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Chairman of the Senate's immigration subcommittee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post calling for "an honest discussion of immigration" and its effects on American workers and their families.

In the op-ed, Sen. Sessions described the way that wages for American workers surged when the immigration laws were changed to reduce admission after the first great wave.

The first “great wave” of U.S. immigration took place from roughly 1880 to 1930. During this time, according to the Census Bureau, the foreign-born population doubled from about 6.7 million to 14.2 million people. Changes were then made to immigration law to reduce admissions, decreasing the foreign-born population until it fell to about 9.6 million by 1970. Meanwhile, during this low-immigration period, real median compensation for U.S. workers surged, increasing more than 90 percent from 1948 to 1973, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

He then noted the way that wages plummeted when Congress lifted the immigration caps in the 1960s, leading to a quadrupling of the foreign-born population to the more than 40 million it stands at today.

This ongoing wave coincides with a period of middle-class contraction. The Pew Research Center reports: “The share of adults who live in middle-income households has eroded over time, from 61% in 1970 to 51% in 2013.” Harvard economist George Borjas has estimated that high immigration from 1980 to 2000 reduced the wages of lower-skilled U.S. workers by 7.4 percent — a stunning drop — with particularly painful reductions for African American workers. Weekly earnings today are lower than they were in 1973.

Even with wages dropping and the fact that "as many as half of all jobs will be automated in 20 years" according to an Oxford University study, Sen. Sessions pointed out that the U.S. is still adding a million mostly low-wage immigrants per year.

Yet each year, the United States adds another million mostly low-wage permanent legal immigrants who can work, draw benefits and become voting citizens. Legal immigration is the primary source of low-wage immigration into the United States. In other words, as a matter of federal policy — which can be adjusted at any time — millions of low-wage foreign workers are legally made available to substitute for higher-paid Americans.

In order to make sure that "a new population almost four times larger than that of Los Angles in just 10 years time" doesn't emigrate to the United States at a time when almost 1 in 4 Americans age 25 to 54 does not have a job, Sen. Sessions suggested "immigration moderation."

What we need now is immigration moderation: slowing the pace of new arrivals so that wages can rise, welfare rolls can shrink and the forces of assimilation can knit us all more closely together.

Read the full op-ed at The Washington Post

wages
Legal Immigration
unemployment

Updated: Fri, Apr 24th 2015 @ 9:55am EDT