America needs more low-skilled immigrants like Chicago needs more gun laws. But you wouldn’t know that listening to the debate on “comprehensive immigration reform.”
The next amnesty bill ought to be titled, “The American Worker Impoverishment Act of 2013.”
A new report by the nation’s leading immigration economist documents in concrete terms what economic theory has always predicted: that there are winners and losers in the impact of immigration, legal and illegal, on American workers. The irony of these findings may be lost of mainstream journalists, but it is nonetheless true that the net losers in terms of wages are a core Democratic Party constituency, low-wage workers with less than a high school education.
While the economy as a whole does benefit from immigration in GDP growth, Americans do not share equally in the benefits. A steady flow of immigrant labor into the economy each year makes poor Americans poorer and increases the number of children raised in low-income households.
Here are some numbers from the report by professor George Borjas of Harvard University.
- Immigration in total results in a gain to the American economy of $1.6 trillion. Of this gain, 97.8 percent goes to the immigrants themselves, and the remainder is the “immigration surplus” benefit to the native-born population.
- But this “surplus” or net benefit to native-born Americans is not distributed evenly across the population: “The immigration surplus of $35 billion comes from reducing the wages of natives in competition with immigrants by an estimated $402 billion a year, while increasing profits to the users of immigrant labor by an estimated $437 billion.
To economists, illegal immigration is a subset of all immigration, and Borjas has identified the “surplus” created by illegal labor as only $9 billion, or less than 25 percent of the net benefit of $35 billion from legal immigration. Or put differently, over 80 percent of the economic benefits from immigrant labor come from legal immigration, not illegal immigration.
And who are the losers in this game? “Illegal immigration” says Borjas, “reduces the wages of native-born workers by an estimated $99 to $118 billion a year.” American business and other employers of illegal labor profit to the tune of from $107 to $128 billion.
Which native born-workers? The largest impact is on workers who lack a high school diploma. And we know from other studies that 24.8 percent of all children of native-born working poor live in households headed by a high school dropout.
So, let’s consider the shocking truth behind those numbers by asking a couple of questions.
- To what extent are these facts being taken into account in the “deal-making” under way in Washington, D.C., by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO as they maneuver to support the next amnesty for 12 to 20 illegal immigrants?
- Does any member of the Senate “Gang of Eight” care about the next $99 billion that will be robbed from the poorest native-born workers?
Native-born workers are the forgotten, disenfranchised victims of illegal immigration. No one is speaking for them in the “negotiations” over new guest worker programs.
Who will speak for the native-born American workers the AFL-CIO has abandoned?
- Not the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which fanatically supports illegal immigration and every amnesty program that comes down the pike.
- Not Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, who has given his blessing to a parallel effort by a Gang of Eight in the House to craft its own amnesty plan.
- Not the Republican National Committee, which is prepared to give a wink-wink nod of approval to any amnesty plan in the vain hope of “putting the immigration issue behind us.”
- And apparently not libertarian utopians in the tea party, who think we can easily absorb 100 million additional immigrants over the next decade, all the while bemoaning the growth of the dependency culture.
Under the new amnesty bill emerging from the secret chambers of Capitol Hill, will additional guest workers be allowed only in occupations that have a demonstrated labor shortage? That would make some sense, and in fact, I proposed it in a 2004 bill I sponsored when in Congress. But such a modest plan would never be acceptable to the other group that now dominates the Democratic Party and the Obama White House, the National Council of La Raza.
Perhaps someday, America’s native-born blue-collar workforce will wake up to the betrayal they have suffered at the hands of labor unions and politicians of both political parties. When they figure it out and begin keeping score, American politics will look a lot different.