Right-Wing Media Revive Myth That Immigration Hurts American Workers

Right-wing media resurrected the myth that increased immigration hurts American workers in response to President Obama's plans for executive action on immigration. In fact, studies consistently find that immigration does not lead to higher unemployment or lower American wages and that it actually helps the economy.

Obama Announces Plan To Take Executive Action On Immigration

NY Times: Obama To Announce Plan For Executive Actions On Immigration Reform. On November 13, The New York Times reported on President Obama's plan to take executive action to protect as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants “from the threat of deportation and provide many of them with work permits.” Under the plan, deportations will continue for convicted criminals as well as “foreigners who pose national security risks and recent border crossers”:

Asserting his authority as president to enforce the nation's laws with discretion, Mr. Obama intends to order changes that will significantly refocus the activities of the government's 12,000 immigration agents. One key piece of the order, officials said, will allow many parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents to obtain legal work documents and no longer worry about being discovered, separated from their families and sent away.

Extending protections to more undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, and to their parents, could affect an additional one million or more if they are included in the final plan that the president announces. [The New York Times, 11/13/14]

Right-Wing Media Respond By Pushing Myth That Increased Immigration Hurts American Workers

Radio Host Laura Ingraham: Executive Action Proposal Is “A Formal Declaration Of War Against The American Working People.” On the November 13 edition of her radio show, host Laura Ingraham said that Obama's executive action proposal constitutes a “declaration of war” against the “working class, people who have traditionally held those jobs”:

INGRAHAM: I tweeted this last night: the president's executive amnesty, the draft that was floated yesterday, is a formal declaration of war against the American working people -- [unintelligible] the working poor and the middle class and the people who've traditionally held these jobs. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 11/13/14]

Fox's Tucker Carlson: “Allowing Millions More Low-Wage Workers To Work Legally In The United States Will Depress Wages For Working Americans.” During a November 14 appearance on America's Newsroom, Daily Caller Editor-in-Chief and Fox News co-host Tucker Carlson asserted that allowing more low-wage workers into the United States would “depress wages for working Americans.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 11/14/14]

Fox's Tantaros: Immigration Reform "Would Hurt African-Americans Disproportionately, And American Workers, And A Lot Of Union Jobs." On the November 13 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Fox co-host Andrea Tantaros claimed that Obama's executive action plan would “hurt African-Americans disproportionately and American workers and a lot of union jobs.” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 11/13/14]

Ingraham: “We Have To Take Care Of American Workers And Legal Immigrants First.” On the November 12 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Ingraham claimed that it was “fanatical” to push for immigration reform given the state of the economy:

INGRAHAM: Right now, Bill, I think the fanatical position is when we have stagnating wages, right, and we have 92 million Americans operating outside of the workforce, the fanatical position is to say we need more cheap labor, we need doubling the number of guest workers, as it says so in the Senate bill, and we need to work with Obama on an immigration solution.

The mainstream position is to say, look, we are a nation of immigrants, absolutely. We should have legal immigration when it works for the country. But we have to take care of American workers and legal immigrants first. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 11/12/14]

Studies Find Immigration Does Not Increase Unemployment

Immigration Policy Center: “There Is Little Apparent Relationship Between Recent Immigration And Unemployment Rates.” The Immigration Policy Center found that immigration has no apparent correlation with unemployment statistics (emphasis original):

  • If immigrants really “took” jobs away from large numbers of native-born workers, especially during economic hard times, then one would expect to find high unemployment rates in those parts of the country with large numbers of immigrants -- especially immigrants who have come to the United States recently and, presumably, are more willing to work for lower wages and under worse conditions than either long-term immigrants or native-born workers. Yet there is little apparent relationship between recent immigration and unemployment rates at the regional, state, or county level.
  • An IPC analysis of 2011 data from the American Community Survey found that, at the county level, there is no statistically significant relationship between the unemployment rate and the presence of recent immigrants who arrived in 2000 or later. [Immigration Policy Center, 6/12/13]

WSJ's Riley: Labor Economist “Found That Higher Levels Of Immigration Coincided With Lower Levels Of Unemployment.” Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley explained that higher levels of immigration actually helps the economy, pointing to research by labor economist Richard Vedder of Ohio University, who “looked at the relationship between immigrant and U.S. unemployment throughout the 20th century and found that higher levels of immigration coincided with lower levels of unemployment.” From Riley's column:

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, 6/18/12]

Immigration Policy Center: “Immigrants Are Not The Cause Of High Unemployment And Low Wages Among Minority Workers.” In a study conducted for the Immigration Policy Center, Rob Paral and Associates found “no correlation between the size of the foreign-born population and the African-American unemployment rate in U.S. metropolitan areas.” [Immigration Policy Center, 3/1/11]

Immigrants Do Not Compete For Same Jobs As Most Americans

Foreign-Born And Native-Born Workers Generally Compete For Different Jobs. According to the American Immigration Council, “native-born and immigrant workers fill different kinds of jobs” (emphasis original):

Immigrants and native-born workers fill different kinds of jobs that require different skills. Even among less-educated workers, immigrants and native-born workers tend to work in different occupations and industries. If they do work in the same occupation or industry -- or even the same business -- they usually specialize in different tasks, with native-born workers taking higher-paid jobs that require better English-language skills than many immigrant workers possess. In other words, immigrants and native-born workers usually complement each other rather than compete. [Immigration Policy Center, 6/12/13]

Immigration Has a Long-Term Positive Impact On U.S. Wages And The Economy

Brookings Institution: “Many Immigrants Complement The Work Of U.S. Employees And Increase Their Productivity.” The Brookings Institute reported similar findings, that “immigrants and U.S.-born workers generally do not compete for the same jobs; instead many immigrants complement the work of U.S. employees and increase their productivity”:

The most recent academic research suggests that, on average, immigrants raise the overall standard of living of American workers by boosting wages and lowering prices. One reason is that immigrants and U.S.-born workers generally do not compete for the same jobs; instead many immigrants complement the work of U.S. employees and increase their productivity. For example, low-skill immigrant laborers allow U.S.-born farmers, contractors, or craftsmen to expand agricultural production or to build more homes -- thereby expanding employment possibilities and incomes for U.S. workers. [The Brookings Institute, September 2010]

Economic Policy Institute: Immigration Has “Positive Impact On The Wages Of Native- Born Workers.” A February 2010 study by the Economic Policy Institute found that immigration has a “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, which creates more jobs.” [Economic Policy Institute, 2/4/10]

National Bureau Of Economic Research Paper: Immigrants Have Positive Long-Term Impact On Wages Of Native-Born Workers. A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that from 1990 to 2006, immigration had a positive long-term effect on the wages of native-born workers. [National Bureau of Economic Research, July 2008]