Deport-o-Mania: But Who'll Rebuild Houston?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/29/2017 06:52:00 PM
Who'll rebuild Houston? With an immigration crackdown underway, it's a pretty big question.
First off, I wish to extend my sympathy to the residents of the great American city of Houston. While the United States' fourth-largest city is mostly imagined to be an oil town, the truth is that it's been busy diversifying away from energy. Hence, even if oil prices are depressed, the city hasn't just muddled through in wait for another oil boom. Instead, it's broadened its economic based to become less reliant on oil and gas.

When Hurricane Harvey runs its course--as it eventually will--the city will be in some need of rebuilding. As it's still ongoing, the ultimate amount of the damage cannot be known. That said, there will be a huge need for construction workers and others in the building trade. Unfortunately, this being the first year of the Trump administration, the storm is occurring amidst a large crackdown on immigrants. Immigrants making up a large stock of would-be construction workers Stateside, this situation poses a quandary: Who exactly will rebuild Houston?
Houston will require a surge of employment—tens of thousands of people. It will have to find places for them to live, since so much of the housing stock is damaged. And it will likely have to pay them above-market wages, because it will need to lure them away from existing jobs.

And given the Trump administration’s hostility to Latinos and desire to ramp up deportations, it’s unlikely that what worked in previous disasters will work again. Back in 2007, the Washington Post reported on a Tulane and University of California, Berkeley, study that found some 100,000 Hispanic workers thronged into the Gulf Coast region in the wake of Katrina, many of them undocumented. Houston will need a similar migration for it to recover. In 2017, from where will those workers come?
Houston, we've got a problem of not having enough folks willing and able to help rebuild the city (i.e., immigrants). To make matters worse, the state of Texas has just implemented legislation making cities like Houston more responsible for deporting undocumented workers:
But the Texas labor market is tight, and incentives will be needed -- usually in the form of higher wages -- to pull in engineers, tradesman and laborers from around the region. The Federal Reserve district banks in Dallas, Atlanta and St. Louis already have reported hiring difficulties.

Gathering manpower could be further complicated by a newly passed Texas law requiring cities to be more aggressive in helping deport undocumented people. “If Houston is going to be rebuilt in a reasonable amount of time, it will be rebuilt with the contributions of undocumented immigrant workers,” said Mark Jones, a political-science professor at Rice University in Houston. “If undocumented immigrants are afraid or unwilling to come to Houston because of fears of deportation, that’s going to delay the recovery, as well as make it far more expensive.”
Let's just say the Republican-dominated state government and Trump--eager to show how he's supporting the effort to get Houston back on its feet--will have facing a dilemma in fairly short order. Will they continue to "act tough" on immigrants, or will they come up with some sort of kludge to allow undocumented workers to help in the city's repairs?  Ever a pragmatist, I'd expect to see more of the latter than you'd expect from the political rhetoric.