Job Americans Won’t Do: Bake Cheesecake

Published on April 1st, 2016

By Joe Guzzardi
April 1, 2016
Eli’s Cheesecake Company, based in Chicago, has a special relationship with RefugeeOne in which the federal contractor provides refugee workers for the world famous bakery. RefugeeOne is Illinois’ largest full service resettlement agency, and has brought more than 16,000 refugees to Chicago since 1982. In 2014, RefugeeOne received $2.1 million funding from taxpayers, and the money was put to use for refugee employment placement which hurts unemployed or under-employed Americans searching for jobs.
News about Eli’s broke as the refugee debate in Washington continues red hot especially in light of recent Belgian attacks, and as many in Chicago are unemployed, and would eagerly bake cheesecakes for a fair salary. About 14 percent of Chicago metropolitan area residents, or more than 1.3 million people, lived below the poverty line in 2013, the Census Bureau reported, a total that’s nearly unchanged from 2012. One in five Chicago children also live in poverty. According to data posted online, Eli’s starting pay for bakers and line cooks is $10 and $12 respectively. A diligent employee who works his way up to Eli’s management can earn $65,000 annually. Those jobs should go to struggling Americans.
Questions about the wisdom of the State Department’s refugee program and its effects, short and long-term on the United States, have not been satisfactorily answered. Essentially, the U.S. funds the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee Resettlement, and then the UN chooses the individuals who migrate. This year, UNHCR has identified 10,000 Syrians for resettlement, a figure the administration is committed to despite public opposition, and is in addition to its annual 75,000 refugee allotment.
In December, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson admitted at a House Homeland Security committee hearing that “there is no-risk free process” to resettle refugees from nations like Syria and Iraq that sponsor terrorism and are avowed U. S. enemies. Johnson also acknowledged that terrorists could “exploit” the U.S. resettlement process. In an effort to minimize alarm, Johnson indicated that refugee vetting is more thorough than ever, an evaluation FBI director James Comey strongly disagrees with.
Unless a new administration changes direction, refugees will continue to resettle, and continue to take jobs that once went to Americans. In Eli’s case, no intelligent argument can be advanced that cheesecake bakers could not be found in Chicago or that refugees have a special skill when it comes to preparing cheesecake.
But Eli’s is not alone in its preference for immigrants, legal and illegal, as employees.  Technology, meatpacking, agriculture, hospitality and the construction industries have been displacing American workers with foreign-born labor for decades with devastating effects. 
Construction is a prime example. Once a coveted pathway to the middle class, building trades’ jobs are poorly compensated outside of union strongholds. Workers are often paid under the table, and subject to dangerous on-the-job conditions. A 2013 Texas study estimated that half the state's construction workforce was illegal.
Immigration advocates wrongly maintain that Americans don’t want to work in certain industries. The reality is, however, that it’s the sharply reduced wages and often unsafe working environment they reject.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]

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