Days Black People Not Re-Enslaved By Trump

Monday, March 27, 2006

This Illegal Immigration Thing III

I wanted to go back to this issue again but focus more on the employment aspect of it. It goes without saying that much of the language being used about this issue is "racist" in nature. I think this aspect is overshadowing the real problem which is the charge that Illegal immigrants, primarily Mexicans are either taking American jobs or are doing work Americans will not do. If one looks beyond the rhetoric of both sides you will see that the real driver on this issue is business. American businesses, in their race to the bottom in terms of salaries in order to boost profits gain much from being able to exploit workers, especially workers with "low skills." That Americans have accepted this is why they are now exporting and exploiting labour in more "skilled" areas. So as someone opposed to labor exploitation I have to look at this situation from that point of view.

The US' unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. It is twice that for African Americans. African-Americans constitute the largest group of unemployed people in the US. With an average rate of 4.7 and a general population of 230 million people. There are about 10 million unemployed U.S. Citizens. Persons with "low skills" represent the highest percentage of unemployed people as a result of the decimation of factory jobs. There are about 11 million Illegal immigrants (it is patently offensive to refer to them as "aliens") in the US. If one looks at these numbers you can perhaps see where I'm going here.

If there are 11 million illegal immigrants employed in various industries and there are 10 million Unemployed U.S. citizens, then the argument can be made that Illegal immigrants are in possession of American jobs. In fact it could be argued that the existence of such immigrants is a cause of such unemployment.

So lets go back to the question I have been asking, which has not been answered by most talking heads on TV or radio: If Americans are not willing to do the jobs why is that? If the answer to the question is that Americans, and by Americans I am speaking specifically to those 10 million unemployed who do not have the neccessary skills to compete in the higher wage arena, simply refuse to do construction work, fruit picking and what-have you. Then I say let the immigrants in, legalize the ones who are here (yes, Amnesty) and a big middle finger to the lazy people who refuse to do honest, hard work. A note to the readers: In my life I have worked on farms and garages and I have the highest respect for people who do that work. It is not easy.

If however, the reason that Americans won't do these jobs is that they object to working all day in sometimes difficult conditions and being paid next to nothing, then I think that problem needs to be addressed first. Businesses are claiming that Immigrants play a vital role to the US economy. You should note that they say immigrants and not illegal immigrants. I think they mean the latter, but that's conjecture. How do immigrants play a role? They claim that they do jobs Americans wont do. Specifically agriculture and construction. In agriculture we have a situation where companies ship in people from South America and the Caribbean to clear fields for x amount.n The Website Food First tells us what these business are doing:

More than two million year-round and seasonal migrant farmworkers, including 100,000 children, work in the U.S. About two thirds are immigrants, of whom 80 percent are from Mexico. Just 14 percent of all farmworkers have full-time work. (6)

Agricultural work is among the most dangerous occupations, with injuries and illness disabling farmworkers at a rate three times that of the general population. (7) In California, the average death rate for farmworkers is five times that of workers in other industries. Approximately 300,000 farmworkers in the U.S. are poisoned by pesticides annually. (8)

Farmworkers are paid poverty wages in spite of these risks. Three out of four U.S. farmworkers earn less than $10,000 annually, and three out of five families live below the federal poverty line. (9) Living conditions are equally harsh as migrant housing commonly lacks plumbing and working appliances, and is often next to pesticide-treated fields. Farmworkers spend more than 30 percent of their income on this sub-standard housing. (10)

Farmworkers seldom have health care, disability insurance, vacation, or a pension, and rarely apply for welfare. In a 1997-98 study, only five percent of farmworkers reported having health insurance covered by their employers for non-work related injuries, 28 percent reported compensation for work-related illnesses, and only one percent of workers used Social Security or disability ins urance. Just 13 percent of farmworker families receive Medicaid, 10 percent get Food Stamps, and 10 percent participate in the Woman, Infants, and Children program. (11)

The Systemic Exploitation of Farm Workers

The $28 billion U.S. produce industry (12) is 85 percent cultivated and harvested by hand,13 mostly through the backbreaking labor of our nation's farmworkers. We assume that their poverty subsidizes lower prices for the food we eat, however, according to journalist Eric Schlosser, "Maintaining the current level of poverty among migrant farmworkers saves the average American household (just) $50 a year." (14)

While the average farmworker in the U.S. earns $7,500 per year, Archer Daniels Midland, the world leader in producing soy meal, corn, wheat, and cocoa, reaped $1.7 billion in profits in 2003; its CEO, Allen G. Andreas, received over $2.9 million in compensation. (15) Dole, the world's largest producer of fresh fruit, vegetables and cut flowers generated $4.8 billion in revenues in 2003. (16)

So let us be clear here. It is highly likely that American workers refuse to be exploited by these companies. Instead of these companies cleaning up their acts, they simply use undocumented part time workers. The Food First web site's article on this subject is replete with examples of corporate exploitation.

Hence this is the situation being used to play the American population. Let the Republicans use their "Racist" language to force the issue of immigration to the forefront. Liberals are expected to respond to this language and support "guest worker programs" and other forms of amnesty which will lure more poor Mexicans to the US. Should the guest worker provision pass, then big business wins by securing it's low cost labor since there are no requirements that I know of to force those companies to provide benefits or increase wages. Democrats haven't said a word about the considitions the immigrants work under because, IMHO they could care less. The Democrats just want to keep the latin vote.

So the question still remains on the floor. Are Americans simply lazy or do they rightfully object to being paid slave wages?

Update 1:22 PM: So I was looking into this charge about paying taxes and not receiving benefits. It turns out that employers who do not pay under the table wages (which I presume most do) are in fact withholding SS and other taxes. This would seem to bolster the "we pay taxes" case. But here's the problem:

How does one get a Social Security Number? Well you apply for one at a government office. Certainly an undocumented worker is not walking into a government office and announcing their presence. That would lead to a visit from INS. No, these individuals are using fake SS ID's. what happens is that to make a "show" of following the law that requires employers to ask for proof of documentation (for which SSN is a part) some illegal immigrants give these fake SS cards. The taxes are withheld and sent to the Social Security Administration where it is discovered that they do not match any numbers on record. These funds are then put aside in what is called a "Social Security Suspense File." So the government, at any given time knows exactly how many people with "faulty" SSN's are out there and therefore knows where they are or have been working. So, I think this "we pay taxes" thing is a bit overstated. Another law, the one against having fraudulent documents, has been broken in order to procure employment. I don't think the vast majority of illegal immigrants are paying SS taxes and I think it damages the credibility of those working for immigrants to put forth that argument.

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