The Jobs That Americans Didn't Want
It was bigger than any border wall, more secure than any sophisticated ID card, and more effective than immigration raids and border vigilantes. It turned out to be the most effective weapon for deterring illegal immigration. Who would have thought of it? All we needed to do was thrash our economy!
Now that the so-called "jobs that Americans don't want" are becoming much more desirable for Americans, many of those immigrants who would have come illegally to fill those jobs have practically stopped coming. In fact, some who were here before the economic crisis are deporting themselves back to their homelands.
It proves what some of us have been saying all along: They came because we needed them. It's all about supply and demand. We had jobs for them, things we wanted them to do for us. And the economy was doing so well that most of our fellow Americans felt they had no need to pick crops, wash dishes and cars, mow lawns or work in sweatshops.
But now, as those less desirable jobs are filled by Americans (who may have lost better jobs), illegal immigrants are facing hard times — worse than ever, some say.
They may have been able to enter the country illegally, evade authorities, live in the shadows of society, and overcome prejudice, discrimination and harassment, but when there are no jobs, there's nada! The American dream becomes a nightmare. When illegal immigrants no longer can send remittances to their loved ones back home, what's the sense in staying here? That's just one of the questions many illegal immigrants are asking themselves nowadays.
Will more American citizens and legal U.S. residents compete for the jobs that traditionally were relegated to undocumented workers? Apparently, that is happening already. Across the country, we see news reports on illegal immigrants who say they no longer can compete with legal citizens and have chosen to give up their quests to realize the American dream. The number of those who are self-deporting is still minimal, but the number of those who have stopped coming illegally is significant.
According to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center, "The unauthorized immigrant population grew more slowly in the period from 2005 to 2008 than it did earlier in the decade," and it "appears to have declined since 2007."
The Pew report on "Trends in Unauthorized Immigration," released in October, noted that the illegal immigrant population has dropped below the 12 million mark — to 11.9 million.
"The Pew Hispanic Center also estimates that inflows of unauthorized immigrants averaged 800,000 a year from 2000 to 2004, but fell to 500,000 a year from 2005 to 2008 with a decreasing year-to-year trend," the report noted. "By contrast, the inflow of legal permanent residents has been relatively steady this decade."
While the study was not designed to explain why the illegal immigrant population has declined, another Pew study released on the same day noted, "The current economic slowdown has taken a far greater toll on households headed by non-citizens than it has on the U.S. population as a whole."
Read together, the two reports lead us to see that as jobs become scarcer and the household incomes of illegal immigrants drop, so does their migration from Latin America.
No one knows for sure, but at this point, the flow of illegal immigrants already may be in reverse — outbound!
What we know is that, according to the second Pew report, while the annual income of all U.S. households increased 1.3 percent from 2006 to 2007, it fell 7.3 percent among noncitizen immigrant households during the same period. Although that group includes many legal residents who are not yet citizens, the disparity illustrates "the vulnerability of this population to the latest economic slowdown."
Back in June, yet another Pew report noted, "Due mainly to a slump in the construction industry, the unemployment rate for Hispanics in the U.S. rose to 6.5 percent in the first quarter of 2008, well above the 4.7 percent rate for all non-Hispanics." That study also found that "the spike in Hispanic unemployment has hit immigrants especially hard. Their unemployment rate was 7.5 percent in the first quarter of this year."
Tough economic times have turned out to be tougher than border walls and raids. But now that the influx of undocumented immigrants is much more controllable simply because fewer people are trying to live here illegally, will our new president and stronger Democratic majority in Congress seize this opportunity to control the borders and fix our broken immigration system? Will they establish an effective, legal immigration program? Or will they let the problem ride until the economy gets better, more jobs become available, and more illegal immigrants want to come?
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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