According to the United States Department of Labor, in 2014, “the share of the U.S. civilian labor force that was foreign born was 16.5 percent.” Additionally, 24.1 percent of the total service occupations were being fulfilled by foreign-born workers. Clearly, foreign workers, whether living temporarily or full-time in the United States have a significant impact on the labor force of the United States, especially in the services sectors, like hospitality and food production.
Of the service industries, most of us would agree that the agriculture sector would likely have the largest percentage of foreign born workers working in it. According to a United States Department of Agriculture report on farm labor, foreign workers accounted for more than 50% of the farm labor from 1991 through 2009. The percentage of US citizen workers in farms has steadily decreased from about 47% in 1991 to about 30% in 2009. The USDA figures include authorized and unauthorized foreign born workers.
For its part, the United States Department of Labor estimates that 78% of the farm labor in 2001 and 2002 was foreign born. Seventy-five percent were born in Mexico, also according to the Department of Labor.
Likewise, almost 45% of the total number of workers in the hospitality industry in 2009, was foreign born according to the Migration Policy Institute. Interestingly and seldom discussed is that in 2010, about 12% of the total union membership in the United States was foreign born. This is important to note because unions have traditionally been anti-immigration because of the wage pressures brought on by foreign workers.
As you can clearly see, foreign born workers, or immigrants play a significant part in the economic activities of the United States. This activity is even more significant in the agriculture and the service industries, such as restaurants and hotels.
As today is Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to lay these facts before you and remind individuals, like Donald Trump, that it is likely that an immigrant, probably a Mexican, made it possible to have the Thanksgiving dinner him and his family will enjoy today. That is true for almost everyone enjoying time with their loved ones around a Thanksgiving Day table.
As you devour the turkey, eat the accompanying vegetables and savor the pumpkin pie, take a moment to understand that this is all possible because immigrants helped to keep the US economy vibrant and affordable for US citizens, including those that do not want us, immigrants, to also partake of Thanksgiving Day dinner in the US where many of us labor.