Three reasons CIS is wrong about jobs

Lindsay Schubiner • Nov 18, 2015
Adriana Ocampo, planetary scientist at NASA; Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo; Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone.
Adriana Ocampo, planetary scientist at NASA; Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo; Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone.

Last week, Center for Immigration Studies policy analyst Jon Feere published a blog in The Hill blaming immigration policy for job loss.

The blog, titled “Immigration policy is being used to pink-slip American workers,” focused on the H-1B visa program for high-skilled workers. But it played into a much broader, longstanding narrative that claims immigrants take jobs that would otherwise go to U.S. citizens.

In fact, the anti-immigrant movement seems to oppose all types of immigration equally — whether it’s through a temporary H1-B visa, family sponsorship, or unauthorized — because it contributes to a demographic shift away from a white majority. That rationale is transparently racist, so it won’t work to inspire mainstream opposition to immigration. But scapegoating immigrants for our economic troubles? That works.

The lack of economic evidence that supports blaming immigrants (documented or undocumented) for American unemployment hasn’t deterred the anti-immigrant movement from leaning heavily on this argument. Here are three of the reasons why they’re wrong:

1. Our economic future depends on the ingenuity of immigrant and U.S.-born thinkers alike

We can’t afford to keep out the next Jerry Yang, Taiwanese-born co-founder of Yahoo, the next Adriana Ocampo, born in Colombia and now a planetary scientist at NASA,  or even the next Alexander Graham Bell, an immigrant from Scotland. Nearly 18 percent of all incorporated business owners are immigrants, and immigrants contribute to the success of major U.S. companies. With the social, environmental, and economic challenges facing this country in coming decades, we need every job creator and inventor making their contributions in the United States, not abroad.

2. Rights for immigrant workers creates better employment conditions for everyone

Rather than fostering anti-immigrant sentiment, those truly concerned about American workers should be advocating for greater rights for all workers, no matter where they were born. When unscrupulous employers can exploit immigrants, it drives down wages and can create unsafe conditions for all workers, whether those workers are in the United States on H1-B visas, are undocumented, or are U.S. citizens.

Ensuring that all workers have the legal protections necessary to advocate for their rights is essential to creating and maintaining the good jobs that families need. So we must ask: If the anti-immigrant movement is truly concerned about American workers, why do their leaders not regularly speak out in support of workers rights?

3. Economic prosperity is not a zero sum game

More immigrants doesn’t just mean more workers. It means more consumers, more taxpayers, and more business owners, which of course leads to economic growth — and more jobs for Americans. In fact, research has demonstrated that immigration has positive effects on the wages and employment prospects of U.S. workers.

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