Crucial Presidential Debate Topic: Foreign Workers

Published on November 14th, 2012

By Maria Fotopoulos
October 5, 2012

With three presidential and VP debates ahead of us, we can only encourage the participants and planners of the face-offs to talk about one of the biggest issues facing the sustainability of our country – immigration.

In the first head-to-head meet-up between incumbent Obama and candidate Romney, there was no reference to immigration. We have moderator Jim Leher of PBS to blame for this. He didn’t ask.

Given the clear linkage between immigration and jobs – jobs being the issue American voters are most concerned about now – it’s essential to address immigration in the public discussion. There are an estimated 12 -30 million people working and living in the country illegally.

In addition to this, the U.S. admits about 1 million people legally every year – again, who take jobs from American workers. We’ve also experienced many years of sloughing jobs as we first outsourced manufacturing jobs and then numerous other types of jobs to China and other parts of Asia.

Further, led by the Bear Stearns collapse, we’ve suffered the most dramatic economic crash since the Great Depression, and we’re still suffering. Current headlines of lower unemployment last month can’t hide that more than 20 million Americans are unemployed. In particular, young returning veterans have a disproportionately high unemployment rate.

Against this backdrop, we have to discuss immigration and developing a real immigration policy that takes into account American workers if we have any real desire to address our deeply rooted problems.

Unchecked growth in the labor pool lowers wages; that’s the simple economics of supply and demand. Research also shows the negative impacts of all this growth from the addition of foreign workers to our labor market. And the lower wage imported workers put demands on government services – ratcheting up social services costs doesn’t make it any easier to pay down U.S. debt.

In coming years, the breadth of immigration-related issues will grow, perhaps most notably related to the President’s summer edict to allow work permits for potentially several million illegal immigrants under the age of 31. It would be naïve to believe that anything other than citizenship for these millions is the ultimate goal. And with that, there’s the potential to add millions more to the U.S. population through family reunification.

The implications for a U.S. population explosion – to borrow a term popular from days when it was okay to talk about population growth – are tremendous. The implications on keeping our American workforce employed are tremendous. So we must keep hammering home to our leadership the need for immigration and population policies that benefit the American worker and that will lead to a sustainable country.


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