Everyone has heard the saying that immigrants—legal and otherwise—are simply “doing jobs Americans won’t do.” Jobs such as farm workers, janitors, landscaping, and housekeeping are labeled as “undesirable” work for Americans, and therefore, amnesty/increased immigration is needed in order to harvest crops, clean houses, and maintain lawn integrity. Yet one blue state seems to be doing just fine—trimmed lawns and all—with Americans doing jobs that “Americans won’t do.” That state is Maine—the whitest state in the Union.
In Maine, about four percent of farm laborers are non-citizens. In California, approximately 73% of farm laborers are non-citizens. California has approximately 2.2 million illegal immigrants residing within her borders. The number in Maine is so small it was not quantifiable in the 2000 Census.
So while the Soviet-style agitprop line is that immigrants are “doing the jobs Americans won’t do,” this does not seem to be the case in the Pine Tree State. Maine’s population is around 1.4 million people, and of those, only a paltry 43,000 are foreign-born—a number which is likely inflated by the number of births across the Canadian border simply because the hospital there was closer.
Maine has experienced a 350% increase in the number of African immigrants since 2000. However, even with this invasion, the state is still 94.9% white, the whitest in the nation. A majority of its immigrant population comes from Canada and Europe—not exactly the stereotypical Hispanic housekeeper or farm laborer. Over half of Maine’s foreign-born residents are now U.S citizens.
Unlike in California, native-born Mainers have somehow retained the ability to pick crops and clean houses. In Aroostook County, the largest county east of the Mississippi and home to the majority of the potato production in the state, potatoes are picked not by immigrants—be they “guest workers” or the illegal variety—but by armies of high school aged children.
Most high schools in Aroostook County start two weeks earlier than elementary and middle schools, to account for a three-week long “harvest break” in late September to pick potatoes. The availability of the (nearly entirely white and native Mainer) schoolchildren is so crucial for the success of the harvest that farmers in several school districts were able to lobby schools to delay the start of the break by one week in 2012 in order to give the crop more time to grow. [Potato harvest break adjusted in parts of Aroostook County to meet farmers’ needs, By Julia Bayly, Bangor Daily News, September 14, 2012]It’s hard to imagine something similar happening in say, California’s central valley.
Even the liberals who make a living off of writing vacuous tracts about the horrors of welfare reform admit that the white, non-immigrant population of Maine is perfectly capable of and willing to do doing jobs that Americans supposedly won’t do.
Barbara Ehrenreich, honorary co-chair of Democratic Socialists of America and author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, admitted in chapter two (“Scrubbing in Maine”) that she “chose Maine [to work in] for its whiteness”—meaning that nobody would be suspicious that a white housekeeper or maid might secretly be undercover writing a book.
Ehrenreich was also rather stunned at the fact that her (white) coworkers at Merry Maids were not falling over themselves in excitement when she revealed that she was only working there for what was essentially blue-collar pageantry. For her coworkers, working for Merry Maids was not a research activity: it was their best possible source of income.
The immigrants that actually move to Maine are generally not moving to come work on a farm. A popular destination point for a large percentage of non-European and Canadian immigrants is the city of Lewiston, which is located in Androscoggin County. The black population of Androscoggin County has been growing rapidly since 2001, when families of Somalis and Bantus began migrating to Lewiston, a predominantly working-class French-Canadian mill town. They were attracted to Maine by the low crime rates, good schools, and generous welfare benefits Maine had to offer.
According to the 2010 Census, the population of Androscoggin County is about 107,702. Of that number, 3.7% are black or African American, which breaks down to about 4,000 people. While that may seem small, that number is actually a more than 500% increase since the 2000 census, where the county was 0.66% black—for a total of 685 people.
The Somali population in the Lewiston area now is estimated to be around “6,000” total, but census data indicates that that guess is a little high. [Lewiston Somalis Call on Mayor to Apologize or Resign, By Susan Sharon, MPBN, October 4, 2012] Anyhow, instead of doing jobs Americans won’t do, data aggregated by the New York Times in 2009 shows that “>90%” (a polite way of saying “just about everyone”) of the black population in Androscoggin County was receiving food stamps. [Food Stamp Usage Across the Country, November 28, 2009]
In comparison, in 2009, 17% of the white population of Androscoggin County was receiving food stamps, far closer to the national average at the time.
For what it’s worth, downtown Lewiston has seen a number of Somali-owned shops open in recent years—and it’s a well-known fact that no American is willing to open a store, right?
Maine is proof that American citizens are willing and able to do so-called “undesirable” jobs. Mainers, unlike Californians, are actually given the opportunity to work as maids, landscapers, farmers, etc, and houses get cleaned, lawns get mowed, and blueberries get picked each year without major issue. Maine has no supply of cheap illegal immigrant labor, so it must rely on its best natural resource: the people of Maine.
Cecilia Davenport [Email her] is a Southern academic living in exile. She despises fellow intellectuals, and goes as her Whimsy takes her.