Home-state unemployment higher for ‘gang of eight’ immigration senators

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

The pending Senate immigration bill is expected to let American companies hire many foreign workers, even though roughly 6.5 million low-skill American workers are already unemployed in the home-states of the bill’s eight co-sponsors.

The states’ unemployment “averaged 21.7 percent for less-educated citizens … [and is] even higher than the 18.3 percent average in the other 43 states,” said the March 21 report by the Center for Immigration Studies.

Nationally, 27.6 million Americans who never attended a day of college were still unemployed or had given up looking for jobs in 2012, said the study’s author, Steve Camarota, the research director at the center.

“It is a huge number,” even though it excludes millions of additional teenagers, college students and college dropouts, said Camarota, whose center wants to cut in half today’s annual immigration flow of 1 million people.

The bill’s contents are still secret, although Democratic senators have suggested the bill will be quickly debated once the senators return from Easter recess.

Advocates for large-scale immigration, however, say that the immigration bill will help Americans by spurring the economy.

Several of the senators drafting the bill have said it will alleviate business’ complaints about a shortage of workers by providing work permits to many new guest workers. In February, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham reportedly told a South Carolina audience that he was “trying to save our nation from, I think, a shortage of labor and a catastrophic broken system.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pushing the senators to approve an additional inflow of 400,000 skilled and unskilled workers.

The bill would eventually create at least 159,000 new jobs per year by giving residency — and eventually citizenship — to the 11 million unauthorized migrants already in the country, predicted Robert Lynch, an economist at the Center for American Progress, which advocates policies that help professionals.

The migrants would gradually get a wage boost of roughly 15 percent after they’re legalized, because they would be protected by workplace regulations and could be more productive, Lynch said.

In turn, their extra wages would spur additional spending, investment and hiring, he told The Daily Caller.

Lynch’s argument is laid out in a March 20 report, titled “The Economic Effects of Granting Legal Status and Citizenship to Undocumented Immigrants.”

Camarota rejected Lynch’s claims.

If the 11 million illegals are made legal, any extra wages they get will be funded from other workers’ wages, from investors’ profits and from customers higher prices, he said. There is no extra pile of funds that can be tapped once the 11 million get their residency cards, he argued.

Currently, the illegals hold down wages for low-skill workers, and a gradual departure from the country would force companies to use some of their profits to hire Americans workers, he said.

Today’s population of guest workers and 11 million low-wage illegals allows employers to cut wages by roughly $100 billion a year, he said. In turn, according to Camarota, that money is now redistributed upwards to skilled professionals and shareholders.

Competition from low-skill illegal immigrants also reduces the number of low-skill Americans who try to find work, he said.

That’s because many of the illegal workers and guest workers are employed in hotel, restaurants, and janitorial tasks that would otherwise be regarded as good jobs for Americans, he said.

The resulting surplus of workers shows up in the data as unemployed workers or people who have given up looking for work, Camarota said.

“In the seven states represented by the gang of eight [senators], the unemployment rate for U.S. citizens with no more than a high school education averaged 12.6 percent in 2012 … [versus] an average of 10.2 percent across the other 43 states,” said Camarota’s report.

“Looking at all less-educated citizens (ages 18 to 65) shows 41.8 percent did not have a job in 2012 in the [seven] states compared to an average of 37.9 percent in the other 43 states,” said the report.

The 41.8 percent includes people who are unemployed and those no longer looking for jobs.

“No way there is a shortage of workers,” Camaraota told TheDC. “You would think that the eight senators from those seven states would be most anxious to encourage [foreign] workers to go home.”

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