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Senate Immigration Bill will be a Disaster for Black Workers

Posted on 06-Jul-2013. Updated on 05-Sep-2013.
Topics: Effects of Immigration on American Workers  

Indeed, it is no secret that the employment picture for low-skilled workers is abysmal. The national unemployment rate has been above 7.5 percent for more than four years and millions have dropped out of the workforce entirely. Among those without a high school diploma, the unemployment rate in May reached 11.1 percent, and for blacks without a high school diploma, it is more than 24 percent. The labor-force participation rate is at historic lows and long-term unemployment is the worst since the Great Depression. The workweek is shrinking, as well as wage rates. Barely one in two adult black males has a full-time job. A record 47 million people are on food stamps.

The immigration reform bill has the potential to make things even worse. Not only will the bill grant amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants, it will act as a magnet for future illegal immigration and substantially increase the number of legal immigrants. It is conservatively estimated that the bill will result in 30 million to 33 million additional immigrants over the next 10 years.

The bill is structured so that most of the immigrants will be low-skilled. These immigrants will compete with Americans in the low-skilled labor markets. The competition is most fierce in some of the industries in which blacks historically have been highly concentrated, such as construction, agriculture and service. Since the supply of low-skilled workers already exceeds the demand, the massive influx in low-skilled immigrants bodes ill for all such workers, but particularly black males. Evidence adduced before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights shows that immigration accounts for 40 percent of the 18-point percentage decline in black employment rates over the last several decades -- the bulk of the decline occurring among black males. That's hundreds of thousands of blacks thrown out of work; hundreds of thousands who can't support their families without taxpayer assistance.

The evidence adduced by the commission shows that not only does illegal immigration depress the employment levels of low-skilled Americans, it drives down the wages for available jobs. For example, an economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta estimated that as a result of the growth of undocumented workers, the annual earnings of actual documented workers in Georgia in 2007 were $960 lower than they were in 2000. In the leisure hospitality sectors of the economy, the wages were $1,520 lower.

Sources:

[1] Op-Ed Commentary, Peter Kirsanow, The Charleston Gazette, 15-June-2013

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