May 19, 2024

come for the jobs we need filled

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
They come for jobs we need filled
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON — It’s time to get real about immigration and recognize why so many people are coming from Central America to the United States. They are coming for jobs. They may be escaping horrors in their own country, but if there were not jobs available, they would not be paying money to smugglers and risking their lives to get here.
          Contrary to Republican talking points, they are not coming here illegally to collect benefits. They don’t have a Social Security numbers, and the only way they get “free” healthcare is at an emergency room as a last desperate resort.
          They are coming for jobs, and as the economy recovers following the Pandemic, there is so much work now, much of it menial labor, that even teenagers can be choosey about what summer jobs they are willing to take.
          Jobs are going unfilled here at home while the government labors mightily on the Southwest border to keep people out of the country. It doesn’t make sense.
          We are not calling for open borders, a buzz word meant to conjure up negative images of caravans of people moving up through Mexico. Every country has the right to control its borders, and there are laws in place that must be respected.
          What we are calling for is an acknowledgment of the truth that we need these hard-working people coming across the border for work – and they need us.
          Jobs are a magnet. Immigrants from Central America didn’t come in numbers during the Pandemic, and they didn’t come during the great recession of 2008 and 2009, or during the Great Depression of the 1930s. If we tell the truth about immigration at the Southwest border, it’s about jobs and who will do what kind of work for how much money.
          It’s a canard that these immigrants are taking jobs from Americans. Farmers in California, Alabama, and Florida are desperate for workers to pick their crops – jobs many Americans will not do. And immigrants have been doing this work without appropriate protections from either the government or employers.
          Single men coming across the border from Mexico and Central America are the primary resource for these agricultural businesses. If they had work permits, they could travel back and forth to their home countries without fear of being deported. All it would take is an acknowledgement of the reality that exists.
          Another baseless claim is that American communities are being overrun by undocumented immigrants. Those who believe this should look around and ask themselves what they see. Just as immigrants have done over the course of U.S. history, the people from Central America work hard to build a future for themselves and their children.
          Let’s be honest, we need these people. They were essential workers during the Pandemic. They tend our houses and our gardens and care for our children.  Our way of life would grind to a halt without them.
          Every wave of immigrants has faced discrimination. One of the most horrific episodes in U.S. history was the Chinese Exclusion Act. Signed into law in 1882, it prohibited anyone from China from entering the United States for 10 years.
          Chinese workers had help built the railroads in the 1800s, backbreaking work, and this is how their adopted country showed gratitude.
          The Chinese Exclusion Act remains a stain on America’s history and its values. It’s also a cautionary tale of what happens when we characterize other human beings in ways that lessens their worth.
          If Republicans had their way, we would be passing the Hispanic Exclusion Act before they even get here. Like every generation of immigrants, those coming from south of the border want jobs. It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity.
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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