Touch your walls, doors, sinks, light switches, and door handles; they were likely installed by illegal immigrants. Likely from a Latin American country if you’re in the USA (and if your home or apartment was built in the last few decades).
While some Americans are concerned about ‘illegal’ labor conditions in places overseas, our very own homes were built by similar, unrepresented “illegal” labor.
Homebuilding Labor Process
Under the surface of that new model home you just toured, is the work of these illegal immigrants. Home-building is labor-intensive and localized in all cities, so there’s no way of escaping having a home built with illegal labor.
The actual homebuilding company does little or none of the actual physical work and cannot verify the dozens or hundreds of workers that touch each house. Work is subcontracted out to various trades and companies; electrician companies, wood framers, plumbing companies, etc.
Skilled Trade Labor
Contrary to popular belief, the hired illegal labor isn’t unskilled and many workers have years of experience in their artisanal trade. The most experienced tradesmen have their own companies, crews, processes, tools, and reputation within the local home building industry.
There is a lot of intellectual capital carried by these tradesmen and the loss of all illegal labor, particularly the most experienced tradesmen, would incapacitate the home building industry.
The difference in productivity between a starting tradesman and an experienced one is night and day and might be like comparing the difference between a programmer with 1 year of experience versus one with 6–10 years of experience.
Construction Labor Supply Chain
The labor supply chain in construction is mostly hidden and the labor of these tradesmen, many illegal, form the base of the pyramid that supports many facets of the real estate industry: mortgage processors, real estate agents and brokers, bankers and financial institutions, local municipalities and their property taxes, title companies, material suppliers, home builders, land developers, the stock market and more.
American Residency Solution
I believe to start we should give a conditional residency, to the immigrant tradesmen most proficient in the specialized construction trades that are vital to our society. The master framers, masons, and concrete workers for example.
This wouldn’t be a blanket amnesty but a selective one, one that tests and rewards the most experienced tradesmen while providing a safe backstop for our domestic construction, labor supply chain. This would also allow workers to invest heavily into their trade, without fear of losing it all.