The Daily Caller is using a new report from the Migration Policy Institute, which estimates that about 1.8 million undocumented immigrants could benefit from the Obama administration's deferred action on deportation, to revive the spurious myth that immigration depresses employment. But economists have long maintained that immigrants don't take away American jobs and that, in fact, immigration has a positive impact on the economy.
In June, the Department of Homeland Security announced its decision to allow some young undocumented immigrants to apply to stay and work legally in the country without fear of deportation. DHS said the policy was aimed at:
"certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization."
On Tuesday, MPI released an analysis showing that upwards of 1.76 million undocumented immigrants under the age of 31 could benefit from the deferment, which lasts only two years, and is contingent on approval. MPI found:
- 1.26 million of the 1.76 million potential beneficiaries are 15 or older and thus immediately meet the age requirement to apply for deferred action. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has stated that only those who are 15 or older are eligible to file for deferred action when the process gets underway on August 15, 2012.
- Five states -- California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois -- are home to 57 percent of the total population of potential beneficiaries. California has by far the largest population of potential beneficiaries, with 460,000, followed by Texas (210,000), Florida (140,000), New York (110,000) and Illinois (90,000).
- Nearly three in four (or 1.3 million) prospective beneficiaries were born in Mexico or Central America. Another 11 percent (more than 180,000) came from the rest of Latin America, 9 percent (about 170,000) from Asia and 6 percent (about 110,000) from other parts of the world.
- An estimated 800,000 children and youth who are potential beneficiaries are currently enrolled in the K-12 system.
In an article on the findings headlined, "Report says Obama amnesty plan will add 1.76 million new workers," the Daily Caller gave credence to the false claim that immigrants negatively affect employment, writing:
A pro-amnesty group is forecasting that up to 1.76 million young illegal immigrants would get work permits under President Barack Obama's de facto amnesty announced in June, amid a stalled economy and near-record levels of unemployment.
The new estimate says the de facto amnesty would add as [many] workers to the legal rolls as the economy has created during the last 12 months, or during all of 2011. Currently, roughly 23 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, or have dropped out of the workforce.
The officials unemployment rate is currently 8.3 percent, and that number is much higher among young people and minorities.
But if immigrants, legal or illegal, displace U.S. workers, why was there less unemployment in the U.S. during the Clinton and Bush administrations, when we had higher levels of immigration, than we have today, when net migration from Mexico is zero? Nor is this a new phenomenon. The labor economist Richard Vedder of Ohio University looked at the relationship between immigration and U.S. unemployment throughout the 20th century and found that higher levels of immigration coincided with lower levels of unemployment.
Immigrants to the U.S. not only seek jobs but also increase demand for goods and services, thus providing incentives for businesses to invest in capital, expand operations and hire more workers. Moreover, the immigrants who come here typically aren't replicas of Americans in terms of their education level and skills. They are concentrated at the high end and low end of the skills spectrum and are much more likely to be competing with other immigrants for jobs than to be displacing natives in the workplace.
The Daily Caller's argument that undocumented immigrants depress the economy also doesn't hold up when looking at what happened recently in Arizona and Alabama following those states' passing of restrictive immigration laws. Time reported:
In the few months after its passage, Arizona's economy lost $141 million, including $45 million in hotel and lodging cancellations and $96 million in lost commercial revenue, according to a joint study by the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center. A drop in tourism also resulted in an estimated 2,761 jobs lost, resulting in $253 million lost in economic output. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit blocked most of SB 1070's provisions. But if ever fully implemented, the study adds, the law would eliminate an estimated 580,000 jobs for immigrant and native-born Arizonians, shrinking the state's economy by $48.8 billion. These figures don't include the $1.9 million Arizona has spent to defend the state from lawsuits, which have forced Gov. Jan Brewer to establish a legal defense fund for contributions.
Despite the fiscal fallout, Alabama followed Arizona's footsteps and approved its own immigration law in September. That measure, which analysts say is more draconian than Arizona's, could result in a $10.8 billion loss to the state's GDP, mostly due to reduced demand for goods and services provided by Alabama businesses, according to a widely cited study by economists at the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Alabama. Professor Samuel Addy, who led the study, estimates that the loss of 40,000 to 80,000 undocumented immigrants would result in 70,000 to 140,000 lost jobs in Alabama, which amount to $1.2 to $5.8 billion in lost earnings. An additional $57 to $264 million would be lost in state income and sales tax collections.
The Council on Foreign Affairs pointed to a study showing that "cities with restrictive immigration laws lower local employment numbers by nearly 20 percent, compared to similar cities without such ordinances," adding: "One reason the report suggests is that immigrants largely complement rather than substitute native workers, expanding jobs for all."
Indeed, this is a fact the American Immigration Council has documented:
The presence of new immigrant workers and consumers in an area also spurs the expansion of businesses, which creates new jobs. In addition, immigrants and native-born workers are usually not competing in the same job markets because they tend to have different levels of education, work in different occupations, specialize in different tasks, and live in different places.
Because they complement each other in the labor market rather than compete, immigrants increase the productivity -- and the wages -- of native-born workers. In the words of economist Giovanni Peri, "immigrants expand the U.S. economy's productive capacity, stimulate investment, and promote specialization that in the long run boosts productivity," and "there is no evidence that these effects take place at the expense of jobs for workers born in the United States."