Immigration boosters evade questions about impact on Americans’ jobs

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

Shortly after a bipartisan group of senators unveiled their plan on Monday to overhaul the immigration system, supporters began evading questions about the proposal’s impact on working-class Americans’ wages and job chances, which have already been stalled by the real-estate bubble, automation and international competition.

New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, the leading member of the eight-member Senate group that drafted the framework to reform immigration, dived away from The Daily Caller’s question about the deal’s impact on wages and job opportunities.

Instead, he said immigration would be good for the economy and the federal government.

“We are all united in the view that immigration is good for America, and good for employment, and good for a growing economy. And to have people who pay taxes, who will contribute to the economic well-being … is a very good thing, and we aim to get it done.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney also repeated prepared statements when asked by TheDC how the proposed immigration plan — which would offer work permits to more than 11 million immigrants already in the U.S., and many more every year afterwards — would help Americans find jobs and boost their wages.

“The president does believe if done well, if done right, in a way that meets the principles currently put forward by a bipartisan group in the Senate, and more specifically, [meets] the principles that the president has put forward, that it will help our economy grow, help make it more fair,” he claimed.

Roughly 25 percent of Americans — including many college grads — held low-wage jobs in 2009, according to a January 2012 study of data collected by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The study, titled “Low Wage Lessons,” was completed by John Schmitt, a top economist at the D.C.-based progressive group, the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The study concluded that a higher proportion of Americans in 2009 worked in poorly paid jobs than did European workers. Other studies have shown that continued immigration reduces wages earned by low-wage workers, especially those of recent immigrants.

Schumer also said that the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO are working to decide how many immigrant workers should be awarded work-permits after the work permits are awarded to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

“They’ve been sitting down talking to one another, because it would be best from our point of view if business and labor could agree on a future flow” of workers, he said. The two groups “are making really good progress,” he added.

Business leaders have repeatedly called for increases in immigration of professionals and low-skill workers, but union leaders were split in prior debates over immigration. Some unions favored conditional amnesties for illegal immigrants, some favored additional immigration and some opposed low-skill immigration.

On Tuesday, the president is slated to tout the pending plan at a rally in Nevada, whose December unemployment rate in the highest in the nation.

Only Rhode Island shares Nevada’s formal unemployment record of 10.2 percent.

A September report by the U.S. Census Bureau concluded that median income in 2011 fell by 1.5 percent from 2010 to $50,054.

That’s down 8.9 percent from 1999, said the report. Median income for African-Americans’ was $32,229, compared to whites’ median income of $55,412.

The unadjusted share of national income held by the poorest 20 percent of Americans fell from 3.3 percent in 2010 to 3.2 percent 2011, said the report.

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