Economy stirring illegal immigration tempest?
Rising unemployment leaves both citizens, aliens battling for jobs
By Drew Zahn
The World Net Daily News, December 22, 2008
News reports around the country tell of illegal aliens struggling to find work in a slumping economy and some workers thinking about returning home; but at least one analyst is warning that 'hostility' between unemployed citizens and out-of-work immigrants is more likely to strike first.
Jim Gilchrist is founder of the Minuteman Project, an organization that advocates for enforcement of U.S. immigration law. Gilchrist told WND that illegal immigrants may be out of work, but that doesn't mean they're re-crossing the border.
'It's not the reverse exodus, the repatriation back to their homelands, that the media or government bureaucrats might want you to think it is,' Gilchrist warned. 'There are still 3 to 4 million illegal aliens entering this country every year and not going home.'
And as the reports roll in of increasing unemployment rates among all groups American citizens and illegal aliens alike the question of who should or shouldn't be competing for scarce jobs is bound to arise.
'There's going to be some very strong hostility,' Gilchrist told WND. 'I'm not saying they're going to be beating each other to death on the streets, but you're going to see a lot of mutual acrimony between those two factions.'
The Wall Street Journal reported last week on the story of a Hollywood job center that is seeing an increase of all sorts of people seeking jobs.
'Everybody is coming to look for work,' Rene Jemio, outreach coordinator for the hiring hall, told the Journal. 'It's not just your average immigrant anymore; it's African-Americans and whites, too.'
'For the first time in a decade,' reports the Journal, 'unskilled immigrants are competing with Americans for work.'
A recent report released by the Pew Hispanic Center, based on data from the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows further numerical evidence that Hispanics including both citizens and aliens have been hit particularly hard by the downturned economy.
'The unemployment rate for Hispanics increased from 5.7 percent to 7.9 percent,' states the report. 'The 2.2 percentage point rise was greater than the 1.2 percentage point rise for non-Hispanics, whose unemployment rate went from 4.6 percent to 5.8 percent.'
'You've had hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in the construction industry,' said Jose Calderon, a professor of sociology and Chicano Studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, to The San Bernardino Sun. 'Immigrants are particularly hard hit because you have so many immigrants working in that industry.'
In the wake of heavy job losses not only in construction, but also in hospitality, retail and other industries that tend to depend on immigrant labor, several newspapers have written stories of nationals from south of the border considering a return home.
The Associated Press told the story of Isidoro Alvarado, who says this year has been 'ugly' and is thinking about going back to Mexico.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on illegal immigrant worker Javier Torres who left the U.S. to visit family in Mexico and is contemplating staying there.
'In the past few months, I haven't had much work,' Torres told the Union-Tribune. 'The economy is pretty bad.'
But consider as they may, sources are reporting that the return move is not an appealing option, either.
'The vast majority of Mexican migrants who have been in the U.S. for more than a few years have nothing to return to in Mexico,' said Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California San Diego.
'There are no jobs in their hometowns, and most of their close relatives are already living with them here,' Cornelius told the Union-Tribune. 'Their economic and family bases have shifted to the U.S., so they are strongly inclined to ride out the current hard times.'
'I feel like I have one foot here, and one there,' day laborer Jesus Cruz told the paper. 'I tell my wife, 'There is no work here; let's go to Mexico.' But she says: 'No. What are we going to do in Mexico?''
If illegal immigrants don't return home, however, the competition for jobs in some sectors is only going to heat up. The Wall Street Journal reports that farms a common job source for immigrant workers that once let fruit spoil on the vine for lack of laborers are now turning down field hands.
'For the first time since 9/11, we have applicants in excess of our requirements,' says Bob Gray, chief executive of Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., a grower, packer and shipper based in Salinas, Calif. 'These are domestic workers who appear to be displacing immigrants.'
Gilchrist told WND that America can no longer afford to operate under the assumption that only immigrants would be willing to do low-wage work. In hard times, many citizens will be looking for any job they can find.
And, Gilchrist insisted, if the country stops allowing corporate fat cats to get rich on illegal labor, but instead demands a living wage for unskilled work, Americans will recoup the extra money they pay for food and manufactured goods through the taxes they save no longer supporting government programs for non-tax-paying illegal immigrants.
'The biggest reason to have a controlled immigration policy is for economic stability, and then for deterring the risk of terrorism,' Gilchrist postulated. 'By not controlling our borders, there's more risk to our economic stability than there is to our national security from terrorism.'
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Pew Hispanic Center report, 'Latino Workers in the Ongoing Recession: 2007 to 2008,' is available online at: http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=99
CIS materials on the effects of illegal immigration on Americans' jobs and wages can be found online at: http://www.cis.org/Wages