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Are Immigrants Really Taking Our Jobs?

Are Immigrants Really Taking Our Jobs?

I was blest to be raised by parents who understood the value of a good education. My father could neither read nor write. I remember watching him sign an X when he was asked for his signature. Later, I witnessed him sign his name. I do not know who taught him, but I have often wondered.


 
USDA photo by Bob Nichols

USDA photo by Bob Nichols

 
 

“My parents never had the opportunity to get an education.”

My mother on the other hand completed third grade.  I often saw her reading her prayer book or the local paper.  My mother made sure we went to school and we only stayed home when we were sick. While raising her 12 kids, my mother worked as a dish washer. As I reflect on this, I find it amazing.   Most parents today have one or two kids and are overwhelmed.  My father usually had two or three jobs at a time in order to feed the family.  The older kids aged 15 years and above, also had jobs and contributed to the family.

 

My parents never had the opportunity to get an education.  They made sure we got an education so we could have more opportunities than they had.  When I hear people say that immigrants are taking American jobs, I wonder what jobs they are talking about.  Even though my parents did not have an education, they never wished that I would be a dishwasher, clean rooms in a motel, work in fast food, work as a laborer, pick fruit and vegetables etc. for the rest of my life.  When I hear people say that immigrants are taking American jobs, I wonder, who are the American parents who want to see their children in a career as a dish washer, laborer in fields picking fruits and vegetables, clean motel rooms, etc.  Americans can receive a free education and there are many opportunities for graduate and post graduate learning. 

The issue that American parents should be concerned with is the availability of opportunities for high paying jobs for their children. There are many opportunities to seek well paying jobs in the trades sector.  There was a time when higher education was affordable and when apprenticeship programs were available.  Today, many apprenticeship programs have disappeared.   Immigrants have learned trades and work as licensed tradesmen under a licensed journeyman thereby increasing the income for that contractor.  The lack of apprenticeship programs is creating a shortage of skilled labor in the future.  Most immigrants are taking the low paying jobs that require little to no education.  Is this what American parents want for their children when they complain that immigrants are taking American jobs? If this is what American parents are concerned about, they sure have very low expectations for their children.  They also don’t want to see their children have a better life.

Being concerned about low paying jobs is only a political distraction that does not benefit anyone but the politician.   What American parents should be concerned about are the many high paying jobs that are being filled by foreign laborers because there are not enough educated Americans filling these positions.  American parents should be more concerned about producing more opportunities for home grown doctors, engineers, architects, electricians, plumbers, nurses etc., rather than being concerned about low paying jobs.   In the past most high skilled jobs were filled by Americans of all ethnicities.  Today many high skilled jobs are being filled by highly educated foreigners rather than by home grown skilled labor.  If America is to remain a leader in the world it needs to put education as a priority for all its citizens and make higher education affordable.   For example, America should provide free higher education for low income students who show high academic achievement.  Changing our view on which jobs Americans are willing to forego and which jobs we want Americans trained in allows America to continue to be the country of opportunity and prosperity.   

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