While on Facebook, an old high school acquaintance commented on my post about immigration, saying that ‘Mexicans are just doing the jobs that Americans won’t do!’.
After smacking my forehead in resignation (are schools training kids to be idiots or is just an unfortunate by-product?), I sat down, and nicely tried to explain how immigration policies -including illegal immigration policies -affect both our job market, as well as being a disaster for immigrants.
Let’s start with the basic premise of her argument: the idea that we need immigrants, because there are jobs that Americans ‘just won’t do‘. Really? How did we manage to get those jobs done before Mexicans started their mass exodus to the US? However did farmers survive before realizing that they could pay Mexicans ten bucks a day to pick their tomatoes? How did roads get built before Mexican construction crews? How did rich people take care of their children before illegal immigrant nannies?
Now, as I explained to her, the reality of her argument boils down to this: there are jobs that Americans won’t do for $3 an hour, for sixteen hours straight with no breaks six days a week. Americans expect to make a fair wage, as they should. By allowing folks to get away with grossly underpaying immigrants, we’re harming Americans and Mexicans.
Because news flash: Mexicans shouldn’t be working for slave wages either. Just because they’re immigrants doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get breaks, or get paid a decent wage (see my post about H1B visas for more on that).
But to move on to a second inherent problem with her argument, about Americans not being willing to do certain jobs. With 34.5% of Americans on some form of social welfare, we definitely shouldn’t have that issue. When the government is paying for you to live, you pick tomatoes, you work construction, you clean toilets… Whatever job they offer you, you do. When someone else is paying for you to live, you don’t get to be picky. We’ve got 37.4% of Americans out of the workforce -that’s more than enough to cover the jobs that need covering.
Bringing in more immigrants -whether legal or illegal -hurts low-skilled workers for the simple fact that immigrants will accept next to nothing for wages. When you can pay Jose or Beatriz $3 an hour, why would they go through the hassle of paying John or Monique $9? They’re going to hire Jose and Beatriz under the table -which also has the added benefits of not having to pay taxes, or for insurance! -and screw John and Monique. So now John and Monique -fresh out of high school -aren’t going to be able to find jobs, putting them on welfare… right next to Jose and Beatriz, who -because they’re getting paid under the table -are able to collect about $5.5K a month in social welfare on top of their under the table jobs, leading to almost an 80% rate of welfare among both legal and illegal immigrant households (both numbers are from the Center for Immigration Studies, http://cis.org/Cost-Welfare-Immigrant-Native-Households)
So now Americans are out of jobs because they can’t compete -not for $3 an hour -and then to top it all off, we have to pay for their welfare benefits after they took the job, and get paid under the table for it.
In what way does that benefit Americans?
Saying that ‘Mexicans are doing the jobs Americans won’t’ means that you’re rich enough to hire someone to do the job for you, but you don’t want to pay them a decent wage to do so. Middle and low class Americans lose out -on jobs, and taxes to pay for welfare -and gain absolutely nothing.