Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The immigration paradox: essential but unwanted - latimes.com

The immigration paradox: essential but unwanted - latimes.com

When it comes to illegal immigration, nobody seems to take responsibility, and we are all, through action or inaction, complicit.

It should be no surprise that illegal immigration is one of the primary means by which the U.S. economy gains access to low-skilled, low-cost labor. As the share of low-skilled native-born Americans falls — in 1960 half of U.S.-born working-age adults had not completed high school, compared with 8% today — employers have become ever more dependent on illegal immigration as a steady source of cheap labor.

Some sectors are more dependent than others. According to a 2009 study by the Pew Hispanic Center, 40% of the nation's brickmasons, 37% of drywall installers, 28% of dishwashers, 27% of maids and housekeepers, and 21% of parking-lot attendants are undocumented. In California, those percentages are likely to be higher. A 2006 survey by the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that a majority of California's farmworkers have no papers.

So whatever your feelings about illegal immigration, if you eat vegetables, enjoy restaurants, reside in a house built in the last 30 years or ever let a valet park your car, the chances are you're implicated in the hypocritical politics that allows 7 million to 8 million people to work illegally in the country.

Why don't these immigrants come here legally? Because the U.S. grants only about 150,000 visas annually for temporary low-skilled laborers, a paltry percentage of the number of such workers that the economy easily absorbs yearly.

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