Monday, September 08, 2014

Key Texas industries heavily reliant on immigrant labor

Here's an example why the nativist outcry over illegal immigration and border security in Texas strikes me as a disingenuous, even hypocritical stance for the state to take. Construction everywhere in Texas is booming but, reported the Houston Chronicle ("Low skill jobs hard to fill as Obama considers immigration policy," Sept. 7):
About half of all Texas construction workers are here illegally, according to a report last year by the Workers Defense Project and the University of Texas. In Houston's roaring market, it's particularly tough for employers to scoop up workers. Wages have skyrocketed.

"We don't have a sustainable workforce to do what we need to do right now in Texas," said Gregg Reyes, CEO of the Houston-based Reytec Construction Resources Inc., who said seven out of every 10 of his applicants don't have proper work authorization. "We can only bid on the projects we have people for, and it's a struggle to hire folks to do the work who are legal."
The hotel and restaurant industries say they're also facing critical worker shortages and want some sort of legal status for the workforce that is already here, said Richie Jackson, who heads the Texas Restaurant Association. In parts of West and South Texas, restaurants simply don't have enough staff to stay open every day or serve all their customers, he said. Most industries with unfilled work needs "can just export those jobs. Textiles are made in China, software is created in India," he said. "We can't export jobs. We need to import workers."
And, of course:
In Texas, whose cattle ranches and cotton crops are part of its very identity, 85 percent of the agricultural work is done by people who are here illegally, the Texas Farm Bureau estimates. But as traditional migratory patterns from Mexico has slowed and border enforcement has skyrocketed in the past decade, farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to fill jobs, pitting what was long a solidly conservative element against many Republicans seeking to curb immigration.

"The workforce shortage in the agriculture industry is very real, very chronic and it's impacting our domestic food production without question," said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, a Republican who has pushed to overhaul an agricultural guest worker program and allow a legal conditional status for the workers who are already here.

But many Republicans oppose any form of legalization for immigrants who are here illegally and call it an unfair amnesty for people who have broken the law. They also say many Americans are unemployed and should be the priority.
As long as key sectors of Texas' economy rely on illegal immigrant labor, let's stop this nonsense about deporting millions of people - including half the state's construction workforce and 85 percent of our Ag labor - or refusing to educate their (often American) kids. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!


Anonymous said...

as long as we have a welfare state we will have a problem of finding workers for the jobs that illegals take. 4 generations of welfare have gone a long way to destroy the American work ethic

Anonymous said...

Ooops. "Key Texas industries 'allowed' to heavily rely on 'illegal' immigrant labor by those charged with securing our borders and state"

Fixed it.

Solution - Probationers & Parolees (& the chronic unemployed / homeless challenged humans resorting to stealing food items and / or hassled for panhandling) could be given conditions that include: mandatory daily job seeking in 'Key' Texas industries, where they will receive $5. dollars an hour more than what they are paying the currently exploited illegal immigrants, with an opportunity to enroll in insurance programs after 30 days.

Now, all we need is for someone to make sure that this work force is properly clothed and has ample food and safe housing near the work sites. This is where: Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, the Homeless & Employment assistance non-profits organizations along with countless other entities should come together and do what they should be doing.

Any politician that promotes any form of illegal conduct involving thousands of illegals is guilty of sabotaging the nation as a whole and should be charged aiding & abetting, when they are found to have accepted any form of payment from lobbyist and / or pals in return for their looking the other way while trespassers continue down the path and over to the nearest key industry.

Anyone that believes for one second that Houston is running low on workers is out of their damn mind and needs to take a road trip . Anyone that believes for one second that Texas should allow illegal immigration to continue in efforts to support industries of any kind has never ever been in the work force and / or lost a job due to an illegal willing to do it for $4.00 an hour and employers being able to exploit that desperation, while being temporary at best. As desperate as they are, they aren't stupid, which can be seen through their ability to save and move farther north and beyond.

*When hundreds of illegal humans arrive around the same time and hundreds move on around the same time, there are hundreds of job openings around the same time, and guess who takes advantage of free advertising via: the Chronicle. Key Texas industries and thousands of others not mentioned.

Anonymous said...

@11:26, "illegal humans"? "Aiding and abetting" what? And do you really think a lot of jobless illegal immigrants subscribe to the Houston Chronicle?

I thought it was immigration violations that pissed people off but apparently it's just the fact of their humanity.

And you should also be aware that many convicts don't have the skills needed to work construction. Trust me: You don't want most of the probationers I see building your house.

Anonymous said...

Think this is a problem now. Just wait until the babyboomers retire leaving a vacuum in the work force. We need immigrants to support the work force needs now and in the future. Someone is going to have to support the burden of Social Security.

Ryan Paige said...

I support a more open immigration policy, but absent that, the solution is to raise wages to attract people to these jobs.

I can't go hire an accountant for minimum wage (or lower). If my business needs to hire someone, we have to pay the prevailing wage to attract workers.

It's not that these businesses can't find workers, it's that they want to pay workers less than the market will bear.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@Ryan, it's also because there's a limit, e.g., to what people are willing to pay for groceries. For example, would you "buy American" if US produce was 2-3 times as expensive compared to Mexican produce of equal quality? Mexican farm goods can now come up their new highway system from central Mexico in hours instead of days. (Ditto for Chinese imports entering new Mexican "super ports" on the Pacific Coast, btw.) Are you willing to let the Texas/American farm industry die on the vine because they can't compete on price?

I promise you, no matter what 11:26 fantasizes, poor folks from Houston aren't moving to rural Texas any time soon to pick crops just because they can make $12 per hour instead of $8. Make farmers pay market wages to attract citizens and many businesses are likely no longer profitable. The economies in a lot of red-voting counties die off.

Besides, many people, myself included, think there's an inherent national interest in producing a significant chunk of one's food supply domestically. If you agree with that, then it's against the national interest to sponsor policies that make US farms economically nonviable.

Anyway, in the end, markets trump laws and national boundaries (see the drug war) and that includes labor markets. One can wish that menial jobs paid higher wages, or that workers would magically appear to expedite the state's construction spree if half their number were deported. But as my father likes to say, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

Finally, re: your example on hiring accountant. People hire cheaper accountants in India, East Asia, etc., all the time via outsourcing. Is that better or worse than paying someone who lives here, pays local taxes, etc., to do the same task at a lesser rate?

Not speaking about you, Ryan, but I find it ironic many people in the deport-em-all crowd are also opponents of a minimum wage. Low wages paid to illegal immigrants are as close as I can think of to a real-world model of what eliminating the minimum wage would look like - in some cases abusive, in others like construction, subject to price increase due to market demand just like anything else.

Ryan Paige said...

You're very right about an increase in costs (and about outsourcing). I'd much rather have a more open immigration policy than rely completely on market mechanisms and closed borders.

When my family came to America, they came for the same reasons a lot of people come today - economic opportunities. Because they came in the late 1800s (and were white and English), coming over jobless and settling in Belton was easy. And within a generation, there were family members starting their own businesses and hiring others. They couldn't have dome that if they were 'undocumented' thee way someone coming over the same way would be today.

Anonymous said...

@Grits regarding food prices.
As for buying American, wages are depressed across the board, and have been since about 1980. An increase in minimum wage would allow more people to be able to afford US goods. Henry Ford's true genius wasn't building cars, it was economics.

Ryan Paige said...

Well, raising the minimum wage is different than cutting off immigration and having the market dictate wages. In one case, the floor moves. In the other, wages are (theoretically) higher because the supply of labor is low.

Raising the minimum wage and supporting greater immigration are not mutually exclusive.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Ryan, I've never heard opponents of the minimum wage link their stance to cutting off immigration. They want businesses to be able to pay as low wages as the labor market will bear as a matter of principle. They'd pay Americans less if the law would let them. I only meant that thanks to the plight of undocumented workers, we can empirically see just what eliminating the minimum wage would look like. Not pretty.

Unknown said...

About half of all Texas construction workers are here's a great problem for Texas.Immediately we need to solve this problem.Thanks for this post. Texas jobs

Anonymous said...

They rely on illegals for construction because with the influx of illegals they require more housing. duh.