Does illegal immigration harm American workers (for example, through job displacement or lower wages)?
Vernon M. Briggs, Jr., PhD, Emeritus Professor of Labor Economics at Cornell University, in an Apr. 4, 2008 testimony before the US Civil Rights Commission titled "Illegal Immigration: The Impact on Wages and Employment of Black Workers," offered the following:
"Of the 50 million low skilled adults (those 25 years of age and over) in the civilian labor force in 2007, black Americans accounted for about 5.6 million of such workers (or about 10 percent of the total). These black American workers, however, had the highest unemployment rates of any of the four racial and ethnic groups for which the data was collected... Because most illegal immigrants overwhelmingly seek work in the low skilled labor market and because the black American labor force is so disproportionately concentrated in this same low wage sector, there is little doubt that there is significant overlap in competition for jobs in this sector of the labor market. Given the inordinately high unemployment rates for low skilled black workers (the highest for all racial and ethnic groups for whom data is collected), it is obvious that the major loser in this competition are low skilled black workers... Illegal immigrants – who themselves are often exploited even though they may not think so — are allowed to cause harm in the form of unemployment and depressed wages to the most vulnerable workers in the American work force."
B. Lindsay Lowell, PhD, Director of Policy Studies of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, in a Nov. 26, 2007 email response to ProCon.org, stated:
"Some Americans are hurt by unauthorized workers, just as other benefit. Objective economists are clear that there is no free lunch, just as they clear about benefits accompanying most costs. Unfortunately, and no matter assertions on one side or the other, the actual research available is not in agreement at this point in time on the balance of pluses and minuses. But it is clear that unauthorized employment undercuts transparency and the legal framework protecting the American workforce. Even if there were no clear evidence of adverse economic impacts, and some evidence does exist, its hard to see how one can reasonably conclude no harm on non-economic grounds."
Richard Jones, Sheriff of Butler County in Ohio, in a Dec. 6, 2007 email response to ProCon.org, responded:
"Yes. Not only are American workers harmed by the loss of jobs, the hourly rates are reduced because of illegal aliens working for far less. I know of business owners who often cannot compete in the bidding process for contracts because of under bidding by other businesses that cheat and hire illegal aliens at far less than standard wages. This practice is destroying many American businesses and costing honest, hard working Americans their jobs."
Joseph George Caldwell, PhD, Financial Management Consultant, in a Nov. 27, 2007 email response to ProCon.org, wrote:
"Yes, American workers are harmed by an illegal alien workforce... Every immigrant to this country, legal or illegal, causes the destruction of approximately one acre of natural land, because of construction of infrastructure (homes, offices, roads, parking lots, schools, hospitals, and the like)... Even from an economic viewpoint, U.S. workers are hurt, because they are forced to compete with illegal workers willing to accept a much lower wage."
George J. Borjas, PhD, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at Harvard University, in a May, 2004 Center for Immigration Studies essay titled "Increasing the Supply of Labor Through Immigration, Measuring the Impact on Native-born Workers," wrote:
"Economic theory predicts that increasing the supply of labor... will reduce earnings for natives in competition with immigrants... Statistical analysis shows that when immigration increases the supply of workers in a skill category, the earnings of native-born workers in that same category fall. The negative effect will occur regardless of whether the immigrant workers are legal or illegal, temporary or permanent. Any sizable increase in the number of immigrants will inevitably lower wages for some American workers. Conversely, reducing the supply of labor by strict immigration enforcement and reduced legal immigration would increase the earnings of native workers."
John G. Morgan, State of Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, in an Aug. 2007 study prepared by the Offices of Research and Education Accountability titled "Immigration Issues in Tennessee(193 KB)," offered the following:
"[U]nauthorized aliens are not taking jobs or significantly affecting native workers’ wages. Immigrants, including unauthorized aliens, are filling a demand for labor, especially in low skilled jobs, which lowers prices and modestly raises natives’ per capita income... Many businesses indicate a labor shortage in areas of Tennessee and the U.S. Additional immigrants are needed to fill the demand, especially in lower skilled occupations. Based on interviews by the Comptroller’s Office of Research with several trade associations in the hospitality and construction industries in Tennessee, sufficient eligible workers are not available to meet their labor demands. They contend that the number of projected jobs is greater than the eligible workers moving into the workforce."
Alan B. Krueger, PhD, Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Princeton University, in an Apr. 4, 2006 Center for American Progress memorandum titled "Two Labor Economic Issues for the Immigration Debate," wrote:
"Confident predictions that [legal and illegal] immigrant inflows have depressed the wages and employment opportunities of U.S. workers, particularly of the less skilled, belie an unsettled and often unsupportive research base [...] Studies that claim to find a deleterious effect of immigration on natives’ wages are typically based on theoretical predictions, not actual experience [...] The best available evidence does not support the view that large waves of immigrants in the past have had a detrimental effect on the labor market opportunities of natives, including the less skilled and minorities. Any claim that increased immigration... will necessarily reduce the wages of incumbent workers should be viewed as speculation with little solid research support."
David A. Jaeger, PhD, Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the College of William and Mary, in a March 2006 Center for American Progress study titled "Replacing the Undocumented Work Force," wrote:
"While we find that, overall, there are enough out-of-work natives to replace undocumented workers, there is a severe mismatch between the skills of undocumented workers and the natives who would potentially replace them. Moreover... all out-of-work natives would not otherwise find work. Clearly, a certain share of natives are unemployed due to the normal functioning of the labor market (socalled 'frictional' unemployment) and will find work regardless of what happens with undocumented workers...
The largest share of out-of-work natives have a high school diploma, where approximately 3.1 million potentially need jobs, 1.2 million more than the number of undocumented workers with a high school diploma. If the undocumented immigrants were removed from the work force, these natives would either remain out-of-work or would need to find jobs requiring lower levels of education... Removing undocumented workers from the economy would not be a panacea for native unemployment."
Sheldon Rampton, Research Director at the Center for Media & Democracy, in a Nov. 30, 2007 email response to ProCon.org, provided the following:
"For the most part, no. Illegal aliens are typically hired to perform low-paying, menial jobs that most Americans simply prefer not to do. I have a friend who... needs live-in assistance to perform basic tasks such as eating, bathing, going to the bathroom, and dressing herself. Some of the people she has hired for this purpose are illegal immigrants. Finding people who are willing to do this work for the amount of pay that she can afford would be very difficult if legal residents were the only people she could find to hire.
It should be noted, moreover, that today we live in an international economy, in which jobs previously held by Americans are increasingly being performed by people who live in other countries, generally at lower wages. This includes jobs such as manufacturing, telephone customer support, telemarketing, and even computer programming and office services. Low-paid foreign workers do not actually have to reside in the United States to compete with American workers."
The Center for American Progress, in a Dec. 20, 2006 website article titled "Highlight on Comprehensive Immigration Reform," offered the following:
"Approximately 7.2 million undocumented immigrants currently work in the United States, but they are concentrated in a number of sectors in the workforce. And because a massive skill and education gap exists between undocumented workers and unemployed U.S. citizens, undocumented workers do not displace American jobs as many fear."