LatinaLista — Last month in Minneapolis, over a thousand janitors were fired from their jobs with a janitorial cleaning service. Not because they didn’t do their jobs well. From all accounts, they did their jobs just fine. No, they were let go because they couldn’t prove they were in the country legally.
Unlike the Bush years, the Department of Homeland Security had no need to grandstand for the media in conducting this new version of an immigration raid.
Though the loss of a job is devastating for anyone, losing a job by being fired is a lot less traumatic on an undocumented immigrant’s family than seeing a loved parent shackled and carted off to not be seen again.
In that regard, the Obama Administration got the message from advocates for humane treatment of undocumented immigrants. No one was arrested or known to be flagged for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — just told “You can’t work here.”
For the immigrants who lost their jobs, it’s a sore loss of income so near the holidays. It’s reported that the cleaning service paid their workers $13/hour and to these immigrants that was good money that they were able to stretch to pay rent, buy food, clothe their families, send some back home and still have a little left over for emergencies and entertainment.
The critics of undocumented immigrants are already screaming about how this raid was conducted and the people let go but this raid focuses on what the crux of illegal immigration is all about — the employers.
So this cleaning service, ABM, had 1200 slots to fill. The number fired was three times more than the amount of undocumented workers arrested in Postville, Iowa.
It seems a lot of people were attracted to the job openings, and according to reports, ABM has filled all 1200 slots. Yet if history repeats itself, these people won’t stay long if they are new to doing hard labor day-in-and-day-out.
A recent installment to a report by the Immigration Policy Center titled The Disparity between Immigrant Workers and Unemployed found that even if there was a massive deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, their jobs would most likely not be filled by unemployed natives nor help the economy.
Even during a time of economic recession and high unemployment, most native-born workers do not compete with most immigrants for the same jobs. This is apparent even when we compare unemployed natives with employed “recent” immigrants who came to the United States within the past decade.
Unemployed natives and employed recent immigrants tend to have different levels of education, to live in different parts of the country, to have experience in different occupations, and to have different amounts of work experience. As a result, they could not simply be “swapped” for one another.
The U.S. economy will not be lifted out of recession by removing immigrant workers from the labor force. Rather, the key to recovery is creating jobs. Encouraging unemployed machinists on the East Coast to become food servers on the West Coast is not a recipe for long-term economic growth.
In fact, a separate report published in 2008 points out that removing such a large demographic from the American economy would have devastating consequences for the economy:
For the US as a whole, the immediate negative effect of eliminating the undocumented workforce would include an estimated $1.757 trillion in annual lost spending
$651.511 billion in annual lost output
8.1 million lost jobs.
If all undocumented workers were removed from the workforce, a number of industries would face substantial shortages of workers, and Americans would have to be induced into the labor pool or provided incentives to take jobs far below their current education and skill levels.
For this phenomenon to occur to a meaningful extent, substantial wage escalation would likely be necessary, thus eroding competitiveness in global markets.
Hindsight will fully reveal exactly how the U.S. economy has evolved in depending on undocumented immigrant labor, not just for their sweat, but in keeping costs down and making consumer goods, food and services affordable for the average American.
Good or bad there has always existed an hierarchy of workers. Theoretically, those with the least amount of education get paid the least while those with the most education get paid the most — and those who speak with a foreign accent or don’t have the proper paperwork or credentials do the work most citizens would rather pay someone else to do anyway.