Subsidize Another Country, or Fortify the Constitutional Fiber of the Young?
Perhaps it will serve to advance the conversation about immigration if we’re explicit about the choices that we face. To that end:
Carlos Avila Sandoval, the Guatemalan consul general for New England, said his countrymen come to the United States to escape the grinding poverty and a long legacy of violence and political instability at home.
“If you have no food to put on the table, and 10 or 12 children to feed … it’s better for you to go to the United States than to go down to the plantations, and cut sugar cane or pick coffee beans until you die,” he said. The money that Guatemalan immigrants make in the United States, he said, can provide a vital boost to the economy in their native country. …
Of particular interest to the Newport hospitality industry is the number of seasonal workers with H-2B visas allowed into the country this year. Congress put a cap of 66,000 on the number of H-2B visas allowed, but an exemption in place since 2004 has allowed seasonal workers who had previously held the visas to return and not count against the limit. But that exemption has expired, and so far Congress has not renewed it. …
[Keith Stokes, executive director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce,] who estimated that Newport gets 3.5 million visitors each year, said the community has been using “guest workers” since 1794, and emphasized that foreign-born employees do not take jobs away from Rhode Islanders. “We don’t do this [seeking foreign workers] to keep people out of work here,” said Tracy Troiano, human resources director for the Hyatt Regency Newport. “If we could hire locally, we would.”
And why can’t they? I’d argue that, in simplified summary, the reason is that local workers (whether they be teenagers or low-skilled adults) would demand too much remuneration to fill the needed roles, and the cost of doing business is already too high for businesses to meet the employee market demand. If that’s the case, then the use of immigrants is not only an economic subsidy to a foreign nation, it’s also a release valve for pressure to reform government policies and social indolence.
If the hospitality industry really wanted to emphasize local hires, it would lobby to ease costs and regulations that prevent it from increasing salaries and would come up with creative ways to market job openings to Rhode Islanders, especially the young. Both efforts would bring with them economic and social benefits to the state far beyond the immediate boon of that fortified pay scale.