By Joe Guzzardi
September 18, 2013
Comprehensive immigration reform proponents like to trot out studies which allegedly prove that more immigration will create an economically healthier nation. Conversely, the same studies emphasize that without amnesty and high levels of overseas labor, the economy will struggle.
On August 1, the White House released its report titled The Economic Benefits of Fixing Our Broken Immigration System which projected immigration’s advantages state by state. Not coincidentally, August 1 was the date Congress recessed for a month during which time immigration would be hotly debated in Town Hall meetings.
In California, for example, the White House used data from Regional Economic Models, Inc. to conclude that providing a pathway to citizenship and expanding high and low-skill temporary worker visas would create 77, 077 new jobs and boost its economic output by $7.3 billion in 2014. By 2034, more immigration would add $35.8 billion to California’s economy.
Sounds great but how is it going to happen? Saying that thousands of new jobs will create billions more in revenue is fine but I’d like to know more. Looking at California’s current immigrant population, it’s hard to imagine that if they were to become citizens, they would start capital intensive businesses.
According to Census Bureau data compiled in 2010 and 2011, among adult immigrants (25 to 65), 28 percent have not completed high school, compared to 7 percent of native-born Americans. In addition, the poverty rate and share of insured adult immigrants who have lived in the United States for 20 years or more is 50 and 100 percent higher, respectively, than that of adult natives.
Equating citizenship with an end to poverty, as the White House and other advocates do, is a cruel hoax on immigrants. In the immigration debate, it’s mistakenly taken as a given that legal status, provisional or otherwise and eventual citizenship, will end immigrants’ economic hardship.
Having legal status takes away the ICE threat that employers hold over their workers, but does little more. When the Labor Center at the University of California, Los Angeles studied wage violations in recent years, it found that all foreign-born employees were more likely than native-born workers to be paid less than the minimum wage and that aliens, especially women, were the most vulnerable. More important, the same UCLA study also found that legalized foreign-born workers were almost twice as likely to be paid less than the minimum wage as American-born employees.
In June, the Senate passed S. 744, its expansive bill that would legalize illegal immigrants and more than double legal immigration. But a toothless immigration bill that lacks internal enforcement and only promises to secure the border years down the line would do little to stop abusive employers from taking advantage of poor legal or illegal immigrants, especially those who work in the underground cash economy. When the federal government represents no threat to them, unscrupulous employers have little incentive to change their practices.
The White House wrote its August report to bolster support for the Senate’s flawed legislation. However, the Congressional Budget Office’s more objective analysis contradicted the White House and stated that S. 744 would not stop illegal immigration but would suppress American workers’ wages even further.
The true solution is to restrict immigration which would shrink the labor market. Amnesty not only expands the labor market, it incentivizes more illegal immigration which keeps a steady flow of workers available to employers offering low wages.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected].