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Does Illegal Immigration Disadvantage American Workers?

PRO (yes)

Steven A. Camarota, PhD, Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies, in a Jan. 6, 2015 article, "Unskilled Workers Lose Out to Immigrants," available at nytimes.com, stated:

"There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country and we also admit over a million permanent legal immigrants each year, leading to enormous implications for the U.S. labor market. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that there are some 58 million working-age (16 to 65) native-born Americans not working — unemployed or out of the labor market entirely. This is roughly 16 million more than in 2000. Equally troubling, wages have stagnated or declined for most American workers. This is especially true for the least educated, who are most likely to compete with immigrants (legal and illegal).

Anyone who has any doubt about how bad things are can see for themselves at the bureau's website, which shows that, as of November, there were 1.5 million fewer native-born Americans working than in November 2007, while 2 million more immigrants (legal and illegal) were working. Thus, all net employment gains since November 2007 have gone to immigrants."

Jan. 6, 2015 - Steven A. Camarota, PhD 

George J. Borjas, PhD, Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at Harvard University, in a Sep./Oct. 2016 article, "Yes, Immigration Hurts American Workers," available at politico.com, stated:

"[A]nyone who tells you that immigration doesn't have any negative effects doesn't understand how it really works. When the supply of workers goes up, the price that firms have to pay to hire workers goes down. Wage trends over the past half-century suggest that a 10 percent increase in the number of workers with a particular set of skills probably lowers the wage of that group by at least 3 percent. Even after the economy has fully adjusted, those skill groups that received the most immigrants will still offer lower pay relative to those that received fewer immigrants.

Both low- and high-skilled natives are affected by the influx of immigrants. But because a disproportionate percentage of immigrants have few skills, it is low-skilled American workers, including many blacks and Hispanics, who have suffered most from this wage dip. The monetary loss is sizable...

We don't need to rely on complex statistical calculations to see the harm being done to some workers. Simply look at how employers have reacted. A decade ago, Crider Inc., a chicken processing plant in Georgia, was raided by immigration agents, and 75 percent of its workforce vanished over a single weekend. Shortly after, Crider placed an ad in the local newspaper announcing job openings at higher wages."

Sep./Oct. 2016 - George J. Borjas, PhD 

Chriss W. Street, financial writer and entrepreneur, in a July 19, 2015 article, "Federal Reserve: Illegal Immigrants Take Teenagers' Summer Jobs," available at breitbart.com, stated:

"The majority of American teenagers learned valuable life lessons about earning money and taking responsibility from the end of World War II until a series of immigrant amnesties in the late 1990s started replacing them with cheap immigrant labor.

The 'Labor Participation Rate' for teenagers 16 to 19 years old has plummeted by 36 percent, since 2000 from 55 percent to below 35 percent. The Labor Force Participation rate for 20-to-24-year olds has also fallen by over 8 percent, from 79 percent to 70 percent…

Native-born American teenagers are as much in need of gaining valuable life lessons about earning money and taking responsibility as their parents and grand-parents were. It is not their lack of ambition, but rather politicians' unwillingness to secure the borders and police hiring of illegal aliens that are causing young people real harm."

July 19, 2015 - Chriss Street 

Lamar Smith, JD, US Representative (R-TX), in a Jan. 26, 2010 statement, "Illegal Immigration Hurts Lower Skilled Citizens and Legal Immigrants," available at the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee website, stated:

"The fact is that illegal immigrants take jobs from American workers, particularly poor and disadvantaged citizens and legal immigrants. The best outcome for low-skilled citizen and legal immigrant workers is the removal of the illegal immigrant population. The very jobs that illegal immigrants occupy rightfully belong to out of work citizens and legal immigrants.

With 15 million Americans out of work, we need to enforce immigration laws and oppose amnesty for 12 million illegal immigrants. We must stand up for citizens and legal immigrants."

Jan. 26, 2010 - Lamar Smith, JD 

Vernon M. Briggs, Jr., PhD, Emeritus Professor of Labor Economics at Cornell University, in an Oct. 14, 2010 briefing Report to the US Commission on Civil Rights, "The Impact of Illegal Immigration on the Wages and Employment Opportunities of Black Workers," available at usccr.gov, stated:

"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 looser [sic] in this competition are low skilled black workers…

It is not just that the availability of massive numbers of illegal immigrants depress wages, it is the fact that their sheer numbers keep wages from rising over time, and that is the real harm experienced by citizen workers in the low skilled labor market."

Oct. 14, 2010 - Vernon M. Briggs Jr., PhD 

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."

Nov. 26, 2007 - B. Lindsay Lowell, PhD 

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."

Dec. 6, 2007 - Richard K. Jones, MS 

CON (no)

Maria E. Enchautegui, PhD, Senior Fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute, in a Jan. 6, 2015 article, "Immigrants Are Replacing, Not Displacing, Workers," available at nytimes.com, stated:

"About half of all workers ages 18 to 64 without a high school diploma are immigrants. We know that many of these immigrants are unauthorized and do not speak English well. As such, they tend to work in different occupations than U.S.-born workers — often, occupations that require little interaction with the public, that do not require licensing, and that do not require supervisory skills…

The number of U.S.-born workers with no college education has declined by almost 5 million since 2007, according to my analysis of Census data. That means fewer U.S. born workers are competing for jobs requiring less education, the kind immigrants generally get. So immigrants are replacing, not displacing U.S. born workers. This trend should continue. Of the top 10 occupations with the most projected employment growth, eight do not require a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics."

Jan. 6, 2015 - Maria E. Enchautegui, PhD 

Art Carden, PhD, Associate Professor of Economics at Samford University, in an Aug. 28, 2015 article, "Illegal Immigrants Don't Lower Our Wages or Take Our Jobs," available at forbes.com, stated:

"The conventional wisdom says illegal immigrants take American jobs and lower American wages.

That conventional wisdom is wrong...

Why? The law of comparative advantage says we get more productive when we have more trading partners, and the arrival of undocumented workers with limited English skills frees up low-skill American workers who can then specialize in tasks that require better English."

Aug. 28, 2015 - Art Carden, PhD 

Adam Davidson, author of the "It's the Economy" column for The New York Times Magazine, in a Mar. 24, 2015 article, "Debunking the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant," available at nytimes.com, stated:

"It might seem intuitive that when there is an increase in the supply of workers, the ones who were here already will make less money or lose their jobs. Immigrants [documented and undocumented] don't just increase the supply of labor, though; they simultaneously increase demand for it, using the wages they earn to rent apartments, eat food, get haircuts, buy cellphones. That means there are more jobs building apartments, selling food, giving haircuts and dispatching the trucks that move those phones. Immigrants increase the size of the overall population, which means they increase the size of the economy. Logically, if immigrants were 'stealing' jobs, so would every young person leaving school and entering the job market; countries should become poorer as they get larger. In reality, of course, the opposite happens."

Mar. 24, 2015 - Adam Davidson 

Julie L. Hotchkiss, PhD, Research Economist and Senior Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Myriam Quispe-Agnoli, PhD, Visiting Associate Professor of Economics at Mercer University, and Fernando Rios-Avila, PhD, Research Scholar at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, in a Mar. 7, 2015 article, "The Wage Impact of Undocumented Workers: Evidence from Administrative Data," available in the Southern Economic Journal, stated:

"[R]ising shares of undocumented workers results in higher earnings for documented workers, but by a small amount. A one percentage point increase in the share of undocumented workers in a documented worker's county/industry results in an average wage boost of 0.44%. Within the firm, a one percentage point increase in the percent of undocumented workers employed by the firm boosts wages by 0.09% (0.11, 0.12, and 0.04 in low, medium, and high skill firms, respectively)."

Mar. 7, 2015 - Julie Hotchkiss, PhD 
Myriam Quispe-Agnoli, PhD 
Fernando Rios-Avila, PhD 

Christopher Matthews, writer for Time Magazine, in a Jan. 30, 2013 article, "The Economics of Immigration: Who Wins, Who Loses and Why," available at time.com, stated:

"It might seems like a no-brainer that increased immigration [legal and illegal] would reduce the wages of native-born Americans. A simple supply and demand model would tell you that more workers means lower wages. But the story is actually more complicated than that. According to a 2010 survey of the economic literature, the Brookings Institute concluded that, 'The most recent academic research suggests that, on average, immigrants raise the over standard of living of American workers by boosting wages and lowering prices.'

How can it be that more workers competing over the same jobs can lead to higher wages? The reason is that it's now actually more workers competing over the same jobs. Immigration actually changes what jobs employers need to fill. For one, an influx of cheap labor can make certain businesses like farming or restaurants feasible. (Absent cheap labor, these firms simply could not compete with foreign rivals.) Second, immigrants not only supply labor, but demand it, too. And a larger domestic population through immigration creates more potential customers for businesses as well."

Jan. 30, 2013 - Christopher Matthews, MA 

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 ," 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."

Aug. 2007 - John G. Morgan 

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."

March 2006 - David Jaeger, PhD