Right-Wing Media Push Myth That Immigration Eliminates American Jobs

Right-wing media are reacting to the Obama administration's decision to allow some young undocumented immigrants to stay and work in America by suggesting immigration takes jobs away from American workers. In fact, economists agree that more immigration does not take away jobs from Americans and is a net plus for the economy.

Policy Change Will Allow Eligible Undocumented Immigrants To Remain In The U.S. And Legally Work

Secretary Napolitano: U.S. Will Allow Certain Young People Brought To U.S. As Children To Apply To Remain In The Country. A press release by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano explained that the immigration policy change means that “certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.” [Department of Homeland Security, 6/15/12]

Economists Agree That Immigration Doesn't Take Away American Workers' Jobs And Contributes To The Economy

WSJ: Labor Economist “Found That Higher Levels Of Immigration Coincided With Lower Levels Of Unemployment.” Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason L. Riley wrote of suggestions that “immigrant labor harms the job prospects of Americans”:

But if immigrants, legal or illegal, displace U.S. workers, why was there less unemployment in the U.S. during the Clinton and Bush administrations, when we had higher levels of immigration, than we have today, when net migration from Mexico is zero? Nor is this a new phenomenon. The labor economist Richard Vedder of Ohio University looked at the relationship between immigration and U.S. unemployment throughout the 20th century and found that higher levels of immigration coincided with lower levels of unemployment.

Immigrants to the U.S. not only seek jobs but also increase demand for goods and services, thus providing incentives for businesses to invest in capital, expand operations and hire more workers. Moreover, the immigrants who come here typically aren't replicas of Americans in terms of their education level and skills. They are concentrated at the high end and low end of the skills spectrum and are much more likely to be competing with other immigrants for jobs than to be displacing natives in the workplace. [The Wall Street Journal, Political Diary, 6/18/12, subscription required]

Federal Reserve Bank Of San Francisco: “There Is No Evidence” That Immigrants' Positive Effects On The Economy Comes “At The Expense Of Jobs For Workers Born In The United States.” From a 2010 San Francisco Fed letter highlighting research on the long-term effects of immigration on employment:

Immigration in recent decades has significantly increased the presence of foreign-born workers in the United States. The impact of these immigrants on the U.S. economy is hotly debated. Some stories in the popular press suggest that immigrants diminish the job opportunities of workers born in the United States. Others portray immigrants as filling essential jobs that are shunned by other workers. Economists who have analyzed local labor markets have mostly failed to find large effects of immigrants on employment and wages of U.S.-born workers (see Borjas 2006; Card 2001, 2007, 2009; and Card and Lewis 2007).


[T]here is no evidence that immigrants crowd out U.S.-born workers in either the short or long run. Data on U.S.-born worker employment imply small effects, with estimates never statistically different from zero.

[Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 8/30/10]

EPI: “There Is Broad Agreement Among Academic Economists That [Immigration] Has A Small But Positive Impact” On Wages Overall. A February 2010 paper from the Economic Policy Institute details how an influx of workers creates demand for goods and services, creating more jobs and provides a net positive effect on the economy:

In the ongoing debate over immigration policy in the United States, the impact of immigrants on the wages of native-born workers has been a central point of disagreement. There is broad agreement among academic economists on one point: that immigration has a small but positive impact on the wages of native-born workers overall. Although new immigrant workers add to the labor supply, they also consume goods and services, creating more jobs. In other words, as the labor force expands (as it is always doing, due to both native population growth and immigration), the economy adjusts and expands with it, and average wages are not hurt. [Economic Policy Institute, 2/4/10]

Economists Francesco D'Amuri And Giovanni Peri: “There Is Hardly Any Evidence That Immigrant Workers Have A Negative Effect On The Wages Of Native Workers ... Or That They Crowd-Out Other Jobs In The US.” Peri and D'Amuri wrote in 2010 that immigrants do not have a negative effect on wages, nor do they crowd-out jobs:

Despite popular belief, often based on anecdotes and bodged analysis, there is hardly any evidence that immigrant workers have a negative effect on the wages of native workers (see for instance Card 2009 and Glitz 2007) or that they crowd-out other jobs in the US (Card and Di Nardo 2000) or Europe. On the contrary, some authors emphasise the existence of a potentially positive effect of immigrants on the demand for native workers (Manacorda et al. forthcoming).


[W]e analyse the net impact of immigration on natives' employment and we confirm previous results that did not find any significant effect. Moreover, natives' skill upgrading due to immigration could account for a 0.6% increase in average wages of natives in the 2008-2020 period, according to our simulations combining results of the empirical analysis with long-term demographic projections for Europe (Carone 2005). [VoxEU.org, 10/31/10]

But Right-Wing Media Suggest Immigration Policy Change Will Result In Job Losses For Americans

Fox's Juliet Huddy: You're Going To Have Undocumented Immigrants In The Work Force “Potentially [Taking] Jobs Away From People Who ... Were Born Here.” On Fox & Friends Sunday, co-host Juliet Huddy claimed that native-born workers could potentially have jobs “taken away” by undocumented workers:

HUDDY: You also have the fact that you're going to have a lot of people who are now again active for the work force, who are going to be taking jobs - potentially -- jobs away from people who are here legally or were born here. [Fox News, Fox & Friends Sunday, 6/17/12]

Rush Limbaugh: Obama Is Going To “Flood The Jobs Market With 800,000 Illegal Kids.” Limbaugh echoed a question from Neil Munro, a reporter from the Daily Caller that interrupted President Obama during his announcement of the immigration policy change, and suggested that the policy change would hurt American workers:

LIMBAUGH: All Munro did was ask the question that should have been on the mind of every American watching. Why do you favor foreigners over Americans here? You're going to flood the job market with 800,000 illegal kids or youths - Why are you giving them precedents and favorable treatment over Americans? [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 6/18/12]