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'Labor Shortage' Stories

 

The "labor shortage" claim is an old lobbying gambit that reporters still haven't caught onto. Mass-immigration activists learned decades ago that the press loves a scary story about shortages, whether it is true or not. In 2007, just before the recession Michael S. Teitelbaum, Vice President of the Sloan Foundation testified before Congress and noted that interest groups have a right to promote their own interests, but "politicians [and] journalists often believe, [and] Federal agencies often fail to analyze" the unsubstantiated claims of labor shortages. His testimony rings as true in this jobless recovery as it did four years ago before the recession.

Consider these statistics:

Not Enough Skilled Americans?

In Politico's story, "Sen. Chuck Schumer tries reviving immigration bill," Sen. Schumer is quoted:

We decided we ought to start highlighting the fact that immigration creates jobs rather than takes them away,” Schumer, the No. 3 Senate leader, said in an interview. “Everyone agreed that is how we are going to start talking about immigration, as a job creator.

The U.S. has issued over one million permanent green cards every year for the past decade. During that same span, American-born workers increased by 13.5 million. Yet fewer American-born workers were employed in 2010 than in 2000. All of the net employment gains went to foreign workers. A diligent reporter should justifiably ask Schumer how much the U.S. would have to increase immigration before Americans start seeing those jobs?

The witnesses at Schumer's hearing say there aren't enough capable Americans to fill the jobs. This is where the media often fails the reader. The shortage claim is an invention of tech lobbyists. In response to the latest calls for more high-skilled foreign workers, Hal Salzman of Rutgers University, and B. Lindsay Lowell of Georgetown University published an op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education that stated, "There is actually no compelling evidence that, over all, the educational pipeline is failing to meet demand." Unfortunately, their analysis and other like it rarely makes it into hard news stories.

If reporters did a little digging, they would quickly find out what prompts "labor shortage" claims: money. Advocates from Alan Greenspan to the National Science Foundation support increased immigration for purpose of holding down salaries.

Not Enough Hard-Working Americans?

In the New York Times' story, "Farmers Oppose G.O.P. Bill On Immigration," illegal labor advocates warn that the Legal Workforce Act, which would require farmers to use E-Verify after three years, would "cripple" the U.S. agricultural industry. Farmers say they won't survive without illegal labor. If you think you've read this "labor shortage" story before, you probably have. The American media has been writing this story for nearly 50 years!

Illegal labor advocates like to talk about how American's aren't hardy enough to take these jobs. The mainstream media never reports that at least one-quarter of all crop laborers are U.S. citizens. In the Midwest, 48 percent of crop laborers are citizens.

The Associated Press reports on a new twist to the "job Americans won't do" argument. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently found evidence of farmers discouraging and discharging American workers in order to replace them with H-2A workers. This has happened before, and whether these are isolated incidents or part of a larger trend, the point is that Americans will do hard work for the right pay and conditions.

Not Enough Innovative Americans?

The Wall Street Journal's headline "U.S. to Assist Immigrant Job Creators" echoes the mantra of the witnesses at Sen. Schumer's hearing. The Obama administration is easing the rules for high-tech H-1B visas and the so-called "investor's visa," the EB-5 visa (see analysis from David North, Center For Immigration Studies). "The measures won't require congressional approval," according to the Wall Street Journal, "because they don't constitute changes in current immigration law. Instead, clarifications will be issued for existing visa categories with the objective of enabling more entrepreneurs to gain entry into the U.S. and of bringing more speed and efficiency to the visa-application process." - emphasis added

Immigrants and native-born Americans have similar rates of self-employment. Yet, according to the chief of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services who announced the changes, "In this economy, it certainly is in the interest of this nation to welcome foreign talent." The most important "talent" to get the EB-5 visa is having $500 thousand dollars.

The greatest threat to the American workforce may not be our lack of innovation, but the ability of firms to move jobs overseas or import foreign workers to compete with Americans domestically. Ironically, the H-1B visa program enables both. See Diane Drozdowski's story on Dan Rather Reports.

Advocates of expanded immigration spend millions of dollars to hire lobbyists to plant their stories in the press. Five hundred thousand dollars may purchase a green card these days, but you can't put a price on the truth.

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

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