Debate II: Lots of Talk about Jobs, Immigration but Not a Word about Immigration’s Impact on Jobs

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

October 19, 2012

I’ve been searching for the right word to describe President Obama’s set in stone policy to give work permits to an average 75,000 legal immigrants each month and, at the same time, undertake a personal campaign to give legal status and still more work permits to as many as 1.8 million aliens. Each of those newly minted immigrant workers compete in the job market with unemployed and/or underemployed Americans.

The word I’ve chosen is “cruel.”

Even from the Ivory Tower White House, not much thought is required to imagine what life is like for a household headed by someone unemployed. Meeting the basics---food, mortgage, utilities and clothing---is a struggle. Modest pleasures like a movie or a meal eaten out are suddenly unaffordable. When unemployment is sustained, homes are lost and self-esteem destroyed.

Adding insult to injury, Obama insists that everything is good and about to get better. During his second debate with Mitt Romney, Obama said:

“Now, we've seen 30 consecutive -- 31 consecutive months of job growth; 5.2 million new jobs created. And the plans that I talked about will create even more.”

Obama lied.  CNN fact-checked that claim and labeled it "not the whole picture." Instead, CNN found that there has been a net increase of just 300,000 nonfarm payroll jobs since Obama took office. And if you count include government jobs, 400,000 fewer people work today than in January 2009.

Conditions become even worse when you consider that a large percentage of new jobs are in the low paying restaurant and hospitality field.

A study compiled by the National Employment Law Project confirmed that jobs with median hourly wages from $7.69 to $13.83 accounted for 58 percent of the job growth from the end of the recession in late 2009 through early 2012. [Most New Jobs in Economic Recovery are Low Paying, Study Finds, by Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times,  September 1, 2012].

The news gets worse. Those few lucky enough to have landed a job in recent years are more likely to be immigrants and not native-born Americans. In a presentation to the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration, Borders and Claims, Dr. Steven A. Camarota concluded that during the decade from 2000 to 2010, immigrants accounted for 34 percent of the growth in the working-age population (18 to 65) but 100 percent of the net increase in jobs. More specifically, based on 2008 and 2009 data from the Current Population Study and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.4 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) settled in the United States even though 8.2 million jobs were lost during the same period. [Read Dr. Camarota’s backgrounder here.]

Analyzing the employment picture as a whole--- factoring in immigration’s impact and the relative low quality and modest salaries of the few jobs ---the employment picture is grimmer than most realize and screams out for an immigration moratorium.

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