Immigration and the economy are two of the top three “most important problems” facing the United States, according to a recent Gallup poll. Fortunately, solving them doesn’t require two separate plans.
To fix the economy, political leaders must first slow the rate of immigration.
Changing economic trends have disadvantaged working class Americans. Automation and offshoring have eliminated millions of middle-class jobs. Shrinking union rolls have made it harder for workers to win pay increases and maintain fair benefits.
As a result, many Americans’ financial futures look increasingly precarious. Today, a typical family’s income is less than it was in 1995, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Over 2 million people have been unemployed for 6 months or more.
High immigration policies exacerbate this problem.
Every year, America grants permanent residency and employment privileges to one million legal immigrants. Tens of thousands of other foreigners receive temporary work visas. And 8 million illegal aliens participate in the work force.
This competition for a limited supply of jobs holds down American workers’ wages and prevents them from securing employment. Every 10 percent increase in the size of a labor pool due to immigration reduces native workers’ annual wages by 8 percent, according to research conducted by Harvard economist George Borjas. Currently, 6.4 million native-born citizens can’t find a job.
Restricting immigration could alleviate the economic pressures on working Americans. With fewer available foreign laborers, Americans would be able to successfully bargain with employers for higher wages and better benefits. It’s no surprise that 63 percent of union members — who are no strangers to such negotiations — think immigration is too high.
The transition from an industrial to a post-industrial economy has been hard for many working Americans. There’s no reason to make it harder by continuing to import millions of foreign workers. Such policies only depress the wages of American laborers at a time when too many are struggling to find decent jobs.