“The Country is FULL.” So said Donald J. Trump as he has tried every-which-way to curtail asylum seekers from crossing the nation’s southern border. The bloated, bigoted, bloviating braggart is himself full—full of BS. Before he began his rants about stopping the flow of refugees from Central America into the United States, he proclaimed that the country needed workers, so the refugees would be welcome. But then as usual he did a complete reversal, saying the country can’t take anymore immigrants, illegal or legal, because our country has no place for them. He demanded that immigrants turn around and go home to their violence-plagued countries.
On April 12, 2019, the Washington Post editorial board wrote that Trump’s “diagnosis that the country is full flies in the face of the facts — specifically, the economy’s severe and growing labor shortages, including for low-wage and blue-collar workers, across an array of industries and regions….In March, the Labor Department reported there were 7.6 million unfilled jobs and just 6.5 million unemployed people, marking 12 straight months during which job openings have exceeded job seekers.”
In addition, the editorial board noted: “The labor shortage is sapping growth as well as state and municipal revenue. Small businesses and major corporations have sounded the alarm as the delivery of goods is delayed by a drastic shortage of truckers, and housing prices in some markets are driven up by an inadequate supply of construction workers. Mr. Trump’s admission [on April 12] that he will consider transporting new migrants to so-called sanctuary cities as a means of punishing those cities is probably an empty threat given the scheme’s blatant illegality. But if he were to fulfill the threat, he might do some of the cities an unintentional favor by providing them with badly needed workers.”
The city of Seattle, Washington, is one of those cities. Mayor Jenny A. Durkan noted: “In Seattle, we know that our immigrant and refugee communities make our city a stronger, more vibrant place. Our immigrant neighbors make up more than 18 percent of our population….They create businesses and jobs. They create art and culture. They help teach our kids, serve in law enforcement and the military, and lead our places of faith.”
Other cities have also welcomed immigrants. They include Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Oakland, California; Phoenix, Arizona; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Tallahassee, Florida, and big cities like Chicago and New York City. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently estimated that about half of the nation’s farmworkers are unauthorized, and 15 percent of construction workers are undocumented. In the service sector, which would include jobs such as fast food and domestic help, the figure is about 9 percent.
There is a common belief that immigrants do work that most Americans refuse to do. But that’s not the crux of the issue. Instead, many employers in construction and service industries prefer to hire undocumented immigrants because they do not have to pay their healthcare, pensions, workers compensation, and other benefits that many American workers expect. In short, many unemployed Americans will do almost any job available if they are paid a decent wage with benefits.