Since the creation of the Texas/Mexican border, Texans and U.S. citizens have had to compete with cheap Mexican labor along the border. Here is a clear example of the impact of cheap Mexican labor on American workers.
This past June, the U.S. Department of Justice found against a Rio Grande Valley farmer for what was called an “unfair hiring practice” that discriminated against job seekers based on immigration status. DOJ argued that the farmer’s company preferred temporary H-2 visa employees from Mexico over U.S. citizens. The cry of “unfair hiring practices” is not new in the south Texas border region. In the 1940s, my father Eduardo Rodriguez, organized a printers’ labor union in Laredo to keep Mexican workers from taking American jobs.
First let’s consider if we really need guest workers in the U.S. In 2012, the Census Bureau reported that 109,631,000 Americans lived in households that received benefits from one or more federally funded "means-tested programs", also known as welfare. Two years later, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a record 92,898,000 Americans 16 years and older did not participate in the labor force. With such a large pool of potential American workers, why do we need to import workers?
Next let’s consider the Rio Grand Valley’s unemployment, poverty statistics and political history.
According to 2010 Census Bureau information, the Rio Grande Valley’s Willacy, Starr, Cameron, Zavala, and Hidalgo counties rank among Texas’ most poorest. Other border counties like Webb, Zapata and Maverick are also in the state’s bottom 20 poorest counties.
Historians, labor experts, and sociologists have long agreed that immigrants (legal and illegal) compete with the poor for jobs and social services, and the local lower standard of living.
Immigrants (legal and illegal) also are used by political bosses to exercise local control. William “Boss” Tweed of New York skillfully used the Irish in mid-1800, and Carmine DeSapio used the Italians in also in New York in the mid-1900s.
The most famous bosses in South Texas were Archie and, his son, George Parr of Duval County who controlled Mexican and Mexican American votes from the 1920‘s till 1975. The Parrs “took care “ of “their people” by showing cultural sensitivity, controlling local employment, and even paying for votes. Their political control was affective enough to sway the 1948 senatorial race in favor of Lyndon Johnson, propelling him to D.C. and eventually the presidency.
The Parr’s political model was copied by other bosses along the border.
The result was, and has been, a entire region trapped in poverty as citizens compete with an endless stream of immigrants, mostly illegal. Mexican Americans have been leaving the south Texas border region for generations to find better opportunities, and the recent labor case should highlight why.
Recently, conservative grassroots groups have fought big business interests over the “Texas Solution” which was proposed legislation that included a “guest worker” program. South Texas and America on don’t more guest workers from Mexico or anywhere else suppress the wages and lower the standard of living…or to be used as an instrument of political corruption.
South Texas political machines have used labor and other forms patronage to control voters, and the H-2 worker program seems to only fuel this fire.
George Rodriguez is south Texas native an former Reagan and Bush appointee. You can read opinions and editorials at ElConservador.net