Depending on who is asked, the Southwest border invasion represents either sovereign America’s demise or the long-awaited answer to a national crisis. For citizens who watch the nightly news and see a flood of foreign nationals pouring over the border, then released into the general public, the imagery is deeply disturbing. But for the Chamber of Commerce, some employers and the establishment media, the U.S. needs more immigration, not controlled borders. In their eyes, the arriving migrants represent a labor market boost that will end the alleged too few workers mantra that dominates the business news cycle.
In her op-ed titled “Democrats Are Missing the Bigger Immigration Picture,” The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell argued that more, not fewer, illegal immigrants should be President Biden’s goal. Rampell’s reasoning: the migrants “can fill critical labor market shortages.”
Not surprisingly, the economy, at least as it pertains to filling “critical labor market shortages,” is the exact opposite of how Rampell and other immigration advocates alarmingly describe the situation. The U.S. has a significant overage of potential 16-64 employment-age workers not in the labor force. The problem is that they’re sitting at home.
In their March 2022 analysis of the unemployment and labor force participation among foreign and U.S. born that drew from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey (CPS) data, Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) researchers Steven Camarota and Karen Zeigler found that the labor force participation rate, 62.4 percent in March, has been in steep, long-term decline for decades. The fourth quarter of 2021 showed that only 73.2 percent of the working, U.S.-born were in the labor force compared to 77.3 percent in 2000. If labor force participation had remained the same in 2021 as it was in 2000, the researchers concluded, nearly 7 million more U.S.-born Americans would have been in the labor force in 2021.
The labor force participation decline is especially pronounced among the U.S.-born without a bachelor’s degree. Adding mostly unskilled, undereducated migrants with limited English skills, who appear to be the majority among the arriving aliens, would represent more job competition, and ultimately more unemployment for noncollege-educated Americans, particularly already underserved blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.
For decades, working age men have been disappearing from the labor force at record rates. In 1965, the participation rate for prime-age workers ages 25-54 was 96.6 percent – almost all adult men worked. Today, the reported participation rate is about 89.3 percent which means that, based on today’s prime-age 25-54 male population of 64.5 million, only 57.6 million prime-age men are working or actively looking for work – labor force-attached in BLS terms. About 6.9 million men are, therefore, neither working nor looking for work. Conclusion: despite advocates’ hue and cry for more foreign-born labor, millions of potential domestic workers are available; employers must pay fair wages, and offer competitive employment conditions.
The side effects of such a large nonworking adult population are many; all of them bad. People need work to maintain self-esteem and to gain a sense of community involvement. Joblessness has contributed to an increase in domestic abuse between intimate partners and to alcohol dependency. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, or 261 deaths per day. These deaths shorten the lives of those who die by an average of almost 29 years or a total of 2.8 million years of potential life lost. Alcoholism is a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
Drug-related deaths are at a record high; unemployment is a significant drug dependency risk factor. More than 100,000 people in the U.S. died of drug overdoses between May 2020 and April 2021, according to the CDC. This is an increase of 28 percent from the previous April 2019 to April 2020 period. Unemployment is also a variable in the rising homelessness population. If heads of households are unemployed for long periods, intergenerational poverty can become a long-term consequence. A child’s economic future is most often determined by his living circumstances until he reaches age 23.
The link between the border and U.S. jobs is inexorable. The CIS research team found that since 2000, legal and illegal immigration has added 8.8 million workers. Many in Congress advocate for more international workers even though millions of Americans are available to hire and, because they’re unemployed, are struggling financially and emotionally. Advocacy that ignores unemployment’s deadly consequences is misinformed, self-serving and dishonest.