Why Kamala’s photo-op trip to the border won’t do much to slow the waves of migrants
Kamala Harris doesn’t actually visit border, says nothing of substance, leaves — it was all theater
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‘We’ve made progress’: Harris at border despite record surge under Biden
Vice President Kamala Harris — finally — just visited the border. After months of sending mixed signals at would-be illegal crossers (and the cruel smugglers who make their journeys possible), Harris and her boss, President Biden, appear to be waking, at least rhetorically, to the chaos and suffering open borders create.
But the bedlam along the border isn’t the only crisis arising from Biden-Harris immigration policies. There is also a deeper, and less visible, labor-economics crisis, and it affects one of America’s most important group of citizens: African-Americans. Simply put, open borders hit black workers especially hard.
More than 9 percent of black workers are jobless, compared to 5.1 percent of white workers. The labor force participation rate — the share of working-age, non-incarcerated adults who either have jobs or are actively looking for them — dropped 2.2 percentage points for blacks over the course of the pandemic, but only 1.8 percentage points for whites.
In other words, blacks aren’t merely more likely to be unemployed. They’re also more likely to have gotten so discouraged by a lack of suitable opportunities that they’ve abandoned their job hunts entirely.
The massive, ongoing influx of foreign workers into America’s labor market isn’t helping. Illegal immigrants are crossing the border at the highest rate in decades. And guest workers are once again flocking in, too, since Team Biden overturned former President Donald Trump’s restrictions on these programs.
Immigrants increase the labor supply and crowd out American workers, especially those in blue-collar occupations like construction and meat-packing.
The competition is particularly stiff for black workers. According to Harvard economist George Borjas, “a 10 percent immigration-induced increase in the supply of workers in a particular skill group reduced the black [male] wage of that group by 2.5 percent, lowered the employment rate by 5.9 percentage points and increased the incarceration rate by 1.3 percentage points.”
In some ways, guest-worker programs are even more galling than illegal immigration. When the government deliberately allows corporations to import cheaper, temporary labor, it’s a slap in the face to hardworking Americans who’ve experienced decades of tepid wage growth. In 2019 alone, the government doled out 98,000 H-2B visas for non-agricultural blue-collar positions.
Restricting the influx of foreign labor would disproportionately benefit black Americans.
Consider what happens when Immigration and Customs Enforcement removes illegal immigrants from the workforce. In 2019, ICE arrested 680 illegal workers at chicken-processing plants in Mississippi, the largest-ever immigration-enforcement operation in a single state.
The result: Those plants mostly hired black citizens who lived nearby to re-staff their facilities. After a similar raid in Georgia, black people in town got paid more to work at the local chicken plant than the roughly 675 illegal workers who were ousted.
Three-quarters of Americans believe illegal immigrants only do jobs Americans don’t want — but that’s a myth. Big Business has tricked the public into believing that only immigrants will sign up for the most backbreaking labor. But the chicken plants in Mississippi and Georgia prove that Americans have no problem getting their hands dirty, as long as they’re paid fairly.
In fact, American citizens make up the majority of the workforce in every single industry, from hospitality to agriculture to housekeeping.
Numerous commonsense policy changes would open new and better job opportunities for American workers. Suspending guest-worker programs would force companies to recruit Americans. Requiring all employers to run new hires through the federal government’s free online E-Verify system — which confirms whether people are eligible to legally work in the United States — would stop most illegal hiring and deter many would-be illegal immigrants from coming here in the first place.
And it would hold unscrupulous business owners accountable and bar them from hiring illegal workers, whether by hiring them directly under the table to avoid payroll taxes, or indirectly through the use of unethical contractors that don’t vet workers’ legal status; unfortunately, both Biden and Trump have turned a blind eye to illegal hiring.
African Americans are the most vulnerable members of the workforce. They’re the least likely to have college degrees. Many of them live and work in “forgotten” places like rural towns or inner cities. But during this pandemic, we confirmed that those forgotten Americans are, in fact, essential workers. They do the hard jobs that make society run. When will our leaders start to put them first?
Tom Broadwater is president of Americans4Work, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of US workers.
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