Undocumented But In Demand: Illegal Employment In America
by Laz Ayala
*This article originally appeared in the Ashland Locals Guide.
An immigrant/homebuilder’s assessment of the labor shortage impacting U.S. industries and the need for legal and humane guest worker programs that meet the needs of businesses and workers.
Not Enough Labor
Our country is experiencing an illegal employment epidemic fueled by a lack of blue-collar, domestic workers and functional guest worker programs.
These two factors have created a labor crisis that is negatively impacting our economy and creating fertile ground for illegal employment to grow. Faced with a lack of workers, our agriculture, hospitality, and construction industries are left with no other option than to hire undocumented labor.
Impact On The Country
The impact of the labor shortage is evidenced by a continued decrease in commercial agriculture production, the inability of home builders to keep up with the demand for homes, and the inability of restaurant and hotel operators to find and retain staff. This problem is threatening our food supply and fueling the affordable housing crisis.
Illegal The Project’s Plan
Mission: to end the labor shortage impacting our agriculture, hospitality, and construction industries, provide a legal and humane path to employment for immigrants who wish to work in the U.S. seasonally and end illegal employment of these undocumented workers.
Solution: Pass legislation that creates functional guest worker programs (that meet the needs of our industries) in tandem with tough enforcement of a revamped E-Verify system (that accurately verifies the legal status of employees).
Why Employers Hire Undocumented Workers
Employers hire undocumented workers because they have no other option. While it is in the interest of employers and workers alike not to be subject to immigration raids, for many it’s not an option. And, why wouldn’t employers hire undocumented workers when our current laws don’t require them to verify the legal status of their employees nor hold them accountable for hiring undocumented workers?
Why Immigrants Enter The U.S. Illegally
The immigrant worker community recognizes our need for their labor. While many of these individuals would prefer to enter the country legally, work seasonally, and return home to their families, this isn’t an option. With our lack of guest worker programs, those who enter the country to work undocumented are trapped once they are here.
Developing guest worker programs would allow them to return to their communities, maintain their family structure, and use their hard-earned dollars to promote economic sustainability back home. This is something many undocumented workers want.
Why The Problem Isn’t Being Solved
Today, immigration has more to do with politics than objective, common-sense policies. Democrats demand a path to citizenship for guest workers while Republicans object to anything that includes a path to citizenship. Meanwhile, this stalemate forces businesses, the economy, undocumented immigrants, and American citizens to suffer.
The Solution: Guest Worker Programs & Revamped E-Verify
We need legislation that provides a humane and legal path to employment for guest workers. This legislation should include an annual assessment of the labor needs of various industries and authorize the needed guest worker visas to meet those needs.
In tandem with expanded guest worker programs, there must be legislation requiring tough enforcement of a revamped E-Verify system that is accurate and dependable. The law must require employers to verify the legal status of each employee and carry stiff penalties and consequences for employers that violate the law.
Functional guest worker programs and E-verify implementation would eliminate the demand for undocumented workers thereby leaving employers and workers with only one choice – a legal one.
The 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. should be given first priority with regard to guest worker programs. While not all will be eligible or desire this option, many will. This will reduce the number of undocumented immigrants and provide a foundation from which a path to citizenship would be easier to provide for those who remain.
Where Do We Go From Here?
This plan does not solve all of our immigration issues. It doesn’t cover the future of DACA Dreamers, asylum seekers, and refugees. It is not a perfect solution. But, not perfect does not mean not good. In the words of Voltaire, “perfect is the enemy of good”.
This kind of legislation would provide a legal and humane path for workers while providing our industries with the labor they need to. To the degree we improve guest worker programs to meet the needs of our economy, we will also solve the illegal immigration problem. We can do this at a fraction of the $7 billion spent annually on immigration enforcement.
If you would like to learn more about Illegal the Project, or get involved in what we are doing to address these issues, please visit us at www.IllegalTheProject.org.
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