Are our current immigration policies creating jobs or taking them?
Tucked in between dramatic stock market drops on Thursday and Monday, there was a little bit of seemingly good economic news on Friday morning. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the private sector added 117,000 jobs in the month of July.
But this news needs an asterisk. As Chris Chmielenski of the immigration control organization Numbers USA notes, “that number still falls short of the number of jobs needed for the 125,000 work permits issued to foreign workers each month by the federal government.”
Despite the recession, the government continues to issue huge numbers of visas to foreign workers. In 2010, we issued over one million permanent green cards. Three quarter of these immigrants were of working age who are competing against Americans for jobs. We also issue nearly a million guest worker visas each year.
This is not enough for many in Congress. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is reportedly planning to introduce another “comprehensive immigration reform” bill, which will grant amnesty to illegal aliens and massively increase legal immigration.
Knowing that this is going to be a tough sell in a recession, Sen. Schumer explained that he met with leaders of various pro-amnesty organizations and, “We decided we ought to start highlighting the fact that immigration creates jobs rather than takes them away. Everyone agreed that is how we are going to start talking about immigration, as a job creator.”
Talk all they want, but our current immigration policies are taking jobs, not creating them.
On July 26, Sen. Schumer held a hearing to promote the idea that immigrants create jobs called "The Economic Imperative for Enacting Immigration Reform." The hearing focused on immigration of high skilled workers and entrepreneurs, but these are only a tiny proportion of all immigrants. In 2010, only 0.2% of legal immigrants were investors, 5.2% received advanced degree visas, and 1.1% were listed as having “extraordinary abilities.”
Virtually all illegal aliens and the majority of legal immigrants are low skilled workers. Moreover, the skills of many workers on high skilled H-1B visas are often limited to a tech degree from a community college overseas. They are brought here not because they have truly advanced abilities needed by American businesses, but because they will work for far less than Americans. As Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) recently stated about H-1B visas “it is clear they are not working as intended, and the programs are having a detrimental effect on American workers.”
Last October, the Rakesh Kochar of the Pew Hispanic Center reported that since the "official end of the Great Recession in June 2009, foreign-born workers gained 656,000 jobs while native-born workers lost 1.2 million." He updated his finding in March and found some small job creation for native born Americans, but that foreign workers were still finding new jobs at six times the American rate.
How should we solve this problem? Former National Review editor and George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum recently called for a simple solution to help reduce unemployment, an Immigration Moratorium. He argued, “You hear it often said that the US must create X number of jobs per month simply to stay even with the increase in the working population. It’s not stressed often enough that much of this increase is artificially created by immigration. In a time of high unemployment, why make the challenge larger?”
I don’t always agree with David Frum, but this is common sense. Until Americans are working, we should make across the board cuts on worker visas, while cracking down on employers of illegal aliens. In the meantime, whenever you hear a politician or pundit heads talking about “putting Americans back to work”, remember that many of those workers aren’t Americans.
Virgil Goode represented Virginia’s 5th Congressional District from 1997-2009.