21 June 2007

If a (documented) man will not work...

The Center for American Progress offers up the corrections to many myths about immigration.

Without stipulating to the whole of this exercise in myth busting, I do have one criticism. On the issue of the jobs that illegal guest workers do, the report says:

Myth: Out-of-work natives could replace undocumented immigrants in our workforce.

Reality:Removing all undocumented immigrants from the U.S. workforce would leave 2.5 million low-skill jobs unfilled. In a paper commissioned by the Center for American Progress, William & Mary economist David A. Jaeger found a telling disparity between myth and reality in the effects of immigration on the workforce: out-of-work natives could not effectively replace undocumented natives. The jobs that undocumented immigrants currently hold require a substantially lower skill set than most jobless natives possess. As a result of the skills gap, only 105,000 natives could appropriately replace the 2.5 million immigrants in very low-skill jobs, leaving 2.4 million positions unfilled. Such a loss would put states with large immigrant populations, such as Arizona and California, in dire straits. (Read the fuller explanation in the full report, David A Jaeger, PhD., “Replacing the Undocumented Workforce,” here. And hereinafter referred to as “Report”.)

According to the report (page 3) out-of-work natives cannot effectively replace illegal guest workers because the natives possess a substantially higher skill set than illegal guest workers in these low-skill jobs. Specifically, the report refers to the inability of our-of-work natives to replace illegal guest workers. Report 3.

Are they kidding?

One would think, “Wait. If I have a higher skill set than someone else, then my skill-set just may include the skill set possessed by an illegal guest worker.”

But, reading the report, one finds that possession of a skill set (i.e., ability) is not the issue. The reason that the higher skilled, out-of-work native cannot replace the lower skilled, working illegal guest workers is not the skills possessed. The reason, according to the report is that lower skills means lower wages. But still, it isn’t the skill set which is the problem. In reality, it’s an attitude problem.

If the undocumented immigrants were removed from the work force, these natives would either remain out-of-work or would need to find jobs requiring lower levels of education... .

Even if all of the out-of-work natives were to replace undocumented workers, 2.8 million natives with a high school diploma or some college would need to take lower-wage jobs that are currently held by undocumented immigrants with less than a high diploma or even less than a 9th grade education. Future job growth in the U.S. is also likely to be dependent on low-skilled occupations that require a high school diploma or less. Removing undocumented workers from the economy would not be a panacea for native unemployment. Report 4, 5.

The most that this report tells us is that, if one insists on acquiring a college education, one may also have to accept a job which does not require the skills associated with that education. One may also, as a consequence, have to accept a job which pays less than what that college education might otherwise command.

Something else this report tacitly tells us is that it is not just employers hiring illegal guest workers which causes, or contributes to, the illegal guest worker problem. Those Americans who would rather be unemployed (and probably living on the public dole) than work jobs requiring a lower skill set, and therefore paying lower wages, are also making their own contribution to the problem.

The issue is one of motivation. Think of it. Millions of people will travel thousands of miles to work jobs that a certain portion of Americans will not travel even hundreds of miles to do. I have read stories of Mexican families who haved saved tens of thousands of dollars, not to send their children to college but rather to send their children (with the help of coyotes) to the U. S.

Those out-of-work natives just haven’t experienced the proper motivating circumstances.


About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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