Opportunity is knocking on our Southern border but, unfortunately, some Americans can’t see it. I am not suggesting we open borders. I am suggesting we open our minds.
When countries with strong economies acknowledge that immigrants are an affordable, reliable workforce capable of filling many basic job positions, everyone wins. At the beginning of the last century, dangerous jobs in the coal mines were filled by European immigrants. It was a win/win/win for America. Corporations were able to profit while keeping energy prices low and many immigrants were able to find hope for the future. In Canada, where over half the population has a college education, all kinds of service jobs were not being filled, so they opened their doors to Filipino immigrants. Germany recently took in refugees from North Africa because they anticipated a shortage of caregivers for their aging population. About 10% of the North African refugees were integrated into a few European countries.
We currently have a shortage of workers in many categories. A recent news report said a shortage of truck drivers is driving up prices. Like Germany, we have an aging population and, like Canada, more young people are getting a college education. Also, some local companies are offering $17 per hour for factory workers and are still not able to fill positions. Manufacturing will not stay here in America if we don’t have a labor force. Do you think we’re going to be able to rebuild our infrastructure without a labor force? In addition, the lack of skilled tradesman has enabled contractors to grossly overcharge for home improvements and urgent repairs.
Here, in the Winchester area, unemployment is typically about 3%, which essentially means anyone who wants to work has a job. So, the decisions we make today about immigrants will determine whether we have or can afford the services we need in the future.
The trumped-up language of hate and fear towards immigrants has been a distraction away from logical thinking and reasoning. Immigrants are hardworking people who just want a chance to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. The challenges they’ve encountered have instilled desirable work ethics and a deep appreciation for minimal opportunities. And with a small investment of equity, they can easily integrate into America, pay taxes, and contribute to the common good. Bringing more legal immigrants into our country is a wise win/win solution.
I believe a well-regulated vetting at embassies in Central America, specifically Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, could create a legal pathway to citizenship and eventually stop the border influx.
Ken Kovach is a resident of Frederick County.