“I understand helping struggling immigrants but my city (Los Angeles) isn’t taking care of its own. What about 50,000 plus residents who live on the streets? People who live below poverty line and hungry? If my state can’t take care of its own (many are vets) how can it take care of more?” — Cher in response to President Trump’s proposal to ship undocumented asylum seekers arriving at the nation’s southern border with Mexico at the rate of 1,087 a day based on the last federal fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2018 to sanctuary cities.
Fifty-two years after Cher — when she was still teamed up with Sonny — reached No. 6 on the Billboard charts with “The Beat Goes On” by capturing an America in transition but still dogged by ageless issues and holding on to equally ageless human characteristics has penned some more words worthy of the ages.
But Cher is no longer singing “bums still cry, ‘hey buddy have you got a dime?’” Instead this week she tweeted the above weighing in on the impact of undocumented immigrants that are now being allowed to stay in this country and are forced to be released almost immediately based on court decisions.
And while quoting Cher isn’t quite in the same league as quoting Franklin Delano Roosevelt she has a poignant point.
Our inability as a nation to address legal and illegal immigration and instead using it as a political football may indeed be a major underlying cause of what ails those who are already here and are treading water or sinking fast. And before anyone starts huffing and puffing about Trump our dysfunctional immigration policy — or lack thereof in terms of enforcement and effectiveness — has been around for 30 to 40 years. The win-at-all-costs mentality of political and social advocates on all sides of the issue guarantees nothing will get resolved.
Cher’s Tweet is a growing, common thread of concern among those Californians who are contorted between empathy and reality when it comes to immigration. The Shakespearean angst comes from a combination of factors: More immigrants by far end up in California, we are one of four states bordering Mexico, the cost of living here even in rural areas of the state is off the charts, and our environment is arguably the most diverse and most fragile among all 50 states.
If the numbers you toss out come from the only reliable source out there on the number of people trying to enter the United States illegally that are actually caught — the annual U.S. Border Patrol tally of apprehensions by sector — you’d be blowing up Twitter as well.
In the 18 years since 2000, the Border Patrol has apprehended more than 13.7 million undocumented immigrants trying to slip into the United States. If they were all put in one place to create a state it would be the fifth largest in the country based on population behind California, Texas, Florida, and New York. Last federal fiscal year the 396,752 that were apprehended on the southern border was equivalent to the combined population of Stockton and Manteca.
Keep in mind the Border Patrol totals do not include those that escaped detection nor does it separate out those that were caught more than once.
Now back to Cher’s Tweet. The singer who called those on the streets bums 52 years ago in the lyrics of “The Beat Goes On” now uses the term homeless. That’s because it is no longer just bums roaming the streets. Although there are encampments of single adults — of which a good share have issues with substance abuse, mental issues, and attitude when it comes to making compromises needed to be part of a civilization of 320 million people — they do not represent the biggest problem.
Those 13.7 million immigrants coupled with legal immigrants represent a large chuck of the labor pool in this country. It may not be a big deal to a Silicon Valley coder pulling down $250,000 a year, university professors that bank $150,000 plus annually, or members of Congress on both sides of the aisle that are well-entrenched members of the Millionaires’ Club but it is to those in the hunt for minimum wage to $20 an hour jobs. It’s because that’s where most of that undocumented labor is being absorbed. As a result a larger pool of workers chasing jobs keeps wages down. It is also true that immigrants, legal and otherwise, do work others chose not to do and/or diehard small business creators.
It is incorrect that undocumented get on public assistance rolls once they arrive but it is true they can and do access services such as medical, education, and such that taxpayers are funding. The bottom line is they have to work to survive and in doing so directly and indirectly create taxable wealth to help support a substantial chunk of the services they access.
Against that backdrop and the fact most immigrants have a significant higher birthrate based on Census data we have developed the wealth gap that seems to fire up people across the political landscape.
There are proportionally less people in the position to pursue higher paying jobs than there are for those seeking lower paying jobs. Because of that you could argue the mass of undocumented immigration can help keep wages — the main drivers of the cost of products whether it is housing, cars, clothing, or food — down.
When you factor in the economic tourniquets California adds that leads to substantially less housing being built than needed as well as myriad of regulations that carry a hefty compliance price and couple that with the sizable influx of extremely low wealth undocumented immigrants, the Golden State has created an economic pressure cooker.
More and more people are being forced from the super-expensive coastal cities inland. This is especially true of those on the bottom of the economic ladder.
Ship undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities such as San Francisco and you will ultimately increase the homeless problem in Manteca. That’s because there will be even more people chasing jobs on the bottom end of the spectrum.
Deliver busloads of undocumented immigrants to San Francisco and a ripple effect will be created that will end up sending more people eastward into the Central Valley whether they are lower income citizens or lower income immigrants.
It is, after all, not just home buyers or renters with healthy checks approaching and or exceeding $100,000 being forced to cross the Altamont Pass in search of housing they can afford. It is also people barely hanging on by their teeth.
An example two years ago was a family from Brentwood. Both parents worked but in fairly low paying jobs. They moved to Manteca with their three children when they could no longer afford the rent in Brentwood. Renting here and commuting didn’t pencil out well and they ended up homeless for a period of time even though they still had jobs. Eventually they found jobs down the valley that paid less and where housing was less.
Cher nailed the problem of trickle down impacts of unrestrained immigration. If the numbers are so high that they can’t be absorbed without creating economic pain among this nation’s most vulnerable citizens then why are we leaving our doors wide open?
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.