When most people think about the impact of immigration on the labor market, they think about illegal aliens running our nation's borders to take jobs that involve workers' brawn not their brains.
Undeniably millions of illegal aliens do take jobs involving manual labor; however, this is only half of equation when considering the impact that immigration has on the labor force. The legal immigration system has flooded the labor market with increasing numbers of foreign high tech workers and filled seats in our universities with foreign students who will also ultimately compete with American students and workers for high tech jobs!
Think of how many GOP candidates for the Presidency have advocated that our government should staple green cards to advanced degrees in high tech issued to foreign students. Often those who take this position are quick to invoke the name of Albert Einstein as a shining example of a brilliant immigrant who contributed so much to our nation. Undeniably there have been a number of such extraordinary immigrants who helped America to achieve incredible advances in a number of important fields. However, broad policies of our government should never be formulated by considering exceptional cases.
While you could probably list the truly exceptional immigrants who made huge contributions to the United States on a single sheet of paper, our nation has provided hundreds of thousands of aliens with work-related visas. Few of these foreign workers are truly exceptional. All too often the only thing that distinguishes them from American workers is their willingness to work for significantly lower wages than their American counterparts. The consequence is that qualified American workers have been laid off so that foreign workers could replace them on those jobs.
Prior to the Second World War the enforcement and administration of our nation's labor laws was the domain of the United States Department of Labor. Back then, our nation's leaders understood that if huge numbers of immigrant workers came to the United States, the likely result would be that American workers would likely lose their jobs and certainly their wages and working conditions would be adversely impacted. It was understood that what made America the envy of the world was its large and growing middle class. Success in America could be achieved by acquiring an education or a skill or trade that would be valued in the labor market.
The concern about the impact of massive influx of foreign workers on American workers has been validated- the proof can be found on the unemployment lines across our nation today.
It is beyond belief that not a single GOP candidate for the Presidency has even mentioned the idea of training American workers to enable them to take these important jobs! Instead they talk about providing visas to enable foreign nationals to take jobs that Americans would sorely want to have because they are desperate to hold onto their homes and their ability to support themselves and their families. These are the people who line up looking for work whenever and wherever jobs become available.
On October 9, 2011 CBS News' “60 Minutes” aired a report, “The Jobs Czar: General Electric's Jeffrey Immelt.” Consider this transcript of a brief excerpt from that broadcast:
Stahl: What struck me is that the new plants don't hire a lot of people. You talk about hundreds instead of thousands. And I wonder, as you bring in new factories: they are so automated.
Immelt: You're going to have fewer people that do any task. In the end, it makes the system more productive and more competitive. But when you walk thru Mississippi, for every person that was in that plant, there's probably seven or eight in the supply chain.
Stahl: A lot of the jobs we saw were $13-an hour jobs. That's really not the ticket, is it, to a really vibrant middle class.
Immelt: We have a range. When we go out and recruit, let's say hire 1,000 people at between $15 and $17 an hour, we get 50,000 applicants. So I think you've gotta start somewhere and …but we want to hire more people.
Can you read that quote about 50,000 people in America showing up for jobs that pay between $15 and $17 per hour and not see a huge labor pool of distressed American workers who could potential fill high tech jobs if they were provided with training and education? Would it not be far better to provide opportunities to American students and displaced American workers than bringing still more foreign workers to our country to take the desirable jobs?
Nevertheless, not one candidate has yet had the commonsense to call for investigating the way that visas are provided to high tech workers to uncover fraud. Not one candidate has called for training and educating Americans to take high tech jobs.
Meanwhile, the administration continues to seek to import more foreign workers and provide more opportunities for foreign students.
On May 12, 2011 ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a news release titled: ICE announces expanded list of science, technology, engineering, and math degree programs. Qualifies eligible graduates to extend their post-graduate training.
Within the release, it is mentioned that the administration is demonstrating “strong support for new policies that embrace talented students from other countries.” How could this be, when the majority of American college students now facing the prospect of unemployment while they have saddled themselves with student loans that may cost as much as a mortgage? Why are American students and American workers not being embraced by the administration?
Today the Labor Department still has a role in the issuance of visas- both immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas that are based on the jobs of the aliens who seek to acquire their visas based on their careers. In principle, aliens are not supposed to be granted work-related visas if granting visas to these aliens would have an adverse impact on American workers who are doing the same jobs.
Rather than debate the DREAM Act for illegal aliens, the time has long since come for our government to seek to make a college education in vital areas of study known as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) affordable to American students!
Rather than debating whether or not to extend unemployment benefits, the time has long since come for our government to provide opportunities to enable Americans to take the jobs that all too often have unfairly and, indeed, illegally, gone to foreign workers.