No one should think border security is the only reason why amnesty for illegal aliens is a bad idea. One of the most disappointing aspects of the whole debate in Congress is the lack of serious discussion of the likely impact on wages and jobs of the most vulnerable workers, minority youth.
The nation’s current unemployment rate in July was 7.4 percent. That is a drop from the rates above 9 percent in 2009 and 2010, but considering we are supposed to be in the fourth year of a “recovery,” it is very high. Yet that rate is only one-half the 16.3 percent unemployment rate for all young workers aged 16-24. And it is one-quarter the 28.2 percentage rate for young black men 16-24.
Hispanic young adults age 16-24 have an unemployment rate of 18.1 percent – more than 145 percent above the national average. Under the Senate’s amnesty bill, those young, Hispanic males will be joined by several million additional young workers eager to take the available jobs. Do you think that 18.1 percentage rate among Hispanic youth will go up or down after amnesty?
Do you think young blacks and Hispanics are looking forward to this additional competition for jobs in a stagnant economy? Not only will there be more competition for jobs, but wage levels will be adversely affected as well.
This is not rocket science, folks. Every competent labor economists know there is a “wage suppression effect” when more people compete for the same number of jobs, particularly low-skilled and semi-skilled jobs.
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In fact, even some journalists have noticed that wages for American workers have been basically flat for a decade, barely keeping up with inflation. Between 2000 and 2012, wage levels for the least skilled workers actually declined 5 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. The Denver Post last week ran a front-page story bemoaning this fact of life, but somehow, the reports did not see any connection between the decline in wage levels and expanded immigration levels.
But it’s not a mystery to Harvard University’s foremost labor economist, a Cuban-born immigrant named George Borjas. He has documented the negative impact immigrant labor has on the wage levels of native-born workers – including native-born Hispanics.
Even the prestigious – and very liberal – Pew Hispanic Center has published quarterly labor reports that document what common sense tells us every day: The competition from illegal labor takes jobs away from Hispanic citizens and legal Hispanic immigrants. Of course, Pew has never issued a news release highlighting that problem or asked Congress to do anything about it, but it is documented in their periodic surveys of Hispanic labor trends.
Not only is this problem never discussed honestly in the news media, there is a Big Lie campaign to sell the opposite message to voters – that amnesty and the resulting millions of additional low-skilled workers will provide a boost to the economy.
This is the ugliest kind of lie, the half-truth: a sugar-coated dose of poison that kills you only slowly, not after the first bite. Yes, when you add millions of new people to the economic mix, the economy does grow in total output. But when you peel back the layers of data, you discover that some people benefit and some people do not. According to professor Borjas, the ones hurt most are minorities.
In a rational world with honest debates over the pluses and minuses of expanded immigration of low-skilled workers, we would be talking about the harmful effects of amnesty on minority employment opportunities – a new flood of legalized workers now “out of the shadows” and able to compete openly for scarce jobs.
Where are the spokesmen and the advocates for the nearly one million young black adults unemployed because of a scandalous 28.2 percent unemployment rate? Where are the Hispanic organizations asking whether amnesty will help the 860,000 unemployed Hispanics under 24?
For that matter, where are the Republican congressmen repudiating the outrageously misleading television ads touting amnesty as a cure for our ailing economy?
And, oh, by the way, the unemployment rate for white adults age 16-24 is 16.3 percent – more than double the national rate for all workers. If you think their job prospects will be improved after we authorize several million new legal workers, you probably also believe in the tooth fairy.
The hypocrisy of bipartisan advocacy for amnesty is astounding.