Friday, August 18, 2006

Last Notes on Immigration (hopefully)

I noticed in Northern Virginia that there are a lot of hispanics. So, for example, when you go into IHOP to eat, the staff are all English-speaking from South America. However, I also noted that legal immigration has been going on in the area for at least 30 years, and so it has steadily 'changed the face of Northern Virginia', as the pundits like to say. So, you have two contradictory facts:

1) In NoVa, there are plenty of people who feel that the area cannot handle the 'massive influx of illegal immigrants', and who believe that 'the illegals are taking over', etc.

2) But, what you quickly realize is that there are actually only a handful of illegal immigrants. There isn't a massive influx of illegal immigrants. They may be putting a strain on the home-building labor pool, but they're fairly isolated, and the feds are very vigilant in the area, which keeps the illegal population very low and isolated. The staff at IHOP are legals, and in fact, most service sector jobs are done by second-generation legals. I use IHOP as an example because we know the manager and the staff there.

So, what I think is happening is that the legal population of immigrants is very large and is also very socially isolated. My sense is that most people complaining lump in the legals with the illegals, and are essentially upset by Spanish-speakers and even English-speakers with accents. I've worked something like 18 low-income jobs in NoVa (I know, it's ridiculous), and so I've seen who works at almost every service sector or blue collar job in the area. Again, they're legal everywhere but in home building, which tends to be day labor, and is harder for the feds to track.

However, behind all of the bitching is, I think, an indication that upward mobility has all-but-stopped in NoVa due to other structural problems. The computer industry has stalled (Cisco Systems just layed off my mother, for example, along with most of their employees), and the influx of programmers to the tech corridor is suddenly without work, and with obscene rents to pay. I think what's happening is that the economy was very over-inflated and is now completely stalled. The legal immigrants, who do most of the service sector jobs in the area, are taking the brunt of it because they are socially isolated as is, but I think the real economic problems are simply inflation and sudden deflation.

So, the good news is that the immigration crisis might not be as pronounced as it seems, although I have no idea what the situation is like in Texas, for example.

Of course, the bad news is that the national economy in general might be about to collapse.
Have a Good Day!

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