Mexico is Family Visa Policy

My Insights into USA's Immigration and Guest Worker Policy with Mexico

American Retroworks Inc. has a sister company in Mexico, retroworks de mexico, nicknamed "Las Chicas Bravas".  It has been profiled on NPR Marketplace, Living On Earth, Associated Press, Sacramento Bee, and many other media.  My wife and children come with me to visit the ladies at the TV maquila in northern Mexico.  While our attorney was shot and killed, we never see any drugs or violence in the rural town of Fronteras, a few dozen kilometers from the mines and smelter of Nacozari.

We regularly cross-train workers from Mexico, like Mariano, Dolores, Vicki, Lydia, Panchito, Dominita, Don Chuco, etc. at our plant in Middlebury, and they cross-train our staff during regular visits to Arizona.  We recently sent Nate Hutnak, our collection partner in Rhode Island, to Arizona to help establish collections. My business partner and his wife visit us, and host us, and my kids are close with their godson Oscar, who spent a year with us in Vermont and Arizona.

Mexico is our Family
Mariano from Mexico tests and inspects and sells fully functional TVs, and occasionally brokers them to buyers in Peru, Venezuela, or Guatemala.  He cross trains Vermont staff, some of whom were born in El Salvador or Honduras or Guatemala.  In short, our fair trade company has partners in many countries, from Burkina Faso to Indonesia to Egypt and Senegal - but Mexico is family.

Our key policy is that manual disassembly creates more value in parts, and more jobs, than automated recycling.  We do manual disassembly in Vermont... but if you are going to create low wage demanufacturing jobs for Mexicans, it's wiser to make those jobs in Mexico.  Our competitors try to chop TVs up with machines, but believe me, running electronics and e-waste through hammermills and shredders is literally not all it is cracked up to be.

Having established my personal bias and credentials, what can I say about national USA policy on border enforcement, illegals, green cards, work visas, and immigration?  Here goes...

USA Immigration Debate:

Last night I watched a very simple and moving movie, "A Better Life", about a Mexican immigrant raising a 15 year old son in Los Angeles.  It's PG, kid friendly, but profoundly connects family and immigration policy.

Recently I've seen a lot of programs and news about the USA's Immigration and Naturalization.   Condoleeza Rice said in two interviews (promoting her book), that her biggest regret from her years in the Bush II White House was failure to fix the USA's Immigration and Naturalization Policy in Mexico.  (I'm now her biggest fan, with Gaddafi out of the way.)

South Park had perhaps the best insight into our Mexican relations last month, with the episode "Last of the Meheecans", where all the gardeners and maintenance workers of Mexican decent in the USA simply shrug us off and go home.  Everything grinds to a hault.  The Arizona border fence begins to be used as a barrier to keep affordable and skilled labor INSIDE the USA.

Ok, here's what I think.

Mexico is Family Policy:

The USA really has been a melting pot in comparison to any other large nation in the world.   It hasn't ever gone perfectly, from the Irish-Anglo tensions in Boston and New York to the the Riots in Hoboken in 1851 to the Rodney King violence in Los Angeles.  But when I compare American businesspeople in Africa to Chinese investors, we excel at cross culture.  In part that comes from being comfortable with your disagreements, yet able to see someone as you would see a neighbor or son-in-law.

Relatively few Arabs, Chinese, Indians, or Russians really have a close call with a daughter dating someone of another race, or ponder that a foreigner might actually be their favorite prospective family member (I'm married to a foreigner, by the way).  Latin America, especially South America, is probably farther advanced in its color-blindedness than the USA.  No one is perfect, but the problems in the western hemisphere fall far short of the problems of tribalism in Rwanda or the breakup of Yugoslavia.

[Skip if you've read my land inheritance theory before.  We are a great nation because we have always had a relatively large proportion of society not inheriting land.   If a family with 3 kids has a farm, anywhere in the world, they try to get "the firstborn" or someone to keep the safe land.  1/3 of the progeny is tied to the lowest wage and lowest innovation sector of the economy.  It's very honorable, don't get me wrong, I come from subsistence farm families in the Ozarks and still have land I'm bound to.   But statistically, more Taiwanese flight families, more Palestinians, more Lebanese, more Bamileke, go on to get degrees in medicine and engineering.  And societies which let their DAUGHTERS as well as their sons join the workforce do FAR better than those who keep 50% of their descendents tied to a kitchen or house.}

Efficient Economies Rule:

Would keeping Mexicans out of the USA economy create more jobs?  No.  It would force us to fire, rehire, and retrain, fire, rehire, and retrain, for all the jobs in agriculture and maintenance and many of the jobs in blue collar manufacturing.

The single worst problem I have as a business owner is the inefficiency of hiring someone who doesn't really want to do the work.  And the unemployment lines are full of people who are overqualified or unhappy doing $10/hour labor.  If all the illegal labor returned home tomorrow, the USA would become so inefficient and distracted, we couldn't get our oil changed, our cows milked, or our hospital floors cleaned.  It would be a fricking economic disaster.

Does that mean that all jobs should constantly be given to the lowest possible bidder, and that ever-lower-bidders should constantly be unleashed on every job?  No, but minimum wage is probably both a better protection against that, and, simultaneously, the magnet for people crossing the Rio Grande.

Once someone accepts a job at minimum wage, as many recycling jobs start, it is extremely valued that they stay in that job 3 years and are earning $12 or 14 dollars later.  The people with 5 years of experience who are still earning less than $40K per year are absolutely vital to many industries which don't have a patent or scale of production to support higher prices and wages.   Telling those industries to go hire white teenagers with tatoos and nose-rings is the very opposite of all the certifications and best practices we want industries like mine to achieve.

When I hire people like "family" in Mexico, and they do the job and are happy at it and keep doing it, that is what frees me to do other things with my intellect, to pursue other ideas and inventions.  When I have to keep filling in on a forklift or restacking monitors that didn't get finished because someone quit the job,  my company is less efficient.

In short, to get everything done the right way, on time, and service my clients to their expectations, I need the best staff I can get.  And that has nothing to do with hair color.  The companies which always fail to grow are the ones who decide against the melting pot, who decide to limit their companies genetic DNA to a single strand of hires.  America does this by trying to enforce against Mexican immigration.

Solving the E-Immigration Problem

What we have to do is a realistic inventory of about how many million people our nation NEEDS to allow to immigrate.  Below that number, any economic gains from lower unemployment are erased by losses in efficiency and increased job turnover.  You cannot hire Los Angeles teens to pick raisins in Fresno, or de-feather turkeys in Vermont, without inefficiency on a grand scale.

That may mean accepting the big secret - that economies cannot grow on 0 unemployment.  It's mathematically impossible.  Banning immigration does not grow the USA economy, it does the opposite.

So we need to just calculate out how many million work visas we need and distribute them.  Distribute ALL of them, all the ones we need.  Millions.  It has been called a lottery, I don't care what the application process is.  But all successful treatment starts with a realistic diagnosis.

Once there are enough people with valid legal papers, THEY should earn a premium.  And then you enforce at the border with a line to apply for new permits... wannabe immigrants will take a risk of not getting the permit over death in the desert if the permit isn't hopeless, and if the permits have been issued they won't be hopeless.  And the people who are here legally will probably actually help, as they are now secure with their own green card.

My experience is that the Mexicans I work with are religious Christians.  Perhaps that is the way to break the logjam, to create more church-to-church guest worker programs.  Not necessarily a violation of church and state, but also let private companies and families participate and adapt who gets the work visa.  Also, like truck driving (CDL), there should be mandatory drug testing.

Riots in Hoboken started by Sean Hannity the Elder
An Alternative Modest Proposal:

My other idea is to use gay marriage.  In my screenplay, we got single men who don't really want a monogamist lifestyle to volunteer to marry Mexican immigrants.  Sham marriages.  

There you go Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, throw that liberal Vermont idea into your hate hopper.  We can be against "anchor babies" and "immigration" and "wetbacks"...  Both of you would be right at home in 1851, denouncing the Polish and German "immigration problem".

The talking heads who are stifling immigration policy are playing to the disfunctional American families, and there are more than enough to make immigration reform difficult.   The Hannity style pundits make American parents of drunks and drug addicts believe that the reason their kids don't have jobs is that an immigrant took them.  It has nothing to do with meth or laziness or playing nintendo all night.  Make the people diagnosed as "unemployable" (symptom - cannot keep a job for 9 months) believe that it's the families from Mexico who are the problem.  It's simple, they'll happily milk cows and pick grapes, and stop their drug use, and you can have your guest bedroom back and you'll live happily ever after.

De Nile.

No comments: