Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Texans' views on immigration misaligned with interests of 'job creators'

According to the Washington Post:
More than 6 in 10 Americans now favor allowing illegal immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens, a major increase in support driven by a turnaround in Republicans’ opinions after the 2012 elections.

The finding, in a new Associated Press-GfK poll, comes as the Republican Party seeks to increase its meager support among Latino voters, who turned out in large numbers to help-re-elect President Barack Obama. ...

The poll results suggest the public overall, not just Hispanics, will back his efforts. Sixty-two percent of Americans now favor providing a way for illegal immigrants in the U.S. to become citizens. ...

And 59 percent of whites now favor a way for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship, up from 44 percent in August 2010, and 41 percent in September 2009.

Overall, the poll found 35 percent strongly favored allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens over time, while 27 percent favored the idea somewhat. Just 35 percent of Americans opposed the approach, with 23 percent strongly opposed and 12 percent somewhat opposed. That compared with 48 percent opposed in 2010 and 50 percent in 2009.
By contrast, a fairly robust Texas Tribune poll last fall found that, among Texans, "Most of the respondents — 62 percent — said police should be allowed to inquire about or report the immigration status of people they encounter on the street, including 46 percent who feel strongly about it. Another 31 percent think police should not be permitted to do that."

It's possible a similar poll would show opinions have shifted slightly since the election. And at some point, the public surely will begin to recognize the disconnect between portrayals of chaos on the border by the Rick Perrys, Todd Staples and Barry McCaffreys of the world and the reality that the Texas side of the border remains among the safest places in the state. For now, though, given Texas' 2012 election results and the unbridled supremacy of the GOP, emboldened by freshly gerrymandered districts, Grits suspects Texans' views won't have changed as much - though perhaps a little - in the wake of the president's re-election compared to the nation at large. At a minimum, we'll probably see fewer immigrant bashing bills at the Legislature in the near term, which is a good thing. But the underlying opinions of the Republican base almost certainly remain the same.

Some Texas business interests, on the other hand, are ready for the wave of nativism that's swept through the Grand Old Party to subside. David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, recently told NPR:
"I have heard many reports from builders who say they can't hire enough people, they can't find subcontractors, they're unable to get the labor necessary to build homes that they do have on order — even at the low level of building that's occurring right now," Crowe says.

Many of those laborers went back to their home countries or got jobs elsewhere. "All of that has to be reversed," Crowe says. "That labor has to come back from where it went, or whatever job it found instead."

And Crowe says the crash didn't just force construction workers out. It killed lumber-supply companies and stopped raw land from getting prepped for development. As a result, there are fewer companies and fewer workers all up and down the supply chain.

And already, Crowe says, the modest level of demand is beginning to push up prices for everything.

"We can't get this industry working too fast too quickly, or prices would go out of sight," says Mike Holland, regional president for Marek Brothers, a Houston-based construction firm.
Several Texas sources were quoted in the NPR piece. Not only do US-born workers not necessarily have the same skill sets as the supposedly unskilled workers who "went back to their home countries" when the economy crashed, many Texans can't even pass the initial screening to get hired, whether because of a criminal history or a dirty urinalysis. Jan Maly, CEO of a specialty contractor in Houston, told NPR that criminal background checks and drug tests disqualified three out of five applicants:
many people don't make even the first-round cut of passing drug and criminal checks, let alone bring the skills necessary to do the job.

"We have to do background and drug checks on just about everybody," Maly says. "You'd be quite amazed if you knew how many people were disqualified. Sixty percent fail."
To review, the homebuilding industry can't find skilled workers because the Obama Administration's immigration crackdown and a slumping economy sent so many "illegal immigrants" back to their home countries. Texas companies would like to hire more US citizens, but few have the needed skills and 60% either fail the urine test or don't survive a criminal background check. So a combination of immigration policy, drug policy and overcriminalization lie at the root of the industry's worker shortage.

Governor Perry recently opined that, "Now more than ever our country needs strong leadership from states like Texas, that are making tough decisions to live within their means, keep taxes low and provide opportunities to job creators so their citizens can provide for their families and prosper." The "job creators" quoted by NPR, though, are lamenting that the Texas construction industry's skilled workforce "went back to their home countries" and for the industry to prosper, "That labor has to come back from where it went." Ironic, huh?


Anonymous said...

Since employers can't run background checks in the countries they come from, maybe employers should make it equal and not run them on us. Give us the same fresh start the people from another country is getting.

Robert Reeves said...

Wow, this is an interesting breakthrough. I have not heard this yet. Thank you for sharing this information.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how it is "nativist" to want regularized and legal immigration. What other major industrialized nation--or any nation--allows unfettereed open border immigration? Let me know. Likewise, it is foolish to assume that all immigrants merely want to work in food service or landscaping. Criminals and security risks may be a smaller percentage but the definitely do exist.

Gadfly said...

The homebuilding people won't pay enough money is the issue. This isn't stuff like picking onions in the Valley; plenty of native-born people will do framing carpentry, etc.

Anonymous said...

Grits you should see West Texas, especially Midland and Odessa. It is so crazy out here right now, there are more jobs than workers. This includes construction, labor, oil field, service jobs, and restaurants. There are more jobs than workers plan and simple and not enough workers to build the homes and apartment complexes that are needed to deal with the oil boom. I greatly welcome my fellow hard working brothers and sisters from the south.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

6:40, I'm aware of that, and it's one of the reasons I support closing the unit in Colorado City and other understaffed rural units that can't compete with the oil industry for jobs.

11:51, first, no one advocated "allow[ing] unfettered open border immigration," so that's a red herring/straw man. Further, if you don't understand the "nativist" charge then you don't spend much time reading commentary from grass roots conservatives on the subject. Go read the long comment strings on the Houston Chronicle on immigration-related stories and tell me "nativism" isn't exactly what's being promoted by the GOP base.

Also, despite your baseless assertion, undocumented immigrants commit crimes at FAR lower rates than their citizen counterparts. If you're really worried about "criminals and security risks" you're better off in an area with MORE illegal immigrants, not less. The folks who wold benefit from a path to citizenship overwhelmingly are a law abiding group compared to average Americans, from an statistical perspective.

Anonymous said...

It is a simple diplomatic solution - the US and Mexico should offer dual citizenship or tax incentives with a certain percentage of income to be tax free (similar to what Americans receive when they work for corporations out of country). This would allow Mexicans to maintain their property ownership in Mexico but also require them to pay their fair share of taxes for services they use here. Come to a Texas county hospital on any given day and you will see the free medical care and other services afforded immigrants, not afforded the residents that work to pay the taxes to provide those services. Texans love Mexico and their Mexican neighbors. The Mexican people are beautiful and the country is one of the most beautiful, resource rich countries in the world. The question that should be asked is with such rich resources, why are they having to risk their lives to cross a border to look for work elsewhere? What US policies have caused the job imbalance between the two countries? The issues are diplomatic and there are no excuses to not resolve.

Anonymous said...

Despite the "go to college" rhetoric, not everyone, for various reasons, is going to go to college. Public schools in Texas, who do not offer vocational education, need to do so.

Anonymous said...

"no one advocated "allow[ing] unfettered open border immigration"

Oh really? Isn't that what you are all about?