Right and Wrong Resolutions on Immigration

January 11, 2016 | PFIR

This New Year’s, President Obama struggled to make a resolution — at least when it came to immigration policy.

His administration launched a series of deportation raids targeting illegal aliens who had been denied asylum. The move is intended to reduce immigration by discouraging foreign nationals, especially from Central America, from illegally journeying to the United States.

Yet at the same time, President Obama issued an executive order that will make it easier for hundreds of thousands of foreign workers to enter the country.

Specifically, the administration will grant “renewable all-purpose work permits” to foreign laborers who are waiting for green cards. Granting countless immigrants the employment privileges of a green card eliminates the need to actually complete the green card application process, thus nullifying Congress’ cap on employer-sponsored green cards. The order also effectively increases the number of H-1B “high skilled” work visas.

While the crackdown on illegal immigration is a welcome move that will help struggling American workers, the increase in legal immigration will result in job losses and wage depression.

Deportations deter illegal immigration. When deportation isn’t a credible threat, illegal immigration spikes.

In 2015, the number of deportations dropped by more than 25 percent from 2014. Unsurprisingly, over twice as many families were caught trying to cross the southern border in September 2015 compared to a year before.

Removing illegal workers, and discouraging them from coming in the first place, will open up positions for unemployed Americans. Currently, more than 8 million illegal aliens work in the United States. Meanwhile, nearly 6.3 million native-born Americans can’t find a job.

Curbing immigration could also increase Americans’ wages. Between 1980 and 2000, immigration inflows resulted in a 7 percent drop in wages for native workers without high school diplomas.

The joblessness caused by high levels of immigration harms American workers — especially more vulnerable worker groups like minorities — in ways that extend beyond mere financial hardship. For example, for every 10 percent increase in foreign workers, the incarceration rate of African Americans rises by nearly a full percentage point.

In his final year in office, President Obama should resolve to improve the lives of working-class Americans. Deterring illegal immigration will advance that goal. Importing more foreign workers won’t.

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