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Sharing the American Dream with Illegal Immigrants

November 3, 2010
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Whenever pro-amnesty groups would claim we need illegal immigrants to do the work U.S. citizens do not want to do, my blood would boil. Maybe I felt that way because in my youth I worked as a dishwasher, floor cleaner, landscaper and factory shop gopher. I disagreed with their exaggerated premise.

Sure, illegal immigrants occupy many lower-paying manual labor jobs, but that’s because their skills and education don’t allow them to “steal” better jobs. Or at least that is what I told myself.

Five years ago my thoughts on legal and illegal immigrants began to moderate. We ran a series of columns in our construction magazines authored by Ricardo Gonzalez, founder of Bilingual America. Gonzalez, who also advises companies on Hispanic labor issues, presented “the rest of the story” for those of us who knew only one side of the debate.

According to Gonzales, many immigrants are chosen by their families to go to the U.S. They pool whatever meager resources they have and send their husbands, sons or daughters to the U.S. They hope to share in the American dream, or at least gather some crumbs from our tables, and send a few dollars back to their families.

Many enter the U.S. illegally because qualifying for a visa can take years or decades, if they even qualify. Often, this means risking their lives by trusting smugglers to sneak them across the border. USA Today recently detailed the roadblocks to legal immigration. The rules clearly are stacked against the common laborer.

If successful in crossing the border, illegal immigrants typically find refuge in overcrowded housing and work as day laborers for whatever cash is offered. Some buy forged documents in order to get low-paying jobs. Few experience anything close to the American dream.

Still, I told myself, illegal immigrants are hurting the U.S. economy. Although I was developing compassion for their situations, what they were doing was wrong. They need us. We don’t need them.

I recently learned I was wrong.

As it turns out, most U.S. citizens aren’t all that interested in doing some of the hardest jobs in our society, especially for low wages. In some cases, we do need them.

One of our construction-focused media brands, Roofing Contractor, holds an annual conference called Best of Success. This year I attended a roundtable among contractors. During this off-the-record discussion, participants transparently shared the realities of hiring and retaining workers in today’s cut-throat construction market.

Their most pressing challenge is finding workers willing to do the hard manual labor that roofing requires. Several companies recently lost workers when Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents found the workers had forged their papers. The employees, including many long-term, high-value workers, were deported.

At the height of the recession, one large contracting company lost 25 percent of its workforce because of deportation. “No problem,” the owners thought. “We’ll get tons of applicants in this economy.”

Guess what? Despite aggressively advertising the openings, they received only a handful of resumes. None of the applicants worked out. The company is still searching.

All but one of the companies represented in the roundtable decried the lack of interest from home-grown local workers. They especially were outraged by interviewees who elected to keep receiving unemployment, rather than accept a job on a roofing crew.

In trying to wrap my mind around this issue, I’m left with two questions. If nationwide unemployment of nearly 10 percent (higher in some markets) cannot stimulate citizens to accept these jobs, what will?

Also, what can we do to improve the increasingly dangerous job of protecting our borders?

My conclusions are diametrically opposed to my position a few years ago. First, I believe it’s time we substantially expand our legal immigration programs to allow entry of more workers with manual labor and service industry skills.

Second, we should develop an amnesty program that allows illegal workers to stay in the U.S. if they have a sponsoring employer, with the caveat that they have verified job skills and a clean record. Adding these workers to our tax roles would go a long way toward mending our economy and filling some holes in our labor force. 

I understand if you disagree with my ideas on illegal immigration. A few years ago, I would not have agreed with me either.

I’ve had the benefit of seeing desperately poor people in Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and South Africa. Put me in their shoes for even one day and I, too, would try anything to gain entry into the U.S. in order to seek work.

Let’s help immigrants legally share in a modest version of the American dream. With new elected officials heading to Washington and our state capitols, now is good time to rethink immigration.



Speaking of the American dream,  please visit www.bnpmedia.com/movingon. We created this Web site specifically to share the good and positive stories of construction, mechanical, repair/maintenance, design, engineering, surveying and service firms. These stories feature companies that have met economic adversity head-on and are still standing tall. Visit and learn how are they are doing it.

Better yet, click on the “Submit Story” tab and share YOUR story. Just answer five questions, upload your photo (or your leadership team’s photo) and we’ll do the rest.
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Comment to: Sharing The American Dream With illeagel Immigrants

Fred V.Jr
November 5, 2010
Let me be the first to comment. Look at the big picture here. The american pride isn't here anymore. The goverment has allowed manufacturing to go over seas killed quality manufacture's here and production. You can read the word China almost on anything you pick up. Maytag has gone to Mexico and the dollar keeps falling. The goverment is more concern on the next voting date and the backing they get from the unions;than the voice of the small people and reinforce the boarders is blind. Law suite and cheap labor is all that's left. People get to comfortable here because they have it to easy. The value of the dollar for the people that live here on a working status is worth nothing other than to live on a daily basis. With the bailouts going to reward and commend the wrong doing we suffer time and time again passing debt to our generations. Hay it's time to blame some one else. The American dream dose it realy exisit any more. I tell my kin to keep their head high and walk with pride work and fight for what you believe in. The true Americans was run off and told where to live but we aren't going to any more. America has been abandoned by the people that run Her. If illegale immegrants come here and like the money you should play by the rules but unitl the Goverment dosen't play fair people will not either. If there's no jobs and thing are so bad we have the goverment to thank because while they eat steak we eat beans. We will never be what we were until other contries play by the rules also. Jobs here will keep disapperaing because companies will not be able to compete with contries,companies that are over seas that have no regulations like here basiclly they don't care only but for them selves. The bottom line to comment on your posting is an opinion of mine and isn't that part of the American dream also. I beileve if your here illeagel your braking rules you shold be given a chance to get on the right path because our lost relative did and they did what the had to do. So let the imagrents pay there taxes get your priority to this contry straight .If you don't after a while then you know what go back where you came from. Don't get me wrong I LOVE AMERICA but unit the goverment dosen't treat her with respect you can't expect outsiders to do so and follow thee rules Fred V. Jr

The Illegal Immigration Issue

Kevin L.
November 5, 2010
Ok let's address the 600 pound Gorilla in the corner. Sure it's terrible conditions for many people in Mexico and many other Countries. The quality of life is less than satisfactory. Now lets call that a fact and get on with it. The real issue is that the very same people that are entering our borders illegally are the best candidates to improve their own Countries. If our borders were truly inpenetrable, you would see these highly motivated people improve their homes and conditions within their Country. Necessity is the Mother of Invention. I look at it in much the same way as our Countries 2nd 3rd and 4th generation welfare recipients. We can't continue to fund people who are "unwilling to work". What happened to the age old teachings of "You get what you work for"? Illegal immigrants are taking a big percentage of the fruits of their labor (our dollars) and sending it out of our country. We need these dollars to be spent here. So many of these illegals are paid cash off the books, meaning no taxable traceable income. Do the illegal immigrants pay for the services they can receive for free while they are here? Ask a Nurse or Doctor at a County hospital. Look at the percentages of inmates in our jails. Who schools their children? Do they use our roads and Highways? If America was a human patient, the Doctor might diagnose us as Anemic. We are in poor economic health as it is. That same patient would fall into worse health if they were asked to donate blood. Healthy people can donate blood with little or no effect. That anemic patient could die when blood is drawn. Maybe not one syringe or pint at a time periodically. But the current rate of illegal immigration is equal to a hemorrhage. Good News!!! We can solve our countries health issues easily. A little tough love is needed though. We will also need an Administration with some resolve to see this through. Shut down the borders "air tight". Create some jobs doing it. The dollars needed are already being spent to support those that are "not paying" into the tax system. Ask those here illegally to leave within 90 days. Yes, even the American Born children of the illegal immigrant parents(sometimes called anchor babies). Anyone already in process of applying for Citezenship legally could be extended, depending on when they filed and their value to Our Country. No defecting. I know this seems brutal to affect the lives of innocent children, but we are not the criminals. Their illegal immigrant parents are. We simply can not afford for them to become wards of the States. If you already hold dual Citizenship pick one Country as your home and vacation in the other. Anyone still remaining after 90 days will have their assets seized and still be deported. Keep in mind they had a chance to settle their affairs and cash out. Now they are forced to improve their situation within their Countries. They will desire the life they had here, and work hard together to get it. I'm sure they will not allow illegal immigrants to take advantage of their newly created systems the way they did in ours. Now we are not done here. We must tarrif the incoming products being made or assembled abroad from other countries. We do this until their prices are above American made products. If they are still willing to import to us, we will gladly take their tarrif dollars and invest them into our economy. Something like this would have to be phased in. American Corporations would be forced to bring jobs back to the USA for profitability. In other words "Junk the North American Fair Trade Agreement" also known as NAFTA. Most Americans are not aware of what happened under this agreement. Thanks a lot Bill Clinton. Americans lost jobs!!!!! Stop bailouts, Let the fittest survive. If a company did something wrong to get where it is, let it die. Prosecute if Criminal activity or deception of value exists. Stop sending our money and our troops abroad. If it doesn't exist in our own Country we don't need it. That what makes short term travel to other Countries so exotic. Our Country needs time to heal and become healthy. Lead the other Nations by example and fight threats to our Country at our borders. Feed and support our own first. There are too many children here going without. Teach and train our people to improve our way of life. Improve our NATION FIRST.

sharing the American dream with illegals

Steve Potvin, TX
November 5, 2010
I think that maybe Mr.Fausch found he could make a lot of money by using illegals, while the rest of us pay the cost of their being here. First thing is they make babies, often with other illegals. Then 'Mom'gets 'Aid'and we foot the bill from birth for their offsprings needs, medical school feedings,special needs etc. The illegals overwhelm our emergency rooms etc. The list of cost to the rest of us is to long to be stated here. I find that many of those, who use illegals, try to act as if they are offering some Christian generousity. If they really were Christians, they would be paying wages that are at less comparative to what an American. Instead they hide what they do. Those who engaged in hiring Illegals even if it is once or twice removed are involved with the 'new Slavery'and frankly need to go to jail. As for amnesty; if we legalize those here, they will then be asking for equal (fair) wages because those that use them wouldn't have them over a barrel any longer. I bet that 'Slavers' will go looking for more cheap labor in new illegals.

Hiring Illegals

Tim Fausch
November 5, 2010
Steve, thanks for sharing. I knew when I wrote this blog many would have different opinions. As to hiring illegal workers, I've not done that, nor would I. My point is to expand LEGAL immigration and add those people to the tax roles. As to your comments about Christian generosity, my hope is that all people, regardless of background/beliefs, would allow a small dose of compassion to help shape their thoughts on this topic. Without the compassion of prior generations of U.S. citizens, many of our ancestors would not have been able to immigrate and we would not be here today.

Sharing the American Dream with Illegal Immigrants

KurtA in Philly
November 5, 2010
I found your article very informative, and am not surprised by the reaction it's received. Let me pour more gasoline on the fire and point to an often overlooked benefit of the so-call anchor babies - they are filling the gap left by America's low birth rate. Who will be the workers who pay taxes on their income to support those retired on Social Security? An increasingly larger number of them will be born to illegal immigrant parents. And those who contemplate changing the Constitution to deny citizenship to those born here: Given the economic conditions Mr. Fausch described in his article, they'll still keep coming. Citizenship for their children gives them a chance at assimilation. Denying citizenship will only create an unassimilated underclass.

Boston

Dan J
November 18, 2010
illegals Consider my 10 year subscrpition canceled

Boston

Tim Fausch
November 18, 2010
Dan, we would hate to lose a long-time reader. Would rather have you share your thoughts on how we can tackle this challenge. The purpose of this blog is exchange ideas!

W.

Don
November 18, 2010
Illegals I have mixed feelings about the issue. While I can certainly understand their wanting a piece of the American Dream, I believe they need to earn it like everyone else. I do not believe these folks should be given the "entitlements" so many in our government are so anxious to hand out. Ultimately, the honest, hard-working American public has to pay for these entitlements when I'm struggling some times to make ends meet. Why should these people be entitled to free health care, when companies and individuals pay through the nose for insurance, the cost of which is spiraling upward at exponential rates. Why are these people granted admission to our universities, given in-state tuition, and often provided with grants that pay their full ride when Americans struggle to figure out if they can send their kids to college at all without racking up a small fortune in debt. Why do we grant citizenship to these "anchor babies"? Why is it that INS isn't standing outside the emergency rooms or college admissions offices and rounding up these illegals and shipping them back to wherever they came from? I like the idea of helping those that are here working hard to make their way in the system to move them toward citizenship and onto the tax roles. But, we need to change the system to foster a work-Visa program that after a time, if the worker can document that he is gainfully employed and have clean criminal records, they be granted a more permanant Visa with stipulation they pay taxes and work toward citizenship. It's time congress to listen to the American public and stop this bleeding before it kills this country. I have my doubts when the current administration is too busy worrying whether they will lose the Hispanic vote if they act. The American public sent a message this November, perhaps congress will wake up and pay attention.

Comment

Joe
November 20, 2010
I believe the American Dream is not dead... it is sick... but still alive. People that are here illegally in My Country the USA should be located and deported. The "Anchor Baby" business is wrong and should be fixed. I got my first taste of business when I was 8 years old. A perfect business... a Cool Aid stand. No overhead... parent bought the Cool Aid and sugar. I just had to make it and sell it... I reaped all the profits. I've owned my plumbing business for about 35 years... Haven't received a paycheck since 1973... I get what's left. As a teen, I mowed lawns... and threw newpapers and washed dishes and made tacos and burritos. All of those jobs today are done by immigrants... I'm thinking many illegal. Where do teenagers go to work part-time? Those part time entry level jobs are taken by adults... and are not entry level jobs now. Do not try and tell me those jobs would go un-filled it all the illegals were sent home. Construction contractors have gotten used to cheap illegal labors... and they're all competing against eachother... Most of new construction is "Now can we go faster and cheaper". I know because I repair those problems. The American Dream is for Americans.

Illegal Immigration

Stephen Hellman
November 20, 2010
I think what is missed here is the fact that our lberal government has decidied that continuing unemployment benefits solve the problem...it is now at 99 weeks...if my arithemtic still function that is 3 weeks short of 2 years... Would you rather sit on your butt and et a check every week from the government or work hard at some creally difficult and dangerous job? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to answer that question. So the solution is cut off the benefits and if someone wants to survive they will take the roofing jobs you mentioned in the article. This country has to get motivated again and sucking money from the government doesn't cut it!

criminal trespassing

Jim H. Texas
November 21, 2010
If someone enters your home or business illegally, they can be shot dead. I am not suggesting we shoot people who enter our country illegally, but when will we find and elect public servants who will have the balls to enforce our current laws without concern about whether or not they will be re-elected? A criminal enters a house to steal something that does not belong to him for one reason: to better his economic condition at the expense of someone else's hard work. An illegal trespasser into our country breaks our law without regard to it for one reason: to better his economic condition at the expense of someone else's hard work. It is time to call a spade a spade. About 4 yrs ago, the Dallas Morning News published an article about "anchor babies". At Parkland Hospital (a county hospital which translate to "Free to Illegals But American Citizens Must Pay") there were a total of 16,000 births. 3/4ths, that is 12,000, were born to illegals. Who paid for those medical expenses? The TAXPAYERS of Dallas County! The more babies they have, the more "help" they are "entitled" to. Where is the incentive to proceed down the legal path? In Cactus, Tx, the Swift meatpacking plant was raided by ICE about 4yrs ago or so. The rounded up about 600 of their "valued" employees who were in our country illegally. About 300 were being held on identity theft charges. The identities of tax-paying US citizens were stolen and used by criminals to better their (the illegals) economic condition without regard to the damage being projected onto unassuming law-abiding citizens. I wonder if Mr. Fausch would have a change of heart if he was the victim of identity theft and had to spend time and money to get the mess straightened out. The DMN article quoted Swift as saying they try very hard to make sure they only hire legals at their company. Right! The town of Cactus, according to the report is 3/4ths criminal trespassers. The mayor of Cactus came here illegally 30 yrs ago. Signs in mexico, guatamala and el salvador tell would-be criminals to go to Cactus, Tx and they will get jobs at the Swift meatpacking plant. The News article went on to say that in the early '80s, the average pay at the plant was about $20.00 per hour and the workforce was American citizens. The current average pay with illegals dominating most of the positions was $11.00 per hour. 20 years later and Swift is paying half as much in labor? I am betting they try very hard to hire only legals! So, when I hear this Bull$#!t about the criminals doing jobs that Americans are too good to do...I say it is a lie! Employers have gotten so used to paying illegals and exploiting them that they will not pay a livable wage anymore. I have been in construction for over 35 yrs, I am white, male, born here to American citizens of German and English decent, whose great-great grandparents came to this country the legal route, as difficult at it was. I have framed, roofed, drywalled, sided, trimmed and floored houses since I was 14. I do nothing but high quality work because I take pride in my work and consider myself a craftsman. There are very few craftsmen left. These laborers today for the most part care nothing about quality. Builders care nothing about quality. Or rather, they care nothing about paying for it. Every one wants it cheap. There is only one way to get it cheap, and that is to pay the criminals who don't have to have insurance, pay taxes and obey laws like the law-abiders do. Is there a major problem here? You bet there is. To the bleeding heart liberals: If you feel that the immigration laws of our country are too stringent and take too much time to go through the process legally, then work to change those laws. Do not encourage would-be criminals to break our current federal laws just because they are inconvenient to some people's plan for living the "American Dream". And when did the Mexican, Guatamalans, El Salvadorians, etc, become "entitled" to live the "American Dream" anyway? What is the "Mexican Dream"? To steal the "American Dream" for themselves at someone else's expense? I agree with Kevin L. about much of what he said. I have always said that if leaders (i.e., the President) had the courage to say enough is enough, we are going to fix this problem and it is going to be inconvenient for everyone involved (the criminals, the employers and the consumers)but it is necessary. The criminals would be given 90 days to wrap up their affairs here and vacate the country. After the 90 day grace, anyone caught in our country illegally will forever forfeit their right to apply for legal status. Any employer found to employee criminal trespassers after the 90 day grace would be fined $10,000-$50,000 per employee. Any homeowner found to be employing criminal trespassers would be fined $1,000-$5,000 per employee, per incident. No favortism would be shown just because they have been here illegally for year

real principals and ethics

Robert
November 21, 2010
Give me a second to pick my jaw up off the floor. I can't believe what i just read. How you just twisted the free market system to allow for amnesty and justify paying low wages. Let me get one thing out of the way first, this isn't about race. If anyone is being racist it's the contractors that want and do hire illegals and take advantage of them. It's a form of slave labor and it is ethically wrong. So first we need business owners to pull their heads out of the moral cesspool and start doing the right thing.No one shouldbe given amnesty for breaking the law. What about the immigrants trying to do it the right way. If you are here illegally then you can never have a work visa or citizenship. If everyone had to hire legal workers or face being banned from doing business then they would stop. First offense, one year probation, a fine and banned from doing business for 6 months. Second offense, permanent ban! Know that we put all contractors on equal footing and pulled their heads out of the moral cesspool let's talk about the american worker. It's not that they are unwilling to do the job just not out the paltry wages you are offering. Now american workers will get paid what they are worth and what the job is worth. If there are 10 roofing positions available and only three applicants then obviously the wages are too low. If you raised them 5 dollars an hour and now there are 10 applicants then the job is worth 5 dollars an hour more. It's called supply and demand, anyone ever here of that? it doen't mean prices will get out of control either. If it takes 4 guys a total of of 3 days at 8 hours a day to do the roof and every worker gets 5 dollars an hour more ( because that is the fair market value )that is 160 extra dollars per day times 3 days is 480 dollars. So instead of the roof having a fair market value of 10,000 dollars it is now worth 10,500 dollars. It is really very simple. Now when the legal migrant worker comes here he will actually make a fair wage for his work instead of contractors raking advantage of them. I'm sure the immigrants coming here the legal and right way would like to get 15 dollars an hour for doing that job instead of 10 but the illegal workers are actually hurting the ones trying to come here legally. Not to mention when you pay illegals low unfair wages their wifes or girlfriends then go on welfare because they can't make it otherwise. so if you look at this problem from this viewpoint it is not the american worker that is the problem it is the business owners so lets put the blame where it belongs. Let's get back to real ethics and moralss and let the supply and demand system play itself out instead of trying to manipulate it and illegal immigrants. The legal immigrants will thank you for it. I strongly suggest to you Tim that you rethink capitalism, supply and demand, the law, rewarding bad behavior, how the business owner is at fault and write another editorial condemning your poorly thought out article.

real principles & ethics

Jim H.
November 22, 2010
Right on, Robert! Just don't hold your breath on your last line actually happening! Everyone today is so worried about being politically correct and not offending anyone, that they can't see how they are taking our country in a nosedive and then pointing fingers in the wrong direction. I fully agree, this is NOT about race. It is about what is right and wrong.

One Planet, One People

Michael
November 23, 2010
Most "Americans" are unwanted immigrants. We savagely stole this land we call ours but we compensated by opening the doors to all comers. When there is no work, immigration slows; immigrants will return to their native countries. Money sent "home" should be taxed then no one will care where it was spent. We need to identify and "legalize" everyone for tax dollars plus funding for Social Security and Medicare. Another subject, which I would like you to consider then blog, is pensions and retirement. They should not exist – except for Social Security. Let the individual save, invest, and plan for retirement themselves. Teachers, firefighters, police, and all public employees with ridiculous pensions are a major cause of our economic woes and this will only get worse. We need to eliminate, by a sort of "eminent domain," all existing and future retirement promises. Food, clothing, shelter, education, and healthcare should be provided to all with funding from the reclaimed pension/retirement scams.

Really?

Steve, NJ
December 18, 2010
JimH Texas..excellent! ---- To the author: When I started out in construction in 1986 all the workers were legal Americans, many young boys willing to frame, drywall, etc. Then came the immigrants, salaries dropped to the point that the American worker could not earn a liveable wage and they left construction. In relation to construction, your premise that Americans are not willing to do this type of work is utter nonsense.

American Dream

Ron
July 27, 2011
Don't you have to be ab American to get the American dream?

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