By Joe Guzzardi
December 18, 2012
For more than 25 years, the problem about what to do with America’s large illegal immigrant population has been kicked down the road. As a result, alien numbers have grown to more than 10 million. One misguided Capitol Hill suggestion under consideration is to grant illegal immigrants amnesty. They would then become legal permanent residents and eventually full –fledged United States citizens. Whether amnesty is a good idea will be the main topic of countless Republican strategy debates between today and the 2014 mid-term election.
But permanent residency doesn’t equate to employability. Someone ineligible for employment because of his immigration status that suddenly receives federal work authorization doesn’t mean he’s qualified to hold a job, especially in a payroll position. Before Republicans fall in line with Democrats on amnesty, they should first study illegal immigrants’ education background as it applies to the tight labor market. A better understanding of supply and demand could help legislators determine whether adding more aliens to the permanent working pool hurts or helps Americans.
Among researchers’ conclusions are that the illegal workers have relatively little education—usually no more and often less than a high school diploma. Using either the U-3 (unemployed but looked for a job in the last four weeks) or U-6 (unemployed and no longer looking for work) rates, unemployment for all Americans under 30 is at record levels. Suffering most are minorities, especially blacks and Hispanics.
Broadly, American blacks have an unemployment rate twice that of whites, a ratio unchanged since 1972 when the government first tracked economic data. The Bureau of Labor Statistics November report calculated black unemployment at 13.2 percent compared to 6.8 percent for whites. Blacks are also likely to remain unemployed for longer than whites.
More specifically, for U.S.-born blacks who have not earned a high school diploma and among all age groups, U-3 unemployment is nearly 30 percent. For all blacks without a high school education, the U-6 unemployment rate is 32.5 percent. The U-6 measure shows equally dismal conditions for U.S.-born, young adult Hispanic high school graduates; their U-6 unemployment rate is 28.8 percent. Having a high school degree provides all working-age blacks with only marginally more success in their job searches; half are employed.
U.S.-born blacks, already devastated by the economic downturn, are the most likely to compete with illegal immigrants for jobs and have the most to lose from liberalized immigration legislation. Conversely, blacks would be the main beneficiaries of less immigration.
William Darity, a Duke University professor claims that the 2-to-1 gap in the unemployment rate between blacks and whites “is one of the most pronounced signs of the presence of discrimination in our society.” That’s Darity’s opinion. But what’s fact is that millions of employed illegal aliens and millions more legal immigrants make getting a job markedly more difficult for American blacks. To add to a black job seeker’s challenge, President Obama’s 2011 executive order has given work authorization through deferred action to tens of thousands of previously unemployable aliens.
Because of millions of new immigrants each year, employers don’t need black American workers for construction, manufacturing, service or transportation. The federal government’s immigration system has produced 26 million foreign-born workers who currently hold U.S. jobs. At the same time, 20 million Americans who want a full-time job can’t find one. Congress’ moral imperative is not to give amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants but instead to limit immigration and thereby open up paths for poor, struggling Americans to get a job and earn a decent wage.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986.Contact him at [email protected]