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A match made in the USA: Unemployment and immigration

Faith Myers,Dorrance Collins

America has a history of encouraging illegal immigration, then providing amnesty. There are short-term economic benefits when an industrialized nation imports a large number of low paid workers, and the practice has brought incredible wealth to some families and re-elected many a politician.

Taking inflation into account, each additional wave of immigrants (10 or 15 million) will work for less money than the last. For the millions of displaced workers who will not or cannot work for less money and pay the bills, going on welfare becomes a viable option.

It is Congress that has the power to change laws and rules concerning the export of jobs and the import of labor into America. In any given year, there are 100 or so Captains of Industry roaming the halls of Congress, buying and selling labor. It is all about business and money; Ayn Rand would be proud of a rudderless society that appears to base everything good on successful commerce.

The buying and selling of labor is not without its consequences. When a business owner moves a business overseas to take advantage of cheap labor, the business owner makes more money. Less obvious is what happens to displaced workers -- shoe factories closing, moving to Thailand, woolen mills, clothing manufacturers -- there is a long list of factory jobs that have moved overseas. And now there is a decline of factory jobs in America, jobs that only required a high school education or less, factory jobs that in the past helped individuals buy a house or an automobile. The displaced workers move into service jobs where the pay and standard of living is often less. The percentage of displaced workers whose standard of living is reduced is not insignificant. And to add insult to injury, displaced workers often find themselves competing with an influx of immigrants who will work for less money.

Representative Don Young, Alaska’s representative in the U.S. House, used a derogatory term to describe individuals in America illegally. The national news outlets had a field day. “Rep. Don Young makes derogatory statement.” But to us the news outlets missed an important issue. In a March 2013 interview Rep. Young described how he and his family used to hire illegal immigrants to pick their tomatoes at lower wages than normal (our assessment).

There is nothing morally correct or just about an industrial nation that floods the market with low skilled workers so millionaires can buy a head of lettuce for a dollar. We always examine the motivation of individuals and organizations that stand up and shout the loudest to increase the number of low skilled workers into America; people who want a nanny cheap, someone to cut their grass, clean their houses or to increase their sphere of influence.

America used to celebrate its people who worked at labor jobs in song and folklore; but not lately. In the early 1970’s, Adak, Alaska -- a seafood processing ship in Finger Bay -- most of the workers were out of California -- they were being mistreated so they called their union to complain. Come to find out the union phone number and the seafood company’s business phone number were one and the same.

In the early 1970’s, Kodiak, Alaska -- cannery row -- fourteen seafood processing plants operating almost 24 hours a day -- they needed every worker they could get their hands on. It was almost a bidding war on how much the processing plants were paying workers. Workers were treated well; free coffee and donuts for everyone.

Pretty simple conclusion -- flood the market with workers and they will not be treated very well. Owners of seafood companies, farmers or their lobbyists are still roaming the halls of Congress to bring in more people. If companies paid a decent wage they would find plenty of workers in America.

Faith Myers and Dorrance Collins are mental health advocates who live in Anchorage.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.