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Sustainable Immigration (part 1 of 4): American Workers


This is the first of four blogs concerning immigration-sustainability questions policy makers should address.

Since 1990, immigration numbers have been higher than in any other period in U.S. history. Over the last two decades, immigration has averaged about 1 million people per year, or three times our traditional average. Today's immigration policies will profoundly impact the challenges our children and grandchildren will face. U.S. population will more than double from 203 million in 1970 to 439 million in 2050, according to the Census Bureau. And according to the Pew Hispanic Center, immigration will cause eighty-two percent of all U.S. population growth between 2005 and 2050. The radical population growth Congress creates through its immigration policies has no end in sight, and is running up a bill future generations will have to pay. Immigration affects nearly every pressing issue facing our elected leaders today.

It is impossible to adequately address the immigration debate without discussing today's non-traditional immigration numbers and asking whether they are sustainable. Yet members of Congress rarely talk about the numbers, in part because the mainstream media does not analyze immigration from a sustainability perspective.

"Are current immigration numbers sustainable for all American workers?"

Moderate immigration levels can complement the American workforce. But excessive immigration creates loose labor markets with too many workers chasing too few jobs. The numbers determine the outcome. Congress issues an average of 75,000 new permanent work permits to immigrants every month ("U.S. Legal Permanent Residents: 2009" Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics, table 6). If you include temporary workers and legalized workers, Congress adds an average of 125,000 workers to the labor force every month just through immigration (Camarota, Jensenius, "Trends in Immigrant and Native Employment" table 10). To put that in perspective, the economy has created less than 125,000 new jobs in seven of the last twelve months. Congress is importing workers at a faster rate than the economy is creating jobs.

If Congress and the White House are aware of these numbers they aren't saying. And the mainstream media, whose responsibility is to dig for the truth, has all but buried the numbers. Imagine how different the national immigration conversation might have been during President Obama's first year in office if the following headline was dropped on the White House's front porch: "3.6 Million Jobs Lost in 2008; Feds Import 900,000 Permanent Workers." Consider the pressure Congress would have felt last year to address immigration policy's impact on job displacement if this headline stared back at them one morning: "Five Million Jobs Lost in 2009; Congress Imports 900,000 Permanent Workers."

Those headlines state the facts, culled from government data. But the stories were never written -- not in 2008, not in 2009, and not in 2010. Meanwhile, 22 million Americans who want a full-time job can't find one, the economy can't create jobs fast enough to keep up with immigration or population growth, and Congress' immigration machine is on autopilot. It's not too late for 2011. The Washington Examiner's Susan Ferrechio almost touched on actual numbers during the August 11 Republican debate in Iowa when she asked Mitt Romney, "With the unemployment rate at 9.1%, do you still think we need to import more foreign labor?" We need more questions like that from the press to force politicians to take an honest look at immigration numbers.

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

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