Nearly two weeks ago, I posted an article in support of a border wall with Mexico, one I still hold to.
The following day, I began writing about other things that were at least as important as border defenses, and here we’ll discuss the second of them in more detail. Remember: This is not an either-or situation; as the wealthiest nation in the world at the pinnacle of human achievement and prosperity, we can afford to do pretty much whatever we want, much less everything we ought.
A note: We can disagree if you like. But before you do, I’d ask that you at least listen to what I have to say. I’ve done a fair amount of research on the topic, and I’ll try not to waste your time with platitudes but instead keep things dispassionate and biased only in that I’ll place the national interest of the United States first in priority. After all, if you’re looking for an argument based on sentiment and our duty to humanity, the national media has that covered just fine — not to say their position is invalid, mind, but rather that we’ve heard it already.
(2) We need to open up legal ways to enter the United States.
One way to get people to stop crossing illegally is to let them cross legally. Don’t get me wrong here; I’m not advocating open borders. On the other hand, we can use an increase in our labor force. Some of you, particularly recent college graduates, might doubt me; nevertheless, it’s quite true: There are several industries which are chronically short of help.
There’s call throughout the summer and fall for agricultural workers — pickers and sorters, mainly. There’s several reasons for this, including poor housing, extremely hard work, and low pay, and one approach was the creation of “guest worker” programs. Every year, hundreds of thousands of skilled pickers are used by harvesters to keep costs low. Guest workers are also employed in low-end jobs in seasonal hospitality (housekeeping and service staff for tourists) and in fisheries (crab-picking, for example). (I did mention this last article, but it deserves restating.)
When the present administration severely cut the number of available temporary visas for the guest worker program in 2017, each of these three industries suffered severe losses. Proponents of the cuts, which included the labor unions and Mother Jones as well as the more nationalist Republicans, believed the employers would be forced to hire Americans at higher rates; instead, crops rotted in the fields and many tourist hotels closed whole wings — or, in some cases, shut down entirely.
Bear in mind that what I’m talking about here are legal workers. They earn a wage, pay taxes, permit businesses to make a profit, produce useful goods, and of course spend to provide their own housing, food, clothing, et cetera. They do send cash home, sure — but the financial contributions they make to this country more than outweigh the cash that flows south (which, if you’ve read the preceding article in this series, you’ll note can’t be valued as a pure negative even from an American-centric perspective). In particular, please consider that these are people who pay into Social Security but will never collect — unfair to them, sure, but as our workforce is aging into retirement, SSI really needs the help.
This needs reiteration: At present, the population of the United States has aged to a point that our economy is overburdened trying to provide medical care and retirement benefits to all those who have earned them. SSI expenditures increased by 50% over the last decade, during a period of purely nominal inflation. This is unfortunate in the extreme; if we can ameliorate it by artificially increasing the workforce, so much the better.
Agricultural and service workers account for only about three fifths of the guest visas issued. According to the AFL/CIO (which flatly condemns all of these programs as dangerous to our own workforce’s opportunities while encouraging exploitation), there are about 1.5 million temporary employees in more technical fields. According to some of their numbers, nearly a third of trained medical staff are here temporarily. Now, three other sources I checked indicated the AFL/CIO numbers are vastly inflated; the best information I can find shows that only about 16% of the workforce is even foreign-born, and easily three quarters of those are either naturalized citizens or permanent residents. [It’s possible the union numbers are skewed due to policy-related bias.]
One thing that every source I queried agreed on is that the field that benefits the most from foreign workers is medical. And that’s a field where our home-grown workforce is entirely inadequate. Especially as our population continues to age, we will need more and more care workers.
(Millennials: If you want to find high-paying reliable work, get a CNA license and shoot for your RN and/or PA while working in the medical field to pay your school bills. The work can be unpleasant, but hey: Job security! Plus, you can help change the world for the better, one patient at a time.)
These are just examples; the scope of American labor is vast and varied, and each segment deserves its own solutions. But it’s certain jobs exist, and since we can’t rely on Americans to fill the positions, foreign labor is an ideal alternative. Which is excellent, because there’s another very good reason we want this to happen.
You see, people don’t flood across the border because their lives are wonderful; we don’t have the same thing happening with Canadians, you’ll notice. It takes serious desperation for a family to uproot itself, sneak across the border, and then evade the Border Patrol and (later) INS just to have the privilege of going to work every day.
Desperate people need hope. If we create reasonable alternatives to coming across illegally, fewer people will take the risk. Granted, this works best if there are other, more reliable deterrents in place — a really intimidating wall, for example — but every person we can discourage from coming illegally is one less that will eventually need to be deported.
It’s not quite that simple; we also need a path to citizenship that’s open to nearly everyone. This must include those that successfully reside here illegally. In the face of laws that are casually and universally flouted, one has the choice of either draconic enforcement or amending the laws; creating a legal alternative to outlawry is the very least we can do — from a pragmatic perspective.
Which is what I’m after in this article, remember: Pragmatism, with the interests of the United States placed first in consideration. That we can use more workers is sufficient argument in favor; the deterrent factors are also real and lend weight. Besides, we’ve demonstrated that we’re not capable of stopping illegal immigration through brute force without descending to tyrannical methods, unforgiving courts, and implacable judgment. That’s not who we are.
There’s one more factor, you see, and while emotional, it’s nevertheless one of substance: Our national identity is as a nation of refuge, a home for the downtrodden, a place of safety from tyranny and oppression. It is who we are, who we always have been, and if we change that part of us, we change ineradicably who we must see ourselves as. We will no longer be the land of the free but instead the land of privilege and power, of selfishness, greed, corruption.
Some would say we’re already halfway there.
“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” “
The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus, 1883
(This last bit was from an earlier article on refugees. You might read it; it’s one of my better efforts.)