Stealing jobs from the poor…REALLY???



by Kenneth Justice

~ “Basically, all these people from the United States that you see are all here illegally…stealing jobs from the poor” she said

For the last five days of my trip to the Caribbean in Costa Rica I stayed at the house of a French woman. She is in her early 50’s, and in 1998 she moved to Costa Rica after selling everything she owned back in France…….a few years ago she received a permit from the Costa Rican government to turn her 6 bedroom house into a Bed & Breakfast (it’s really just the ‘bed’ part because she doesn’t make breakfast for the guests)

We were talking one morning about all of the people from the United States that I jobs 2see working at restaurants, hotels, and other businesses all across the Caribbean; a lot of young 20ish U.S. men and women are employed all across Costa Rica.

foreigners can’t get work visa’s unless they are scientists or have some special skill, so all of these kids from the U.S. that you see working here are illegals……if the Policia’ catch them they will be deported and banned from the country for 10 years” she said

I looked it up and sure enough the French woman is correct; although foreigners are allowed to own businesses in Costa Rica, they must employ local’s or else they are guilty of breaking the law.

I guess the whole thing smells of hypocrisy because don’t a lot of people from the United States complain about illegal immigrants working back in the States and ‘stealing’ jobs from Americans? Yet here in Costa Rica the very thing that people back home in the States complain about……is what they are doing to the Costa Rican people!

I guess what seemed a bit annoying to me is that its not like the average Costa Rican is very rich….in fact, by U.S. standards the average Costa Rican is living below the poverty level.

While I only have my own experiences as a guide; I hardly ever saw older people from the U.S. working illegally here… was almost always young men and women in their late teens to early 30’s who were working at gift shops, restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, and other similar places. Is it just me; or these U.S. kids taking advantage of poor people?

Although there is not massive waves of homelessness in Costa Rica; it does exist. And almost anywhere you drive in Costa Rica you will have people come up to your automobile with bags of fruits they picked earlier in the day that they try to sell to you…….the locals are merely hoping to make a few dollars each day to pay for the necessities of life.

I met an older couple from Texas who was staying at a really nice hotel and one of the first questions they asked me had to do with white employees, “Have you noticed how many people from the States are working at the hotels? At our hotel, of the 30 employees they have, more than 20 of them are white kids from the U.S.” they said

As a Christian, I am very sensitive about the poor being taken advantage of; read the Psalms, Proverbs, or just about anywhere in the books of the Prophets and you will find thousands of verses about injustice against the poor. The Jewish people lived in an era where the poor were constantly being despised, mistreated, devalued, and in many ways robbed of their humanity. And thus, in the early days of Christianity reaching out to the poor in a spirit of love and equality was a major emphasis of the church,

—) “I, the Lord, command you to do what is just and right. Protect the person who is being cheated from the one who is cheating him. Do not ill-treat or oppress foreigners, orphans, or widows; and do not kill innocent people in this holy place”

—) “Rich people who see a brother or sister in need, yet close their hearts against them, cannot claim that they love God

Of course, now-a-days the average Christian Church isn’t really known for their great service to the poor……and that is a sad indictment against the church and what she originally stood for so many thousands of years ago.

jobs 3 My trip to Costa Rica this year allowed me one moment after another to see and feel the kindness of the Costa Rican people;

—-) I got lost one day and a local Tico drove in front of me for 45 minutes to get me back on the right road; and he wouldn’t accept any gas money for his troubles

—-) I hit a pot hole and tore off part of the right bumper of my rental car and a local gas station got me right in and didn’t even charge me for fixing it…..(at least the attendant accepted a few dollars tip that I gave him as a thank you!)

—-) My friend wasn’t paying attention and gave too much money to a taxi driver and after my friend got out of the car the taxi driver called him back to give him the difference……the taxi driver didn’t want to take advantage of a tourist

At every turn the Costa Rican people demonstrated a tremendous amount of warmth and decency to me…… should people from the States really be stealing jobs from them?

Does the United States have problems? Sure….there are a ton of problems here with the economy, the government, the job situation……yet does that justify our young people moving to Central America and stealing jobs from the poor?

I really need another coffee this morning,


If you haven’t heard I’m on a national tour of coffee houses all over the United States and other countries….check my site for dates and locations – My next stop will be in Atlanta, Georgia the first weekend of March!

Categories: Drinking in the Culture

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56 replies

  1. Why do white kids from the U.S. get hired? Aren’t the businesses the U.S. kids are working for owned by Costa Ricans? If they are, why don’t the owners hire their own people? The kids can’t work there if no one hires them. So a kid can’t steal a job if someone doesn’t let him.

    • A lot of the business’s are owned by foreigners (people from the states, Europe, etc) it’s easy for a foreigner to own a hotel or restaurant in costa rica because the government wants foreigners to invest in the country; the idea is that costa rica encourages foreign owned new businesses as a way to employ more locals…….but then the problem occurs when the foreign owned business illegally hires kids back home from the states…..

    • Ah…there in lies the problem. If everyone knows this is a problem so why don’t the police crack down on this hiring practice? It seems as if something could be done. But it always seems like that, doesn’t it? Something could be done…but it never is and things just go on the way they are…everywhere.

    • Do they do this to appeal to the tourist side of things?

    • It’s a combination of factors; some nefarious….others not so much.

      Because many of the businesses are owned by people from the states, they have a difficult time adjusting to the costa rican work ethic and tend to prefer hiring people from the states, even though they are illegal employees

    • How is the Costa Rican work ethic different?

      I’m vaguely familiar with Latin American attitudes, having taken in the culture and the language. A more relaxed attitude about punctuality and time schedules may be part of it, yes?

  2. Reblogged this on Dead Citizen's Rights Society.

  3. I guess we shouldn’t generalize US citizens and Costa Ricans. If these US kids had a good paying job back in their home, they would have stayed there. They are probably on the run for their life. So it is rich people that have no conscience of country and poor people.

    • Nah. They like the idea of working in a tropical country – vacation and get paid for it. The kids at home who can’t find jobs couldn’t afford to go there in the first place.

    • Hmm, wouldn’t have thought of that this way, but maybe you are right. I am too far away to know really. But still I wonder about it, since the balance of affording the trip and having to work when they get there is a bit strange as a thought for me. I know of people on the other side of the pool that have traveled thousand of miles and spend the hard earned savings to get to a country (legally or illegally) so that they can work and earn more to send back home.

    • True, but consider the situation here. The pay nowhere near enough for an American or Canadian to consider for such purposes. Also I suspect the draw for employers is getting some charming middle-class white kids for the tourists to relate to.

  4. I think you’ll find the same story the world over – it’s not just the Americans & Costa Ricans. People work illegally the world over too.

    It’s up to the local authorities to deal with the situation. They have the jurisdiction.

    If they don’t, one can’t really blame one side or the other.

    • Yea, its not that I really ‘blame’ anyone….I guess it just confuses me why people from affluent countries would go to poorer countries to work… doesn’t make much sense

  5. I suspect the hotels and shops hire these white kids because they know the average American tourist. They may want to travel but they don’t trust foreigners. Most Americans are bigots. There must be some loophole if they are being hired illegally. Who wouldn’t notice? Kickbacks to look the other way? I hope that the young American workers are there for more than a good tan.

    • Ellen, I think the main reason the businesses hire them is because the kids from the U.S. are more likely to show up to work at a specific time, Costa Rican’s are on Pura Vida time in that they don’t hold to strict time schedules.

  6. I share your disgust and frustration.

  7. Do you think its a matter of work ethic? If the locals are living the La Puda Vida, its hard for businesses to run effectively. Which is why they hire non locals.

    • Pura…. Hubby doesn’t really speak spanish unless it’s off the Taco Bell menu. – the wifey

    • I’ve written another article on the topic which will give more details but the bottom line is that u.s. kids are more likely to show up on time……costa rican’s don’t really believe in holding to a strict time table like that…..

  8. Businesses do what they need to do in order to operate. If the police cracked down, Costa Rica would simply lose foreign investors, and its whole economy would suffer. They know this, and would mostly look the other way with or without bribes.

    In my younger days, I spent a brief time picking peaches in South Carolina. Nearly all of the workers in the fields were Mexican migrant workers. They worked very hard. The few Americans who showed up (aside from me and my fit fruitarian friend, who brought me to the peach fields) were the poorest of the broken down locals. There were maybe half a dozen of them. They didn’t work very hard. The owners put all of us Americans to work gleaning already picked trees–much to the disgust of my friend, who was an expert fruit-picker, and should have been over there dancing in the trees (as he put it) with the hard-working Mexicans in the fully-fruited trees.

    Back to the point, If the growers hadn’t hired (illegal) migrant workers, the crops would not have gotten picked. American locals–even poor ones–simply didn’t want those jobs. Every time the U.S. or state government cracks down on illegal foreign workers, American businesses suffer.

    In general, foreign workers are not “stealing jobs” from anyone–poor or otherwise. They are doing jobs that the locals either don’t want to do or are not qualified to do. They are thus contributing to the economy in ways that locals either can’t or won’t. Making foreign workers illegal just cripples the economy, which isn’t good for anyone. That’s why countries that know what’s good for them either don’t have those laws or don’t enforce them.

    I’m for open borders, and allowing people to go wherever they want in order to find employment and do their bit for humanity.

    • Open boarders aside, I completely agree. – the wifey

    • This is on point. What it really boils down to is employee motivation. The locals that know the negative reputation of a particular work establishment or type of work within their community will be reluctantly hired on to the position and not be entirely motivated to give a hard effort and have good attendance, whereas foreign workers are new to the area and are not pre-dispositioned to look down their noses at the work they are requested to do. Many times the foreign workers have limited ties to the established community and it does not affect their pride. It is really a matter of perception. The locals will take the the job but have low productivity and higher turnover because they are half-hearted, embarassed by the work and the efffect it has on their relationships within their community. This same scenario happens all over the world.

  9. I’m sure those kids in those jobs aren’t the ones that are saying, “Basically, all these people from the United States that you see are all here illegally…stealing jobs from the poor”. Also, as the human race, not Costa Ricans or Americans or French or whatever….we are moving toward a globalized society. It will take years and years but these things will happen more and more. We can’t exist as isolated entities anymore. And I’m speaking as a human, not as an American.

  10. I’m disturbed by the sentiment, offered more than once in these comments, that if the local police don’t crack down, you can’t really blame the illegal workers. This isn’t the same as some braceros picking tomatoes in California. It’s middle class kids from the US and Europe taking jobs for the opportunity to visit a tropical country and get paid for it. Hardly the same. And the idea that you can’t blame them if they get away with it seems to me to be exactly what’s wrong with our culture. Whatever happened to honesty and integrity as admirable traits?

    • You said what I was thinking … about honesty and integrity being the real question. It isn’t about what you can get away with, or about what is legal or not, or even about one group stealing from another. It comes down to doing what is right; the honest thing, and living a life with integrity. That’s the sad moral of the story. That too many cultures have come to accept a low moral barometer as the norm.

    • Mikels,

      I’m pretty much with you on this……and I will add that the local Police do try to crack down on it; they have check points throughout the country where they stop cars and check passports because they have names of U.S. kids who are there working illegally……that’s about all they can do because for them to search hotels and houses would simply take too much time and effort…….and they don’t view these U.S. Kid’s as “evil” so they aren’t trying to ‘hunt them down’….they simply want them to leave the country since they are there working illegally

  11. Illegal jobs occurs everywhere, but I like your point that American shouldn’t freak out and complain here in the US about the emigrants, illegals jobs, because no one likes to starved them self or their family. Who’s feed and living in a warm house can never understand the poor; hungry and cold. Stealing the poor like torturing the kid 😦

    • “but I like your point that American shouldn’t freak out and complain here in the US about the emigrants, illegals jobs, because no one likes to starved them self or their family”


  12. Im curious as to whether or not you spoke about this with any of the American workers. I have found that often it is easy to judge someone from the outside but you really dont know the whole situation if you never asked. There are many instances where them getting jobs wouldnt look bad. Also did any of the local Costa Ricans comment on it? The two people who mentioned it were foreigners who many not know about everything going on.

    • Hera,

      yes, I did speak to a couple and they don’t really like to talk about it because they know they are there working illegally. The 3 or 4 U.S. 20-somethings I talked to all came up with B.S. stories that they told me and when I checked into what they told me I found out that they were lying…… simply can’t get a Work-Visa from the Costa Rican government to work as a Bartender or a Server in a restaurant….

  13. Maybe those white kids are all Canadian. Doubt it. But Canadians can get a working holiday visa for up to 12 months if they are between the ages of 18-35. No skills required.

  14. Greetings Kenneth–I didn’t realize that you had embarked on your journey already–congratulations. I remember travelling through Guatemala many years ago-hung around for a month or so–and agree that the folks in that country were so warm and friendly and helpful–not at all what I expected. It was no show-it was as it is. They were who they are. We could learn a great deal from our southern friends and neighbours. They are not driven by the same demons as we are ‘up here’. They are more ‘Christ’ like than we could possibly claim to be–at least that was my experience. Journey well-Jim

    • “We could learn a great deal from our southern friends and neighbours. They are not driven by the same demons as we are ‘up here’. ”

      Jim I totally agree with ya 🙂

  15. This is an economic fallacy. Americans (and the French woman who runs the guest house) are not stealing jobs from the Costa Ricans. And immigrants aren’t stealing jobs in America. Everyone who works and lives in a country contributes positively to the economy of that country. To argue otherwise is to not understand simple economics.

    If I move to a nearby town, does that town become poorer and the one I left richer? No, the opposite is true, provided that I work and pay my way. I bring my skills, my education and my labour.

    People should be free to work and live as they choose. Not only would the world be fairer, but it would be richer too. All of it.

    • Brains Trust rides to the rescue, pheww

    • Steve,

      well, for me its not really a matter of economics. I don’t dispute the logic you’re using, and perhaps my view of the matter won’t mesh with the views of others because since I’m a Christian I look at the situation as a matter of poverty; many Costa Rican’s are barely making it……

      —) Their children skip school in order to help the parents cook food on the beach to sell to tourists
      —) Their children skip school in order to pick fruit from the jungle which they sell to people walking and driving by

      I’m sorry, but even though Costa Rica is one of the ‘richer’ countries in Central America, by most Western Culture standards the people are by-and-large living in poverty. So when Middle-Class kids from the Suburbs of the United States move to Costa Rica to work at jobs in hotels, restaurants, and the like…….I see it as jobs that Costa Rican’s could really use…….because as I said; their CHILDREN are working 40 hours a week in order to help pay the bills…..

      In the United States, the percentage of Children who have to skip school at age 9, 10, 11, etc….to help the family pay rent, electric, groceries, etc…is MUCH LOWER than in Costa Rica…..

    • Kenneth, I agree with your sentiments and your concern for the Costa Ricans and I’m sure that everyone here wants the Costa Ricans to lift their way out of poverty. That is what I am saying – that immigrants do not hurt the economy, they help it and should be encouraged.

    • I’m not sure that immigrants are helping the economy because by and large most of the immigrants are changing the culture of costa rican society…….the difference between immigrants to the u.s. is that we don’t really have a particular type of culture we are trying to preserve: after all, do we really care about preserving the culture of fast food McDonald’s, mega-super stores, etc? Not that I’m condemning those things, but I’m merely saying that they aren’t really intrinsically beautiful or anything…..

    • The French woman who runs the guest house is there legally, I gather from the post, and is there as someone who produces jobs, at least that’s the logic of Costa Rica inviting people like her to set up shop there.. To see American middle class kids take those jobs (not at her place, apparently) is wrong.

  16. It sounds like you have witnessed kindness and great character in the people of Costa Rica. It is no surprise that perhaps young people from our country are taking advantage of opportunity there. When I look around me, people are selfishly taking care if themselves. We are losing qualities like compassion and kindness and doing our part to do what is right and just and help those around us who are less fortunate. This take, take, take attitude is destroying the very foundation of what one time made us a great nation. I love your stories. It would be a dream of mine to do what it is you are now doing. Thanks for sharing!

  17. I agree with Steve Morris that the concept of immigrants stealing jobs is a fallacy. That said, I find it interesting that so many 20-somethings are working in Costa Rica. Whenever illegal immigrants find work in the states, it’s usually in jobs that the average American won’t do or has such a low wage that no American would choose to work there. Why choose to work in Costa Rica illegally? Do they pay better or is the easy going atmosphere simply preferable?

    • TK,

      perhaps I should’ve pointed out in the Article the high percentage of grade-school children in Costa Rica who aren’t able to attend school because they have to work all day selling food on the side of the road and other tasks in order for the family to pay their bills……

      In the United States, the percentage of Children who have to skip school at age 9, 10, 11, etc….to help the family pay rent, electric, groceries, etc…is much lower than in Costa Rica…..

  18. While at first glance, it does seem that the young Americans are taking advantage of the Costa Rica community as seen by the large number of Americans being employed over Costa Ricans. You mentioned earlier that the natives have a very laid back attitude…so much so that they don’t show up for work on schedule.

    As a business owner, I would find that unbearable. One would never know if they had adequate coverage to cater to the customers, it would depend on the whim of the employee. In the US, illegals are often hired because they will work for less money, we buy a lot of imports because foreign countries pay less money to their workers and as a result can sell their products cheaper. Maybe the Costa Rican business person feels that they would rather pay for someone to show up, than to have the unpredictability from a native.

    I think it’s all relative…but as you said, hiring the Americans is against the law…it shouldn’t be too hard to prove that.

    • “You mentioned earlier that the natives have a very laid back attitude…so much so that they don’t show up for work on schedule.”

      Mrs. P you hit the nail on the head as to why U.S. youth get hired so easily down in Costa Rica even though they are ‘illegals’…..I’ve been working on an article that discusses this in greater depth

  19. Immigrants stealing jobs is a fallacy, I guess. In the States, it’s more that any business owner prefers the cheapest possible labour, so it’s the employer committing the evil.

    Also, any trip to the Caribbean will make a white person from the first world feel like a cold, evil bastard. They are wonderful people.

    • “Also, any trip to the Caribbean will make a white person from the first world feel like a cold, evil bastard. They are wonderful people”

      totally right on 🙂

  20. I’m astonished and seriously disappointed that people seem to see all foreign workers, regardless of the circumstances, as the same. Doesn’t anyone think about what they say anymore?

  21. Such a dilemma; yet it is all over the Caribbean if you take the time to visit and observe the culture as you did in Costa Rica. We live in the USA so our focus is on things relating to this country, but what you see here is a worldwide exchange of culture or to term it differently “globalization”.

  22. Very interesting topic, Kenneth! I was in London in a Greek restaurant where a Romanian woman waitressed on us. The food was… but the good atmosphere was created by the employee. We ask her if the owner will give her all the tip, she said no way. So we decided to tip her, hinding that from boss.

    Those who are from Europe know how are we, Romanians “seen” by the UK government…. However many UK owners, legally or illegally hire Romanians be it because the are really good workers or too humble and accept a job which ” no other smart a**” wants it.

    It’s very important to find out how many owners hire strangers for sympathy or just to help them through life. I guess, no many. They take advantage on them…be it from not paying taxes or paying less. I would happly want to be wrong on this. On the other side of the coin, yes there are employers who really apreciate a good worker, whatever the nationality is that.

    I think no one steals jobs from nobody. There are people who want to work and other who aren’t and just complaining. This is really back and white, no gray involved.

  23. It feels like being a hypocrite yourself. doesn’t it. Complain and seeing another side of a coin.
    Big mouth about how our jobs get stolen and in mean time steal from those who could even use it more.
    But their attitude is we make the best out of the day. While we still complain and nit pick. about everything.

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