Senate Hearing Highlights Link between High Immigration and American Worker Displacement

Published on March 18th, 2016

By Joe Guzzardi
March 18, 2016
The Senate Judiciary Sub-Committee on Immigration and the National Interest recently held a hearing about the effect of high immigration levels on American workers. The hearing came at a time when immigration is a historic record, 61 million, and when the presidential campaigns are keenly focused on whether immigration should be reduced or accelerated. Employment-based visas, mainly the H-1B, was the hearing’s focal point.
During the last few months, layoffs at Disney, Southern California Edison, Toys ‘R’ Us, and other major corporations have diluted arguments made by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and the Silicon Valley lobby that the vast IT worker shortage compels them to import more overseas labor. Silicon Valley spends $15 million each month on D.C. lobbying, according to the database maintained by Open Secrets, a non-partisan group that analyzes money in politics.
The Fiscal Policy Institute’s Director of Immigration Research, David Kallick, a witness, argued that more visas are good for the American economy, and creates jobs particularly for “those in the lower rung of the labor market.” But ample evidence exists to dispute Kallick’s claim. Peter Kirsanow, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights member and former member of the National Labor Relations Board, testified that his commission performed multiple studies, each of which drew the same conclusion: that immigration has disproportionately harmed “lower rung” African-Americans, especially those without a high school diploma. 
Other testimonies provided valuable insights into how damaging the H-1B visa is to American workers. Rutgers University Professor Hal Salzman, for example, testified that H-1B visa holders continue to take jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), even as U.S. universities graduate twice the number of STEM degrees than there are available openings. Only about half of STEM graduates eventually work in their chosen field. Saltzman cited a Wall Street Journal story which reported that more than a dozen tech giants have laid off hundreds of people that, in most cases, represent 15 percent or more of their entire staffs. Even the brightest, doctoral-level Americans cannot find STEM jobs. Moreover, Salzman continued, the flood of H-1B visas has stagnated IT wages which have “barely budged” since the late 1990s. If the labor market were truly tight, as industry leaders insist, earnings would increase.
Looking at immigration and its impact on the 16-65 working age population, Dr. Steven A. Camarota, Center for Immigration Studies’ research director, discussed the outcome of high immigration on the labor market since 2007. Using the most recent available data, the fourth quarter of 2015, and comparing it with the same quarter in 2007, Camarota found that despite significant job growth in the last two years there were still 1.3 million fewer native-born working-age Americans employed at the end of 2015 than during the same quarter in 2007. Conversely, the number of working-age immigrants was 1.8 million higher in 2015 than 2007. Net employment gains went to immigrants during the period Camarota studied, even though natives accounted for 61 percent of overall population growth among the working-age population.
The question that Congress should address is whether sustained immigration will benefit Americans. Based on the evidence presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the conclusion is that slowing immigration would help struggling workers, especially the poor, under-educated and newly arrived immigrants trying to get ahead.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]

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