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“Texas lives on immigrant labor”

Ain’t that the truth.

In Texas, an estimated 400,000 construction workers reside illegally, according to one study. If they were forced to leave the country, contractors say, state construction companies would face a difficult fallout, including higher labor costs, construction delays, and some projects canceled altogether.

“Texas lives on immigrant labor,” said Jeff Nielsen, executive vice president of the Houston Contractors Association. “Our economy is the way it is partly because cost of living is cheap and the reason for that is labor is cheap.”

Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump advocated a “deportation force” to track down and remove millions of immigrants here illegally. This week, he moved closer to that goal with a memo instructing federal authorities to broaden the scope of targeted deportations.

The president’s actions dovetail with a current push in the Texas Legislature to outlaw so-called sanctuary cities, requiring local law enforcement to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration enforcement.

On Friday, the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association and its Austin-based Texas arm sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, warning that immigrants in Austin have been wary of showing up to work after an escalation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement activity.

“Our fear is that because of the perception that the public has on what the elimination of sanctuary cities means,” the contractors wrote, “it will be difficult to find and retain experienced workers, which is especially damaging to small businesses.”


Efforts at comprehensive reform have stalled repeatedly, most recently under the Obama administration, and has been wiped from the agenda under Trump, whose stated goal is to remove immigrants living here illegally from the country. Proponents of hard-line immigration policy have argued that unauthorized workers should simply attain legal status, but experts contend that there is no such option for the class that builds Texas.

“The ability for these workers to come in legally for a temporary work program is about as close to zero as you can get,” said Charles Foster, a veteran Houston immigration lawyer who advised on immigration policy for the George H.W. Bush administration. “There is no line to get legal. It’s all a myth.”

The closest thing, he said, was the H-2B visa program for temporary non-agricultural workers, which allows in about 66,000 people across the 50 states each year – hardly enough to account for the hundreds of thousands of laborers in Texas.

It would of course be better if we lived in a country where undocumented workers were not exploited as cheap labor for the rest of us but instead got to live and work here legally at a fair market wage. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for getting to that place any time soon. In the meantime, this is the reality. You want to deport ’em all? Then get ready for construction work, among other things, to grind to a halt. And if you don’t want that to happen, the don’t vote for politicians who stand for it, whether or not we’re supposed to take them seriously when they say it.

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  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Wait. I thought higher wages were a good thing. Is that not the EXACT focus of “fight for $ 15?” And what better way to stop mean old employers from taking advantage of undocumented immigrants then to send those undocumented back where they ARE documented. That way they can find jobs where they will NOT be exploited.

  2. Flypusher says:

    Do you right wing gripers ever read through the posts here? “It would of course be better if we lived in a country where undocumented workers were not exploited as cheap labor for the rest of us but instead got to live and work here legally at a fair market wage” is saying that a higher wage would be a good thing. The article quoted talks about how the current legal route is inadequate to fill the need. Trump blathers about the monument to his bloated ego rather than overhauling and expanding H-2B visas, something that would actually help matters.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    @ Fly:

    The US labor participation rate tells the tale. There are plenty of able bodied American citizens sitting around collecting welfare that can be repurposed to pour concrete, put on roofs, frame houses, wash dishes, etc. Remember Bill Clinton’s welfare reform? That was very effective at weaning the unemployed off the government teat. If Bill Clinton could do it, so can Trump.

    Will there be some growing pains, as American citizens whose free ride has ended have to relearn how to work? Yes, but that’s a necessary evil, it has to happen some time, why not now?

  4. C. L. says:


    From FactCheck’s analysis of last night’s address: Welfare: Trump envisioned “millions lifted from welfare to work” by the time the United States celebrates its 250th anniversary, in nine years. But the welfare rolls have already dropped by millions — from 10.9 million average monthly recipients in fiscal 1997 to 2.8 million in fiscal 2016. The drop was precipitated by legislation signed by President Clinton in 1996 instituting work requirements and time limits to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. This is at least the third time Trump has made a claim about moving people from welfare to work since he was sworn in.

  5. C. L. says:

    My point being, do you really want the folks currently on welfare [who have been jobless for God knows how long] building your future home or pounding nails into your shingles ? I personally would have an immigrant laborer who’s spent the last five years framing new builds swinging a hammer…

  6. Paul A Kubosh says:

    Right, wing posters? I think we should all get together and break bread. Maybe a pappasito’s one Friday for lunch. Get to know each other. I am sure we have all met Kuffner, right?

  7. Gary D says:

    Labor participation is a function of aging demographics, not nonexistent people sitting on their asses collecting government checks. This is Texas, do you think those checks are more than pittances, if you can get them?

  8. Neither Here Nor There says:

    One does not have to be undocumented to be exploited, here is one guy who shafted American workers, because he could.

    And that isn’t the first time he has shafted American Workers, but he is not the only one that does that. Anyone in contracting probably has at least one incident where they got shafted.

  9. Bill Daniels says:


    I’m one of those contractors who got “shafted” by a company declaring bankruptcy. In our case, it was a trucking company that continued operations. We filled out all the bankruptcy paperwork to have our unpaid invoices eventually paid, but no joy. In another case, we lucked out. We did work for one of the Enron umbrella companies, but they were so extremely slow pay that we eventually quit soliciting them for work, because we couldn’t finance jobs that might take 6 months to a year to collect on. The following year, they went bankrupt. We dodged a big bullet there.

    Moral of this story: we have to play by the rules as laid out, not as we wish them to be. We can, however, change the rules, and hopefully Trump will do just that. I’m right now, today, cursing government mandated paperwork “busywork” that is taking up my time, costing me money, costs the companies we do business with, and adds absolutely nothing to the bottom line of either company. I charge more, and still make less, to comply with this paperwork regulation, and the customer pays more, but doesn’t get any tangible benefit by paying that higher price.

  10. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Bill, I figured you were a small company and probably in contracting based on your concerns. I am curious as to what paper work is being required, City, County, State, or Federal.

    The City I would agree is way over regulated. While I don’t do contracting, though I did when I was much younger, in the 70s. I have no idea what is presently required. From contracting friends it seems to be easier in the county as far as permitting and paper work.

    Back when I was a young attorney I would do a lot of pro bono work to get people paid. Most people don’t file mechanics liens and get shafted. The shafting does not happen often enough that they are willing to take the chance of not doing that paper work, mechanics lien.

    I feel for you as I know that illegal immigration hurts your bottom line, we can agree on that. I wish that e-verify was mandated for all companies, I would make all government have their contractors make sure that all employees, sub-contractors were here legally. I would also do away with affirmative action in contracting, I have no idea if your are white, black, brown, or yellow, or rainbow colored, but is not fair that people get an advantage because of the color of their skins. If they want affirmative action make it based on class, small companies only and no more than x number of years.

  11. Bill Daniels says:


    My current paperwork nightmare is federal, OSHA related.

    Example: We don’t have any reason to use ladders in the course of our business. We must have an OSHA approved ladder safety policy in order to work for our customer. And what is OSHA approved? In most cases, OSHA won’t provide a template for what constitutes acceptable policies for ladder use, and a myriad of other things, so companies are left with costly compliance issues.

    When Trump talks about repealing regulation, here’s a prime example. I invest the money and time to demonstrate that our company has an appropriate safety ladder policy, and yet, none of our employees will step on a ladder on our behalf, EVER. I’m also, I think, expected to fully train my employees on ladder safety. Who pays for the cost of employees getting trained on something that they will not do in the course of their work? Does my customer benefit? Do I? We could argue that the employees benefit by getting to sit and do nothing, so there’s that.

  12. Ross says:

    @Bill, I didn’t think OSHA actually required you to have a policy for issues that do not affect your business. Your customer may require that policy, but not OSHA. Read Appendix D of this document

    You might find useful templates here

  13. Bill Daniels says:


    You may be right that OSHA itself doesn’t require us to have a ladder policy, but our customer didn’t demand that we provide one in a vacuum. Every business in the country is kept under the boot heel of a full complement of regulators, each with their own, sometimes competing demands. The website you provided is proof of that. “Compliance” is its own industry, and industry that doesn’t create one widget, doesn’t serve one meal, doesn’t give one haircut, etc. It’s a whole industry devoted to “CYA” against government threats and edicts. It’s an industry that insists we have a ladder policy when we don’t, in fact, use ladders. I think that’s a microcosm of what Trump is talking about when he says he wants to roll back regulation, the 2 for one rule for new regulation, etc.