Thur Takin’ Ar Jorbs

And we’re back! As part of my vacation, I read nothing and thought about nothing outside the realm of fiction. (Though I did get some major progress done on Anathem which – 500 pages in – is a really good sci-fi book, except for its reliance on cyclic human civilizations. Come on, what evidence in human history is there that global civilization falls back on itself? And everyone’s aware of this past history? Hmmm, sounds like bulyshytt (read the book) to me.)

Except, that is, for The Economist’s Holiday Double Issue. It was full of awesome information. Like this:

The United Farm Workers (UFW) union launched a campaign this summer called “Take Our Jobs” inviting ordinary Americans to try their luck at crop picking as a career. Three million people visited the site, there were 8,600 responses, and 8 Americans who decided to be agricultural laborers for the summer.

That’s right. In an economy with 9.8% unemployment, exactly 8 Americans took up crop-picking. Clearly, illegal immigrants (who do most of the crop picking) are taking our most enticing career opportunities.

To me, this shows:

  • Americans will not do certain jobs, period. No one knows the exact reason an unemployed plumber or machine worker in Ohio won’t move to California and pick strawberries, but they don’t.
  • Illegal immigrants are filling a market demand for cheap, replaceable, seasonal labor.
  • With this in mind, illegal immigration exists not just because the border is thousands of miles long, but because there’s an intercontinental market for crop picking in the US. A poor Native American in southern Mexico can make literally nothing raising and picking crops in his hometown, or he can dare the trip to the US where he can make exponentially more money doing that same job, a job that is still too low-paying for the American supply of labor.

Stopping illegal immigration just won’t happen when market forces are against it. It’s attractive to laborers, agricultural businesses, and the American consumer who benefits from cheap produce. A stronger national temporary worker program is the most effective policy that can be implemented to address the reality of American agricultural labor markets, not legions of border agents, and expensive and ineffective fences.

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