Are Undocumented Immigrants Flooding our Southern Border?

The author of this article apparently believes political refugees can be neatly distinguished from economically motivated immigrants. But the economy is largely a function of the political system.  If workers can’t unionize (with real honest unions, not the complicit syndicates which are prevalent in the USA) then wage structures and indigenous economic synergies that might support a middle class are suppressed.   But still s/he makes good points.

Well, that depends on how you define “flooding.” If we’re looking at historical data, then the answer is absolutely no. There are two dynamics occurring right now (actually, there are several, but I’m only going to address two in this post).

1. Undocumented economic migrants (typically from Mexico, but also from Central America), and 2. Political asylum seekers (primarily from Central America). Most of the recent news about family separations centers on political asylum seekers from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. But this blog post is about undocumented economic migrants, and whether they are presenting a significant threat for our country, and if so, whether that justifies building a wall (and by the way, we all know drug smugglers and human traffickers use tunnels, right?).

So here are some basic facts about undocumented economic migrants (meaning, immigrants who cross the border illegally to work)…

Are undocumented immigrants from Mexico flooding our southern border?

No. We do not have a flood of Mexicans coming across the border, in fact we’ve been experiencing a net loss of undocumented immigration since 2007. According to the Pew Research Center (2015): “Mexicans made up 52% of all unauthorized immigrants in 2014, [and] their numbers have been declining in recent years. There were 5.8 million Mexican unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. that year, down from 6.4 million in 2009, according to the latest Pew Research Center estimates. Meanwhile, the number of unauthorized immigrants from nations [Asia and sub-Saharan Africa]…grew by 325,000 since 2009, to an estimated 5.3 million in 2014.”  In other words, more undocumented immigrants are leaving than arriving.  That doesn’t mean that some border communities aren’t being impacted by undocumented immigration, but overall, the numbers are declining, which is why our agricultural sectors are struggling….

Where else do undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrants work?

In the US agricultural industry. In fact, up to 70% of of the estimated 2.5 million farm workers in the US are estimated to be undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrants who were recruited by U.S. agricultural companies from across the border. In other words, they had jobs here before they left home. Did you know that per federal and state law, agricultural laborers are exempt from receiving overtime pay and they are exempt from child labor laws, which means that children as young as 12 can work in the fields?

Why do you think the federal government has allowed these exemptions in the agricultural industry? Because the federal government knows full-well that our entire agricultural industry is reliant on undocumented workers, and they’ve passed laws that  encourage this practice. Would they permit these exemptions if it were American children working in the fields? Of course not. When ICE began to crack down on companies hiring illegal workers, the companies just found more creative ways to recruit workers (including using temp agencies, and proxies, such as labor brokers), and our government has consistently looked the other way because these industries have powerful lobbies.

Why not just create a temporary visa program for foreign workers?

We have them. The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program is for farm workers, but the farming industry doesn’t like it and rarely uses it. Why? Because it requires that  employers provide housing and pay the higher of the applicable state or federal minimum wage, the prevailing wage in that region and occupation, as determined by the USDOL, or the regional average wage observed in NASS’s Farm Labor Survey. The latter is known as the Adverse Effect Wage Rate. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, this wage rate ranges from $9.50 to $12.33 per hour, depending on the state. H-2A visa usage has accounted for less than 5 percent of the hired farm work force in recent years. There have been some recent movements toward improving the program, and usage has expanded (about 77,000 to 165,000 in 2016), but the majority of farm workers (and we’re talking millions here) are hired illegally….

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