Will Obama’s Immigration Action Mean Fewer Jobs for Americans?

By Unemployment-Extension.org | December 8, 2014 at 10:06 PM |

In November, President Obama announced that he will use his executive powers to provide immigration relief to an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants.

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Arguably the boldest move he has made in regards to immigration policy during his presidency, his executive order will specifically protect those with longstanding ties to the country, including parents of American citizens and those who were brought to the U.S. as young children.

Though it has widely been labeled as such, Obama’s move is dramatically different from the previous president’s decision to grant undocumented immigrants amnesty. Obama’s plan does not make undocumented immigrants immune to deportation, nor does it provide them with a path to citizenship.

Furthermore, the act will also refocus Immigration and Customs Enforcement priorities to ensure that energies and resources are directed toward deporting those who have recently crossed the border, as well as convicted criminals, suspected terrorists, and individuals deemed a threat to national security. The goal, according to Obama, is to deport felons and not families.

“Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character,” the president said in his address to the nation. “What I’m describing is accountability — a common sense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.”

Changes to Employment Rules

One of the key changes made regarding immigration policy is in relation to employment. The new policies increase opportunities for highly skilled workers and also allow undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizen and legal permanent children to work legally as long as they have been in the U.S. for five years or more and are able to pass a background check. They will be given a social security number and will be required to pay taxes.

More Jobs for Immigrants, Less Jobs for Americans?

While all components of the executive order have come under fire, there has been intense criticism of Obama’s plan to allow undocumented immigrants to work. Many argue that as the country continues to recover from the Great Recession, jobs are still hard to come by for many Americans, insisting that Obama may keep Americans out of work by allowing undocumented immigrants to seek employment. However, the issue simply isn’t this clear-cut.

First and foremost, undocumented immigrants do often pay taxes, as the IRS does provide them with tax identification numbers, should they request them. While it is true that undocumented immigrants often use more in public services (public school, hospitals) than they pay in taxes, they are unable to collect any kind of federal benefits (welfare, Medicaid, Medicare, etc.), so the perception that they are leeching off of the American government is far from accurate.

Furthermore, a number of studies show that immigration is good for the economy, which means it could actually be advantageous in regards to economic recovery efforts. Immigrants don’t just come to the country to use public goods and services — they also purchase things.

When an immigrant comes to a country, documented or undocumented, that country gains a consumer. Mexican immigrants contribute about 4 percent to total U.S. GDP, and they contribute to about 18 percent of U.S. GDP in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sector.

And in regards to claims that immigrants steal American jobs and lower wages for American workers, well, there’s no evidence to back it up. Numerous studies, including one conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank, show that immigration can boost wages for American workers by boosting economic growth. Such growth could also help to reduce the deficit and sustain social security.

The bottom line? Immigration, both legal and illegal, is good for the economy. And the better the economy, the more jobs there are. So Obama’s latest action on immigration could mean more jobs for Americans, not less.

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