The immigration conundrum

February 5, 2013


As often happens in my articles and columns in Professional Builder Magazine, I set out to write one article, which quickly morphs into one, two or three … or in the case of the Quality Management Series, that will soon be up to six. I wrote my first article on the coming trade shortages last October about the perils and politics of immigration policy. I wrote the second one in December providing a 10-step immunization plan to protect a builder from the effects of trade shortages. I receive so much mail, pro and con, that for February I published two of the best letters and commented on them. (That three-article series is available in a single PDF be emailing me, )

Some of the letters were considerate and thoughtful while some accused me of being a Commie and hating Mom, God & Country. I think some folks spend way too much time listening to talk radio. Here is one of the letters that gave an interesting perspective and was well-written. I don’t agree with every point – but that is the point – let’s have an open, honest discussion (and avoid name calling, in other words, let’s not emulate Fox News on the right or MSNBC on the left.) Let me know your thoughts.

Mr. Sedam -----

 I appreciated reading the discussions that ensued, due to your articles, on the labor shortage/immigration issue in this country.  The observations in your articles and guest commentaries are self-evidencing (i.e., the alien workforce in this country is performing all types of labor and we have a bloated national welfare system).  In my view to debate either one of these in a vacuum will not produce a solution, they are inherently linked together. 

1.       For example, our friends to the south illegally migrate to America at great personal and financial expense.  What drives that motivation?  If things were comfortable and futures bright in their home country they would remain put and carve out their legacies at home with their families.  However, this is simply not the case.  They are hungry and see America as a land of opportunity, where hard work and dedication will be rewarded and they can prosper,   

2.       On the other hand, the America workforce pool possesses no motivational drive to carve out a legacy from the ground up.  Young people in America wish to start out at the top of the heap as managers, consultants and entrepreneurs hiring and instructing/advising others without having acquired commercially-useful skilled trades.  The motivation killer for these young people is the welfare system.  The so-called social safety net we have created is not necessary.  For them, America erects safety net under a careers/lifestyle tight rope that’s actually only three feet off the ground.  Where the consequence of failure in this country does not mean starvation or indentured servitude, but merely the freedom to move to another job opportunity.  In other words, it’s unnecessary.

In reality, both the illegal immigrant and the un-enterprising/unmotivated American are both like water they seek the path of least resistance.  Succinctly put, the ultimate answer to the labor shortage and immigration issue is a draconian cut in the national welfare system.  This will force Americans to fill all the jobs available across this this country leaving fewer jobs to attract the illegal alien workforce, while growing the GDP and inherently reducing welfare.  Outside of national security issues, if there is nothing to attract the illegal alien a fortified or unfortified border, is of no consequence.

The reality is this answer is unsavory and a political poison pill.  Surprisingly however, this very issue was arguably foreseen at the beginning of this country when the French economist, Alexis de Tocqueville, observed that this American democratic experiment will survive until the politicians discover they can bribe the American people with their own money; and the American people realize they can vote themselves into the public treasury.  This is precisely where we have arrived….we have become our own worst enemy.     

The real problem is our elected politicians have no courage; thus, we have no true statesmen/leaders.   

Phil Howry, Owner
Austin, TX

Thanks, Phil. Much food for thought there and I will let your words stand without further editorial comment.

Have some helpful ideas or strong feeling on this topic? You may post your response here, send it to me directly to or post on our LeanBuilding Group at where my blogs are posted weekly along with Todd Hallett’s on Lean design. A lot of good discussion going on there. Again, for the 3-article series on the Trade Shortage in a single PDF, email me,


Scott Sedam is president of TrueNorth Development, a consulting and training firm that works with builders to improve products, process, and profits. A senior contributing editor to Pro Builder, Scott writes about all aspects of the home building business and won the 2015 Jesse H. Neal Award, business journalism's most prestigious prize, for his commentary in Pro Builder. Scott invites you to join TrueNorth's Lean Building Group on LinkedIn and welcomes your feedback at or 248.446.1275.