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Monday, April 13, 2015

The Economic Impact of Illegal Immigration

It is pretty rare to find any discussion about illegal immigration which focuses on how it affects the people who are already here.  There are a few throw away lines sometimes in the media on the subject in most articles.  The usual phrasing is that America has been made great by immigrants in the past.  The idea is that since immigration worked so well in our history, it is doing so now again.  The truth, however, is that this is not true.

In the early days of the country, immigrants were needed to settle the land.  America had boundless horizons and ample land (or so it seemed at the time.)  Each wave of immigrants settled one new area or another as the frontier marched westward.  By the 1920s, however, the land was settled, but the immigrants continued to come.  As a result, the first real limitations on immigration were passed.  As the nation industrialized, the workers (and the owners) for those factories came from those who already lived here.  There were still huge numbers of immigrants, but the totals were small by historical standards.  The wealth of the nation grew and so did the income of the average household.  As incomes grew, the American middle class grew along with it.

In the last few years, however, the incomes of the middle class have stopped growing.  For example, the real median household income for American is significantly lower today than it was when president Obama took office.  We keep hearing that the economy is recovering and that it is growing, but the incomes of the middle and lower income groups not only do not rise; they are falling.  Incomes for the wealthiest among us are rising, but not income for the rest of America.

One of the reasons why incomes for the average America have fallen is the deluge of illegal immigrant workers who keep wages low.  The truth is that there are so many workers available for a great many jobs that there is no need to raise wages to get the needed positions filled.  This is not just true for minimum wage jobs.  Look at the construction industry.  Construction jobs have long been a well paying place for many Americans to make a decent living.  Today, however, many places have a place where day laborers in construction go to find employment.  These men (and women) show up and contractors who need workers arrive and pick up the number needed for the day.  Most of these workers are illegal immigrants.  They earn a fraction of what an American citizen would be paid for the day.  On top of this savings, the employer need not pay all the extra costs of an employee like social security, insurance, and the like.  It's no wonder that the jobs go to the lower cost illegals.  As a result, many of the Americans who would otherwise be working in construction and making a decent living are forced to find other lower paying work.  And it's not just construction.  In field after field, American workers are being displaced by lower paid foreign workers. 

Somehow, no one seems to pay attention to these facts.  We cannot focus just on the immigrants.  We need to consider their impact on the rest of America.


1 comment:

fastcarken said...

Jeff. The underground economy/cash has now impacted the entire culture.
Besides putting limits on immigration. It is becoming imperative that the U.S. moves to a CASHLESS Society. This will make all the underground monies paid to all workers etc. Taxable. Many people in our country draw government benefits and work under the table. Time to make the US a society with NO CASH!!! IMHO