Surely you’re seeing the same signs in your town as in mine. They’re everywhere: grocery stores, fast food places, delivery firms, big box retailers, landscapers, distribution centers. Now for some statistical signs of the times: record low 300,000 unemployment claims filed last month; 2020 preliminary census figures showing a slowdown in population; employers offering bonuses just to show up for job interviews; big box retail chains raising entry wages; states and cities hiking hourly minimum wages beyond $12 and up to $15. Alas, it would seem that all too few American citizens want these jobs. Others do. Guess who? Well, duh.
Thousands of Central Americans are anxiously clustered around southern our borders, having risked everything just for the chance at one of those jobs. Not just eager, but absolutely enthralled at the prospect of starting on the lowest rung of the American economic ladder. Why? Because it’s already several rungs above the jobless, stagnant, corrupt countries they’ve already fled. And guess what else? They aren’t the gangsters, rapists and Jihadists hiding under sombreros, as accused by You-Know-Who. Just take a quick scan around your local Latino immigrant community and ask yourself how dangerous or imitating they are. In my area I see a prevalence of hard-working, family-oriented, law-abiding people. So why is federal immigration policy still so miserly? Why does the Biden Administration retain so many of the Trump barricades? Best answer: they’re still trying to figure it out. No one wants a flood of undocumented entrants surging across the Rio Grande and overwhelming cities like El Paso, Laredo and Tucson. Of course not. This is why it’s time for a new government-corporate partnership. Here’s a plan: Companies contract to train bunches of new arrivals – all properly documented upon entry and put on a trackable path to citizenship. To simplify, let’s say Marriott Hotels Corp. is among the many McDonalds, Amazons and Wal-marts to sign up. Marriott opts to admit a thousand prospects per training cycle (three months?) until it doesn’t need any more. Five hundred are sent to a Western training site and the rest to one out East. Where housed? Maybe an existing corporate training facility. Maybe an underused college campus or military base or one of Marriott’s own extended stay hotels. Or homes of volunteers, who get paid like foster home caregivers. Options abound. Some enrollees train for housekeeping jobs, some for maintenance, some for front desk. Whatever. But all get basics of English plus how-to instruction such as getting a driver’s license. Who pays? Maybe half from the company and half from the government. In general, it should be a ratio that makes it attractive enough for employers to opt in. What about those who misbehave or flunk out? Back they go to the other side of the border or all the way home - courtesy of Uncle Sam. Details may require the usual pile of rules and regs, but the concept is quite simple. Most important, it should draw bipartisan backing from business-oriented Republicans and do-gooder Democrats. Your ideas?