Saturday, May 22, 2010

Illegal Immigrants Aren't Taking Our Jobs by Charlotte Hill

Illegal Immigrants Aren't Taking Our Jobs
by Charlotte Hill May 21, 2010 12:00 PM (PT)
Hate to break it to Tea Partiers, but immigrants — legal or undocumented — aren't taking away our precious jobs. Quite the contrary; among economists and immigration-focused researchers, finds the Annenberg Public Policy Center, the general consensus is that most native-born Americans benefit from the labor contributions of foreign-born workers.

Seem like a bogus claim? It's no wonder, given the timely pairing of a nearly 10 percent unemployment rate with an onslaught of conservative anti-immigration propaganda in the wake of Arizona's decision to begin racially profiling — ahem, ID-checking — suspected "illegals." Just last month, the Coalition for the Future American Worker ran an ad in the "Grand Canyon State" that clearly linked immigrants to U.S. unemployment. "With millions jobless," states the commercial, "our government is still bringing in a million-and-a-half foreign workers a year to take American jobs."

At first glance, this argument makes sense. America's only got so many positions available. If an immigrant takes one, that's one less for a native-born worker, right? "The numbers are simple," suggests Representative Gary Miller (R-CA), a key member of Congress' newly-formed Reclaim American Jobs Caucus.

Unfortunately for Congressman Miller, that simplistic argument is flat-out wrong. The economy isn't a stagnant, fixed pie. Immigrants don't simply drain our economy of jobs and resources; they also increase demand for existing supply chains, creating new jobs and boosting labor wages in the process. Overall, immigrants — even the undocumented ones — are good for the U.S. economy.

to Madeleine Sumption, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, immigrant workers "often create the jobs they work in," causing relatively little impact on the job market for native-born Americans. Furthermore, they "create almost as many" jobs as the ones they take — "and maybe more."

Sumption's findings, as the Annenberg Center points out, aren't limited to liberal think tanks; the Migration Policy Institute itself is nonpartisan. From a Commentary piece by Daniel Griswold at the libertarian Cato Institute to a new study by Economic Policy Institute researcher Heidi Shierholz, across the board, the consensus remains: immigrants, here legally or not, just aren't taking our jobs.

There is one caveat, however. America's poorest workers — those without high school degrees — have seen a substantial decrease in wages between 1980 and 2000, to the tune of anywhere from three to eight percent, as a result of immigrant labor. "For the average high-school dropout," NPR reported before the recession, "that would mean about a $25 a week raise if there were no job competition from immigrants."

Obviously, not all is fine and dandy; America's poorest native-born workers don't deserve a deflation of pay, especially as the cost of living continues to rise dramatically each year. But there's a big difference between drafting legislative policies that ensure the well-being of America's low-income workers and espousing hateful anti-immigration propaganda based on factual inaccuracies. Let's focus on the real problem — our ever-poorer high school dropouts — instead of blaming immigrants for an unemployment rate that's simply not their fault.

Photo credit: IRRI Images


Charlotte Hill is a UC Berkeley graduate with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies. She has worked for Nourish America and volunteered with low-income Bay Area youth.
Unidos Venceremos! United We Will Win!
~Peta-de-Aztlan~ Sacramento, California, Amerika
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible,
make violent revolution inevitable."
~ President John F.Kennedy ~ Killed November 22, 1963

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