GOP Debate Ignores Big Question: How Much More Immigration?

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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.

August 7, 2015

July BLS Report Provides Answer: Little if Any

During the much anticipated GOP debate, the candidates had a lot to say about illegal immigration, but little comment about legal immigration and its adverse effect on American jobs. The Census Bureau predicts that under current federal policy net migration from 2015 through 2025 would admit 14 million new immigrants into the United States and grant them employment authorization documents. The crucial but unaddressed question during the debate is should immigration be reduced, and if so to what extent?

2015 Republican Presidenatial Debate
The first Republican presidential debate included lots
of immigration talk, but none of it about setting limits.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s comment indicates where most candidates stand on immigration. In a plea to accelerate legal immigration, Rubio said: “The people that call my office, who have been waiting for 15 years to come to the United States. And they’ve paid their fees, and they hired a lawyer, and they can't get in. And they're wondering, maybe they should come illegally.” Like the majority of his challengers, Rubio wants more legal immigration.

More than 4 million foreign nationals are in line for green cards. That translates to roughly four years’ worth of immigration already in the pipeline. Add to that roughly 750,000 guest workers per year, many of whom unlawfully remain in the U.S. after their visas expire.

Immigration should benefit Americans first and foremost. But adding more potential workers to a stalled economy where wages have stagnated for decades hurts, not helps, Americans.

A look at the ho-hum July report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics proves that the U.S. economy can ill-afford to add workers into a continuously sluggish labor market. New job creation hit the predicted 215,000 mark, but many are in the low-paying retail and health care sector.

More important, the labor force participation rate was 62.6 percent in July, its lowest level in almost four decades. Previously, the rate had ranged narrowly between 62.7 percent and 62.9 percent. The employment-population ratio was little changed at 59.3 percent. Officially, the unemployment rate is 5.3 percent, but the more telling U-6 which measures under-employment is 10.4 percent.

The employment-population ratio stayed at 59.3 percent, about the same as previous months. In July, average hourly earnings rose 5 cents to $24.99. The 12-month wage growth rate is 2.1 percent. But the pre-recession normal year-over-year wage gains were between 3 percent and 4 percent. Once again, wages are stuck in a rut.

At least 60 percent of Americans, worried about their jobs and their families’ futures, want less immigration. When CNN hosts the September debate, the panel should ask candidates how much more immigration the economy can sustain without displacing millions more American workers.

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