OPINION

Opinion: Solving the border problem intelligently, looking at job market and not just crossers

BEAVER ISLAND STATE PARK, NY - JUNE 03: U.S. Border Patrol agents talk while at a marina on the Niagara River at the U.S.-Canada border on June 3, 2013 in Beaver Island State Park, New York. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which includes the Border Patrol, monitors the 5,525 mile long border, including Alaska, forming the longest international border between two countries in the world.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

BEAVER ISLAND STATE PARK, NY - JUNE 03: U.S. Border Patrol agents talk while at a marina on the Niagara River at the U.S.-Canada border on June 3, 2013 in Beaver Island State Park, New York. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which includes the Border Patrol, monitors the 5,525 mile long border, including Alaska, forming the longest international border between two countries in the world. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)  (2013 Getty Images)

Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republicans both, yanked a proposed stringent Border Security bill from a scheduled vote before debate. Good, now maybe a sensible immigration effort can come from the House through Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte’s Judiciary Committee.

The proposed bill would have built fences, bought millions in cameras, human detection devices and drone equipment all costing a huge amount of money and not securing the border.

Those who think the illegal alien problem flowing across the southern border with Mexico can be solved with fences, electronic gadgets and more Border Patrol are delusional. Why are they delusional?

We need these workers because they want to work and the work needs to be done; anyone who thinks otherwise needs to stand up and deliver real evidence that they are right and American employers are wrong.

- Raoul Lowery Contreras

Everyone agrees that the bulk of these people crossing into the U.S. illegally are coming for jobs. Everyone agrees that most if not all of these job-seekers are hired by American employers even though it is illegal for an employer to hire an illegally present person.

Thus, work is the problem to be looked at first, not border crossers, because most would probably not come if not for work.

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Question number one: Are these workers needed by the United States for jobs for which there aren’t enough Americans willing to fill? Question two: Why do American employers hire these workers when employers violate the law when they hire an illegal? Question number three: How many of those illegally present are actually working today?

Any objective study will or does show that there are job categories that simply do not interest many Americans. Social welfare benefits total up for many to more than the jobs involved here pay even if they pay more, substantially more than minimum wage.

Agricultural jobs can pay $100 a day (picking strawberries) yet Americans don’t want to crawl around on their hands and knees for 10 or 12 hours a day picking strawberries or asparagus.

Construction jobs in the Great American Desert (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, West Texas and Southern California) are tortuous in the summer months with 100-plus degree working hours day after day.

The University of Arizona studied the construction industry in Arizona – during the height of the housing boom – and reported that illegal workers made up 25 percent of the construction work force and 75 percent were legal American or green card holders. In other words, there simply weren’t enough legal American workers to fill out the industry’s personnel needs. Moreover, the study showed that an average house would have cost $50,000 more if the illegal workers weren’t on the job because it would have taken 13 weeks longer to build.

Then there is the hospitality industry – tourism, hotels, and seasonal activities like snow in Aspen – that requires full staffing in properties that need half as many people off-season. Tourism in Southern California explodes in the summer requiring full staffing at hotels, restaurants and attractions and less staff in the other months.

Boring, uninteresting jobs like those in construction, agriculture and the hospitality industry appeal to immigrants, legal and illegal, despite low pay or 100-degree days in the sun because whatever they earn is better than they would earn at home. For many, these jobs also provide a ladder upwards in the greatest economy the world has ever experienced.

They are motivated to work for these reasons. American workers reject many of these jobs because they don’t need them. Welfare, Medicaid, years of unemployment compensation, specious disability checks, food stamps, free cellular phones and an overall expectation of entitlement kill desire for work when one doesn’t need to.

We need these workers because they want to work and the work needs to be done; anyone who thinks otherwise needs to stand up and deliver real evidence that they are right and American employers are wrong.

Workers and jobs are the problem. To solve that problem, the House Republicans need to craft legislation that creates and/or expands work visas/permits for fields that fulfill employer needs. Permits for Science, Technical, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs need to be increased especially for foreign university graduates so they can stay here instead of going back. For example, Las Vegas (Clark County) needs 2,600 teachers this fall, not in the future. This fall.

The permits can be for one, two, three or five years and they can be for new employees hired through a Department of Labor job bank with applications taken at U.S. consulates in affected countries. Applicants would have to be cleared for criminal records and/or physical or mental problems and willing to reimburse the fees involved for the permits to employers who would front the fees to the U.S. government. The permits would allow for free ingress and egress to the U.S. The permits would be available to those already here and working.

If Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McCarthy produce this bill and meld it with an effective border security bill, they can hoist a “Mission Accomplished” banner, and Hispanics can go about the business of helping elect a new president without immigration reform muddying the political waters.

Raoul Lowery Contreras is a political consultant. He was formerly with the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate. Contreras's books are available at Amazon.com

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