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Immigration – Bringing it on Home

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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.

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.

“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

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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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Politics

The House Judiciary antitrust investigation holds big techs’ feet to the fire

(POLITICS) CEOs of Alphabet, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon set to testify in House Judiciary Committee antitrust investigation hearing today.

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The House Judiciary Committee is closing in on the end of a year-long investigation into tech giants Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, to evaluate possible antitrust abuses. CEOs from all four companies were set to testify on Monday, July 27, 2020. The hearing has been pushed back to Wednesday, July 29, to allow members of Congress to pay respects to civil rights leader Representative John Lewis (D-GA) who died of pancreatic cancer on July 17.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Sundar Pichai of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) have all agreed to testify. This will be Bezos’ first time in front of Congress, whereas all the others have testified before on different matters. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was invited to testify by Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), but is expected to not attend.

The Antitrust Subcommittee began the investigation in June 2019. Each business has been the subject of scrutiny for their roles in dominating their respective industries and playing an outsized role in market competition for smaller businesses. The Committee is interested in evaluating current antitrust laws and whether they apply to, or should be updated for, these mega corporations. They have already heard testimonies from smaller companies like Sonos and Tile about these companies’ alleged monopolistic practices.

The focus of the investigation for Apple is on the App Store, and whether it has implemented policies that are harmful for app developers. Google has a tight hold on the online advertising market. Amazon – which during a five-week period early in the pandemic saw an increase in value equivalent to the total value of Walmart, the world’s largest firm – has been criticized for its treatment of brands that sell on its e-commerce platform. Facebook is being investigated for its acquisition practices, cornering the social media market with purchases like Instagram.

Amazon is expected to face additional scrutiny for its treatment of warehouse workers during the pandemic. Facebook and YouTube (a subsidiary of Google) have been the subject of regular criticism about monitoring hate speech on their platforms, and their treatment of the workers responsible for doing so (Facebook in particular).

The hearing is set to occur virtually in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Watch the hearing live at 12:00 p.m. EST Wednesday, July 29 on the House Judiciary Committee’s YouTube channel. Please do note the hilarious irony of streaming a Congressional antitrust hearing on YouTube, which is owned by Google, which is owned by Alphabet, which is testifying at said hearing. God Bless America.

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Additional unemployment benefits outside of the CARES Act

(POLITICS) Unemployment is at an all time high in the United States and individuals need to be aware of reapplying for additional benefits.

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June saw some additional jobs in the US and unemployment fell as of early July, but CNBC advised pausing on any celebration just yet, saying that “The employment crisis is still worse than any time since the Great Depression, the country’s worst economic downturn in its industrial history.”

The unemployment statistics in our country right now are really scary – especially for individuals and families that see a looming deadline of July 31 for the supplemental $600/week provided by the Federal Government through the CARES Act put in place in March. There are discussions on extending these benefits as many families have not been able to replace their incomes or find new employment opportunities, but it doesn’t seem like anything has been finalized there yet. Congress is in the middle of a variety of options:

  • Discontinue the additional $600/week but allow those on unemployment to continue to file and receive their state benefits (usually up to 26 weeks or possibly extended up to 39 weeks by The CARES act)
  • Send out additional stimulus checks (Congress is currently exploring a $X Trillion stimulus package)
  • Extend the additional funding (on top of the weekly amount allotted by state) but cut it from $600 to $200
  • It’s also been put on the table in the House of Representatives “The Heroes Act” to extend the additional $600/week until January 2021 ($3 trillion).

There are some additional benefits that are available (different than the funds by the CARES Act), but you may have to reapply for them. So, make sure to check your state’s unemployment pages and your filing status. Some states do not require you to reapply and you can continue on with extended benefits.

According to CNBC, “The additional aid expires after the end of the year. (This is a different program than the one paying an extra $600 a week through July 31.) For some reason, the [Department of Labor] has taken the position that people have to file for the additional PEUC benefits,” said Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.”

No doubt that this can cause additional stress and uncertainty especially when you have questions about your filing and are unable to get through to someone on the phone. With the way that the unemployment cycle is setup, technically July 25 is considered the last date for that cycle (and July 26 for New York), so be sure to check and see what the next steps are for you if you are currently filing.

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How will pausing the reopening of states impact the recovery of the economy?

(POLITICS) The resurgence of COVID-19 has left Americans with a lot of questions about our nation’s economic future. That ambiguity is seemingly a feature, not a bug.

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COVID-19 reopening economy

The rest of the world watched as the United States dramatically reopened “the economy” last month. Now, it seems we’ve changed our minds about that.

The White House has repeatedly said that it will be up to individual states to form their own pandemic response plans moving forward. But letting local governments devise their own solutions has produced large gaps in their preparedness, as well as profound confusion around the best practices for balancing the country’s public and economic health.

California, which represents the largest economy in the US and the fifth largest in the world, was one of the first states to put serious quarantine restrictions in place. The decision to relax those orders only came after anti-lockdown protestors demanded that Governor Gavin Newsom reopen the state’s beaches, businesses and churches. Newsom may now regret this capitulation as California just called for a second round of statewide lockdowns.

Other state legislators are slowly following their lead, as the threat is becoming very dire in some places. Florida, for instance, is now a global hotspot for COVID-19 and Miami is being called “the new Wuhan”. The state is also currently struggling against another wave of unemployment, partly because their economy is heavily dependent on summer tourism (which has persisted despite the spike in cases, but not nearly at pre-pandemic levels).

Florida, California and Texas are altogether responsible for 20 percent of all new COVID-19 cases globally.

Every state is fighting two battles here. Coronavirus relief efforts in the US are still seriously underfunded, and most health organizations here lack the resources to effectively test and treat their communities. But the problems that have emerged for workers and small business owners, like evictions and layoffs, have also been devastating in their own right.

In essence, the United States reopened in an effort to curb the nation’s financial freefall and ballooning unemployment. Economists predicted at the beginning of July that reopening would allow the US to avoid a recession, and all would go smoothly. These projections likely did not account for a spike in cases that would halt this economic rebound.

That’s not to say the circumstances here haven’t improved at all over the past months; currently there is no acute shortage of ventilators, and doctors have had some time to refine their strategies for treating the virus. Overall, the national unemployment rate is slightly declining, while working from home is going so well for companies like Twitter and Facebook that they will be permanently switching much of their staff to remote work.

By comparison, though, New Zealand took the pandemic much more seriously than the US did, and they are objectively in a better position now in all respects. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cracked down hard and early, closing the country’s borders completely, and instituting rent freezes nationwide. As a result they have virtually eradicated COVID-19 within their borders. A report from S&P Global also expects New Zealand’s economy to recover quickly compared to the rest of the world.

While this tradeoff seems like a zero sum game – as if we have to pick either our health, or our wealth – it is not. In fact, we could very well end up with neither if our lawmakers don’t proceed with caution.

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