This Week on Immigration in the Wall Street Journal

Jeremy Beck's Picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

Congress continues to issue over 1 million green cards and approximately 700,000 temporary guest worker visas a year. The Senate immigration bill and its House counterpart would double those numbers, a fact that tends to go unnoticed in the media. I often wonder if immigration reporters and their colleagues who cover employment and the economy read each other's stories.

William A. Galston's story, "Welcome to the Well-Educated-Barista Economy" does not mention immigration but it is hard to read it without questioning the wisdom of proposals to add more than 30 million permanent workers (at all skill levels) to the pool of job seekers over the next decade via legalization and immigration increases. Galston reports:

Among recent college graduates ages 20 to 29, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, unemployment stands at 10.9%, more than three points higher than in 2007. A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds that of the recent college graduates who have managed to find work, more than 40% are in jobs that do not require a college degree; more than 20% are working only part-time; and more than 20% are in low-wage jobs.

They are not alone. A recent report from the National Employment Law Project found that low-wage sectors such as food services and retail trade accounted for only 22% of jobs lost during the Great Recession but fully 44% of jobs gained since the bottom. Mid-wage jobs accounted for 37% of losses but only 26% of gains; higher-wage jobs, 41% of losses but only 30% of gains. The wage structure of the entire economy has shifted downward since the Great Recession, and young adults trying to start careers and families have been the principal, but hardly the only, victims.

In "Report on Deportations Shows Strict Enforcement at U.S. Border," Laura Meckler reports:

The number of formal removals at the border has risen every year under President Barack Obama. At the same time, deportations from the U.S.'s interior have fallen for five consecutive years.

Although it is left unsaid, readers can easily conclude that illegal job competition from unauthorized workers has not been a priority of the Obama administration during the recession or the recovery. That's not to say that every illegal employer gets off easy.

In "Michael Grimm Expressed Limited Support for Immigration Law Changes" Mara Gray and Kristina Peterson report that Rep. Michael Grimm (recently charged with hiring illegal workers for his restaurant) "has also supported E-Verify, a national database that allows employers to check the immigration status of a potential hire." Apparently, Grimm the employer disagreed with Grimm the policy maker.

While the government cracks down on Grimm, the Administration is reconsidering its approach to enforcing the law against illegal workers. In "New U.S. Immigration Policy Should Recognize Families," Sarah Portlock reports:

Among the questions said to be under review is whether people without serious criminal records should continue to be removed from the U.S. That group accounted for a small slice of illegal immigrants who are settled in the U.S. but have minor or no criminal records but get snagged by law enforcement.

The Senate passed a sweeping immigration bill last summer, but the issue has stalled in the House. Some Republicans oppose it, saying it is wrong to reward people who broke the law with legal status and that more legal visas would hurt American workers.

Elsewhere, Ben Leubsdorf has a roundup of economists reactions to the low growth numbers for the first quarter of 2014 in "Economists React to U.S. GDP: 'Grim, But Old News." Five out of nine economists said the weather was a significant factor.

Corporate executives and CEOs aren't waiting around for spring, however. They see immigration as the key to growth. In "U.S. Cities Offer Opportunities, Face Challenges, Panelists Say" Erica E. Phillips reports:

"Ms. Wylde of the Partnership for New York City said lack of comprehensive immigration reform is 'the biggest single challenge we face.' That's 'cutting off our ability to attract the best and the brightest,' she said, adding that most global cities that compete with New York City for talent 'have the full force of their federal governments behind them.'"

Which brings us full circle back to the "well-educated baristas and unemployed high-school graduates" of Galston's story, many of whom lack the purchasing power to even move out of their parents' homes. If the U.S. government agrees to the corporate lobby's demand for doubled immigration, what would that do to the labor markets these young Americans find themselves in?

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

Illegal Immigration
Legal Immigration
jobless americans
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Vince 0041 of PA's picture

The corporate folks like a higher GDP, even if it means a lower GDP PER CAPITA, which is what the rest of us care about. As long as they "get theirs", they care not about the rest of us. This is the downfall of the Chamber of Greed led Republican party.

Thomas 2924 of IN's picture

The corporate folks like a higher GDP, particularly with a lower GDP per capita. The income has to go to labor or capital. Higher national income with lower wages (lower GDP per capita) means higher profits. Bribing or blackmailing Congress for higher immigration rates seems to be the dominant business plan in corporate America, and Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is very supportive.

Roger 8615 of CA's picture

Not just Repub's. Both parties are to blame, there are rich people in both parties. The problem is no party cares about us.

Dave 362 of WI's picture

I think both parties would care more about their constituents if more of the latter cared about the workings of their own government.  Complaints abound about many issues, but they mostly are registered with friends, family, favorite bartenders et al. rather than with our "law makers" who thrive on the public's apathy.

Thomas 2924 of IN's picture

That's right. It's important to inform our friends and families about these things, but it is very important to let members of Congress know that we are informed and care enough to take action. That is the power of the faxes we send through NumbersUSA and the phone calls we make to congressional offices. "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" doesn't just apply to the national defense.

Albert 3441 of PA's picture

To the Wall Street elite and their paid agents in Congress, America is not a real nation; it is only a market. US citizens are just an aggregation of suckers to be underpaid, overcharged, and overtaxed. National defense has been almost completely decoupled from its original task of protecting the country. It is now just another industry with high profit margins and low risk for investors.

Terri 9170 of IL's picture

I will continue to believe that the majority of Americans are not apathetic, they are misinformed. The corporatists know it's not possible to maintain a democracy without a responsible press and we haven't had that in this country for years.
I refuse to turn on other Americans and place blame at a time when Obama is wearing himself out trying to divide and conquer

John 4110 of MI's picture

I would add that older educated workers that become unemployed also bear the burden of weak labor markets. Remember the unemployed solid state engineer's wife that called the Obama town hall meeting. Obama told her that the industry folk tell him that they need people with her husbands training.

Glenn 3669 of MI's picture

The unholy alliance of anything for a buck cheap labor zealots and sanctimonious politically correct grand standers might be the downfall of America itself.

Brad 6984 of CO's picture

As I always say, we are just fighting defensively...Hardly any progress on immigration reduction. NumbersUSA and other organizations should seriously start thinking on changing strategies. Give in some to get some progress.

Please at-least explain if you disagree. Sometime I feel hopelessness and think if you just want the issue to be alive for fundraising or some other reason like supporting favorite GOP politician.

Jeremy 6711 of NJ's picture

The political landscape often determines whether we'll be on offense or defensive legislatively. We need a strong defense right now but if you're itching to go offense there are important things you can do, starting with education. We won't win reductions without a robust national dialogue on immigration numbers. Many people aren't aware of the numbers at the start of this blog. Spread the word.

Robert 4907 of DE's picture

All I keep hearing is comprehensive immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform. How about some comprehensive ENFORCEMENT reform to get the illegal aliens out of this country? We don’t need them and we don’t want them!

Illegal immigration is a cancer, it has to be eradicated not tolerated.

Thomas 2924 of IN's picture

I suggest acts of civil OBEDIENCE by ICE officers and lawyers in which they actually return to enforcing the laws they have sworn to uphold, instead of looking the other way and harboring those they are supposed to deport, as Obama has ordered them to do. It might catch on.

John 4110 of MI's picture

I looked at the summaries of some recent immigration polls. These summaries do not give the details of the question designed and many are commissioned with an eye on getting results that favor their views on policy. Some like the CBS poll one would assume that the commissioner feels less strongly about getting a particular answer. Most from an anti amnesty position provide results indicating the war is over. The question seems to be: when do we loose?

Hopefully, things are better than this. If public opinion is actually better, job one should be the dissemination of an accurate view of public opinion.

Jeremy 6711 of NJ's picture

I agree, John. It's so important to comment on those polls and the news stories that cover them. Be specific in your criticism. Ask the questions that pollsters shy away from. Politely challenge those who draw broad conclusions from narrow questions. And compare those polls to others that produce different results - you can find many of them on our website under the "Resources" tab.

Mike 1111 of CO's picture

Jeremy, if NumbersUSA leads, we'll follow.

You and your colleagues are on the correct side of this issue. With 10 million unemployed, 11 million underemployed, and 12 million Illegals, and these are not a coincidence, immigration is just insane. Let's get Americans back to work.

Make a list of countries with low immigration, and you'll see that they also have low unemployment and good, living wages, e.g. Austria, Japan, Norway. Immigration is stupid; just don't do it !!!

Amnesty could be THE election issue this year in America.

The overwhelming mass of Voters from both parties AND Independents want Less Immigrants, More Jobs for Americans, and No Amnesty for Illegals.

Republicans, Independents, and Democrats should hit Obama very hard on Amnesty.

Go after the 97% of voters who are legal, and forget about the 3% who are Illegals.

Jeremy 6711 of NJ's picture

Thank you, Mike. It's always a good time to update your interest survey - numbersusa (dot) com/account/18/interests - and check for questionnaires on your action board. Those actions will lead to more opportunities. And thank you for focusing on the numbers. Most people like immigration...with limits.

Allen 3661 of VA's picture

If the feds are going to prosecute that Congressman from New York for tax evasion and fraud just because he was exploiting illegal workers, what are they going to do about the thousands of other employers who are doing exactly the same thing? Are they going to prosecute all the grass trimmers and roofers and farmers? They are all guilty of tax evasion and fraud. If they go after all of them, the employers will have to go back to hiring legal workers and abiding by the tax laws and the labor laws.

That will put at least 8 million law abiding workers back on jobs and paying taxes instead of having to collect welfare. That will save America hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars. We actually can do away with the deficit if we go back to enforcing the laws.

Florence 0183 of NJ's picture

Allen, I think what you wrote here would make a great letter to the editor in your local will make people think and possibly motivate others to voice their opinions as well...You make a good point for those of us looking for an avenue to get these invaders out of our country, your comment is an opportunity to put pressure on the employers, I like it just the way you wrote it...

Albert 3441 of PA's picture

Your post states the irony of this prosecution very well. As for the deficit, the elites are not concerned about deficits (as Ronald Reagan once acknowledged), since the debt burden from subsidizing cheap immigrant labor falls on the taxpaying public. This enables the Robber Barons to privatize the profits and commonize the costs of mass immigration (both legal and illegal).

David 3281 of IN's picture

Thank you Jeremy for bringing up the damage that is being done to college grad's, US citizens, some young and a lot of older grad's who are struggling with student loans in "Repayment" status. Some 30 to 40 million who are now in "Default" status, hence the "Student Loan Debt Crisis". I believe uncontrolled immigration plays a large part in this. It all seems "Ironic" in that "Big Business" claims they can't find qualified applicants for high-skilled jobs when there are some millions with those skills that, unfortunately, also have large debt with predatory interest rates. Some of that in the name of paying down the "National Debt". That said, there is a direct link between that crisis and uncontrolled immigration when millions of immigrants can take the place (Jobs) of US citizens because they have little to no debt.

Randy 2486 of NV's picture

Enforce the current laws on the books.
Anyone that is here illegally needs to be sent BACK to the country they came from!! Enter the UNITED STATES LEGALLY as others are doing.
I lived in Mexico for 22yrs. They do just that. Not this pc bull$$$$!!!!