Center for Immigration Studies on a chain link fence

Molly Butler / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Right-wing media promote anti-immigrant group’s misleading report to falsely suggest immigrants are stealing American jobs

Studies and experts have shown that immigration strengthens the economy and doesn’t reduce jobs for Americans

The right-wing, anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated a hate group, released a report claiming to show that all of the overall employment growth during the Biden recovery went to immigrants, and right-wing media amplified the report as evidence that Americans are losing jobs to immigrants. 

But the CIS report misleadingly conflates naturalized citizens as “foreign-born” workers and overlooks data showing that U.S.-born workers have had more total job growth than immigrant workers. 

Additionally, multiple studies and immigration and economic experts have explained that immigration is a net positive to the U.S. economy, that immigrants create jobs, and that immigrant workers complement American workers rather than replacing them.

  • Center for Immigration Studies released a report claiming that all recent job growth has gone to immigrants

    • CIS: “Compared to 2019, all employment growth has gone to the foreign-born.” CIS’ February 13 report stated: “Comparing the fourth quarter of 2019 to the fourth quarter of 2023 shows 2.7 million more people working in the United States — 2.9 million more immigrants (legal and illegal) and 183,000 fewer U.S.-born Americans.” [Center for Immigration Studies, 2/13/24]
    • CIS’ own data shows that “U.S.-born” workers have witnessed more job growth than their “immigrant” counterparts since 2019. According to CIS’ own data analysis, the “U.S.-born” working population recovered roughly 6.5 million of the jobs lost since the depths of the recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic during the Trump administration from the last three months of 2020 to the final three months of 2023. Over the same time period, the “immigrant” population has recovered over 4.9 million jobs. [Center for Immigration Studies, 2/13/24]
  • A Center for Immigration Studies chart on U.S.-born vs. Immigrant workers
    • CIS fixates on juxtaposing the “U.S.-born” workforce against “immigrants,” but roughly half of the immigrant population and immigrant workforce are American citizens. According to the Current Population Survey, a data set collected by the U.S. Census Bureau that formed the basis for CIS' population analysis, roughly half of the immigrants living in the United States are American citizens. In 2022, there were roughly 23 million naturalized American citizens of all ages (49% of the immigrant population) and just under 24 million other immigrants living in the United States as noncitizens (51%). Among the working-age population that comprises the civilian labor force (those persons 16 years and older), 14 million (48% of the immigrant workforce) were naturalized American citizens while another 15 million (52%) were noncitizens. The 2022 survey also found that these naturalized American citizens were slightly more likely to be employed than noncitizens, with 3.2% and 3.7% unemployment rates, respectively. CIS ignored these facts. [Census Bureau, Current Population Survey 2022, accessed 2/15/24; Center for Immigration Studies, 2/13/24]
    • The Center for Immigration Studies was designated an “anti-immigrant hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to its nativist and white nationalist ties, and publishing skewed research that denigrates immigrants. CIS was founded by John Tanton, a white nationalist who believes that in order to maintain American culture, “a European-American majority” is required. [Media Matters, 9/6/17, 3/23/17; Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 2/15/24]
  • Conservative media cite CIS report to dismiss President Biden's economic record and falsely claim that immigrants are taking American's jobs

    • Fox News host Greg Gutfeld said on The Five: “According to the Center of Immigration Studies, … all employment growth has gone to immigrants compared to 2019.” Gutfeld suggested that the study undermined Biden’s boasts about job creation during his presidency. [Fox News, The Five, 2/14/24
    • Gutfeld also cited the CIS study on his own program, saying, “Joe Biden’s job growth numbers are likely built on illegals.” Gutfeld said: “According to the Center for Immigration Studies, all employment growth has gone to immigrants, compared to 2019.” Gutfeld added, “In other words, maybe they are taking our jobs.” [Fox News, Gutfeld!, 2/14/24]
    • Fox Business anchor Dagen McDowell: “U.S. employment growth has gone to all to migrants, legal and illegal, since 2019, not to U.S.-born individuals.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 2/14/24]
    • Conservative economist Art Laffer said on Fox Business that “the jobs created, and all of this about the Biden administration, really hasn’t gone to the same group of people, and the jobs there for non-immigrants have not risen very much at all.” Fox Business host and former Trump adviser Larry Kudlow added: “So there’s a report out today, there are 183,000 less U.S.-born Americans working today than in 2019. A big chunk of the jobs have gone to illegals.” [Fox Business, Kudlow, 2/13/24]
    • Fox Business host Sean Duffy: “The Biden White House keeps bragging about the strong economy, pointing to the job market as evidence, … but a closer look under the hood reveals that all those job gains — they’re going to immigrants.” Duffy’s co-host Dagen McDowell further added: “Why are all the jobs going to these people and not people born here in the United States? Hmm. Is it DEI? Maybe.” [Fox Business, The Bottom Line, 2/14/24]
    • Fox host Laura Ingraham and nativist Trump adviser Stephen Miller complained about immigrant contributions to the labor force and fearmongered about immigrants working in police forces. Ingraham claimed President Joe Biden’s “focus on American workers … almost sounds too good to be true. Because it is,” citing “new analysis” that shows “nearly 3 million migrants have joined the workforce since January 2020.” Ingraham continued: “To add insult to injury, Colorado is now floating a plan to hire noncitizens to serve as police officers and firefighters.” Miller joined in the fearmongering by screaming: “We’ve entered a brave new world now, where in the not-too-distant future, illegal aliens will be arresting American citizens.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 2/14/24]
    • Newsmax host Alex Kraemer: “According to a new report by the Center for Immigration Studies, President Joe Biden’s jobs record is built on the backs of hiring 2.9 million job-seeking migrants.” Kraemer complained that we’re “seeing this surge in migrant hiring when there are millions of U.S. citizens all across the country who are willing and ready to work.” Her guest claimed that “you do have a section, a sector of our population that are being locked out of jobs because of illegal immigration.” [Newsmax, Wake Up America, 2/14/24]
    • CIS research director Steven Camarota wrote a New York Post op-ed to highlight his organization’s study and claim that immigrants are stealing jobs from Americans. Camarota’s op-ed, “Job gains are going to immigrants, and keeping young US-born men out of the workforce,” portrayed this as a distinct negative and claimed that “recent immigrants are shutting out of the job market” native-born “men without a college degree.” [New York Post, 2/13/24]
    • Gateway Pundit: “BIDENOMICS: ALL Jobs Recovered Post-Covid Under Joe Biden Went to Foreign-Born Workers – Including Illegals.” Gateway Pundit cited the CIS study to exclaim: “Bidenomics: Screw Americans at all costs.” The article also claimed that foreign-born workers “replaced” native-born workers and added: “Not only are the illegal aliens costing the US billions of dollars per year, they are taking jobs.” [The Gateway Pundit, 2/13/24]
    • Wash. Examiner: CIS report shows “Biden is replacing US-born citizens in the workforce with migrants.” The Washington Examiner attacked Biden over the CIS report, with Examiner fellow Parker Miller writing: “He has the audacity to claim credit for a supposedly thriving economy that his predecessor supposedly ruined.” [Washington Examiner, 2/13/24]
    • Right-wing media amplified a similar CIS report in 2014 which also ignored federal data showing that job growth among native-born workers had far outpaced job growth among immigrants during the economic recovery following the Bush recession. The December 2014 CIS report similarly claimed that “all net employment growth has gone to immigrants” since 2007. The report was amplified by right-wing media, including the Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, National Review, and Fox News. But federal jobs data showed that there were nearly 7 million more jobs among native-born workers versus slightly more than 4 million more jobs among foreign-born workers since the Bush recession. [Media Matters, 12/22/14]
  • Studies and experts have explained that immigrants boosting the labor force “are a net fiscal benefit” and they don’t take Americans’ jobs

    • Cato Institute: New immigrants may replace other immigrant workers, but they don’t replace American workers. An April 2020 article from the right-leaning Cato Institute titled “Three Reasons Why Immigrants Aren’t Going to Take Your Job” explained: “New immigrants only have a consistently negative impact on the wages of other immigrants but not on natives. That’s because immigrants are most substitutable or competitive with other immigrant workers and are not really substitutable for many native‐​born American workers. Native‐​born American workers also react to immigration by making themselves less substitutable with immigrant workers by getting more education.” [Cato Institute, 4/22/20]
    • A 2016 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that “immigrants do not take American jobs.” The New York Times explained that the report “assembles research from 14 leading economists, demographers and other scholars.” Key among the findings was: “‘We found little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the longer term,’ said Francine D. Blau, an economics professor at Cornell University who led the group that produced the 550-page report.” [The New York Times, 9/21/16]
    • Kellogg Insight: “Immigrants to the U.S. Create More Jobs than They Take.” An article in Northwestern University’s Kellogg Insight reported on a study which found that immigrants start businesses at higher rates than native-born Americans and debunked the “idea … that immigrants come to your community and they take jobs.” The study found that “immigrants actually improve the economic outcomes for native-born workers.” [Kellogg Insight, 10/5/20]
    • Pew Research Center: “A majority of Americans” — 77% of adults — “say immigrants mostly fill jobs U.S. citizens do not want.” A June 2020 Pew Research Center article explained: “Americans generally agree that immigrants – whether undocumented or living legally in the country – mostly do not work in jobs that U.S. citizens want, with a majority saying so across racial and ethnic groups and among both political parties. This is particularly true when it comes to undocumented immigrants.” [Pew Research Center, 6/10/20]
    • A new Health and Human Services study “shows that refugees are a net fiscal benefit to everyone, while asylees are a net fiscal benefit to the federal gov.” American Immigration Council policy director Aaron Reichlin-Melnick explained the findings of the study on X (formerly known as Twitter) and noted that it covered the periods of 2005-19. [Twitter/X, 2/15/24, 2/15/24]
    • The Congressional Budget Office just projected that the U.S. economy “is going to be boosted by $7 trillion more over the next 10 years due to immigration” and federal tax revenue will increase by “an additional $1 trillion.” MSNBC prime-time host Chris Hayes discussed the positive side effects immigration is expected to have for the U.S. economy over the next decade, highlighting key takeaways from a recent analysis published by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. “Because even as our population ages out of the labor force, more people retire, immigrants, most of whom are adults of working age, are coming in to fill the gaps,” Hayes said. “All of which is to say, it’s not a zero-sum game at all. It’s not people coming to take your piece of the pie for themselves. The pie itself is just getting bigger. We’re making more stuff. There’s more growth.” [MSNBC, All In With Chris Hayes, 2/14/24; Congressional Budget Office, 2/7/24]
    • Nobel Prize-winning economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman: “Even though immigrants as a group are responsible for all recent employment growth, they haven’t been taking jobs from the native-born.” Krugman asked labor economist Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, about “employment rates among prime-age native-born Americans,” and he found that a higher percentage of U.S.-born workers ages 25-54 were working in 2023 than in 2019. [The New York Times, 2/6/24]
  • A graph showing a higher percentage of U.S.-born workers aged 25-54 working in 2023 than in 2019