Skip to comments.Chicken Plants, High-Tech Visas And The Immigration Dilemma
Posted on 05/28/2014 4:56:17 AM PDT by Kaslin
Haley Barbour, former governor of Mississippi, former head of the Republican National Committee, now a political fixer and influential voice in GOP circles, says he first became seriously interested in immigration policy after Hurricane Katrina.
Thousands of homes in Mississippi were destroyed, "down to the slab," Barbour said at a recent conference on immigration hosted by National Journal in Washington. Construction workers were overwhelmed; many were homeless themselves. And then, almost out of nowhere, came help.
"We were blessed with a huge influx of Spanish speakers, and I'm sure a lot of them weren't in this country legally," Barbour said. "I don't know where we would be in Mississippi if they had not come."
The "Spanish speakers" were willing to live in terrible conditions while at work building new homes. The experience led Barbour -- who favors raising the number of high-skilled immigrants admitted to the United States -- to realize that "there is also essential lesser-skilled labor that we need."
The National Journal panel reflected much of the discussion about immigration reform. Of eight speakers, Republicans and Democrats, seven favored comprehensive reform along the lines of the Senate "Gang of Eight" bill. That's what passes for balance in Washington today.
The level of agreement was so high that some pronounced the immigration policy debate to be "over." All that is left is for lawmakers to find a political agreement to enact universally accepted principles.
That view, it turned out, was too much even for a former member of the Obama administration's economic team who supports reform. "There are a lot of people who believe ... that immigrant competition has hurt them in the economy," said Jared Bernstein, once an economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. "We can't leave those people out of this debate because (the Congressional Budget Office) and lots of other economic analysis, including much of my own, has found otherwise. The policy debate is far from over."
Much of the discussion focused on skilled workers -- immigrants in the so-called H-1B and STEM categories, whose numbers Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other tech titans would like to increase. It's a given among reformers that the U.S. needs to admit more of them, but Bernstein reminded the panelists that there remains a lot of slack in the American labor market.
"When you look at the skills shortage -- quote -- carefully, what you find is a lot of employers saying, 'I can't find the workers I need,'" Bernstein noted, "and what they're not saying is, 'at the wage I'd like to pay them.'"
It was a remarkable bit of candor in the like-minded group. But the real candor came from Barbour, who was quite open in his belief that the country needs more low-skilled workers to do awful jobs for low wages.
"If you go in a chicken processing plant in Mississippi, there's nobody in there who speaks English," Barbour said. (Poultry is his state's biggest agricultural industry.) "There is a very loud radio hanging from somewhere playing Spanish-language music. And this is hard, dirty ... work."
In fact, Barbour said, even prisoners in Mississippi's work-release program stay away from the chicken plants. "We have never had an inmate make it two days in a chicken processing plant," Barbour said. "They'd rather be in prison, literally, then work in a chicken processing plant."
"I am not very sympathetic to the idea that we're taking these jobs away from Americans," Barbour concluded.
Speaking after Barbour, Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies -- the only participant who opposed reform -- raised a critical objection. Why don't some of the agricultural interests that Barbour mentioned, the ones that need so many low-skill workers, modernize instead? With more mechanization, they'd need far fewer workers.
"I've been to chicken plants, in Delaware, and most of the people there are Americans," Krikorian said. "It's not a horrible, filthy place to work ... much of it is actually automated."
American agriculture could adopt new technology rather than focusing solely on immigrant workers, Krikorian argued. "When you have unending sources of low-skill foreign labor, the incentive to automate is weaker."
The discussion reflected a core reality of the immigration debate. The elites of both political parties support reform. But even so, there are a few voices -- not just Krikorian, but Bernstein, too -- to remind them of the costs involved.
"Those of us who support comprehensive reform," Bernstein cautioned, "if we don't listen more carefully to those on the other side, who believe that immigrant competition hurts them, regardless of what the studies say, we're going to miss the boat and we're not going to get this right."
The only reason those “Spanish speakers” were able to be the construction saviors described here is because the government was doing everything it could to obstruct all the legitimate contractors who were trying to get in to the area to help. Being illegal, these guys were able to swell the ranks of the few local contractors and get the job done, while bypassing all the nonsense being piled on the out-of-staters.
The GOP will be signing it's own death warrant with amnesty.
Hey, Haley, you pay enough and you’ll have Americans working in those chicken plants, and conditions will be be better for the workers too, because they won’t have any fear of being deported if they complain.
Not that illegal immigrants have much need to fear being deported. However, if they rose up, unionized, and started making demands on the corporations that employ them, somehow, it seems that Big Business’s love of the illegal would fade out.
Supply and demand, Haley baby. Econ 101.
Government prefers to keep African-Americans out of the work force and to supply major contributors with trainable, more docile, illegal immigrants. Hopefully within my lifetime, African-Americans will notice this, especially those serving on the Congressional Black Caucus.
"Spanish Speaking Low-Skill Workers" were needed in NOLA ... when half the black people there don't work? Haley, have another mint julep and STFU.
Forget the out-of-staters. How about all those unemployed men who were ‘victims’ of Katrina?
Could they not have done the work that the Spanish speakers did, whether they were camped outdoors, living in trailers, or whatever for a few months?
"Immigration reform" isn't intended to bring cheap labor into this country. It's aimed at bringing a new generation of consumers here -- which is why the automation argument doesn't hold any water in this debate.
Gee, Barbour, do you suppose temporary work permits might have done the same thing? When we were in the Kobe earthquake of 1995, that is what the Japanese government did. There was no immigration category for construction workers. The Kobe area was seriously short on construction workers to rebuild. The Japanese construction companies needed construction workers and volia! Hundreds of mostly American and Australian construction workers suddenly came to the rescue on cultural visas.
They lived in tents mostly, did a nice job, didn't demand public services and went home when the job was done. Yeah, the cultural visa thing was a little bit of a stretch, but their temporary employers pointed out that their workers got cross-trained in the different construction techniques and the Kobe area got better housing as a result.
The tightwads will bury us.
For insight into rapacious businessmen, pols like Barbour, their love for illegals, and your food, just put ‘Jack Decoster’ into a search engine!
After he escaped and fled to New England, he worked as a laborer in the shipbuilding industry. One of the things that struck him at the time was that slavery was a crippling institution in the South even for the slave owners. This was because he and the other laborers who toiled in these difficult jobs -- many of them former slaves like himself -- had a better standard of living than their slave masters in the South.
Haley, please immigration reform is needed if we want to keep America the country we are. Strengthen the borders and deport the ILLEGALS!
In Econ 101, when you study supply an demand, you also study elasticity and inelasticity. In certain situations demand may rise in the form of higher wages but the supply is inelastic so it doesn't grow.
The labor supply has a degree of inelasticity because it takes 20 years to produce a new worker.
And sometimes supply may increase not within the market, but outside the market. We might be able to get that chicken cheaper by importing it from Mexico or China. Or, I don't want to pay that price for chicken so I substitute tuna. Or, the chicken processor facing tight labor supplies will respond by not trying to produce more product(birds) but by producing more valued added product such as a cooked bird so he can make more money per bird.
Looking at the CIA factbook stats we have a birth rate 13.42 per 1000 and an immigration rate of 2.45 per 1000 and when you subtract out the death rate we end up with a population growth rate of 0.77% per year. But each year the median age of the workforce increases
I worked post Katrina Const. the employment office was the Home Depot. prob 40 to 50 always there. All Mexicans.
So, effing RINO Hayley Barbour is willing to give away my country’s sovereignty because Mississippi got some houses rebuilt after Katrina. Well, just frigging hunky dory.
How many rapists, criminals, disease factories, drunk drivers, baby factories that load up our school with “Spanish Speakers”, use our hospitals for free, overload our social and financial support systems, and on and on did that get us, Haley? How many? Too damned many you traitor!
They are going to give us nothing but 2nd and 3rd generation “Spanish Speaker” children whom they will have taught to hate this country of Gringos and to use it, not paying back one damned dime.
These carpet mills, chicken plants, agribusinesses, fast food joints, construction industry, et al are in for a very rude awakening when they’ve finally won their goal of getting a cheap and pliable foreign work source.
They’ll be Citizen Reconquista who will be intimately knowledgeable about unions, work laws and BENEFITS.
You all like them now because you have their illegality to hold over them; you won’t have that when the RINOs you’ve sponsored and the Democrats you’ve bought give them citizenship. You are all fools on a ship of fools.
The reason these builders and others want illegals is because they can pay them squat, no benefits and treat them like carpola and they cannot complain.
We have a gazillion chicken plants in GA and plenty of people who need work. Haley Barbour is a GOP progressive tool.
But my preferred arrangement was to use the customer's employees and I would provide supervision, tools, and ladders. Those customers with illegal employees would often chose this arrangement so I've done my share of that.
Here I was doing it the hard way! Buying chicks.
I didn’t know you could grow them on plants!
Then prison conditions are too good.