Since its founding, the U.S. has been in constant growth mode — and immigration has always been a part of that expansion. Take my story, for example. I come from a long line of dairy farmers, dating back to the 1600s in Holland. My father and his parents – my grandparents – immigrated to the United States for the chance to start their own dairy farm. They weren’t the only immigrants milking cows; migrant workers from Mexico were also employed by dairy farmers.
In my mind, immigration isn’t a zero-sum game; it’s beneficial for native-born Americans and immigrants alike. Some people think that immigrants are taking jobs away from native-born Americans, but in my experience, that’s the furthest things from the truth. In my 20 years in the dairy industry, only four or five native-born workers have applied for a job on my farm, and most have had experience in agriculture.
Right now, the country is nearing full employment with an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent. If we’re near full employment, that means no one is taking jobs from anyone. Everyone is employed and that includes immigrants; whether they’re documented or not, they’re all working. Given my years of experience, I just don’t believe that immigrants are taking jobs away from native-born Americans.
In fact, what I’m seeing is a tight immigrant labor market. This tightening is due to our government’s approach to immigration. Immigrant workers used to apply by the dozens to work on my farm. Now things have changed. These days, I’m lucky if I get an application from an immigrant worker once a month. And no native-born workers have come to take their place.
Pete Wiersma is the president of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association and a speaker at Leading the Way: An American Approach to Immigration.