Thursday, February 09, 2017

Finding Work and Customers in these United States

While I was waiting for my car to be serviced at a dealership I recently experienced what rural America already knows. A new car buyer arrived in the showroom. He speaks only Spanish. The dealer in this very rural location on the Eastern Shore of Maryland did employ a fluent Spanish-speaking car dealer.

The two began to discuss the relative benefits of Chevrolet versus Toyota and Japanese versus American cars. (I understand spoken Spanish having lived in Puerto Rico and New Mexico for years. I don't speak it too well but was able to make myself understood in Puerto Rico last month!) The long discussions did result in a car sale, from what I could tell.

My observations over the years have taught me that businesses in the United States significantly benefit from the immigrant populations living among them. They are ready to employ recent arrivals to America, sell to them, and include them in all aspects of society. There is a very small reactionary segment of the population that rejects immigrants, with most feeling they compete for scarce jobs.

The jobs immigrants apply for and often secure appear to me to be plentiful. Agriculture, food processing, and even rural manufacturing jobs seem to be available no matter where I travel in the U.S. and territories. Oddly, these same areas do report high levels of unemployment.

Immigrants also get hired by high tech firms. Sometimes this is because they are willing to work for less but usually they are hired because they know how to write good code or design a decent Unser interface for some app.

Research seems to indicate many Americans do not want to take jobs significantly lower than those they lost. I am one of those people. I have a college degree and decades of experience in technology positions. Taking a job in an Eastern Shore poultry processing plant is not my idea of a solution. I would also retire early rather than start cleaning offices at night. I will never become a roofer.

People still want to purchase inexpensive chicken parts at the local grocers. Our nation's economy would not function without office cleaners, agriculture workers and roofers. Or programmers, civil engineers or health care workers. Car dealers enjoy the business of all different types of customers, as do restaurants, doctors, plumbers and electricians. Like many new immigrants everywhere, people arriving in the U.S. acquire new skills and move into more skilled positions over the years.

We have an excellent network of community colleges, universities  and trade schools across this country. I notice recent immigrants in nearly every class I take or teach.

I understand the arguments of people that used to work in construction but now feel immigrants have forced them out of those jobs or reduced the pay levels. This is entirely possible, are you willing and able to get back on the ladder? Some immigration reform might help in specific cases but the whole mass deportation thing is far more likely to have more negative economic consequences.

Certainly reasonable controls on immigration are warranted at this point in human history.  Mass migrations all the time would cause turmoil. Nevertheless reversing decades of integration in all parts of this nation is both unwise and unwanted. From farming to infrastructure to high tech, North America will not function without the right mix of people with the right skills willing to get things done.

IMPORTANT: This brief essay was not intended to address the issue of H1B visas and the often temporary displacement of labor associated with such programs. Businesses and the government sometimes use those visas to lower wage costs or alleviate other issues associated with specific skilled technology labor. This topic has been addressed in the past and will be touched upon in future articles.

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