President Donald Trump’s move to ramp up immigration enforcement has instilled fear in L.A.’s community of undocumented immigrants, who represent up to 10 percent of Los Angeles County’s 10 million residents, according to some estimates.
The action is stirring concern among the region’s business community, and rightfully so.
Immigrants of all classifications are an essential part of the L.A. and California economies, perhaps more so than in any other region in the nation.
According to a report released this month by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, foreign-born residents in 2014 contributed 35.7 percent – $233 billion – of the county’s GDP.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that foreign-born workers are more likely than native workers to be employed in some key jobs in Los Angeles, including service occupations, natural resources, construction, maintenance, transportation, and material moving.
At the same time, the growing slate of Silicon Beach tech companies is looking to skilled foreign workers to help fill their ranks.
The chamber report also says that the entrepreneurial spirit flourishes among immigrants in particular – 51.5 percent of the county’s self-employed entrepreneurs in 2014 were foreign born.
Cracking down on illegal immigration will affect not just current workers but will also put the region’s future workforce at risk. Many children have family members who are undocumented, if they aren’t themselves.
Embracing foreign workers, creating a path to citizenship for those without criminal records, and acknowledging the important contributions they make to our economy is part of job creation here at home.
Indeed, bigger threats to the American workforce come from the rise of automation and a shortage of skills needed to compete in 21st century industries.
There are some 83,000 Americans employed in mining coal; the tech industry employs nearly 7 million. Rather than focusing on immigration, better to shore up a failing education and job-training system so all our workers are better prepared for the jobs we have, not the jobs of a bygone time.
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