There’s no doubt that the migration debate and, of course, the economic issue and the ups and downs of the infrastructure package have captured everyone’s attention these past weeks, just like the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is another nagging issue that seems to be going unnoticed, even though it involves the three issues together. According to recent official statistics, the United States needs to fill 11 million vacant jobs in the labor market. Right now.
The data has been trickling out since July, when the Labor Department had to explain that despite the number of unemployed people, which reached 8.4 million, people have simply stopped looking for work.
The reasons are various, but experts agree that it is in large part due to the unemployment subsidies that have facilitated things for these millions of unemployed people, who have preferred to stay put and receive a moderately considerable check, waiting for a better opportunity to secure, in the middle or long term, a more dignified job, both in conditions and salary.
Meanwhile, business owners are beginning to go nuts looking for workers in order to avoid bankruptcy, follow through on commitments and contracts, as well as reactivate the economy at any price. It’s easy these days to read, see, or hear, for example, that large companies need to hire thousands of workers, offering them extraordinary facilities in which to develop a career, on top of bonuses and flexibility to continue their studies. For this end of year season, for example, Amazon is looking for 150,000 employees; Walmart the same, while Target and UPS want to hire 100,000 and FedEx 90,000.
But it happens that the response continues to be practically nothing.
Parallel to this imperious need the United States has regarding labor, at this time we are also witnessing the long-awaited immigration reform continuing to slip through our fingers, with increasingly flimsy debates, plans rejected by a legal advisor of the Senate, and an anguishing lack of clarity about what steps to take next.
The 11 million undocumented immigrants who still have hopes of obtaining something—curiously, the same number of jobs that need to be filled—continue on in their respective personal and family lives, surviving as they have had to for decades without failing in their financial commitments, and saving whatever is possible for the future. They, of course, don’t have the luxury of enjoying unemployment checks, nor changing jobs due to their lack of documents, and they have to subsist exactly where they are, even if it is the worst-paying job.
That is why in a crisis situation, pragmatism and common sense have to prevail. It’s already established that the labor market is volatile and employees have a right to look for better options. Who has historically filled the gaps left by an American workforce constantly moving and looking to climb the next rung on the job ladder? Well, no one other than the immigrant community. That’s how it has always been. So much so that the question is: how does the political class expect to resolve, once and for all, not only the migration problem but all of the losses caused by the pandemic, including the labor problems?
Undocumented workers—just like TPS and DACA beneficiaries—have more than proven the value that their participation has at times of most necessity. And there they remain, without going backwards, demonstrating how essential they are and have been in the history of labor in this nation. What better time to regularize their migration situation, especially when the labor market is suffering such a scandalous downturn as today.
Of course, it’s not so simple, but neither is it so complicated or impossible so as to not make the correct decision. Not only would the immediate employment crisis be resolved, but the migration status of millions would be as well, and the socio-economic situation would be automatically readjusted.
It must be said that the Senate Parliamentarian should focus more on the social, labor, and migratory reality of the United States than the bureaucratic and formal world of the rules of the legislative apparatus when she makes her decisions—decisions which, to this day, continue to hurt 11 million human beings. And, on the other hand, we cannot forget that another caravan of migrants is already on its way, who will surely become the next generation of undocumented people, if their members are able to enter U.S. territory.
On and on, ad infinitum, the system renews itself, we continue to count on this workforce, and legislation will remain in flux. Immigration reform is well worth those 11 million jobs.
To read the Spanish-language version of this article click here.