Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and provide testimony on behalf of the American Immigration Council. The American Immigration Council is a non-profit educational foundation which for 25 years has been dedicated to increasing public understanding of immigration law and policy and the role of immigration in American society.
Today’s hearing on “Enhancing American Competitiveness through Skilled Immigration” provides an opportunity to engage in a thoughtful conversation about the role that immigration can and should play in building a 21st century America that prospers and grows. Prosperity is a shared goal that unites us all, and offers an important lens through which to evaluate the vital role immigration plays in our economy today, as well as the necessity of retooling our outdated and hopelessly broken immigration system. As we do so, however, it is critical for us to recognize that skilled immigration encompasses a wide range of individuals with very different educational and occupational backgrounds. Moreover, the talent we seek very often comes to these shores not only through employment-based channels of immigration, but through family reunification, the admission of refugees and asylees, and can even be found within the current population of unauthorized workers.Read more...
With the U.S. economy in the midst of a prolonged slump, it’s hard to believe that any industry would actually benefit from having more workers. But that is precisely the case when it comes to those industries which depend upon highly skilled scientists and engineers. The United States has long faced a dilemma in this respect: the U.S. economy is capable of absorbing more high-tech professionals than the U.S. educational system produces. That is one reason so many U.S. scientists and engineers are immigrants. In “STEM” occupations (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the foreign-born account for 26.1 percent of workers with PhDs and 17.7 percent of those with master’s degrees. Even more U.S. scientists and engineers would be immigrants if not for the arbitrary limits imposed by the U.S. immigration system, particularly the inadequate supply of green cards and H-1B visas. Given that STEM professionals tend to create jobs through their innovative work, such limits are economically self-defeating.
Immigrant scientists and engineers create new jobs.Read more...
U.S. law provides employers with several limited ways to bring foreign workers into the U.S. on a temporary or permanent basis. Employment-based immigration visa categories generally have limited and static numerical caps. In addition, before petitioning for a foreign worker, an employer is often required to obtain certification from the Department of Labor (DOL) that there are no U.S. workers available, willing, and qualified to fill the position at a wage that is equal to or greater than the prevailing wage generally paid for that occupation in the geographic area where the position is located. The purpose of this restriction is to demonstrate that the admission and hiring of foreign workers will not adversely affect the job opportunities, wages, and working conditions of U.S. workers. Read more...
Immigrants Are Not the Cause of High Unemployment and Low Wages Among Minority Workers
Some observers have suggested that immigrants are to blame for the high unemployment rates and low wages experienced by so many minority workers in the United States. However, the best available evidence suggests that immigration is not the cause of dismal employment prospects for American minorities. For instance, cities experiencing the highest levels of immigration tend to have relatively low or average unemployment rates for African Americans. This should come as no surprise; immigrants go where jobs are more plentiful. The grim job market which confronts many minority workers is the product of numerous economic and social factors: the decline of factory employment, the deindustrialization of inner cities, racial discrimination, etc. Immigration plays a very small role. However, that role is generally positive. Immigrant workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs help to create jobs and give a slight boost to the wages of the vast majority of native-born workers. Some unscrupulous employers do exploit undocumented immigrants to the detriment of wages and working conditions for both native-born workers and legal immigrants. But the most practical solution to this problem is an earned legalization program for undocumented immigrants and stronger worksite enforcement of wage and labor laws.
Immigrants are not the cause of minority unemployment.Read more...
High levels of unemployment have led some to propagate the myth that every immigrant added to the U.S. labor force amounts to a job lost by a native-born worker, or that every job loss for a native-born worker is evidence that there is need for one less immigrant worker. In fact, this has been the rationale behind any number of harsh legislative proposals targeting immigrants. These kinds of proposals may be appealing politically, but they reflect dangerously simplistic assumptions about labor-force dynamics. Moreover, such proposals distract from the far more important goal of creating economic policies that generate growth and create jobs for workers across the U.S. labor market. As data from the 2009 Current Population Survey illustrates, most immigrant and native-born workers are not competing with each other in today’s tight job markets.
Today, on Capitol Hill, Congressmen Steve King and Lamar Smith will host a forum on the impact of “illegal immigration on American jobs.” Panelists will likely attempt to draw a direct correlation between U.S. immigration policy and unemployment, just as they do with all other domestic issues including the environment, security and health care. As in the past, their solution is deportation, their tactic is division, their position is the status quo, and their plans neither help American workers or solve our immigration crisis. The Immigration Policy Center (IPC) has developed the following fact check to further debunk claims that U.S. unemployment is caused by immigration.
While some characterize our immigration crisis as solely an issue of the 11 to 12 million unauthorized immigrants living in this country, our problems extend beyond the number of undocumented people to a broader range of issues.
Anti-immigrant groups have repeatedly tried to drive a wedge between African Americans and immigrants by capitalizing on the myth that immigrants take American jobs. In a new Perspectives piece for the Immigration Policy Center, Yale Professor Gerald Jaynes dispels the myth that immigrants take “black jobs” and instead suggests we find solutions on how to lift up all low-wage American workers.
Most African Americans are very conflicted about the immigration issue. African Americans, who have long espoused strong beliefs in principles of equality of opportunity, the rights of the downtrodden, and respect for humanity viewed in its broadest terms, are especially cognizant of the hypocrisy embedded within ethnocentric demands for an end to immigration. For the nation, immigration‘s economic benefits exceed its costs, but the costs are disproportionately borne by certain social groups and geographic areas. Rather than divide the public over the issue of depriving the country of the benefits to help the few who pay the highest costs, we need to be engaging in a political debate over the kinds and levels of compensatory policies that should be enacted to help low‐income citizens.
With Congress once again poised to consider comprehensive immigration reform, a key question confronting lawmakers is to what extent immigration and unemployment are related. Opponents of immigration reform frequently argue that immigrants “take” jobs away from many native-born workers, especially during economic hard times. Yet an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau clearly reveals that this is not the case. In fact, there is little apparent relationship between recent immigration and unemployment rates at the regional, state, or county level.
Critics of H.R. 5882, a bill that would would allow visas that have gone unused due to bureaucratic delays to be "recaptured" and issued to family- or employment-based legal immigrants, claim it will needlesly create new visas. The fact is that "recapturing" lost visas would not authorize any new green cards; it would allow the government to issue green cards that Congress has already authorized.