The immigration crisis in the U.S. could significantly contribute to the economy and bring manufacturing back. I spend some time asking myself- what is the problem with this whole immigration dilemma? It is one of the ongoing and never-ending topics in our political discourse that could be resolved through a better understanding of the origin of the issue, the actual needs and objectives of the immigrants, and the ultimate goal. For a sustainable and permanent solution to this ongoing debate, it is essential and crucial for leaders to consider all aspects of immigration. As most immigrants on the southern border flee disastrous conditions in their respective countries, did anyone spend time understanding what the immigrants want out of resettlement?
From personal experience, I fled Sierra Leone at 14. I became an immigrant refugee here in the US following a brutal and deadly civil war that ended with the death and displacement of many friends and family members. This was a similar story for Alusine, a friend I met in Guinea while awaiting processing and approval of my refugee application to the US, and countless others who fled civil wars and horrific conditions or the possibility of death in their respective countries. Marco, an Uber driver from Guatemala, cited similar stories and experiences about political and gang violence in his country, a contributing factor to why he had to immigrate to the US.
This appears to be a similar story for many of the arrivals at the southern border; the need to find a better and safer life, work, and create a more prospering opportunity for their families. There is this constant debate over a pathway or citizenship status. Still, I think that we as a society need to stop fighting over pathways and understand that most of the immigrants entering the US want an opportunity to work, get paid, and support their families here and across the border, visit a local restaurant or beach, drive a car they can afford, and live a simple life within their means.
What’s the debacle about? Being a refugee immigrant, I have had these conversations with multiple foreigners like myself, and their objectives are quite as simple as stated above. Throughout my 23 years of living here in the US and speaking with many immigrants, I have never heard of one who came to the US because they wanted Social Security, Medicare, a US passport, or anything to which a US citizen would be entitled. Per population, a small amount Americans are interested in the jobs that the immigrants fulfill, but yet many of our comforts rely on the very hard of the immigrants- -the farms, the groceries, many of our cleaning services, the back end of our local restaurants, and many of the lower paying, hard labor intensive jobs that many of our neighbors and friends would opt not to do. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, foreign-born men participated in the labor force at a higher rate than their native-born counterparts, at 77.4% to 66% in 2022.
Let’s not forget the clinicians, surgeons, tech entrepreneurs, etc. The Department of Agriculture reported that over 50% of laborers and graders are of foreign origin, especially from the southern border. Agriculture is one of many industries in which immigrants significantly contribute to supplying the demands of the everyday American consumer. It appears that a constructive conversation about how we could enhance these opportunities is consistently refueling the grocery store aisles, fulfilling the consumer’s needs.
Let’s get to the point, and here is a solution to the problem. Immigrants have always greatly contributed to the American economy and could even make a greater impact today. Amongst many reasons, large manufacturing companies tend to export jobs to keep their profit margins. Some insinuate that they cannot afford the average American worker. Some of these reasons may have contributed mainly to the export of jobs to countries like China; lower wages and tax rates have helped keep the cost of production down, hence being known as “the world’s factory.”
Immigration Services must create orderly and speedy access for immigrants entering the US and working in a safe environment for reasonable wages. This means that a background check and other verification systems would need to be completed to gain access and the ability to be amongst the public and be granted permission to work in the U.S. A system of communication would need to be established between Immigration services and employers to ensure safety and acceptable workplace standards for all. Upon approval to enter the U.S., once the appropriate system checks are completed, a permit-to-work identification card would be given to the immigrant.
Immigrants can create the workforce needed for many mighty companies to bring jobs to the US because the workforce willing to accommodate the wages will be readily available. The employer would demand a temporary housing accommodation, and the worker would pay back approximately 20-30% of their income towards housing and accommodation. This would alleviate local governmental agencies from carrying the financial burden when cities are unprepared for the influx of immigrants. In addition, taxes from all the wages will fund the federal government and the entitlements we are all worried may be depleting. Many higher-skilled jobs will be available to others in our neighborhoods, and communities will continue growing and flourishing. Some of the dilapidated towns and cities across America would benefit from the economic shift, and it is simply a win/win.
There are many more layers to immigration issues, some of which we would rather sweep under the rug, but this could be a great start to creating an opportunity, allowing immigrants to work under a work -permit Identification card, bringing manufacturing back, fund entitlements, build our run-down communities, create jobs and opportunities for everyday Americans, and put and get some reasonable solutions to the immigration crisis.
Like most potentially controversial proposals, we can not ignore the potential challenges this may encounter. The state of political gridlock in our society may bring effective blockades to accomplishing anything of this magnitude. With exercising some faith in our system, I would like to think that All Americans, whether on the left, center, or rights of the political aisle, would want to see success and growth in bringing back manufacturing, creating jobs, reducing dependency on Medicaid and other subsidized government programs, building back deserted and dilapidated communities, and ultimately be able to measure success through economic growth. What about the potential for abuse of the workforce and horrific sweatshop-type conditions? My question would be, What about it?
Unlike many nations worldwide, the U.S. already has robust regulations and agencies to monitor and respond to occupational safety and hazardous conditions. The plants would be required to adhere to all OSHA standards and all other federal or local regulations and requirements needed to operate within the U.S. Over my 15 years in Healthcare; I have come to learn and implement the overwhelming regulations that are in place to protect our healthcare communities, workers, and patient population. In other words, if a Chinese company operated a healthcare facility in the U.S., it would be bound by the Federal, State, and local regulations of C.M.S. and the Department of Health. The expectations would be similar for any company that may want to bring back it’s manufacturing to the United States.
Create a pathway for workmanship, bring back manufacturing, create jobs and opportunities, build back communities, fund entitlements, reduce dependency on Medicaid, State, and Federal programs, and infuse success in the American economy.
Daniel Samai, a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator (LNHA) and refugee immigrant citizen, offers unique insights into immigration, workforce dynamics, and the American economy.