Hoping for middle ground with regards to immigration issue

What would happen if all the undocumented immigrants went away? Both sides of the issue.

What if the Trump administration were able to deport all the 11 million or so illegal immigrants in this country? What would be the effects?

According to a Dec. 16, 2018, Seattle Times article by Miriam Jordan entitled, “Economic Force: 8 Million People Are Working Illegally in the U.S. Here’s Why That’s unlikely to Change,” the effects would be draconian. The U.S. economy has grown to rely on them.

Tightened border security and a strong economy which has driven down unemployment to 3.7 percent nationwide mean that finding legal workers for low-paying jobs is getting harder and harder.

President Donald Trump wants border security and, by the time you read this, the federal government might be partially shut down over the president’s demand for $5 billion for his border wall. He is caught in the goal of tightening border security and, at the same time, wanting a booming economy.

Increased arrests of illegal immigrants, payroll audits and workplace raids have resulted in detentions, trials and deportations of thousands of illegal workers. Ironically, though, four undocumented workers have come forward claiming they have been working at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. After examining the federal E-Verify database, it is unlikely the Trump organization has been as scrupulous in checking on the legality of its own employees, not just in New Jersey, but in all its businesses nationwide.

These illegal workers got jobs using counterfeit Social Security numbers and green cards. If they are fired and arrested, Trump’s businesses may have trouble finding legal replacements.

It’s estimated that 5 percent of all U.S. workers are illegal immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center. Most of them are found in low-skilled jobs in farming, construction and child care.

Jordan asks the question, “What would happen if all the undocumented immigrants went away?”

One answer comes from the research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports curbing immigration. He believes that wages would rise, motivating many chronically unemployed Americans to go back to work.

In response to this assertion, some economists have stated that wages are not the issue. Not enough American citizens are willing to do these blue-collar jobs, especially the back-breaking stoop labor work harvesting crops. As one labor economist at the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA, noted, “Not everybody will do dirty work.”

According to Jordan’s research, 70 percent of construction companies were having trouble hiring roofers, bricklayers and electricians. Accommodation and food service sectors have high job vacancies. Historically, most of these positions have been filled by those crossing the southern border. That avenue of labor is being squeezed shut.

That means workers in “construction, agriculture, housing and personal services would be drastically reduced…. There would be companies closing and relocating. There would be jobs lost. There will be towns and cities that would see half their population disappear. It definitely would trigger a recession.”

Over time, it’s likely that automation would have to come in to make up for these lost jobs, but the transition would be painful and expensive, especially in agriculture.

The Pew Research Center estimates that 10.6 percent of Nevada’s labor force, 8.6 percent in California and 8.2 percent in Texas are unauthorized. In Washington state approximately 4.7 percent of the workers are undocumented.

Twenty-four percent of farming, fishing and forestry are done by illegals. Fifteen percent of construction workers, or 1.35 million, are where most of the undocumented workers congregate. Nearly 25 percent of restaurant workers are foreign-born, many likely being illegals. Many of these workers are highly skilled and have lived and worked in the U.S. for a long time.

Jordan ends her article with a quote: “Each job they (undocumented workers) perform sustains two to three jobs in the surrounding economy.”

Those who oppose and resent illegal immigrant workers in this country may need to reconsider: “Be careful what you wish for, you may not like the consequences of President Trump’s tightening immigrant restrictions.”

It may be time to consider the costs and benefits of illegal laborers in this country and to tread more thoughtfully and carefully. There is middle ground on this issue if only our government leaders have the wisdom to search for and implement it.


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Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
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