In Erie, Pa., a city of 101,786 people, they’ve seen 4,000 refugees resettle there since 2012.
These newcomers have been able to find work fairly quickly. For most small cities, that would be reason enough to pop the cork.
However, there’s an asterisk.
It’s not because there’s an influx of jobs or because they’re more educated or skilled than native-born residents. They’re getting what few jobs are available because they can pass a drug test.
According to a new CNN report, manufacturers in Erie, and elsewhere, are being forced to look beyond those born and raised there because drug abuse is so prevalent among native-born Americans.
The statistics do not bode well for us. America is 5 percent of the world’s population, yet the undisputed heavyweight champ in illegal drug consumption and abuse.
The CNN report states that Erie has lost half of its manufacturing base since the 1980s, which means that such jobs are at a premium. At one company, however, 20 percent of its American-born employees failed a drug test.
Special place in hell
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency: “Workers who report having three or more jobs in the previous five years are about twice as likely to be current or past-year users of illegal drugs as those who have had two or fewer jobs.”
Because both nature and business abhor a vacuum, enter the refugees.
Now, it would be disingenuous to suggest that drugs are not bought, sold, or consumed in other countries, particularly when we know that most of the world’s supply of poppy comes from Afghanistan. But drugs are not part of the lives of those who undergo extensive, multi-year screenings to acquire U.S. refugee status.
Coming from Syria, which is being decimated, or South Sudan, where people are being systematically starved, murdered or raped by the thousands, Erie, even with its beastly, lake-effect snowstorms must feel like waking up in Heaven.
However, we also know that some corporations are abusing the H1-B visa program to displace experienced (read: higher-earning) Americans with cheaper immigrant labor, with the dubious claim they simply can’t find enough Americans to fill high-skill jobs.
(There ought to be a special place in hell for companies that add to the grief and humiliation of downsized employees by forcing them to train their immigrant replacements before leaving.)
Land of opportunity
In addition, one of the reasons undocumented people risk crossing our border is because some American businesses keep dangling jobs.
When you’ve lived on $2 a day, $3.50 an hour is a fortune.
Now, a sovereign nation has a right to protect its borders and enforce its immigration laws, but the human equation is never that simple. No one takes a toddler by the hand and flees with no money, no job or no language skills and knowingly breaks the laws of a strange country unless they see no way out.
The emphasis on more aggressive enforcement undoubtedly means fewer people will take the risk. We’ll see how many Americans step into the fields and slaughterhouses to take those vacancies.
None of this seems to be the issue in Erie. According to the report, some Americans who have jobs are losing those jobs because of failed screenings.
We like to call ourselves the “Land of Opportunity.” It’s hard to fault newcomers for taking us at our word.
— Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or email@example.com