than $8 an hour. Same heat. Same difficult working conditions. Same necessary for landscapers. But with the depressed wage, Americans – who live in a country where the cost of living is miles above that of Mexico's – can't afford to take such jobs.

It's not that he and other Americans don't want to do landscaping anymore; it's just that in heavily trafficked illegal alien environments, it doesn't pay well enough anymore.

And that's how many "jobs Americans won't do" were created. The current administration's "guest worker" program will create more such jobs, because what employer in his or her right mind would not want to lower their labor costs? Doing so would raise profits – at least in theory – without having to do anything else.

Consider a key element of the plan offered by the administration. "Willing" illegal immigrant "employees" would be matched up with "willing" U.S. employers. Jobs would be "posted" online, and if an American citizen did not fill the job within a specified time limit, a "willing" illegal immigrant would be eligible to take it.

Bush's plan doesn't offer citizenship, just legal status. The Democrats' plan goes much further in that it waves the prize of citizenship to illegal immigrants after a specified time period of gainful employment.

Again, what will employers likely do? They'll post the jobs, sure – but at far less than prevailing U.S. wages? What would stop them?

So far, there are no protections built into either the Bush plan or the Democrats' alternative that prevents employers from setting a below-average wage and, based on Republicans' corporate relationships and Democrats labor connections, neither party appears willing to tell employers what they must pay (minimum wage considerations aside).

Politically, the Democrats stand to lose the most. Labor unions are already upset with the job-killing NAFTA and GATT agreements; they will never support a labor-related plan that allows workers to be hired at far-below prevailing wage.

But overall, American workers are going to be hurt, regardless of their political affiliation. As the wage-depressing effect of this plan seeps into more and more industries, fewer Americans will have a sporting chance against an imported laborer who says he'll work for one-third the going wage.

The government won't make out like bandits either. Millions of lower-wage American workers, after two rounds of Bush tax cuts, were removed from any federal tax obligation whatsoever. Imported "guest workers" earning the same or less won't have to pay, either. Some windfall.

History is also not on the side of the open borders crowd. Consider the last amnesty approved by the Reagan administration in 1986; it didn't resolve the illegal immigration problem. In fact, experienced border agents told me, it only encouraged more illegal immigration.

The 1986 law "regularized" about 3 million illegals; there are at least three times that amount living in the U.S. today. How did the 1986 law help, and what should Americans expect any different results this time around?

If this is what the open borders crowd means by illegals doing jobs Americans don't want, they're right. American workers want jobs that can earn them a decent living in this country. Minimum wage is a fortune south of the border, but it doesn't go far here.

"President Bush and Congress must make a choice," Dan Stein, executive director of FAIR writes. "Are they going to serve the interests of illegal immigrants and a small number of employers seeking cheap labor at the expense of the American public, or are they going to protect the interests of workers, taxpayers and homeowners? They must choose one or the other."

The choice seems clear to me.

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Friday, 13 February 2004 12:00 AM
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