Immigration Policy is Forcing Us To Ask, What Are People For?

Executive Director’s Corner

Dear All:

This is our first newsletter of the new year, so, I wish you all a very happy and prosperous one!

For those concerned about unbridled immigration and its impact on population growth, and our ability to care for our most vulnerable and the labor market, the year is off to a bad start.

In 2021, in the face of no real enforcement on the part of the Biden administration, roughly one million migrants (placed into removal proceedings under Title 8 of the Immigration & Naturalization Act) surged the border, and many have remained. The fledgling reforms made to the H-1B visa employment visa program that would have prevented the displacement of American workers, were either blocked or postponed. Additionally, when engaged in litigation, government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tended to fold like a cheap suitcase when facing open border interests.

Despite all this, there’s still a cacophony of voices led by the mainstream media that bemoan fewer workers are showing up at our border eager to work the “jobs Americans won’t do.” Case in point is Correspondent Chuck Todd’s remarks on last Sunday’s Meet the Press:

“And a look into one factor that could be contributing to the worker shortages we’ve been seeing as we enter 2022. We’ve talked about how everything from fears of infection, to childcare needs, to worker burnout have led to what’s simply known now as the Great Resignation. There’s another factor we might be overlooking and that’s this: fewer immigrants coming into the country looking for work and filling some of these jobs. Look at this, over the last six years, net international migration into the United States, we were at a million in 2016. And as you know, immigration got heavily politicized, right, over this six-year period. And look what it’s dribbled down to, 247,000 through mid-year 2021.”

Well, knock me over with a feather! Really, Chuck? With the exception of Kelly Osborne bemoaning the lack of candidates to clean her toilet, there’s nothing to indicate that jobs going unfilled is attributable to a downturn in legal immigration. Quite the opposite is true.

During the Trump administration, when net immigration began to decline, the U.S. enjoyed not only low unemployment but a greater labor force participation rate and increasing wages. It’s true that net migration “dribbled down to 247,000 through mid-year 2021.” But Todd fails to mention that the surge to the border brought us approximately one million migrants in 2021.

Moreover, as the graph demonstrates, the issuance of employment visas at this time has more than made up for any loss of workers the drawdown in legal immigration may have caused. Truth be told, the majority of the pre-COVID drop in immigration was in Immigrant Visas, not Work Visas. In fact, the number of work visas grew sharply from 2010 to 2016 and didn’t sink back to its 2010 level until 2021, well into COVID.

Chuck Todd is all wet when he attempts to paint lower levels of net immigration as the reason jobs are not being filled. So, what’s the real culprit?

First, I want to revisit the notion of The Great Resignation Todd mentioned. The Great Resignation is an idea proposed by Professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University which predicts many people leaving their jobs after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, and life returns to “normal.”

The idea posits that workers plagued by burn out and uncertainty will simply quit their jobs at a higher level than pre-Covid times. The evidence seems to indicate this is happening, but the 3% rate at which workers are quitting their jobs is just 1% above what could be considered the norm.

So why are employers having a hard time finding and retaining workers? The reasons are no different than before Covid. Employers simply don’t want to pay the wages to attract and retain workers. An example of this is Florida resident Joey Holz who ultimately applied for 60 jobs in September and received only one interview.

Two weeks and 28 applications into his search, he’d received just nine email responses, one follow-up phone call, and had one interview with a construction company advertising a full-time job for site cleanup and paying $10 an hour.

But Holz said the construction company instead tried to offer Florida’s minimum wage of $8.65 even though the wage was scheduled to increase to $10 an hour on September 30. He added that it wanted his full-time availability, while only scheduling him part time until Holz gained seniority.

Holz said he wasn’t applying for any roles he didn’t qualify for.  Some jobs “wanted a high-school diploma,” he said. “Some wanted retail experience,” he added. “Most of them either said ‘willing to train’ or ‘minimum experience,’ and none of them were over $12 an hour.”

In pre-covid times and today, employers are simply holding out in the hope that migrants eager to work for less will appear. Tragically for U.S. citizens, the Biden administration is doing everything it can to bolster these hopes.

As reported by Joe Guzzardi in his article Mayorkas: From Border Calamity to Subverting U.S. Labor Market, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “independently and without congressional approval chose to reward some of those aliens during fiscal year 2022 with an additional 20,000 temporary seasonal employment-based H-2B visas that will lead to good American jobs. Among those jobs are landscaper, lifeguard, forestry worker, housekeeper, waiter, cook, amusement park worker, among jobs in other employment sectors where Americans have traditionally worked.” Just the kind of jobs Joey Holz was applying for.

When I look back on 2021 and the Biden administration’s abdication of the rule of law and their tolerance for lawlessness when it comes to immigration policy, I’m not so much stunned.   Rather, I feel like a person who after forty years has come back to visit a once energized and prosperous neighborhood to find it has atrophied and fallen on hard times.

Whether it was crushing the family farm almost out of existence in the 1970s and 1980s with the government’s “get big or get out” policies; the offshoring of millions of manufacturing jobs with trade agreements such as NAFTA, GATT and WTO; or the systematic displacement of workers through the use of employment visa programs that allowed the owners to replace American workers they believed to be expensive, undeserving and expendable –  it brings to mind the question asked by Wendell Berrywhat are people for?

Unbridled and unregulated immigration policy makes both the new arrival to the country and its citizens wayfarers forced to uproot time and again to satisfy the need to maximize corporate profit.  If so, what is the purpose of an economy?

Good and meaningful employment engenders a better quality of life, greater happiness and a stronger culture, all of which lead to better citizenship. It creates a virtuous cycle that strengthens the social fabric of a community and country. That being the case, what can be said for the inverse?

In closing, I’d like to share a quote from Wendell Berry that could prove instructive to the Biden administration:

“Culture preserves the map and the records of past journeys so that no generation will permanently destroy the route.

The more local and settled the culture, the better it stays put, the less damage. It is the foreigner whose road of excess leads to a desert.”

In solidarity.

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