Workers enjoying pay gain
By Joe Guzzardi
A new Center for Migration Studies (CMS) report showed that between 2010 and 2016, illegal immigration declined 8 percent, down from 11.7 million to 10.8 million, its lowest level in 15 years.
The illegal immigrant population is always in flux, and some refer to think tanks’ totals as guesstimates. But after analyzing United States and Mexican government statistics, Pew Research came to the same conclusion as CMS. During the period studied, CMS researched six of the top 10 states in which illegal immigrants reside – Illinois, North Carolina, California, New York, Arizona and Georgia – and noted that they had at least 10 percent declines.
A major contributor to the illegal immigrant population drop-off is that, according to CMS senior visiting fellow Robert Warren, migrants are returning home in ever-larger numbers. In 1990, about 200,000 left the United States each year; the most recent data showed that the totals departing are 500,000 to 600,000 annually. Debunking a long-held theory that illegal immigrants never leave the U.S. Warren called that notion “false” and said that “one out of three immigrants leave” after having “worked for a number of years...”
If employed illegal immigrants leave the U.S. then by extension, the jobs they once held become available, and American workers could fill the vacancies. Evidence that Americans, especially minorities, are in fact re-entering the labor force is abundant, and that the pay scale has increased correspondingly.
The monthly jobs report from the National Federation of Independent Businesses found that employee compensation is at a 30-year high. Twenty-two percent of owners identified locating qualified employees as their biggest problem – a greater headache than taxes or government regulations. Accordingly, a net 24 percent anticipate raising worker compensation, and a net 31 percent reported they’ve increased compensation to attract or retain employees, the highest level since December 2000.
Workers employed in specific industries like clothing manufacturing and food preparation have been among the immediate beneficiaries of reduced job competition.
At Chicago’s Cloverhill Bakery, 800 workers didn’t return to work after they were identified as illegally present by a federal audit of the company’s employment records. Most of their replacements are blacks who passed an E-Verify background check, and now earn $14 an hour, while the displaced workers earned $10 an hour.
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker spoke to the Philadelphia Economic Association and linked employment “tightness” to fewer immigrants available for hire. Furthermore, the Clinton and Obama administrations readily acknowledged the basic supply and demand effect in labor economics.
President Clinton: “To reduce inequality, you have to have tight labor markets.” And as President Obama wrote in his 2014 autobiography, “The Audacity of Hope,” the “huge influx of mostly low-skill workers ... threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans and put strains on an already overburdened safety net.”
Immigration creates more job competition for less-skilled, less-educated Americans than for the more fortunate or privileged, perhaps the clearest explanation why the elite are the loudest voices to support expansionist legislation.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform writer and researcher.