There are 60,000 job openings in the Dakotas. Employers are begging for workers and businesses have closed for lack of them. But those jobs won't be filled anytime soon. North Dakota's unemployment rate is 4%, South Dakota's a mere 2.8%.
There simply aren't enough able bodies out there.
I'm no economist, but I play one in the newspaper, and it seems to me that matching willing workers with job openings is a good solution. Every day thousands of immigrants are rounded up at the border. Some of them, I presume, are good workers.
For decades, I've advocated immigration as a solution to disinterested fifth-generation immigrants whose ancestors were welcomed with a quarter of land and a shot at the American dream. Now, these beneficiaries of that policy view immigration as a threat. I was reminded of those fruitless conversations by columnist Mike Jacobs' recent summation of the issue: “The way to fill American jobs is to welcome immigrants and to train them for jobs here.”
Instead, the Dakotas are sending National Guard troops south to keep shooting ourselves in the foot. We could be helping ourselves and others at the same time. Instead, we get political puffery.
No one's denying the situation's difficult. We lack manpower and judges to process and vet people desperate to improve, and in many cases save their lives from corrupt, dysfunctional governments. America has its fingerprints all over the crime scene with a history of supporting dictators, staging coups, and walking away when it gets too messy.
The United Fruit Company turned Honduras into the original banana republic through de-facto corporate governance. It remains among the most corrupt and violent countries in the world. America occupied Nicaragua from 1912-1933 and continued to intervene when the Reagan Administration sold arms to Iran to fund the bloody right-wing Contras. Now, the socialist Sandinistas have become as brutal as those they opposed. In famine-plagued Guatemala, where many of the refugees originate, the CIA orchestrated a coup in 1954 of a democratically-elected government, leading to insurgencies and mass murder.
The refugees are coming home to roost.
There are always growing pains. Immigrants bring with them families who may not speak English, which was the case with German, Norwegian, and Swedish immigrants. Many of us remember great-grandparents who barely spoke English at all. It wasn't insurmountable. We adapted, they adapted. They contributed to their communities. They paid taxes.
We're all beneficiaries of immigration. This generation of immigrants pick our produce, clean our homes and hotels, build our homes and roads, and milk our cows. Got milk? Thank an immigrant. Many of them will create businesses and more American jobs just as previous generations of immigrants did.
However, largely because of racist-fueled political rhetoric — they're coming for our jobs and our welfare (free land?), and seriously, how can they do both — many Americans have lost sight of our history and our legacy. Ironically, when ICE deports “illegals” they often drag them off the job at a packing plant.
The great American melting pot is melting down because we've forgotten who we were and always promised to be. We can blame government, but politics and politicians won't change until our national mindset does. Until we open our minds and our arms once again. Until we make them change.
Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of this publication, nor Forum Communications ownership.