January 15, 2004,
The case for President Bush's guest-worker amnesty program warns me that frigid weather won't be the only unpleasantness I will be dealing with when I head to Iowa and New Hampshire over the next week. There obviously aren't enough illegal immigrants in either state to "take the jobs that Americans refuse." I expect that the local custom is to bus one's own dishes at restaurants and change the sheets when you check into the hotel. These states must face alarming shortages in childcare, abandoned construction sites, and empty shelves at their Wal-Marts. A summer visit would apparently reveal neglected lawns.
The concentration of unskilled illegal workers in a minority of states refutes the argument that large numbers of them are crucial if certain jobs are going to get done. Who makes up the unskilled labor pool in the majority of our states?
According to the 2000 census, 87 percent of illegal immigrants are in 15 states, with about 80 percent in only 10 states. California ranks number one. About 6.5 percent of its total population of 33.9 million is estimated to be illegal aliens. Texas, New York, Illinois, and Florida rank in the top five states. But, 40 states have relatively insignificant illegal-immigrant populations.
Californians (with over 30 percent of all illegal aliens), Texans, (with 15 percent) and New Yorkers (with 7 percent) might understandably wonder who will take undesirable jobs if a willing pool of illegal aliens weren't available. They should check with Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, or any one of the majority of states to see how they cope.
Employers in states that don't have a significant illegal-immigrant population to exploit pay fair wages and provide the best possible work conditions in order to attract willing legal workers. The situation in a large majority of our states indicates that there are very few jobs that Americans won't do.