On Population, the Environment & Immigration

by Maria Fotopoulos
Editor’s Pick
JUNE 13, 2012 1:30PM

Unemployed Veterans, Immigrant Workers

Rate: 2 Flag

A Million Immigrant Workers Still Stream to U.S. while Many Veterans Have No Work

One in Three Young Vets is Unemployed; Unemployment for African American Vets Tops 40%


Despite across-the-board high U.S. unemployment and the platitudes of government officials, Congress and the President still hew to policies that allow almost a million new legal immigrant workers to enter the country annually.

The unemployment picture for returning veterans is particularly grim. One in three young vets is unemployed. Recently returning veterans age 18 to 24 are being disproportionately affected. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, young male veterans had an unemployment rate of 29.1 percent, nearly double the rate of their nonveteran counterparts. And, unemployment for African American male vets tops 40 percent.

Young Americans have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as served in other places both around the world and at home. Many from already-depressed areas of the country joined the military for lack of other opportunities. So to serve the country and return home still without job prospects, and now too often with physical and or mental health problems as a result of service, has got to be the definition of “adding insult to injury” for these servicemen and servicewomen.

There are no rational or logical underpinnings to policies that undermine putting American citizens first. And while reducing legal immigration and its handmaiden, illegal immigration, will not solve the crisis in the U.S. job situation, doing these two things will help. It’s an increasingly common belief among citizens that the government does not serve them. Limiting legal immigration and eliminating illegal immigration will not only get Americans back to work, it will help restore the much-eroded credibility of the U.S. government.

In the next five years, the number of veterans returning home seeking work nationwide is projected to significantly increase. More than one million will be looking to join the civilian workplace in this timeframe.

Here in California, where there is 11 percent unemployment, more veterans choose to settle than any other state in the country. Currently, California is home to 2 million vets. It also is the state with the highest number of legal immigrants, and it’s a lure for millions of illegal ones too.

For all the youth who suited up for America, subscribing to the belief that they were putting their time and energy to a purpose with merit, we should support policies that contribute to hiring them before foreign workers.

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Some of these immigrants are veterans.
Let me be sure I understand your point. You think America's veterans should be offered migrant, low-paying, benefit-less agricultural work as a reward for their service to our country rather than having those jobs go to undocumented workers? Or would some vets get to be dishwashers, too? Such generosity of spirit to our men and women in uniform.
I second Bob's assertion. Not all vets were born here.
Seriously Open Salon? I'm all for letting everyone air an opinion, but an EP for someone who openly identifies that she writes for an organization with links to white supremacy? Oh, well. At least we get a funny Colbert clip about Californians for Population Stabilization out of it.

The level of venom and inaccurate information displayed here is quite disturbing, particularly the call for squashing freedom of speech. CAPS is a legitimate nonprofit with a legitimate viewpoint that advocates for a sustainable population. And, ultimately, if you talk about population growth, you have to talk about immigration, since most of the growth in the U.S. is from immigration – both legal and illegal. So CAPS supports enforcing our immigration laws, because the country can never be sustainable with mass, unchecked immigration. That is just fact.

The claim put forth based on a comedy show is absurd, and CAPS has responded on its site, capsweb.org. The Southern Poverty Law Center in recent years has taken to labeling organizations with which it disagrees as “hate groups.” They are not a credible source.

I’m also astonished at the level of elitism displayed here. I have many relatives who worked in restaurants in days past – including as dishwashers – and I worked at a McDonald’s (dirty, greasy work) in high school and the start of college. Essentially what I’m hearing in these posts is that Americans are too good to do certain types of work.
I will go to your website and look for CAPS refutation of the recent Pew report on the level of Mexican immigration.

And are you saying that Americans should NOT have pride in their worth and value and if they refuse to take jobs that do not pay family sustaining wages and do not pay benefits they are being uppity, especially our returning military? I put myself through college as a domestic, btw, and I expect better from our country when it comes to protecting the rights and interests of workers than it currently offers. I have no problem with someone refusing to take a job that doesn't give them the dignity of being able to support their family. What are you doing to ensure the jobs available to returning veterans met their basic social and economic needs?

And work on your reading comprehension, please. I did not ask for your post to be taken down, only questioned it's place as an EP. EPs are big deal to the OS community, and, politics aside, your basic argument is specious.
Veterans' do need jobs, but so many of them suffer from PTSD and TBI that job sharing - guaranteed jobs in State & Fed offices and National parks, would be the best fit for them. They should spend their last year of service preparing for the outside world and working part time. More than 1/2 of them can't hold down a job because they don't sleep for days at a time. As far as giving them the jobs that foreigners get- I know a lot of vets and not one would be suited to the restaurant business- the stress is not conducive to PTSD or TBI and the service industry is where most illegals work.

This problem is bigger than people hiring illegals instead of Vets. Vets need structure and leeway- and not all business are capable of handling that. And Bob is right- some immigrants are veterans. Many in my son's unit were not born in the USA.
If you want a sustainable population, then you need to advocate against capitalism which is based on exploitation, growth, and consumption. We can't have sustainability with capitalism. We could have far higher population densities with less consumption.
I visited the website to see what it has to say about the birth control/catholic church dust-up. If, as it web site states, CAPS is concerned about birth rates to foreign born women, in particular Hispanic women (-many of whom are Catholic) then supporting healthcare reform and birth control access seems a no-brainer but I don't see anything.
I spent some time on their website. There seems to be a great deal of concern about the growing number of Hispanics in this country. No mention though that the majority of Hispanics are US citizens, most born in this country. Hmmmm.....
Bob, I agree. CAPS appears to be ignoring a number of issues and opportunities to realize its goals (birth control access, keeping abortion safe and legal) to focus solely on legislative issues related to undocumented Hispanic immigrants. I also didn't see anything about opposing H1B visas in CA, which go to predominantly to non-Hispanics. THOSE are the jobs they should be trying to secure for veterans.
Is an Arizona style immigration law coming to California?

With a $16 billion budget shortfall, a US Supreme Court ruling favoring Arizona's SB1070 could cause Californians to revisit the idea of a tough enforcement referendum. Polls show most California voters would support an Arizona style immigration law in the state.

A previous attempt to crack down on illegal immigration, Proposition 187 (The 1994 "Save our State" referendum), passed by a two to one margin. But shortly thereafter that law was struck down by a federal judge. This discouraged further attempts at such ballot initiatives. If the Supreme Court does rule in favor of Arizona things would be different.

Enforcement proponents in many jurisdictions will be emboldened by a decision favorable to SB1070. With federal lawmakers paralyzed by the unpopularity of amnesty legislation the immigration issue will play out in the states.

This court decision has the potential to be a real game changer.

Please feel free to continue the discussion. Contact john.cnc.dipaolo@gmail.com
There is an ugly stench of racism to this CAPS organization and a cynical use of peoples' worries over such problems as veterans unemployment and environmental degradation. It's transparent "concern" and comes across as patronizing and insincere.

We've seen all of this before in our history as immigrant groups like the Irish, the Jews, the Italians, the Chinese, the Japanese and others have all had their turn being declared inferior races that must be expelled to preserve our national purity. The irony of a California organization seeking to bar immigrants from a nation that much of California once belonged to is beyond even hypocrisy.

As for me, I would no more turn in an undocumented worker to ICE than I would have turned in a fugitive slave to the slave catchers. We have a lot of problems in this country but most of them flow from the largely white wealthy elite who dominate our politics and our economy.

It wasn't the undocumented immigrants who damned near crashed the entire global economy in 2008, spilled oil all over the Gulf Coast or who set up a US military empire around the planet engaged in endless wars for resources.

We should be working toward dismantling national borders, not building higher walls among nations. In a world facing problems that can only be solved with global cooperation, that makes no sense to me.
you don't have a right to a job. when you come back from screwing the people in foreign lands and discover you are worthless if you don't go back to bringing freedom and democracy where ever the leaders say , then sign up for another tour. got the picture yet?

fact is, there wasn't enough volunteers for iraq, much less afpakistan. but there's always a way: just have a recession.
Our immigration problem has nothing to do with it. There are two factors why veterans have a higher unemployment rate.

First there is a disproportional high number of uneducated and those from economically depressed regions who join the army. They join for a better life and opportunities for education and job skills. That is why the Army targets the disadvantaged in their advertising. The poor and disadvantaged always fight our wars.

The problem is most of those "skills" and "jobs" you learn in the army are not marketable skills you can use in the real world. Plus, the time spent (4-8 years is the average) doing that unmarketable job means everyone else your age is gaining real education and job experience. When you re-enter the job market you are older, but still pretty much in the same place you started.

The second reason is this idea you earned this mythical "job for life" because you joined the army. Maybe recruits should look at it in the light of reality. The army offers on the job training, money and benefits to do a job. But, once that job is over so is the pay and benefits. Same as any other job. Do not be fooled into thinking it is anything more than that. I know the PC thing is our veterans should be given the best jobs, but the reality is employers are looking for employees with experience and skills who require minimal job training and can get up to speed quickly.

Say you are an employer looking at two applicants. Both are the same age. Applicant A has training and experience doing the job you have to offer. Applicant B has 4 years of military training, a GED from the military, and maybe some job related health problems from being in the longest war in American history. You are already under staffed and everyone is doing the work of two people already so do you hire the one who is better qualified or do you hire the vet?

The harsh reality is we do not have jobs for vets because there are less and less opportunities for even those with education and experience much less for those with no are limited marketable skills.
Sorry typo, I meant to say no or little marketable skills.
If you are here Illegally you must go home. If you served to recieve citizenship then you are welcome.
Have just spent eight months in DC looking for a job and before that three months in San Diego, both of which have MANY vets. And these were both private and public sector jobs I applied for. The federal government in particular gives enormous handicaps to veterans.

I am in my fifties and have not had the benefit of the excellent on the job training as I was a homemaker for my entire adult life. I do not have health insurance, nor employment counselors, nor retirement income.

I think the issue of illegal immigrants and veterans looking for work are two separate issues. If there are any jobs, veterans are well-poised to get them.
i gave this an uprate, then undid it, here's why.

yes veterans deserve a better outcome than they're getting.

but no this has zero to with mexicans crossing the border to work for some lawn cutting service, or guys in turbans manning the cash register at a gas station of quickee mart.

the solution is a world war 2 style "education benefit" which get's veterans a seat at the table for training, if all they were trained to do in the military was aim and fire.

i'm all for enforcement of immigration laws, and improvement of them to meet modern expectations and realities.

but that has ZERO to do with jobless veterans
I wish our President was on the front lawn discussing aplan for these men and women with the eagerness his team devoted to immigration 'reform' in an election year. That would be leadership
HOLY COW ! what disturbing numbers.
If the companies are bringing immigrants with the same qualifications with US citizens, then we have a serious problem, and I totally agree with you. That is also against the USCIS regulations.
Here are the regulations for "Permanent Worker Visa Preference Categories"
- This preference is reserved for persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; outstanding professors or researchers; and multinational executives and managers.
- This preference is reserved for persons who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or for persons with exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business.
-This preference is reserved for professionals, skilled workers, and other workers. (See Third Preference EB-3 link on left for further definition of these job classifications.)
-This preference is reserved for “special immigrants,” which includes certain religious workers, employees of U.S. foreign service posts, retired employees of international organizations, alien minors who are wards of courts in the United States, and other classes of aliens.
-This preference is reserved for business investors who invest $1 million or $500,000 (if the investment is made in a targeted employment area) in a new commercial enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time U.S. workers.
Thanks to all who took the time to read the post on veteran unemployment ... a few additional thoughts after reading some of the feedback.

Regarding the dismissal of the argument as “spurious,” there’s a long history of economic theory that addresses supply and demand. In the simplest form, when there is excess supply, prices will go down. This is as true for the labor market as for the market for products. Excess labor will drive down wages.

As related specifically to the impacts of both legal (1 million per year now) and illegal immigration, this isn’t exactly news. Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-Tex) chaired the Commission on Immigration Reform, which in 1995 called for lower levels of legal immigration, saying, “Immigrants with relatively low education and skills may compete for jobs and public services with the most vulnerable of Americans, particularly those who are unemployed or underemployed.”

As to higher skilled workers, a report from the Center for Immigration Studies found that there were 2 million+ unemployed U.S. residents holding a bachelor’s or higher STEM degree. Additionally, approximately 10 million Americans with STEM degrees were not working in their specialties, “many of whom could be lured back to those fields with wage increases or other incentives.”


So whether there are returning veterans with basic or high skill-sets, they will be squeezed by immigrant labor that will work for lower wages.

Regarding the Pew report showing a decline in immigration from Mexico, given the dreadful state of the U.S. economy, that’s not surprising. But that fact – subject to change if the economy improves – doesn’t mean much, because we still have not fixed immigration policy. As well, while immigrants from Mexico represent a high number of the illegal immigrants that are here – and thus get discussed often – we have immigrants in the U.S. illegally from numerous countries. So again, the issue is how the government has chosen to deal with illegal immigration.

The comment regarding working in the park service was interesting, and there certainly is work that needs to be done throughout our park system (including policing to deal with the illegal marijuana growing done by illegal aliens). It would be good to see that explored as an option. There seemed to be some focus on service (fast-food jobs) perhaps being the dominant area for illegal workers. But there have been huge numbers of illegal workers employed in the construction industry, for example, which historically was an industry that employed American citizens.

As to the H-1B visa program, CAPS has written extensively about the abuse of this particular visa. I wrote an issues paper on this for CAPS, “First Came the ‘Jobs Americans Won’t Do’ … Now it’s the ‘Jobs Americans Aren’t Smart Enough to Do,’” which you’ll find on the newsroom of the CAPS website. Do a search too for “H-1B” on the CAPS website search box, and you’ll find other articles about H-1Bs.

I’ve also posted on my Salon blog a review of a new documentary, “They Come to America,” which provides a very good look at the impacts of immigration on U.S. workers. I highly recommend seeing it – and watching a 90-minute film is much easier than slogging through tons of reading material on this complex topic!

Regarding some comments about where CAPS focuses its resources, CAPS is an advocate for family planning (see position under the “Facts” tab). There are many, many great organizations that do good work in this area though. CAPS, however, is probably the only organization that makes the connection between unchecked immigration and the quality of life in California. As an organization that talks about the impacts of overpopulation, it’s been impossible NOT to talk about immigration in recent years, as that has been the driver of U.S. population growth in recent years.

Regarding Bob Simpson’s characterization of an “insincere” and “cynical use” of “environmental degradation” to discuss overpopulation, I’ll reply, “Can you think of any environmental problem that is made better by adding more people?”

CAPS counts among its members, board and advisors many committed environmentalists who “get” the connection between unchecked population growth and the negative impact on the environment. Among them are Dick Schneider, a member of the CAPS board, who is a long-time environmentalist and populationist. He’s done a significant amount of work with land use issues to curb growth – not as a solution, but as a way to “buy time.” An interview with him is here:


CAPS Senior Writing Fellow Leon Kolankiewicz, a wildlife biologist and environmental planner, with 25 years of experience working in three countries and more than 30 states, also has written eloquently about the population-environment connection in pieces about the ocean, salmon and climate change, among other topics.

And, finally, I’d recommend this overview video about the current state of California if you’re interested in the population-environment connection:

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