BLYTHE, Calif – Immigrant labor, both unskilled and professional, continues to flood into the United States. On one end of the spectrum are those who attempt to sneak across the border into Texas, Arizona, California, and Florida just to highlight a few states. Some come from Canada while others simply gain access by coming ashore in shipping containers and other flotation devices. Some of this tide of humanity is interdicted by the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, and various other officers of Homeland Security. In addition bounty hunters are out in force looking for illegals missed by the Border Patrol.
Professionals such as those found in the medical field can make more money here than in their home countries. This is nothing new. Many of my compatriots at Penn State, back in the 60's and 70's, were here complements of both sending and receiving countries; they were expected to return home following their education here but many remained in the US as a consequence of greater opportunity, more money and greater freedoms. Then and now it was and is known as the "brain drain.” Unskilled labor, on the other hand, came here to the US because occupations that could not be "outsourced" to off-shore locations were in need of cheap labor: field workers, slaughter house workers, domestics, food service, and other cash-based occupations. These workers were used to bust unions, undercut professional incomes, and to feed corporations a steady supply of workers who were dependent on a certain permissiveness on the part of authorities whose job it is to protect domestic industries. The free market and the profit motive drove many middle class occupations "out of work.”
We see high gas prices, increases in the cost of steel, high-seas shipping controlled by foreign companies, and one of our few staples (food) being taken over by countries just now becoming members of the global market. We might as well accept the fact that "working for a living" has changed in less than a generation. Perhaps it's a good thing the "baby boomers" are retiring in large numbers because few replacements will find jobs as the boomers once knew them. High tech jobs go to India and China; the jobs go but we stay here. Cheap labor crosses the border, legal and illegal, but even we second and third generation Americans are not part of replacement labor because the job market has shifted: what are the prospects for high school drop-outs and what are the most promising college degrees?
Immigration has been a great boon for corporations who seek to cut labor costs. Labor unions, professional associations, and cooperatives typically work against the "bottom line,” and this works against the investor and management/ownership. Educational reforms such as establishing districts and jointures, state standards, "no child left behind" federal program, and innovations like distance education, will do little to compensate for off-the-books employment here and the out-sourcing of high tech jobs to countries that pay a small fraction of both union and professional incomes enjoyed by Americans. Most of us do not consider an over-seas job as an answer to a job search, but some of us will soon have to become an immigrant in order to find work for which we are trained.
Otherwise, we can look forward to jobs that lend themselves to a strictly face-to-face existence for those of us who have no place else to go: fast food, geriatrics, child care, teaching, retail sales, real estate, hospitality, construction, transportation, security, government work, car repair, vacationing, and the like. The mantra is, "If it can be done elsewhere, it will be." At least one study claimed it took only 2 weeks to learn how to do the average job here, but that was back in the 80's. If the jobs can't be shipped out to countries that pay a fraction of going wages here, then immigration to the US (legal and illegal) is the corporate answer. No wonder our borders are, and will remain, porous.