A few years ago, I went to a town hall meeting, hosted by my Colorado state representative.
Waiting for the session to start, a couple guys near me were comparing notes on their recent re-roofing jobs, raving about the work. Once the meeting started, they tore into the rep on immigration, even though, as he observed, the issue was federal, not state.
The two guys apparently hadn’t connected the dots. In Colorado, if you get your house re-roofed, your carpet cleaned, your lawn mowed, your snow shoveled, odds are it’s an immigrant and his name is Juan. You’ve got a choice: get the job done now, with praise, or wait a couple months, with prayer.
Immigration may be an affair of the heart: We have a moral obligation to welcome others less fortunate. But it is, fundamentally, a matter of the purse: Are they helping the economy, or hurting it by taking our jobs?
Consensus on immigration will only come when the majority of Americans feels that, at worst, immigration doesn’t harm them and, at best, helps them.
We have entry policies toward some — students; part-time workers; wealthy investors — whose contribution to our country is widely understood and accepted. They could be the inspiration for specific categories where we clearly need help:
Addiction Services: Medical and counseling staff are overwhelmed by the opioid/heroin epidemic. Help is needed: drivers, orderlies, guards, and the like. Caution and savvy PR will be essential since the epidemic is worst where job-protection sentiment is highest. But, if effective, it could be a powerful example. Qualifications: Experience dealing with trauma — Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis, Afghans.
Traffic Policeperson: In an automated age, this might seem a relic. But growing traffic congestion, and the plague of phone-distracted driving, demands on-site, on-the-ground supervision that most Americans are too phone-distracted to perform. Qualifications: Experience with insanely dangerous driving conditions — anyone from the Middle East and possibly Italy or China.
Teacher: With a booming economy paying good wages, and attacks on teachers‘ unions and on the integrity of public schools also driving them away, our teacher shortage is critical. Qualifications: Good English and high tolerance for chaos — Nigerians, Ghanaians, Kenyans,Tanzanians.
President of the United States: (Just kidding, to make sure you were paying attention.)
Personal Bodyguard: America is a dangerous place. Many of us need someone willing to take a bullet on our behalf. Qualifications: A menacing look and a nasty disposition — given those qualities, only a fool would single out a specific nationality.
Baseball Game Crackerjacks Hawker: You might think of this as a tiny niche. But, with games longer and more paralyzingly boring than ever, sales of Crackerjacks have skyrocketed as catatonic patrons look for real excitement — the prize at the bottom of the box. Qualifications: Ability to count essential; an amusing, entertaining accent also beneficial — Italians, Indians, Canadians.
The experiment will have its ups and its downs, as two different experiences demonstrate:
1. Mexican immigrant goes to his first American big-league baseball game. When he gets home, his family asks how it was. Great, he says. Everybody was so welcoming. Before the game started, they all stood up and sang: Jose, Can You See?
2. New immigrant — no English, very hungry — sits in a coffee shop, unsure how to order. Everybody around him is ordering Donut a cuppa coffee, Donut a cuppa coffee. So, when the waiter comes, the guy gingerly orders Donut a cuppa coffee.
Success, but, by the end of a couple weeks, he’s desperate for a change. So he goes to a different diner, where everybody’s ordering Hot Dog and a Coke, Hot Dog and a Coke. The waiter comes and the guy orders Hot Dog and a Coke. The waiter asks, You want that with relish, mustard, or ketchup?
………….. Donut a cuppa coffee!!
(Postscript: The July 18, 2017 press reports that the Secretary of Homeland Security has granted a one-time increase in visas to temporary workers. I’m humbled to have been influential, but, above all, grateful that I’ll get my Crackerjacks on-the-double when I go to a Rockies game. Gotta run. Expecting a call from The Washington Post. Fingers crossed.)