Congress continues to issue over 1 million green cards and approximately 700,000 temporary guest worker visas a year. The Senate immigration bill and its House counterpart would double those numbers, a fact that tends to go unnoticed in the media. I often wonder if immigration reporters and their colleagues who cover employment and the economy read each other's stories.
William A. Galston's story, "Welcome to the Well-Educated-Barista Economy" does not mention immigration but it is hard to read it without questioning the wisdom of proposals to add more than 30 million permanent workers (at all skill levels) to the pool of job seekers over the next decade via legalization and immigration increases. Galston reports:
Among recent college graduates ages 20 to 29, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, unemployment stands at 10.9%, more than three points higher than in 2007. A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds that of the recent college graduates who have managed to find work, more than 40% are in jobs that do not require a college degree; more than 20% are working only part-time; and more than 20% are in low-wage jobs.
They are not alone. A recent report from the National Employment Law Project found that low-wage sectors such as food services and retail trade accounted for only 22% of jobs lost during the Great Recession but fully 44% of jobs gained since the bottom. Mid-wage jobs accounted for 37% of losses but only 26% of gains; higher-wage jobs, 41% of losses but only 30% of gains. The wage structure of the entire economy has shifted downward since the Great Recession, and young adults trying to start careers and families have been the principal, but hardly the only, victims.
In "Report on Deportations Shows Strict Enforcement at U.S. Border," Laura Meckler reports:
The number of formal removals at the border has risen every year under President Barack Obama. At the same time, deportations from the U.S.'s interior have fallen for five consecutive years.
Although it is left unsaid, readers can easily conclude that illegal job competition from unauthorized workers has not been a priority of the Obama administration during the recession or the recovery. That's not to say that every illegal employer gets off easy.
In "Michael Grimm Expressed Limited Support for Immigration Law Changes" Mara Gray and Kristina Peterson report that Rep. Michael Grimm (recently charged with hiring illegal workers for his restaurant) "has also supported E-Verify, a national database that allows employers to check the immigration status of a potential hire." Apparently, Grimm the employer disagreed with Grimm the policy maker.
While the government cracks down on Grimm, the Administration is reconsidering its approach to enforcing the law against illegal workers. In "New U.S. Immigration Policy Should Recognize Families," Sarah Portlock reports:
Among the questions said to be under review is whether people without serious criminal records should continue to be removed from the U.S. That group accounted for a small slice of illegal immigrants who are settled in the U.S. but have minor or no criminal records but get snagged by law enforcement.
The Senate passed a sweeping immigration bill last summer, but the issue has stalled in the House. Some Republicans oppose it, saying it is wrong to reward people who broke the law with legal status and that more legal visas would hurt American workers.
Elsewhere, Ben Leubsdorf has a roundup of economists reactions to the low growth numbers for the first quarter of 2014 in "Economists React to U.S. GDP: 'Grim, But Old News." Five out of nine economists said the weather was a significant factor.
Corporate executives and CEOs aren't waiting around for spring, however. They see immigration as the key to growth. In "U.S. Cities Offer Opportunities, Face Challenges, Panelists Say" Erica E. Phillips reports:
"Ms. Wylde of the Partnership for New York City said lack of comprehensive immigration reform is 'the biggest single challenge we face.' That's 'cutting off our ability to attract the best and the brightest,' she said, adding that most global cities that compete with New York City for talent 'have the full force of their federal governments behind them.'"
Which brings us full circle back to the "well-educated baristas and unemployed high-school graduates" of Galston's story, many of whom lack the purchasing power to even move out of their parents' homes. If the U.S. government agrees to the corporate lobby's demand for doubled immigration, what would that do to the labor markets these young Americans find themselves in?
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, May 1st 2014 @ 2:04pm EDT