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Well, it looks like America is inching ever closer to giving amnesty to illegal immigrants. If that’s so, how is this going to affect the trucking industry as a whole? How will this affect us truckers? What do we need to do to prepare for it? Or is there anything we can do? Well, today I’m going to step out of my comfort zone and tackle this subject. But first, a moment of prayer:
Please help me not to look like too much of an idiot today… or any other day for that matter.
Amnesty for illegal immigrants is a loaded topic. Some folks are for it. Some are passionately against it. The rest of us lie somewhere between uncertain and confused. I count myself as covering the spectrum of the latter. I’m uncertain how I feel about it and I’m generally confused about the whole legislative process and it’s ramifications.
So with that, I’m going to embark on a journey to share my thoughts about it. I’m also just as positive that I will prove to you how ignorant I really am about all things political. So take this with a grain of salt… which is hopefully attached to a McDonald’s french fry. And please keep this disclaimer in mind before you write me an angry email telling me how stupid I am. I can get that from The Evil Overlord by just existing.
Okay, first let me say that the reason I’m so torn on this subject is because of the people involved. I’ve got nothing against immigrants. The way I see it, immigrants in general tend to be very motivated and I respect that. Every day we see truckers of all ethnic backgrounds driving trucks. You know one for sure when you see those little fuzzy balls hanging all around the windshield. Heck, some of them can’t even speak English. How often have you heard this conversation?
Cashier: What company do you drive for, hun?
Trucker: *smiles, shakes head, and says,* “Yes”
Cashier: *takes a deep breath* What’s your truck number?
Trucker: *looks confused and says,* “Yes”
Cashier: *looks with disgust at trucker*
Everyone in line: *shakes head slowly*
Outside of trucking, we see hard-working Mexicans working their tails off in the fields, on construction sites, or starting yet another Mexican restaurant. We also see lots of Indians who own convenience stores (and yes, I’m aware that’s a stereotype – I blame The Simpson’s). By and large, these people realize that they’re blessed to be living in the good old US of A and they’re motivated to make the most of the opportunity. Kudos to them!
So are illegal immigrants any different?
Well, we’ve all heard the stories of gangbangers coming from Mexico and committing crimes. It’s also almost certain that there are radical Islamic terrorists in our country right now planning their next big thing. But is that the norm? I honestly doubt it.
In our society in general, we tend to only hear stories about the bad and not the good. The nightly news is happy to report on the twice-deported thug who comes back a third time and kills a soccer mom. But how often do you hear about the father who leaves his wife and kids for weeks, just to provide a moderate living for them?
Here is where I’m most conflicted. I know that the vast majority of illegal immigrants are good, hard-working people who just want to earn a decent wage so their families don’t have to go dumpster diving for their supper. Their countries can’t supply that for whatever reason, so they do what they feel is necessary.
The problem is, what they’re doing is illegal! Anyone who argues the term “illegal immigrant” is an idiot. It is what it is. If they’re here without proper documentation, then they’re here illegally. If I was in Ireland without permission, I’d be an illegal immigrant too. It has nothing to do with what’s ethically right or wrong. It’s the law.
Another thing that makes me grumpy about the whole situation is that the US isn’t doing anything that any other country wouldn’t do, yet we’re the ones who are most often labeled biased against foreigners. Other countries usually enforce their immigration laws with far more vigor than we do. For example, let’s pick on our brothers to the south since they tend to be the biggest point of contention right now.
If you enter Mexico illegally, you can be charged with a felony and be imprisoned for 2 years. If the Mexican government deems you to be “not physically or mentally healthy,” they can boot you out. Furthermore, if you are found to be an economic burden on society, they’ll stick you in a catapult and launch your butt back across the Rio Grande.
Seriously? An economic burden? Did I hear that right? If our 11 million (estimated) non-tax paying illegal immigrants aren’t a burden on the US economy, then what is? In Texas alone, they estimated that it cost $12.1 billion to support illegal immigrants. And that was just for 2013! Now I’m not real bright, but I’m pretty sure that qualifies as an “economic burden.” Heck, we’ve all heard about the pregnant illegals who sneak into the States just to have their baby born a US citizen. How is that not being an intentional economic burden?
Now I’d be willing to bet that if you asked these border-jumpers, 95% (not counting the criminals) would choose to become legal citizens if the process wasn’t so stinkin’ convoluted. They’d happily become fat and sassy Americans and begrudgingly pay their taxes like everyone else. Much of the economic burden would be relieved. But the fact is, that currently isn’t an option. But is amnesty the way to go?
Well, one thing’s for sure. I can see amnesty having an ENORMOUS effect on the trucking industry.
First off, we’ve suddenly got 11 million new citizens. Okay, to be fair they’re talking about providing amnesty over the course of many years, but still. Work with me here. Now keep in mind that this doesn’t mean we truckers will have more freight to haul to support these new Americans. These people are already here, so nothing to be gained there.
No, I honestly can’t see one good thing for truckers coming out of this situation. Think about it. We now have 11 million new people looking for jobs… real jobs. For the most part, these illegal immigrants couldn’t obtain a Commercial Driver’s License before amnesty because there is so much scrutiny on truckers, especially when it comes to getting your Hazardous Materials endorsement. Therefore, they had to settle for low-paying jobs where they could get paid under the table and not bring too much attention to themselves. But once they’re here legally, what’s holding them back from becoming truckers? Nothing!
If you take a second, you’ll realize that these folks are prime candidates for the trucking industry. Most of them are already used to low wages, so getting their CDL will likely be a pay raise for them. They’re also already used to being away from home for long periods of time, so being away from family is just par for the course. Heck, when you hear the stories of 15 people living in one small apartment, they’d probably enjoy the expanse of a 60″ sleeper cab!
Also, let’s think about time. It takes two years to get an Associates degree in nursing. It takes two WEEKS to become a trucker! And as many of you know, there are plenty of ways to get your driving school paid for if you’re unable to pay. But hey, let’s not think for a second that there won’t be all kinds of government assistance for these people to be retrained for new jobs. I think that’s a given, considering our current administration feels the US has bottomless pockets. Ugh. Don’t get me started.
But let’s remember that not everyone in the trucking industry is dreading this widespread amnesty.
Who stands to benefit from this sudden tsunami of new CDL holders? The trucking companies, that’s who. You can bet that every trucking company in America is drooling like one of Pavlov’s dogs. Why? Because these new citizens are going to be working for beans. I mean, there are already truckers out here who have proven that they’ll work for a measly 25¢ per mile. How much lower are these new truckers willing to settle for? And what do you think that will do to overall wages?
Overall though, I suppose this amnesty thing might be good for the trucking industry as a whole. The trucking companies can finally quit talking about the driver shortage. And because they’re paying the driver less, they can afford to charge the customers less. And because the customers aren’t getting charged as much, they could (I repeat, could) lower the prices we consumers pay. So that’s a good thing, right?
Well, it is for everyone except the good ol’ American trucker. Imagine that? Once again, everyone’s happy except for the trucker, who can be found hobbling into the truck stop with a Peterbilt driveshaft hanging from his bunghole.
Additional links from the podcast version:
I’m pleased to announce that Erich McMann agreed to let me give away three copies of his new CD called Trucker Country. Just email me at TruckerDump@gmail.com and put the words “Trucker Music” in the Subject field. I’ll do a random drawing and announce the winners on a future show. And be sure to Like him on Facebook and check out his music video on YouTube.
BigTruckGuide.com when you need to know axle weights in a particular state.
A new iPhone app called StayAtHand can help truckers find hotels with truck parking.
If you haven’t heard what’s going on with the new amnesty laws, check out this New York Times article.
An article on other country’s immigration laws.
If you’re unfamiliar with Pavlov’s dogs, check this out.
In the feedback section:
Ken writes in with a funny one-liner.
David writes in with an idea about how to let drivers drive a little bit over their legal driving time. I’m mean and slash it apart. 😉
Simon writes in from Ireland with some pictures of the tiny roads he drives on everyday. I throw a couple of pictures of America’s back roads in for comparison. See the pictures here.