I am beginning to see a change on the street corners in and around San Diego, the places where the workers gather early every morning, sipping their hot coffee, watching each car closely, hoping the next will be the one that stops in search of cheap, back-breaking labor.
Yes, the workers are still there, but not as many as a few months ago. There is not much building happening in this part of the country, and nationwide. That explains some of the decrease, but there is more going on. As I, and many others, have noted, if the undocumented immigrants can’t work, they have no incentive to stay. Many of them are going home, and who can blame them? For most, it is much better to have no work in a country they love, buttressed by an extended family support-system, than in the cold norte, where they are barely tolerated and mostly invisible. Many are now preparing to leave on short notice, depending on when and what laws are passed in various states and the federal government. Arizona has already passed employer-sanction laws that will take effect in January, and many more states could follow if the laws produce the intended results. The feds will probably do nothing, as the U.S. Congress is comprised of mostly invertebrate wimps who do whatever the lobbyists demand. And for now the lobbyists represent big business, who want cheap labor. They’ll talk about a border fence and the need for comprehensive immigration reform, but they won’t do anything substantive. Any reform will come from the states, as Arizona has shown.
How this all eventually shakes out, I’m not sure anyone knows. The real estate meltdown in the U.S. might last a long time, and there won’t be much building, and no need for imported construction workers. Immigration has become the second most important issue for Americans (after Iraq) as we approach the next election. Most people, right, left and middle, want the rules to be clearly defined and the laws upheld. I sense that the majority of Americans understand that there are jobs that can best be filled by people from other countries, as we have for decades. Many Mexicans were brought across the border over 120 years ago to build the railroad tracks from the border to cities to the north. For many more years there was a guest-worker program that worked successfully for the agricultural business, although with many human-abuses that could be better monitored should something similar be enacted today. But nothing has compared to what has taken place in the past twenty years or so. And while the do-nothing lawmakers fiddle, everyone else is left in a static limbo. We all, on both sides of the border, deserve better. We need to elect visionaries to office who understand the issues, so that we can all attempt to follow the rules as both countries move forward for the betterment of their citizens.