I stopped by Trader Joe’s last night to pick up a few staples, but walked out with no hummus, no pita, no eggs and no produce. Indeed, there were sparse pickings throughout the half-empty shelves in the baked goods, refrigerated and produce sections.
A sudden run on imported proscuitto and persian cucumbers? No… the checkout clerk explained that they simply didn’t get their usual deliveries, much of which comes from California.
It was, after all, a day without immigrants.
As many as 65,000 people peacefully marched through the streets of Seattle yesterday, while according to private accounts, 20,000 people demonstrated through WA state’s fruit basket, creating a convoy from Prosser over 20 miles long. The Yakima Herald reported that, whatever the final number, the “sleeping giant” had awakened.
“Not even in the time of Cesar Chavez, may he rest in peace, did this many people come out in the Yakima Valley,” youth leader David Gutierrez told the rally. The late founder of the United Farm Workers of America union led a 1986 march in Toppenish that drew some 700 participants.
The Washington Post estimates crowds of over 300,000 in both Los Angeles and Chicago, while protests impacted businesses nationwide.
Demonstrators opposed to strict immigration proposals in Congress staged huge marches in Chicago and Los Angeles, curtailed operations at at least one major port, shut down construction sites in the District, forced the closing of crossings at the Mexican border and halted work at meat-processing plants in the Midwest. Although the protests caught the nation’s attention, the economic impact was mixed, as many immigrants heeded the call of some leaders not to jeopardize their jobs, and businesses adopted strategies to cope with absent employees.
Well I don’t know what about the rest of the nation, but I know what impact the demonstration had on me: I won’t be eating my usual hummus and persian cucumber on pita for lunch today.
Yeah, sure, that’s a petty, trivial inconvenience… but it brings home all the unseen, little ways our immigrant population ends up having a huge impact on our economy and our quality of life. The food we eat, the houses we live in, many of the services we take for granted, are all made affordable through the sweat of our nation’s immigrants.
The United States’ historically rapid rise to the status of economic superpower was fueled by a seemingly unlimited wealth of natural resources, and a genuinely unlimited supply of cheap, immigrant labor. Indeed, our economic expansion has always depended on a steadily expanding labor supply, but lost in all the debate over border security, criminalization, amnesty and deportations is the obvious fact that our current immigration policy simply does not adequately meet our economy’s demand for immigrant labor. If it did, we wouldn’t have an estimated 10 million illegal immigrants filling our nation’s low-wage jobs.
Labor inexorably moves to where the jobs are… that’s Free Market Capitalism 101. Thus any immigration reform package that refuses to recognize the economic reality of labor markets can do little to stem the flow of illegal immigration without doing damage to our nation’s economy.