I was sitting at a family friend’s house one day, when I heard the cry, “they’re taking our jobs!” Annoyed that once again I was the last person to hear family gossip, I immediately set out to find out who “they” were and whose jobs “they” were taking, and most importantly, if “they” were taking my job.
I approached the stressed gentleman who uttered the complaint, and gave him my heartfelt sympathies on his having become unemployed. He asked me what the hell I was talking about, so I asked for clarification about the scream.
It turns out that “they” means “immigrants” and us means “Americans.” I wasn’t sure what the hell he was talking about, so I went on to investigate.
Immigrants, of the undocumented variety, generally do a great deal of the labor that nobody else wants to do. Farm labor isn’t exactly the type of work that attracts résumés from American-born individuals.
After my extensive research (see: common sense), I returned to the distressed gentleman with the basic facts. Unless you are an unskilled or semiskilled laborer, undocumented immigrants are not competing with you for a job. He then issued another cry about the need to protect unskilled laborers from immigrants. I ended the conversation there, realizing that I just wasted precious days of my life talking to a xenophobe.
Look, unskilled and semiskilled labor isn’t just threatened by immigration, it’s threatened by the march of time itself. Last I checked, the cashiers at supermarkets across the country haven’t been replaced by immigrants; they’ve been replaced by machines. Don’t shake your first at our new residents because there are no longer milkmen and icemen. Shake your fist at your refrigerator.
For the person whose job is genuinely at risk because of competition from lower-paid immigrants (like construction workers), the hard truth is that you have to turn yourself into a skilled worker. Immigrants aren’t entering the skilled labor market in large numbers. Self-improvement is the key. Retool yourself with an education or training in an in-demand specialty, and watch yourself no longer feeling threatened by immigrants, time, efficiency or anything else.
If you happen to have a profession in a field that requires an education or specialization, and an immigrant still manages to take your job, well then maybe he or she earned it.