Does the U.S. Need and Want Low-Skill Haitian Workers? Yes: Just Look Around

February 21, 2012

Last month, a CGD initiative succeeded in getting Haitians access to America’s largest temporary work visa program. Access to this visa has the potential to unleash hundreds of millions of dollars of new income—at no cost to the United States—for Haitian families still coping with a catastrophic earthquake and the world’s worst cholera epidemic. It is a double win for the U.S., which got access to more energetic young workers to fill very basic jobs, and for struggling Haiti. This small step, says Claire Provost of The Guardian’s Poverty Matters, could open “a fresh development frontier”.The tired anti-immigrant crowd at the Center for Immigration “Studies” (CIS), of course, spat at the idea of Haitian farmworkers in the U.S.—questioning whether U.S. employers want any Haitians. To understand the atrocious quality of CIS’s evidence-free analysis, it is helpful to know that CIS was founded by white supremacists and its parent organization has been designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. CIS’s director has stated that Haiti would be better off if it had endured additional years of colonization and enslavement by white Europeans.Fear salesmen like CIS don’t deserve a minute of your time. There is enormous demand for Haitian workers in U.S. firms and communities. What the U.S. has now, thanks to the visa change, is a lawful way to meet that demand.In the state of Florida alone, U.S. firms employed about 140,000 Haitian farmworkers last year. That is tremendous demand. For two reasons, that number could easily grow: Last year there was no legal channel to allow Haitians to come to the U.S. to temporarily fill those jobs. Now, as of January 2012, there is. And last year the U.S. economy was limping; it is now starting to regain steam and generate even more jobs. It’s quite realistic to think that U.S. employers will hire a few thousand Haitians. That will directly channel more money to Haitian families than is found in the entire U.S. aid package for post-earthquake reconstruction. Cost to taxpayers: zero. (In fact, temporary foreign workers generate tax revenue.)How about outside Florida? Do American companies and towns want Haitian workers? The below video report from the BBC takes you to a rural American town far north of Florida, where hundreds of Haitian workers have recently arrived:


Watch this fascinating video clip. Watch the church leaders, community leaders, and passersby in Mount Olive, North Carolina talk with the BBC’s James Fletcher about these Haitians. Few of them had ever seen a Haitian until recently. Now there’s even a Haitian restaurant right on Main Street in little Mount Olive. These good people are busy working out arrangements for mutual prosperity and enrichment, leaving the anti-immigrant folks up in Washington to keep dreaming up hypothetical disasters in their fear-factories.Thank goodness the law of the land no longer stands in the way of employers in Mount Olive and elsewhere hiring temporary Haitian workers when they can’t find other workers. US firms and farms: Do you want to do good by doing well? When you can’t find other willing workers, hire a Haitian!


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.