“Immigrants are here to ruin this country.”
If there’s one thing people are good at, it’s creating stereotypes. All you have to do is choose to believe what everyone else thinks about a group of people rather than form your own opinion, and there you go, you’ve got yourself a stereotype.
In fact, any opinion about a large group of people has a major flaw—people are different. Sure, it’s not breaking news, but it seems that we lose sight of that when we’re presented with sweeping judgments about people according to their race, religion, or nationality.
Below are five myths that have kept business owners around the country from adding immigrant workers to their payroll for years. If you’ve been feeling hesitant when it comes to hiring foreign-born workers, take a look at these common stereotypes and how reality measures up.
Back in the 1990s, there was a common statue that could be found on the lawns of homeowners in Southern California and New Mexico. It depicts a Mexican man hugging his knees, fast asleep under his sombrero when he should be working. While this may be a petty example, it goes to demonstrate the sentiment felt toward the work ethic of immigrant workers.
Did you know that, in recent years, more immigrants have come to the U.S. from Asia than from Latin America? Getting a green card takes time, hard work, and patience. Add to that the prospect of flying halfway around the world to come and work in the U.S., and you have yourself a type of person who is willing to go above and beyond to live and work in the land of opportunity.
Now, of course, you’ll always have those who don’t share that work ethic, but I’ll let you determine that at the job interview. As I said, no one blanket statement can be truthfully said about a group of people as large as immigrants. The point is, you can’t say that they’re naturally lazy or hard workers. If you’re looking to hire an immigrant, you need to determine their work ethic based on the character of the individual, not their nationality.
On the other hand, rather than being lazy, it seems to be common knowledge that legal immigrants are being paid pennies on the hour to do the jobs we Americans only ever dream of doing. Regardless of what your opinions are about capitalism, there are several problems with this line of thinking.
Let’s dispel this myth. Immigrants who come to the U.S. to work under a green card have to go through a specific process that helps prevent employers from taking advantage of them through low wages. It also serves to protect American jobs by making sure that no qualified U.S. workers are available for the same job. That process is called the PERM Labor Certification.
When getting a PERM, an employer wanting to hire an immigrant worker has to first get the prevailing wage for the position and the geographic area. An employer can’t pay the worker any less than the government-determined wage, which hampers any attempts to underpay foreign labor.
Also, the PERM requires employers to put ads online, in newspapers, and on state websites to recruit any potential U.S. workers for the position. The immigrant worker can only get the job if no qualified local candidates apply.
So, as you can see, regulations are in place to prevent the displacement of American workers by foreign labor. Jobs aren’t being “snatched up” by immigrant workers. However, as a business owner, you do need to keep this PERM process in mind if you decide to sponsor an immigrant.
According to the Current Population Survey for 2016, over 84 million immigrants are in the U.S.—more than 27% of the population! Surely a large number of those must be illegal immigrants, right?
Au contraire, the estimates only put the number of illegal immigrants at about 11 million—only 13% of the total immigrant population.
While 11 million is nothing to scoff at, it does prove that the large majority of immigrants living in the U.S. are here as lawful permanent residents (green card holders) or naturalized citizens.
Language is a tricky thing. You can pick it up in a heartbeat as a child just by listening to your parents or watching TV. On the other hand, it could take years to learn a new dialect if you’re a late-life learner, if it’s ever learned at all.
It’s understandable, and courteous, to do one’s best to learn the language of a new home country. However, late-life language acquisition is a talent that few possess. Because of this, you can probably expect the number of immigrants who have learned English to be pretty low, and who wants to hire a worker who can’t speak English?
Again, this is a misconception. The national census gives us the details on English-speaking immigrants. The numbers don’t lie, over half of all U.S. immigrants are able to speak English at a high level, while even more can speak it conversationally.
This is hardly indicative of a group of people that don’t want to learn English. It’s widely understood that learning English is essential to having a flourishing career in the U.S., so it only makes sense that immigrants would strive to enhance their communication skills.
Again, every person is different. Don’t let the fact that someone is an immigrant give you the idea that they don’t want to learn how to speak English. Instead, decide for yourself in the interviewing process.
While nothing in the world of immigration law is easy to do alone, an immigration attorney can go a long way in making the process of sponsoring an immigrant worker not only possible but also simple.
Going through the PERM process, filing a petition, and dealing with priority dates can be daunting at first, but having a professional in your corner to guide you through each step is paramount to a hitch-free hiring process.
If you’ve been thinking about hiring an immigrant worker for your small business, don’t let the processes deter you from adding someone with a rich culture and a strong work ethic to your workforce.
Ultimately, hiring immigrant workers offers several benefits to your business if you’re willing to look past the myths and stereotypes. For one, you’ll be broadening your pool of potential workers from local candidates to the whole world. This lets you find the best of the best in their field, and it could give you the edge you need to move the needle in your business.
It’s surprising that these myths can still be holding people back in 2017, but it seems to still be the case. I hope that, after reading this, you’ll make the decision to add culture and diversity to your small business team. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants.