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Immigration – Bringing it on Home

Border CrossingEntrepreneurial Initiative

You may have hear that the Mid-Atlantic States got a bit of snow last week.  Two blizzards back-to-back that dumped anywhere from a couple of feet to almost 40″ depending on where you were and how the wind was blowing.  The first phase was the one that hit hardest.  18 hours of straight snow and, for my wife and I, a long driveway in order to get to the road after it was over.

But we started shoveling.  About 2 hours into it we still had a long way to go and at the end of our driveway was about five feet from where the snow plows came down the road.  It was not a pretty sight.  Along came some enterprising entrepreneurs who offered to help…for money.  After a little back and forth, we struck a bargain and they began to work on the rest of the driveway.

It was the perfect capitalist, free market transaction.  They has something of value — strong backs, a willingness to work and snow shovels — and I had something they wanted — cash.  I don’t know how many metric tons of snow they moved with two snow shovels but it was a lot.  The worked steady and hard for the next three hours. When they were done, the driveway was clear, I had easy access to the road and my wife’s car had been de-snowed (is that a word?).  All was right with the world.

I gave them the cash.  They thanked me and left. What really impressed me other than the work they put in was that they didn’t ask for the money up front or even a “deposit”.  I can’t count the number of vendors who target real estate professionals that want to know they’re getting paid before providing anything of value.

What’s This Have to do with Immigration and Real Estate?

By now you might have guessed that my entrepreneurial friends were not your run of the mill, white bread Caucasian (like me).  They had a great grasp of the English language (one a bit better than the other) but it was obvious they were Latino, Hispanic or whatever the PC term is for Spanish speakers.  I didn’t ask for proof of citizenship or a Green Card.  Who would?  I didn’t care if they were sending the money back home or putting it in a bank account on the Cayman Islands.  I just needed my driveway shoveled out and they were willing to do it.

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Much has been made of how immigrants, especially those who are undocumented, will do the work that “regular Americans” will not do.  In exchange, they are preyed upon by foreclosure and loan mod scam artists, predatory lenders that take advantage of the language barrier, steered toward homes that are overpriced and in poor condition. People say they are using services and draining available resources away from true blue, patriotic Americans. I say, get a life.  People come to this country for opportunity and are willing to work for it, buy a home to enjoy with their family and do a whole lot better at saving money (even if it’s in a coffee can in the back yard) than most folks.

I’ve always been inclined toward a liberal immigration policy but this past week bought it home for me. In my own home.

Written By

“Loves sunrise walks on the beach, quaint B & Bs, former Barbie® boyfriend..." Ken is a sole practitioner and Realtor Extraordinaire in the beautiful MD Suburbs of DC. When he's not spouting off on Agent Genius he holds court from his home office in Glenn Dale, MD or the office for RE/MAX Advantage Realty in Fulton, MD...and always on the MD Suburbs of DC Blog

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Greg Cooper

    February 14, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Ken,

    I’m not so concerned about it for the simple employment aspect of it. For me it’s more about the security issue and the fact that no tax dollars get collected. Many people are going to pay for today’s deficit while some will benefit from being in the U.S. for not paying anything at all and yet still want to benefit from health care services, etc.

    As an aside, when I see a team of immigrants working as home framers on a 15 hour day in the heat or extreme cold…well how do you not respect that level of effort? There must be a way to bring these people into the fold and yet still give them the opps their hard work has brought them.

  2. Jess

    February 14, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Thank you for your courage to express what you believe.

    There’s been much talk about “sending them back” but the reality is that if several millions were in fact sent back to Mexico this country would plunge into a depression within 90 days.

    The bottom line is that the US cannot survive without their cheap labor.

    I own three businesses and try as I have, I have been unable to fill positions, at the wages I have to pay, in order to remain competitive, with local labor. If I didn’t have the cheaper Mexican labor I would be immediately be out of business.

  3. Arn Cenedella

    February 14, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Ken

    I appreciate your post.

    As a California resident, I am well aware of the strong work ethic many folks from Central and South America demonstrate. No question there.

    That being said, my grandfather immigrated to America from Italy in the early 1900s.

    My grandfather followed ALL THE RULES to gain access to this country legally.
    He did not demand or request special treatment.
    No ballots in Italian, no special classes in schools for Italians, and he paid taxes.

    I guess I do not understand why immigrants who want to come to America today can’t follow the rules just as my grandfather did?

  4. Mike

    February 14, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    The former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox once said, “Immigrants do the work that American citizens will not do”. Many people have said it. Look at it from another angle. Americans used to work construction, do landscape work, and hang on the back of a garbage truck. Now we won’t. Why? Because Immigrants will do it for less. Much less, in many cases. Many will live in crowded homes, to save on rent. Many of them don’t expect the standard of living that we have grown accustomed to. Slowly, over the last 4 or 5 decades, immigrants have lowered the wages that would have attracted an American citizen that wants to live one family to a house, pay taxes and drive a car with insurance.
    So it’s not that we don’t want to do the work, we just don’t want to do it for the meager wages and benefits that the immigrants will do it for. Immigrants lowered the compensation expectations, American citizens moved out of much of the blue collar work sector because of it.
    Then again, my people, the Irish, were accused of the same thing 100 plus years ago.

  5. Mike

    February 14, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    From a Real Estate perspective, at what point of compensation reduction would you leave Real Estate? The negotiable norm, is now 5-6%, depending where you practice, for full service, to list a home. If compensation slowly eroded, due to more and more brokers accepting less and less, at what point would RE become unatractive as a career? Would you still provide the same level of service at 2% a side? 1.5%? At what point would you be out of the business all together?

  6. Matt - Austin

    February 15, 2010 at 12:29 am

    I own a landscaping company in Austin TX. I have 5 workers and we are all white. I think that people often times just assume that the immigrants are better workers. I can say this though, whithin the last 2 years the number of other white landscapers in the Austin area has doubled. I’m not sure if it is because the economy forcing people into hard labor or what. I do take it personally when I hear that they are only taking work from americans who wont do theses jobs because this is how I have supported my wife and 3 boys for the last 7 years. All I can say is that if they were to be forced back to their home country people like myself would not have any problems finding work.

  7. Lorraine - Atlanta

    February 15, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Arn,
    I agree with you … my parents immigrated here in the early 1960’s from Portugal and as you said – did what they had to do to and followed the rules to become US citizens. I live in Georgia and I too can see the hispanic work ethic … it is one that I grew up with too, but all these demands of special treatment don’t work for me either. I also agree with Gregg, let’s find a way to make it a win-win for all parties involved.

  8. Ken Montville

    February 15, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    I just wanted to check in to say “thanks” to all the commenters, so far. I know people have some deeply held beliefs and concerns about the immigration issue. I tend to side with “playing by the rules”.

    As far as the those who are concerned about “cheap labor” I can only say that it’s known as competition. Whether it’s work given to people who live within our borders or the work is outsourced off shore, as long as the American consumer is driven by low prices we will continue to see price competition.

    Since real estate cannot really be out sourced to other countries, I’ve found that it is the red blooded capitalists that are attempting to “change the model” and, thus, drive compensation levels lower and lower.

    Just my thoughts.

  9. Leedir

    February 18, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Americans complain of their jobs being taken away by illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants work at lower wages. And it is generally the Americans who pay these wages. So is the lower wage the problem or is it the status of the person seeking that job?

    What if all the illegal immigrants were made or became legal? Would it mean they would start demanding higher wages? Or would they still be working at the lower wage and be satisfied because they hold a job?

    Would the American employer start looking for people expecting jobs at lower wages irrespective of their status? Would he be willing to pay more because the illegal immigrant has just become legal?

    This has become a sort of a blame game. If so many illegals are in the country in the first place, whose fault is it? Now that they are here, can we not make the best of the situation instead of making matters worse for everyone? Complaining and blaming is just not helping anyone.

  10. Matt - Austin

    February 28, 2010 at 1:38 am

    Bottom line: Why do we have laws that we wont enforce? If I don’t pay my taxes I go to jail. I think we should give them citizenship and tax them to death just like everyone else.

  11. Brian Brady

    April 12, 2010 at 1:04 am

    “That being said, my grandfather immigrated to America from Italy in the early 1900s.
    My grandfather followed ALL THE RULES to gain access to this country legally.”

    Which rules was he obligated to follow? Prior to the quota laws of 1921 and the National Origins Act of 1924, there were no “laws”. Immigrants showed up and were processed. I know this because my grandparents hustled over here because of the rumblings heard abroad about these “quotas”. Prior to 1890, immigration was a States issue (which is probably where it should have stayed).

    “Immigrants do the work that American citizens will not do”

    During the Civil War, they most certainly did that work; they were immediately conscripted in the Union Army.

    I think the argument against unfettered immigration rose when we marched away from the capitalism Ken cited that these alleged, non-white entrepreneurs (Ken doesn’t really know their legal status, he assumed it based on the color of their skin) displayed, and towards a protectionist labor movement with Gov’t-sponsored entitlements. All forms of Democratic Socialism have to institute some form of immigration policy to “protect” the social programs granted to “citizens”. We know from history that those systems fail in the end.

    I guess what I’m saying is that neither side of the political divide can have it both ways. Republicans argue against the “freeloadin’ immigrants” who “steal” jobs and benefits (and then call themselves free market enthusiasts). Democrats see this as a way to buy votes but eventually have problems paying for all the social programs they “promise” the new Americans (the most productive members of society emigrate when taxed too much).

    There is a solution. Go back to the policies (the free market) of the 19th century for EVERY American resident, regardless of birthplace. Those that make it stay (native or immigrant), those that don’t emigrate or repatriate..

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