Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

Writing for The Atlantic about the politics of incarceration and crime prevention, David Frum makes a connection between employment opportunities and U.S. immigration policy:

"Despite three years of supposed economic recovery, black children were as likely to be poor in 2013 as in 2010 -- and more likely than at any time since the early 1990s. Almost four out of 10 black children are now growing up in poverty, as against one in nine white children. More than 25 percent of the black poor now live in areas of concentrated poverty, triple the rate for poor white people.

"The uniquely harsh African American economic experience since 2007 has divided black opinion further from that of other elements of the Obama coalition. Only 29 percent of Latinos under age 30 think illegal immigrants take jobs from Americans -- but 48 percent of African Americans under 30 think so. No wonder.

"African Americans have been very much bypassed in the recovery, as employers substituted immigrant for native-born labor. As of mid-2015 all of the net new job growth from the previous employment peak in 2007 has gone to foreign-born workers. The black unemployment rate -- although declining -- in summer 2015 still hovered well above the rate in December 2007. Among younger black people, 16-24, the unemployment rate is a Greek-like 20 percent. Nearly half of black youth aren't in the workforce at all."

Comment on the column here.

Frum's column is sure to get pushback, but these questions are more mainstream than the mainstream media will indicate. In his attention-grabbing rejection of open borders, Bernie Sanders said:

"You know what youth unemployment is in the United States of America today? If you're a white high school graduate, it's 33 percent, Hispanic 36 percent, African American 51 percent. You think we should open the borders and bring in a lot of low-wage workers, or do you think maybe we should try to get jobs for those kids?"

The economist Andrew Sum told PBS Newshour this summer that "all the new jobs in fast food went to older workers and immigrants, not one of them went to a teenager....if you happen to be a young black male, we're talking 90. Ninety percent are not working full-time..."

Nor is Frum the first to connect the dots from immigration to employment to crime and incarceration. Economist George Borjas and his co-authors Jeffrey Grogger and Gordon H. Hanson found that "a 10% immigration-induced increase in the supply of workers in a particular skill group reduced the black wage of that group by 2.5%, lowered the employment rate by 5.9 percentage points, and increased the incarceration rate by 1.3 percentage points." And LSU sociology professor Edward Shihadeh and doctoral student Raymond Barranco found that immigration policies have flooded low-skill markets, displaced Black workers, and increased violence in the African-American community.

Clearly, immigration is not the sole or primary cause of high unemployment and incarceration rates in African-American communities. But it does seem to be a factor -- one that Congress has a responsibility to manage in the national interest.

There is no debate about whether unemployment among young Black workers is too high.

The question before Congress and the nation is should we reform immigration policy to encourage employers to invest in these Americans, or should we continue record immigration levels (one million green cards per year) that give employers alternatives to recruiting and hiring Americans?

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA


Updated: Wed, Oct 7th 2015 @ 3:15pm EDT

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