CBS News recently reported some devastating statistics for Black Americans who are living with depression-era unemployment rates, including this: "34 percent of New York's young black men age 19 to 24 are not working." The Department of Labor confirms that Blacks continue to be disadvantaged by the recession and jobless recovery, but they are not the only ones hurting. Unemployment rates are high among almost every class of worker, especially Blacks, Latinos,and teenagers. CBS further reports that most graduating students don't have marketable skills. But the CBS report ignored the federal government's failure to prevent U.S. employers from illegally displacing less-educated U.S. workers.
Employers have illegally taken U.S. jobs out of the hands of 8 million American workers; workers like the less-educated young adults profiled by CBS. Only 4 percent of those jobs are in agriculture. The rest are in industries where citizens and legal immigrant workers compete directly with illegal labor. Most of these workers have less than a college education, and they are disproportionately Black and Hispanic.
The crisis that unemployed and disadvantaged workers face is America's crisis. Less-educated workers make up almost one-third of our civilian workforce, and young workers who can't find employment by their mid 20s face a life of dependency. If we fail them, the price will be paid over generations.
We have had the tools to level the jobs market playing field for some time, but have yet to maximize their potential. The E-Verify workplace verification system has been around for a dozen years, but the government has not required its use. By itself, mandatory E-Verify would open up millions of jobs for unemployed U.S. workers. To be most effective, however, E-Verify must be coupled with a robust system to identify and remove illegal workers who have committed identity fraud and/or theft. In the early part of the last decade, the government did that via the Social Security No-Match program. But No-Match was not required by law. The Bush administration, under pressure from anti-enforcement lobbying, blocked the program, thereby sending a chilling message to the 48 million American workers at greatest risk of displacement: you aren't worth protecting.
The Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2164) could change that. Within a couple of years of passage, 99 percent of all employers would be using E-Verify for all new hires, and the No-Match program would anchor a targeted approach to cracking down on identity thieves and other illegal workers who got their jobs through theft or fraud. The Legal Workforce Act would give millions of Americans an opportunity for a dignified life free of dependency.
The media doesn't get that immigration policy is a jobs policy. For years, immigration policy has enabled outlaw businesses to discriminate against American workers. H.R. 2164 would change that, immediately putting millions of Americans back on a path to full employment.
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA