Immigrants Aren't Stealing Your Jobs

September 23rd 2016

Willie Burnley Jr.

The debate over whether immigrants take jobs from — and lower the wages of — native-born citizens of the United States has received a thoroughly researched answer in a newly released, 550-page report from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. In a word: no.

Composed by 14 leading economists, demographers, and scholars, the report “found little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the longer term,” according to Francine D. Blau, the economics professor at Cornell University who chaired the panel responsible for the report.

The research goes further in saying that high-skill immigrants, particularly those in the fields of science and technology, improved the economic prospects of all Americans, spurred innovation, and created jobs.

Though "little to no negative effects" were found on the long-term for wages and employment of "native-born" Americans, there were some impacts on immigrants in America. "Some immigrants who arrived in earlier generations, but were still in the same low-wage labor markets as foreigners just coming to the country, earned less and had more trouble finding jobs because of the competition with newer arrivals," the New York Times explained.

And the report was “more mixed,” Professor Blau told the Times, in terms of the impact of immigration on government budgets — though the researchers did find that in the long run, immigrant families contribute billions to the government. Again from the Times:

"For those governments, total annual costs for first-generation immigrants are about $57 billion. But by the second generation in those families, immigrants, with improved education and taxpaying ability, become a benefit to government coffers, adding about $30 billion a year. By the third generation, immigrant families contribute about $223 billion a year to government finances."

The report comes during an election cycle in which the rhetoric around immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants, has reached a fever pitch with many calling the language of some leading Republicans “vitriolic.”

The Republican nominee for president has previously called for Mexico to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border because the nation, he said, was sending people who were “bringing drugs” and “bringing crime” to the United States. He would later call for a temporary ban on all Muslims entering into the United States.

This is not the first time that the United States has scapegoated Mexican immigrants citing the economic woes.

In the three decades leading up to the Great Depression, immigrants came into the United States from Mexico to fulfill the needs of labor and then were subsequently blamed after the crash of the economy. This led to the Repatriation Movement or Mexican Repatriation when easily over a million people of Mexican descent, the majority of them U.S. citizens, according to NPR, were deported to Mexico.

The new report adds to a growing body of research that seeks to disprove some of the myths around documented and undocumented immigrants.

After Kathryn Steinle was shot on July 1, 2015 by an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco, sanctuary cities, or cities where people are not prosecuted simply for being undocumented, have also come under attack.

However, research has shown for more than a decade that immigrants — regardless of documentation or nationality — are less likely to commit violent crimes than the native-born population.

Immigration reform has remained a political football in recent years, despite consistent criticism on all sides. That said, there have been rattlings on Capitol Hill that immigration reform will pass next year.

“The prospects for long-run economic growth in the United States would be considerably dimmed without the contributions of high-skilled immigrants,” said the new report.

It is likely that any reform will try to pull in new high-skilled workers to create jobs in the United States.