Groups that encourage immigration policy reform, immigration law enforcement, and stricter immigration policies cite many concerns about the presence of a large undocumented immigrant population in the U.S.. Chief among their concerns are the negative impacts they believe immigrants have on the economy. Critics often claim that immigrants steal American jobs and drain money out of the economy by sending it back home.
The overall effect of undocumented immigrants on the U.S. economy is hard to isolate. Some findings suggest that the influx of low-skilled, immigrant labor reduces the wages of similar, native-born labor. Immigrants make up at least 20% of the low-skilled labor population of the United States and many groups attribute American job loss to immigrants. Additionally, immigrants account for a large share of the growth in the U.S. labor force; between 1996 and 2002 they comprised 51% of the U.S. labor force growth, despite making up only 14% of the labor force (Orrenius 2003). Half of all laborers who entered the workforce during the 1990s were immigrants. However, the meaning of this statistic is ambiguous; it could result from an overall growth in the economy, or from a growth in the immigrant population that results in American job loss.
A 2005 paper, “The Evolution of the Mexican-Born Workforce in the United States,” reports that immigration accounted for 3-4% in the decline of native-born worker earnings, with losses concentrated at the lower end of incomes, between 1980 and 2000.
Read more from this report here: ksghome.harvard.edu/~gborjas/Papers/w11281.pdf
However, Seth Zimmerman of The Urban Institute, author of “Immigration and Economic Mobility,” reports that other studies have in fact reported opposite results, finding that immigrant labor has actually worked to increase the wages of native born low-skilled laborers. He writes:
- Other economists found that the average wage of native-born workers increased by 1.8 percent due to immigration between 1990 and 2004. The least-educated 10 percent of workers lost roughly 1.1 percent of their real wages over the period, but the remaining 90 percent saw gains. (Ottavani and Peri 2004)
Brother Towns’ David Caulkett speaks on behalf of one of these groups, Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (FLIMEN). To learn more about their group and concerns, go to their website here: flimen.org