Immigration and Illegal Aliens are More a Burden than a Blessing - Opening Statement, Chairman Lamarsmith, March 11, 1999, Hearing On Theimpact Of Immigration On Recentimmigrants And Black And Hispaniccitizens, Subcommittee On Immigrationand Claims
workers immigrants jobs policy
… How often do we hear that some businesses refuse to hire young black or Hispanic men for entry-level jobs, but then clamor to hire those from other countries? How often do we hear comments about the growing gap between the well-to-do and the working poor that don't mention that almost half of the relative decline in wages of high school dropouts is caused by immigration?
Think of a single mother barely surviving in a minimum wage job who sees her annual wages depressed by a thousand dollars because she must compete with more and more unskilled immigrants. She very well might be a recent immigrant seeking a better life for herself and her children. Or she might be able to trace her roots in this country back generations and is simply seeking the American Dream denied her ancestors.
Think what she could do for herself and her children with that lost money—buy a used car so she doesn't have to take a bus to work, put a down payment on a modest home, fix the furnace before winter comes. Worse, think what will happen if she actually loses her job because of the never-ending competition from new arrivals. It is certainly not the immigrants themselves who are to blame and who understandably want to come to America, it is our immigration policy. But who knows how many people have been hurt by the unintended consequences of our outdated immigration policy?
A series of recent studies have all documented the effects of immigration policy on low-skilled American workers and recent immigrants:
The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that immigration was responsible for "about 44% of the total decline in relative wage[s] of high school dropouts…between 1980 and 1994."
The RAND Corporation reports that, in California, "the widening gap between the number of jobs available for non-college-educated workers and the increasing number of new non-college-educated immigrants signals growing competition for jobs and, hence, a further decline in relative earnings at the low end of the labor market."
The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, chaired by Barbara Jordan, a predecessor of the ranking member, finds that "immigration of unskilled immigrants comes at a cost to unskilled U.S. workers.…"
The Hudson Institute states that "U.S. immigration policy serves primarily to increase the number of U.S. residents who lack even a high-school degree. America must stop recruiting workers for jobs that do not exist or exist only at the lowest wages."
The Brookings Institution publishes a paper concluding that "immigration has had a marked adverse impact on the economic status of the least skilled U.S. workers.…"
The Center for Immigration Studies calculates that "immigration may reduce the wages of the average native in a low-skilled occupation by…$1,915 a year."
These studies just reinforce what common sense tells us. Add three facts together:
First: Immigrants will account for half of the increase in the workforce in the 1990s.
Second: The skill level of immigrants relative to Americans has been declining for years—35% of immigrant workers who have arrived since 1990 do not have a high school education, compared to 9% of native-born workers. Some 300,000 legal immigrants without high school educations arrive each year—and will total three million this decade.
Third: Close to 90% of all future jobs will require post-high school education.
Our policy must create opportunity for all. Current immigration policy would have many Americans and recent immigrants competing with hundreds of thousands of newcomers without high school degrees for a fixed number of low-skilled jobs. This is a recipe for disaster for millions of blue-collar workers and their families.
No one should complain about the plight of the working poor or the persistence of minority unemployment or the levels of income inequality without acknowledging the unintended consequences of our present immigration policy.
Of course, immigration is neither all good nor all bad. Immigrants benefit America in many ways. But we should design our immigration policy so that it enhances rather than diminishes opportunities for American workers. We should protect the jobs of the working poor. We can make a better life for all Americans, wherever they were born.
The destruction of the jobs and wages of blue-collar workers cries out for a bipartisan solution. The people's representatives should look out for the people.