It has been relentless pressure on immigrants since the current US President took office. With so many Guyanese in America, there is empathy for those struggling to make the grade, and their slippery grasp on the Great American Dream.
Though it has increasingly assumed nightmarish proportions, there is no other dream, anywhere in the world, worth pursuing, or which is given the room to flourish.
Yet, it seems that every new week brings more bad news from the US immigration front. More hardline developments designed to send home or aimed at keeping out.
The hardliners in policymaking positions are there to finalise the visions and enforce the provisions. But even as this is unfolding without letup, the remorseless squeezing from the White House on down is starting to produce cracking at the seams, with screaming promised.
The meat packing industry is suffering from a lack of workers. It is mainly in the Southwest (a Republican base) and the shortage is brought about by undocumented immigrants gone underground; the handicaps of owners saddled with onerous regulations that curtail their freedom to hire like before; and the reality that American born workers either shun the dirty, dangerous, low-prestige work associated with the meat industry or simply will refuse to work without satisfactory compensation.
It has been the argument, and reality, that US citizens will not stoop so low as to slaughter animals for a living. The bottom line is that it is mainly bottom feeding foreigners, who will turn up for the job of putting a nice juicy prime cut on the table. Of course, that is after all the dirty work that came before was handled with aplomb and dispatched.
On January 25, the global news agency, AFP, presented a stark and comprehensive picture of the downside of ongoing US immigration pressures. AFP tells the story under the caption of “Trump immigration clampdown may threaten Americans’ jobs, wages, economists say.” To support the story, a number of specific circumstances was highlighted.
A bakery in California, a potato processing plant in Nebraska, and restaurant in New York all closed after immigration raids sent illegal workers scurrying for the exits and disappearing altogether. They are not coming back.
Further, and as extracted from the AFP story, “Farmers…are planting less, turning to automation, eliminating some crops, leaving them to rot in the field or contemplating selling out of the business altogether -all because they cannot find enough immigrant labor.”
Research indicates that the absence of immigrant workers leads to “lost jobs, lower wages, cancelled investments, and less affordable services.” The impact of these negatives touches native born Americans, too.
The authoritative and prestigious National Academy of Sciences found “little evidence” that immigrants interfered with employment levels of Americans.
And an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, after a painstaking study, came to this rather ironic conclusion: “firms that hire unauthorized workers actually pay their legally authorized workers higher wages and stay in business longer.”
Now that was in the state of Georgia, but one would be hard pressed to believe that no other state was not subject to the same set of circumstances.
Further, economists at the Universities of Colorado and California found that during the period 2008 to 2015, when the US deported half a million immigrants, employment in those communities of legal US workers fell by 0.7 percent.
The low skilled foreigner serves as an economically viable complement to the native-born American worker, enabling American businesses to prosper and hire still more workers. And still further, US Labor Department figures reveal that gardening and lawn care costs have spiraled by three to five times the rate of overall consumer inflation. The reason should not be surprising: the mainly migrant workers in those areas are no longer around, having fled for the borders.
Immigration hardliners insist that the undocumented migrants drive Americans without high school diplomas out of the job market. It would be interesting to see how many of them would answer the call to pump gas, flip burgers, kill pigs, and all the other countless nasty and perilous jobs that nobody else wants, but the foodless, roofless, penniless immigrant seeking to make his mark at the bottom.
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