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The push and pull of immigration

    Alright, it looks like the Federal Reserve and the housing industry has done what the Bush administration (or the Clinton administration for that matter) has not been able to do over the last decade – reduce immigration.
    According to a report by Breitbart.com, Mexicans are beginning to return home because they are finding more opportunities for employment in Mexico than they are currently able to find in the United States. To support this report, the Mexican consulates in Dallas, Phoenix, Chicago and other cities have all reported a dramatic increase in the number of immigrants requesting transfer documents to enroll their children in Mexican schools.
    Granted, part of the reason for this shift is that U.S. employers are increasingly wary of hiring undocumented workers. On the other hand, the larger force of change is that the industry that most frequently hired illegal immigrants – construction – is in a severe slow-down here in the United States.
    The reasons immigrants initially come to this country are as varied as the immigrants themselves, but can typically be put into one of two categories historians often use to describe the driving external forces of immigration — push and pull. Let’s start with push.
    Realistically, most people don’t want to leave their homes and venture into a foreign territory in search of prosperity. We like to stay close to home and what we know. Often times, however, a family is forced to leave because the repressive environment or failing economy in their own country makes it difficult or impossible to earn a living.
    After all, if you couldn’t feed your family in Statesboro or Georgia, but there was good opportunity in another state, what would you do?
    In the case of Mexico and South America, their economies were soft for a number of years such that the poor economic conditions there pushed people into the more prosperous United States.
    On the other hand, America also pulls immigrants into this country. With our increasingly aging population as well as a citizenry that continues to shy away from physical labor, we simply need laborers. Landscaping, food service, construction, hospitality — you name it, we needed the workers. Couple that with the unfortunate fact of life that some Americans are simply happier to accept government assistance instead of working minimum or near-minimum wage jobs and it’s easy to see from where the demand comes.
    Of course, now that the American economy is slipping and U.S. citizens are cutting back on products and services, the pull of immigration is weaker than it was just a few months ago. Hence, time to go back to the homeland.
    So, let me say thank you to all the Mexicans and other immigrants who came up here and risked being corralled by the law just to go to work and make a better life for their families. You have built much of the housing and infrastructure over the past five to ten years. Without you guys, we wouldn’t have had enough framers, concrete workers and brick layers.
    In fact, without you guys putting downward pressure on manual labor wages, we might have seen an even higher spike in housing prices and a correspondingly larger fall from the top. Because labor makes up such a large portion of the cost of construction — particularly in the residential sector — competitive wages helped let a little of the air out of the bubble.
    So, where do we go from here?
    Well, the economy will eventually rebound and our senior citizen numbers will continue to grow, so demand for labor will also eventually rebound. As a result, we need to make some fundamental changes to the way we think about immigration.
    Most importantly, we need to streamline the immigration and naturalization process. With coyotes (people who shuttle immigrants) getting hundreds of dollars to bring an individual across the border, U.S. officials should collect that money and give immigrants a work card similar to the way Europe operates. That way, immigrants get the benefit of employment and the U.S. can replenish its labor class.
    It certainly beats spending millions of dollars on the "Cortina de hierro."
    Phil Boyum wants you hombres and mujers to know he can be reached at (912) 489-9454 or by e-mail at pboyum@statesboroherald.com.

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