On Labor Day, remember that US was built by immigrants; their help is needed again

Shams Mustafa
Shams Mustafa

For decades we have celebrated Labor Day to recognize the contributions of American workers. The Monday holiday will include parades and end-of-summer parties, but this year it’s missing the core of the celebration; it’s missing the labor.

We are missing 3.4 million workers since February 2020, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has reported.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2019, businesses of every size and field had to either shut down completely or lay off workers. Around 30 million Americans lost their jobs and some of them are not willing to go back.

No wonder there is a “hiring” sign in front of almost every workplace. In some places like Community Action Wayne/Medina, CEO James Fox said they had to reduce the work week from five to four days because of a staffing shortage.

Even county fairs are not immune to the labor shortage and decline in volunteers, leaving some vendors and concessions operators, including in Wayne and Ashland counties, running fewer food trucks, raising prices or downsizing food portions to counterbalance inflation and higher wages paid to attract workers.

Restaurants, with low wages and fewer benefits, are among the industries suffering the most. Some restaurants adopted a similar reduction strategy. Mama Guzzardi’s in Stark County cut their hours from six days a week to five. And they reduced their offerings, so instead of offering lunch five days, they offer it only for three days a week.

A November survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber shows 33% of women who lost jobs amid the pandemic and have not returned to work indicated the need to be at home to take care of a family member. More than a quarter of unemployed men said there are no good jobs, or the payment is not enough. In addition, some were still spending the money they received from stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment benefits.

As new businesses open and old businesses reopen, more than 10 million positions have been created. So, even if the rate of unemployment is zero, the workforce is still not matching the number of job openings we have in the U.S.

This crisis can be solved with one word: Immigration.

Let's not forget the US is a nation built by immigrants, a viable option to help strengthen today's workforce

It seems we forget that the U.S. was a nation built by immigrants.

The former administration was against immigration and spread the fear of having immigrants from different countries like Mexico, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Between building the wall, the Muslim ban, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact that immigration has had on U.S population growth dropped from over a million to around 247,000, according to censuses in the last couple of years.

Although the Biden administration lifted the wall and travel ban policies, the pandemic still had a major impact.

In 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services implemented Title 42, an emergency regulation to prohibit individuals from entering the U.S. on public health grounds. That led asylum seekers coming from Mexico, Guatemala and other Latin American countries to go back to where they came from.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in April that Title 42 is no longer necessary. They suggested vaccinating asylum seekers and investigating their cases instead of sending them back to their countries for an unknown dark fate.

As the Biden administration was getting ready to terminate Title 42 in May, a federal court in Louisiana blocked the administration from proceeding and an ongoing court battle is running.

Again, Republicans are adopting the fear of immigrant strategy that Trump once spread. J.D. Vance, Ohio's Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, released a statewide ad claiming that immigrants are responsible for illegal drugs in Ohio.

He opens the ad by saying, “Are you a racist? Do you hate Mexicans?", then he closes by saying he lost his mother because of opioids and it’s a personal matter.

We do have an opioid crisis, but immigrants and asylum seekers who are escaping prosecution are not the reason behind it.

And to answer his question, yes. If you judge a whole nation for a problem done by a few, then you are a racist.

Closing the borders means terminating the legal way for refugees to enter. It will allow human smugglers to take advantage of the problem and bring in immigrants with unknown backgrounds.

Instead of thinking of immigrants as dangerous individuals trying to cause harm to our nation, think of them as your ancestors who first came here to start their American dream.

Look around in your neighborhood for a Mexican or a Chinese restaurant. You will realize their contribution and handwork.

According to a report by the New American Economy, immigrants in central Ohio paid more than $2 billion in taxes in 2019. Immigrants came here to build and thrive, not destroy.

When we take a moment to recognize the past contributions and sacrifices of American workers during hardships, remember that bringing new talent will help raise this country.

Shams Mustafa is a freelance journalist for the Wooster Daily Record. She came to the U.S. from Egypt and lives with her husband and children in Orrville.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: Immigrants can help fill job openings that hurt businesses