SIXTH COLUMN

"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

U.S. Firms Recruit Cheap Labor in Mexico


Pedro Lopez Vazuez crossed illegally into the United via a smuggler paid for by his employer according to this report:

His story is not unusual. A growing number of U.S. employers and migrants are tapping into an underground employment network that matches one with the other, often before the migrants leave home.


A true statement of the nature of the problem:

"It continues to become clear who controls immigration: It's not governments, but rather the market," said Jorge Santibanez, director of the Tijuana-based think-tank Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

As debate over immigration heats up in the United States, more and more U.S. companies in need of cheap labor are turning to undocumented employees to recruit friends and relatives back home, and to smugglers to find job seekers.

Darcy Tromanhauser, of the nonprofit law project Nebraska Appleseed, said companies in need of workers rely on the networks to "pass along the information more effectively than billboards."

"It started out more explicitly, where (meatpacking) companies used to have buses to transport people to come up, and they would advertise directly in Mexico," she said. "Now I think that happens more informally."

At the same time, it has become less risky for companies to recruit illegal migrants. Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, U.S. prosecution of employers who hire such workers has dwindled to a trickle as the government puts its resources toward national security.

The few cases that are prosecuted, however, highlight how lucrative a business recruiting undocumented workers has become. In one case, a single smuggler allegedly earned $900,000 over 15 months placing 6,000 migrants in jobs at Chinese restaurants across the upper Midwest.


And they aren't all from Mexico:

Yu sent a recruiter with Spanish interpreters to find migrants in Dallas willing to be fry cooks and dishwashers, Hilzendager said. A team made up mostly of illegal Chinese immigrants rented cars and drove them up.

Yu allegedly charged a $150 finder's fee for each migrant while the drivers earned $300 per worker. Restaurant owners deducted the $450 from workers' first-month paychecks of $1,000.

"It was just so easy," Hilzendager said.

Nick Chase, assistant U.S. attorney in North Dakota, said Yu even offered to replace workers free of charge if one left within two weeks of starting.

"It was a 2-for-1 special — like a pizza," Chase said. "Everything about it was ugly."


According to a report of the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, after the September 11 attacks, work site inspections by U.S. immigration officials plummeted as they focused on national security cases. Anecdotal reports by individuals reflects that most investigative energy is also channeled to national security cases.

Cheap labor is both good and bad for the nation. Prices are kept down and some very needy people from abroad are given employment. These are tough and, often very smart, but uneducated people that are doing some jobs that most Americans wouldn't want at a very low wage. But they are also taking other jobs as well.

Once these were jobs for high school and college students attempting to pay their way. In today's market we find many idle young people adrift, standing on corners, at play, alienated, feeling useless, unable to find employment.

Employers complain that immigrants are more steady and more dependable as workers. Probably true, but how are America's youth to learn a work ethic as jobs once they would fill are now given over to immigrant laborers? America's unskilled and uneducated are also denied jobs in the niches they once filled as day laborers.

Cheap labor may be good for business, but the unintended social consequences certainly are questionable for the nation.

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