Hurricane Clean Up: Jobs for Americans

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

October 16, 2017
Hurrican Irma aftermath
Monster Storm Irma leaves devastation behind.
In the wake of the September Bureau of Labor Statistics report that showed a negative 33,000 plunge in new job creation, the news that illegal immigrants may be hired to do post-hurricane clean up in Texas and Florida is troubling for American construction workers. The House approved a $36 billion in hurricane disaster relief aid funding for Harvey, Irma and Maria victims. Lots of employment, presumably paying a relatively good wage as construction jobs often do, will open up, mainly in ravaged Texas and Florida.

Since young males, frequently minorities, do construction work, the relief funding should be a blessing for them. Unemployment rates in among the young male demographic is high.

The Center for Immigration Studies crunched the numbers and learned that large pools of would-be construction workers are available. In Texas and Florida, during the early part of 2017, only 72 percent of native-born men without a bachelor's degree ages 18 to 29 were in the labor force. Those percentages translate to 559,000 native-born unemployed Texas men with less that a college degree education in that age bracket, and 367,000 in Florida. Furthermore, CIS found there were also 79,000 less-educated unemployed immigrant men ages 18 to 29 not working in Texas, and in Florida, 49,000 were not working. Half of all Texas and Florida’s construction workers are U.S.-born which debunks the often-cited argument that Americans won’t do physically demanding jobs.

CIS based its research on the January to June 2000, 2007, and 2017 Current Population Survey’s (CPS) public-use files, represent six-month averages, and are collected by the Census Bureau.

Despite overwhelming evidence that an abundantly large American labor pool is available to help rebuild Texas and Florida, advocates insist that foreign-born labor is needed. From a National Guest Worker Alliance op-ed the Los Angeles Times published: “That means a severe demand for salvage and demolition crews, roofers, carpenters, drywall installers, painters, plumbers and workers in all manner of other trades and skills.” The column also called for a more immigrant labor and complete enforcement moratorium.

Blame employers for their long history of preferring cheaper, off the books immigrant labor that they can easily exploit. Don’t forget to fault Congress too for its stubborn refusal to pass mandatory E-Verify legislation which would give Americans and legal permanent resident aliens the first crack at jobs.

Go to the CAPS Action Alert page here, and urge your Senator to support S 179, the Accountability through Electronic Verification Act.
 
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