(Mr. Connerly is a former University of California Regent, former chairman of Proposition 209, and currently chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute. He is nationally known for his commitment to end the use of race preferences in government employment, contracting, and education.)


When President Bush announced the elements of the “comprehensive” bill that he was supporting to address problems involved with illegal immigration, he stressed the importance of illegal aliens to the American economy by stating repeatedly that illegals performed jobs “that Americans won’t do.” I winced each time he said this.

What I find so disingenuous and, frankly, insulting about this statement is that it represents an indictment of the American work ethic with so little justification to support the claim.

Americans are not lazy people. Nor are we too proud to get our hands dirty picking fruit, waiting on tables, working at construction sites or performing any number of other jobs for which “undocumented workers” are presumed to be the sole source of labor.

My experience is not unlike that of other Americans. As a young man, I picked peaches, tomatoes and cherries in my pre-teen summer months. I washed windows and cleaned bathrooms at service stations during that bygone era when “service stations” actually provided services. I occasionally worked at a construction site picking up debris during my high school years. My best job during that period was during my junior and senior years of high school when I worked as a “stock clerk” at a fabric store. Included in my duties were the tasks of sweeping the sidewalk and cleaning toilets.

I had it easy compared to older members of my family. One of my uncles piled lumber in rainy as well as extremely hot weather. If you want evidence of the willingness of Americans to do back-breaking work, imagine a man standing 10 feet off the ground on top of a pile of lumber, in 100-plus-degree weather, wrestling “green” (wet) boards that weigh more than 100 pounds onto the pile. When work ran out at the sawmill, he dug ditches for contractors. At the end of the day, his shirts were soaked with perspiration, his boots were weighted with mud, and he had used several handkerchiefs to wipe the sweat from his brow.

My aunts worked as domestic workers – making beds, washing dishes, mopping floors, whatever was required to keep Mr. and Mrs. Cook’s house spic-n-span.

No job was too dirty, too hard, hours too long or wages too small for us.

Some might say that those were the “old days” and that individuals won’t work like that anymore. I profoundly disagree. At the Sacramento International airport, and others as well, white women are shining shoes. The housekeeper (formerly known as “domestic worker”) of a close friend is a white female. In urban centers throughout the nation, blacks are working for very low wages at car washes, as bell hops, and doing any number of jobs that require nothing more than a willingness to work hard. Years ago, unskilled blacks cleaned horse stalls at Hollywood Park racetrack. They would still do so if illegal aliens hadn’t taken the jobs.

The fact of the matter is that, with a high school dropout rate of 30-40% among blacks, America has a substantial supply of unskilled individuals who are willing to do the jobs that illegal aliens do. The problem, however, is that they are often not offered the chance to do so, because of the prevailing sentiment among too many American employers, embraced by the president, that these are jobs “that no American will do.”

In many industries, there is what is called the “tipping point.” This is the point at which a given demographic group takes control of the job site and controls who works there. To illustrate: if the job site is largely controlled by one group of workers based on “race” or ethnic background, it becomes virtually impossible for anyone who is not of that group to become employed at that site. The “tipping point,” I am told, is about 60%. In short, once the labor force for any job reaches 60% illegal, it will become essentially 100% illegal in the fullness of time. The reason is that the employer will entrust the leader of the group to select other workers when there is a vacancy and that selection will be based on language, ethnicity and “race.”

Employers want workers who get along together, who socialize and become, or already are, friends. Such work environments tend to be more productive and efficient. At a site where roofing repairs are being undertaken or a new lawn is being planted, for example, it is not likely that a black dude is going to be content listening to mariachi bands on the radio all day long with nothing but Mexican lyrics comprising his music diet. He is quite likely to request that the station be turned to the local R&B channel where James Brown can wail his “I feel good” boogie beat. When he makes such a request at a site where the “tipping point” has been reached, tension will be the result.

No matter what else one might think about illegal immigration, its rationale does not rest on the premise that Americans are either too proud or too lazy to do certain jobs. That just isn’t true.