It’s very common for xenophobic people to say something like, “Illegals are taking are jobs.” They don’t care if it’s true or not because truth is not the primary aim of the xenophobe or the racist. Their primary aim is to get people angry at undocumented immigrants and then let the hate do the heavy lifting. Lately, the same people that say things like these are also saying that the economy is so much better now than during the Obama Administration, with low unemployment and higher consumer confidence.
So, which is it? Either “illegals” are taking jobs, or there are more jobs than ever. Again, honesty and critical thinking are not the goals of those who would vilify and entire group of people for political gain. It’s a tried and true political maneuver by those without vision to find scapegoats and to play on the fears of the people.
When you dig into the facts of undocumented immigrants and jobs, you find that the overwhelming majority of jobs done by undocumented immigrants are jobs that sit idle without them. According to the Brookings Institute:
“According to a comprehensive National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine analysis, immigration does not significantly impact the overall employment levels of most native–born workers. The impact of immigrant labor on the wages of native–born workers is also low. Immigrant labor does have some negative effects on the employment and wages of native–born high school dropouts, however, and also on prior immigrants, because all three groups compete for low–skilled jobs and the newest immigrants are often willing to work for less than their competition. To a large extent, however, undocumented workers often work the unpleasant, back–breaking jobs that native–born workers are not willing to do. Sectors with large numbers of undocumented workers include agriculture, construction, manufacturing, hospitality services, and seafood processing. The fish–cutting industry, for example, is unable to recruit a sufficient number of legal workers and therefore is overwhelmingly dependent on an undocumented workforce. Skinning, deboning, and cutting fish is a smelly, slimy, grimy, chilly, monotonous, and exacting job. Many workers rapidly develop carpal tunnel syndrome. It can be a dangerous job, with machinery for cutting off fish heads and deboning knives everywhere frequently leading to amputated fingers. The risk of infections from cuts and the bloody water used to wash fish is also substantial. Over the past ten years, multiple exposés have revealed that both in the United States and abroad, workers in the fishing and seafood processing industries, often undocumented in other countries also, are subjected to forced labor conditions, and sometimes treated like slaves.”
So I guess Trump wants to bring back slavery? Kind of? Yes?
What is really happening here is that you — my most conservative of friends — are angry at the wrong people. You’re angry at Juan and Ramón for traveling hundreds of miles under the most horrifying of conditions and getting a job as a slave instead of being angry at the fat, happy and rich dudes at the top of the financial food chain who play fast and loose with other people’s money. It was neither Juan nor Ramón, nor Juanita, who sold sub-prime loans to people with very bad credit to the point of crashing the economy in 2008. None of them had any say in Walmart recently firing hundreds and closing down stores all over the place.
Speaking of which, did you notice that the president congratulated himself for Walmart giving out bonuses under the guise that the recent tax plan allowed them to do so, but said nothing about Walmart continuing to sell a ton of stuff from not-America? Weird, huh?
Nah, man… You’re angry at the wrong people. Congress had a chance to fix immigration back during the Bush Administration, but they didn’t because they couldn’t come to terms on their differences and do something good for the country. Even after the Republican President had asked Congress to fix immigration, and the Democrats controlled both the Senate and the House, they still couldn’t get it done. So here we are, ten years later, dealing with immigration again. But, yeah, get angry at Pedro and María and little Carlito.
And I’m also looking at you, my most liberal of friends. You’re all angry at Trump and his supporters, and you can’t fathom how people voted for him to get him elected. But you ignore the decades that people in the Rust Belt and Appalachia were ignored and even laughed at for wanting something to be done about their declining situation. “Those hillbillies,” you seemed to say. “Look at them not using their white privilege.”
“But, Ren, didn’t you also not fathom how people could possibly vote for a racist misogynist with a history of bad financial decisions?” you ask.
And, like a big boy, I’ll admit that I was angry at the wrong people. Instead of being angry at the previous administration and the many different state administrations that misappropriated the funds during the recovery so that not everyone benefited, I was angry at people who, understandably, voted for a racist misogynist with a history of bad financial decisions. If you really think about it, the economic downturn and the recovery was the perfect opportunity for the Democrats to finish off the insurgency within the Republican Party and show that the Tea Party offshoot cult, er, branch of the Republican Party were really all nuts. Obama and friends and friends could have tried to pass legislation to benefit the poor and disadvantaged Americans who would eventually vote for Trump. Even if the Tea Partiers blocked such efforts, Hillary and friends and friends could have pointed to such efforts in 2016 and asked for more help in helping others.
But no. The economic recovery ended up leaving a ton of people behind, and they were not going to buy what any Democratic candidate was selling given how Obama didn’t work so well for them. Then you had Hillary Clinton, who wouldn’t let Trump hoist himself by his own petard, make one elitist misstep after another. However, in doing so, we got what can very well turn out to be the most ineffective and embarrassing president in history.
I mean, you know it’s bad when Trump makes you miss Bush 43, a president who took us into Iraq under false pretenses.
What the adults in the country need to do is to sit down and think hard about who — or what — is really at fault for “what is wrong with America.” Is it Hector and Esteban who traveled hundreds of miles at great peril to be treated as slaves? Is it gay and lesbian Americans who ask that they be treated as equals and not as lepers because of whom they happen to be attracted to? Is it Black Americans who ask that their people not be summarily executed by police during not-so-random traffic stops?
Or is it super-wealthy business executives who pay through the nose so that favorable legislation gets passed for them? Is it the college coach who gets paid millions while so many young men and women cannot afford higher education? Is it the drug dealer who sells opiates and other life-ending drugs to the most vulnerable? Or is it the “association” that fights hard for the rights of guns to be unsafe while mass shootings kill children and suicides pile up?
It’s okay to be angry, but it’s better to be angry at the right people.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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