Abdul-Hakim Shabazz: There are jobs to fill. Give immigrants a chance.

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Abdul-Hakim ShabazzThere are three numbers I’d like you to keep track of as you read this column: 11.3 million, 6 million, and 1.6 million. 11.3 million is the number of job openings in this country, 6 million is the number of unemployed people in the United States, and 1.6 million represents the number of attempted illegal border crossings last year.

Why do I bring this up? Simply reforming and loosening our immigration rules can help address our inflation problems.

“Abdul, what are you talking about? You have officially lost your mind.”

Now granted, most geniuses aren’t appreciated while alive, but hear me out on this one.

Part of the reason for inflation is a worker shortage and employers having to pay higher wages. Remember those 11.3 million job openings and 6 million unemployed? For example, a few years ago (i.e., pre-pandemic), a McDonald’s employee, on a good day, made $8 an hour. Fast forward to today, and that employee now starts at anywhere from $13 to $15 an hour. That’s a $5-an-hour increase. I have to admit, it is not bad to end a sentence with, “Would you like fries with that?”

Now imagine many restaurants and retail outlets from across the country having to go from $10 to $15 an hour for what is fundamentally low-skilled labor; you can see how this can lead to price increases. And, yes, I know about the theories regarding supply chains, gas prices, and too many government dollars chasing too few items. Still, for now, we’re just talking about the workforce.

So, we’ve got 11.3 million job openings and 6 million people out of work. Now that’s where the 1.3 million attempted illegal border crossings come in. Ladies and gentlemen, I maintain that, if we want to get inflation and other problems under control, we need to address our worker shortage in a plain and straightforward way. Immigration reform is the quickest way to do it.

We have a lot of job openings and many people who want to come here and have a better life. The math is simple, but having the political will to do such things is a different story altogether.

Those job openings are both high-skill and low-skill. For our high-skill jobs, we need to make it easier for visa applicants to come in and get to work. For our low-skill jobs, I believe we can figure out a solution to get people into those positions. It might take a little more effort, but it can be done.

Fundamentally, though, despite the arguments that the government is paying people not to work, which is no longer the case (at least at the federal level), our longer-term problem is that the American workforce is getting smaller. We need to replace those retiring workers. And I think easing our immigration rules is one way to accomplish that.

Now, this is where the moaning and gnashing of teeth about “securing the border” kicks in. However, no one can explain to me what that means or, for that matter, what a “secure border” looks like.

However, suppose we want to address our worker shortage, which is one of the causes of inflation, because employers have to pay higher wages. In that case, we need to make it easier for immigrants to come here and get the jobs the rest of us are not going to do.

And, yes, we need to reduce government subsidies to encourage folks on the dole to get off.•


Shabazz is an attorney, radio talk show host and political commentator, college professor and stand-up comedian. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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One thought on “Abdul-Hakim Shabazz: There are jobs to fill. Give immigrants a chance.

  1. Many of the politicians that turn a blind eye to illegal (criminal) border crossings are the very same elected officials that champion increasing (mandatory) minimum wage statutes. So the argument to “loosen” immigration law so lower skilled work opportunities can be staffed by lower paid workers to ease inflation is questionable at best. Energy prices and supply chain logistics challenges are the primary drivers of inflation. Those are greatly impacted by the policies of the administration currently in power in the White House. Restrictions and increased regulations on fossil fuel exploration and production and pandering to union dock workers has spawned record rates of inflation. In terms of “loosening” immigration laws, we don’t need to “loosen” those laws, we need to “update” those laws to reflect modern technologies and the efficiencies that implementing technology bring to processes like immigration. Using technology-driven platforms like “Indeed” to match immigrant applicants with appropriate employment as part of the updates is one example. Fast-tracking the ability to learn English using platforms like “Babble” are another example. Rather than cutting large checks to immigrants which is nothing more than “buying votes”, fast-track their English speaking capabilities, get them employment that matches their skills and abilities, and subsidize modest housing for their first year in this country to get them successfully launched as working Americans. After a year of steady employment issue them a social security number and citizen status upon demonstration they can communicate at a basic level of proficiency in English. We should welcome individuals from other countries that seek a better life through steady, legal employment to realize the American dream of freedom, liberty, and self-sufficiency. While we’re at it, let’s enact legislation to deport those unwilling to work and pay taxes, regardless of national origin.