Separating Fact from Fiction on the Jobs Picture

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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.

January 11, 2014

One of the recurring arguments comprehensive immigration reform proponents make is that, if passed, CIR would create millions of American jobs. Last summer, during the debate’s most heated moments, the American Action Network (AAN) released its study which outrageously projected that the Senate bill would generate 6 million new jobs, many of them in congressional districts represented by the legislation’s most vociferous opponents.

Examples include Rep. Steve King (R-IA), 13,298 jobs; Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), 15,144 jobs; and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), 15,587 jobs. The AAN study erroneously concluded that “immigrants don’t generally compete with U.S.-born Americans for the same jobs,” a statement that conflicts directly with a more balanced Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project report.

Pew found that of the 8.3 million illegal immigrant workers in the country, only 4 percent work in agriculture. Pew also found that aliens have a large presence in maintenance, construction and the service industry. And realistically, with few exceptions, under-educated, low-skilled illegal immigrants are not candidates to start capital intensive businesses that will hire thousands.

Separating fact from fiction on what more immigration would mean to American workers is essential. Congress is running out of time to act on either the Senate or House bills, S.744 and HR 15. Generally, economists agree that 2014 will be an improved but not necessarily banner year for job creation. They anticipate a slight uptick in higher paying jobs.

Sophia Koropeckyj, managing director for Moody's Analytics, says, “What we do expect is that the recovery will shift gears … and as it does, we will see more of the better-quality jobs.” However, the Economic Policy Institute’s Heidi Shierholz warned, “There are millions of desperate workers out there, so even those really low quality-jobs just get snatched up.” [“2014 May Be the Year the Job Market Sees Real Improvement,” by Mia Hamm, CNBC, December 30, 2013]

Despite the optimistic AAN report, illegal immigrants do compete with Americans, especially blacks, Hispanics, returning veterans and the disabled. And Americans would take most of, if not all, the 8.3 million jobs that Pew says illegal immigrants currently hold.

Unemployed Americans, especially the long-term unemployed, have been frustrated too long to suffer further setbacks by losing jobs to recently amnestied illegal immigrants who, if any reform legislation passes, would suddenly be able to compete with them.

Go to the CAPS Action Alert page here to FAX your support of various bills that would protect American workers and defend the U.S. border.

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