“But if we send all the illegal immigrants home, who will pick our oranges?”
It’s perhaps one of the most common arguments in favor of widespread amnesty for the roughly 12 million illegal aliens currently living in the United States, one that’s been touted by everyone from bleeding heart professors to liberal lawmakers and just about anyone with a protest sign and a load of free time.
This argument is crap – in large part, because it suggests that we as a nation should exploit the cheap (often cruelly so) and grueling labor of undocumented people in order to keep our local Walmart well-stocked with citrus fruits. Hooray, compassion.
It’s also crap because it’s not true.
According to a new study out from the Pew Research Center, there’s no major industry in the United States in which immigrants – illegal or otherwise – outnumber native-born persons. Take it from Pew themselves:
Immigrants are more likely than U.S.-born workers to be employed in a number of specific jobs, including sewing machine operators, plasterers, stucco masons and manicurists. But there are no major U.S. industries in which immigrants outnumber the U.S. born, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data.
Take the agricultural industry, for example. The study notes that about 33 percent of its workforce is comprised of immigrants. Of those, 18 percent are illegal aliens – fewer than one in five. Pew adds that only about 28 percent of workers who grade and sort crops are illegal aliens; likewise, less than a third of all "miscellaneous" agricultural workers are undocumented.
The industry with the highest percentage of immigrant workers is actually private households, such as maid services. About 45 percent of these workers are immigrants, including just 22 percent who are here illegally.
About 24 percent – one in four – of all maids and housekeepers are undocumented.
In the construction industry, about 13 percent of the workforce is undocumented.
Pew added that immigrants make up about 17 percent (around 27.6 million people) of the total U.S. workforce. Of those, about five percent came into the U.S. illegally or overstayed their visas.
Granted, if 30 percent of all orange-pickers were to suddenly up and vanish from the Tropicana farm, we’d feel it. For one thing, fruit companies may have to start hiring legal workers and paying them decent wages – something that anyone who supports a $15-an-hour burger-flipping wage should theoretically get behind.
But the fact that a solid 82 percent of the agriculture industry is made up of American citizens and legal immigrants, I think it’s safe to say our country -- and our oranges -- would survive.