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Jobs Week for Mexico

Jul
8
2008

It’s “Jobs Week” in the John McCain for President campaign, focusing on policies that will help create jobs in the American economy. Keep taxes low, balance the Federal budget, making health care more affordable and establishing energy independence will help create jobs, according to the GOP Presidential contender.

But the bad feelings between McCain campaign and the Republican party’s more conservative supporters over the nominees outspoken moderation on immigration is clouding the discussion. At the heart of the jobs debate, is the question of immigration. Unlike during past recessions, when immigrants were blamed for coming here and stealing American jobs few people are making that argument. Instead, the consensus seems to be that the immigrants who are here are working jobs in America, but they aren’t necessarily taking American jobs.

In fact, the first question any uninterested observer should ask about the American economy is, why create jobs if we are importing labor? Because we are doing just that. America is importing labor when we outsource jobs to India or China. We import labor when we hire illegal immigrants to cook our food and clean our toilets. These are all jobs Americans could do, but even with unemployment increasing by the tens-of-thousands, we’re not.

Before my brother and his family stayed in my apartment a couple weeks ago, I tried hiring some help to clean the place up. I asked many of my friends for referrals, and they extolled the virtues of Google Language Tools when dealing with their maids. But when one question came up – does he or she have the right to legally work in the United States? – the silence was deafening.

I went the safe route and hired a service, so they would have all the employer liability, but even then, only one of the three team members spoke English. Clearly the 6.8% of California workers on the unemployment list have not been looking for work cleaning toilets in West Hollywood.

But as John McCain revises his position on immigration as quickly as Barack Obama decides to look at the facts on the ground into consideration when he decides what to do in Iraq, one angle to the immigration debate gets left out. More than securing our borders and offering amnesty to undocumented immigrants, the best way to solve the problems at America’s southern border is to create jobs…Mexican jobs.

While it is unadvisable to make sweeping statements about millions of people at once, it seems clear that the reason for the large numbers of undocumented workers in America is for better economic opportunities. And when “economic opportunity” means being a dishwasher or line cook, you know that things must be bad back home. And if they hated their families enough to get away from them by heading north, then why keep sending money back?

Unfortunately, on the campaign trail, the position of creating jobs in Mexico is not much of a winner if you’re running for President of the United States. Instead, it is being danced around, referred to as part of more general discussions of trade issues and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Senator McCain is an ardent supporter of NAFTA and all free trade. Conversely, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama caused a stir back in February when he said that NAFTA, “ships jobs overseas and force parents to compete with teenagers for minimum wage at Wal-Mart,” and that he wanted to renegotiate the 1993 deal. .

Closing America’s border to free trade, however, would probably create a giant sucking sound of immigrants coming north as lost jobs in maquiladoras make the perceived economic opportunity of minimum wage jobs in America even greater, especially if President Obama increases the minimum wage, to boot!

On the other hand, Republican John McCain has gone out on a limb and embraced free trade with the same fervor that he has embraced the equally popular Iraq War. It’s dangerous politically, but smart as a policy. Keeping free trade with Mexico creates jobs south of the border producing everything from tomatoes to Volkswagens.

Only if the opportunity gap between Mexico and the United States can be closed will illegal immigration cease to be an issue. We can close that gap by tearing down America’s economy, or by helping build Mexico’s economy and creating Mexican jobs. I’d hope we can all agree on the latter.

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 9:28 AM | Permalink

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