Julie Doll: Just what does ‘foreign worker’ mean?
In the mail recently I received a political flier urging me to vote against a Republican candidate because the candidate, according to the flier from another Republican, would allow “foreign workers” into the United States.
I wish that were true. Kansas could use foreign workers.
But as Kansans have witnessed, most Republicans competing for their party’s nominations in the Aug. 4 primary are trying to be the Trumpiest of all the candidates, and that means opposing immigration.
President Donald Trump has worked to severely restrict immigration to the United States — both legal and illegal — and Kansas Republicans have tripped over themselves to get in line behind him.
Their anti-immigrant fervor defies U.S. history, which shows plainly that immigrants have been a vital source of blue-collar muscle, white-collar innovation and scholarly advances in virtually every field you can think of.
Here’s just a sampling of “foreign workers” of whom you might have heard: Albert Einstein, Martina Navratilova, Wolfgang Puck and John James Audubon.
There are millions more you haven’t heard of, as well as most of our ancestors. For me, it was my great-grandparents, who immigrated to Kansas from Germany, mostly in the 1880s.
Over the years, I’ve counted “foreign workers” as in-laws, as colleagues and as friends.
But, politically, immigrants have become the scapegoats of choice. Whether it’s crime, social welfare spending or unemployment, the go-to strategy is to blame immigrants.
So when a health crisis creates an economic crisis, it’s no surprise that rather than work on answers, some politicians foster resentment and hate toward people who aren’t like us.
Except that … immigrants are like us.
Well, not all of them. Some immigrants are criminals. And some are heroes. And the vast majority fall somewhere in between.
Just like us.
The pandemic and the federal government’s botched handling of it has created a huge unemployment problem. In such a situation, Trump’s revved-up restrictions on immigration might seem to offer relief.
But you can’t have your free-enterprise cake and eat it, too.
“As the economy rebounds, American businesses will need assurances that they can meet all their workforce needs,” the U.S. Chamber wrote in a letter to Trump opposing a recent round of bans on immigrants. According to an article in the Texas Tribune, the letter continued, “To that end, it is crucial that they have access to talent both domestically and from around the world.”
For certain parts of the country and in certain economic sectors, immigrants play especially important roles.
For example, about 25% of all doctors are immigrants, and “foreign workers” also make up substantial numbers in nursing and in-home care. In rural Kansas, immigrants have helped mitigate serious shortages of health-care services.
Immigrants also have offset labor shortages in ag-related businesses — from farms to food processing plants.
And immigrants are among the scientists working to find a vaccine for COVID-19 — as well as advancing science on just about every front.
Foreign workers, in fact, have won 38% of all the Nobel Prizes awarded to Americans since 2000, according to a report from the National Foundation for American Policy.
Through our nation’s history, immigrants often have been the target of hate and discrimination, especially in times of social or economic turmoil.
But both our history and current reality make clear that foreign workers are good for America.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.