President Donald Trump has endorsed new legislation that intends to cut the number of green cards from 1 million a year to 500,000 over the next decade. The bill supports an “alternative fact” that low-skilled immigrants who don’t speak English are taking jobs from American workers.
The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act moves the United States toward a “skills-based immigration system.” People with special skills are prioritized, as the administration blames low-skilled workers coming into the country for ruining the livelihood of native workers.
“The RAISE Act ends chain migration and replaces our low-skilled system with a new points-based system,”Trump saidin an announcement on Wednesday.
Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, who introduced an early version of the legislation in February, stood with Trump as he said the act would “reduce poverty and increase wages and save tax payers billions and billions of dollars.”
Trump said that “among those hit the hardest in recent years” have been “minority workers competing for jobs against brand new arrivals.”
He also said the new process would “favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.”
This rhetoric of blaming immigrants for the lack of jobs available to nonwhite voters and working-class Americans is not new.
In July 2015 at a rally in Phoenix,Trump accused Mexicans of taking jobs.
“They’re taking our jobs,”he said. “They’re taking our manufacturing jobs. They’re taking our money. They’re killing us.”
In explaining the RAISE act during a press briefing, White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller said green cards, which he referred to as a “golden ticket,” have been issued without regard for “whether that applicant can pay their own way or be reliant on welfare” or “take a job away from an American worker.”
(In regard to welfare, Vermont, where 94 percent of residents are white, has themost generous welfare benefitsof all 50 states, with 78 out of every 100 families in poverty receiving cash assistance.)
New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush got into a heated exchange with Miller. Thrush demanded to hear statistics about low-skilled immigrants displacing native workers.
“First of all, let’s have some statistics,” he said. “There have been a lot of studies out there that don’t show a correlation between low-skilled immigration and the loss of jobs for native workers.
“Cite for me, if you could, one or two studies with specific numbers that prove the correlation between those two things, because your entire policy is based on that.”
Miller cited a study by George Borjas regarding theMariel Boatlift.
Borjas’ study on the migration of more than 100,000 Cubans into Florida in 1980 “was a direct rebuttal to a 1990 study by David Card, which found ‘virtually no effect’ on wages or unemployment rates, even among the Cuban immigrant community that was already in the area,” according to The Washington Post.
The study was refuted in an article published in theNational Review, and by Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.
“The Borjas study had a critical flaw that makes the finding spurious,”Clemens wrote.
“The study focuses on a small group within that larger sample, a group where the sample shifted to include a lot more Black male workers with relatively low wages simultaneously with the Boatlift. This has the effect of sharply reducing the average wage of people in the sample, but this had nothing to do with the Cuban influx.”
Miller continued to speak vaguely about the proof that low-skilled immigrants take jobs from American workers. Thrush slammed him for not providing more specifics to support the Trump administration’s positions on immigration.
Do Low-Skilled Immigrant Workers and Low-Skilled Native-Born Workers Perform the Same Jobs
A 2015study by the Urban Institutesuggests that immigrants and native workers with low levels of education may be competing for different jobs:
“The top three occupations with the largest number of immigrants without high school diploma are maids and house cleaners, cooks, and miscellaneous agricultural workers.
“In contrast, the occupations with the largest number of native workers without high school degrees are cashiers, truck drivers, and janitors and building cleaners.”
Economic professors John McLaren and Gihoon Hong also released in 2015“Are Immigrants a Shot in the Arm for the Local Economy”The study found an influx of immigrant workers actually created jobs, and wages did not decrease.
“Using US Census data from 1980 to 2000, we find considerable evidence for these effects: Each immigrant creates 1.2 local jobs for local workers, most of them going to native workers, and 62 percent of these jobs are in non-traded services.
“Immigrants appear to raise local non-tradeables sector wages and to attract native-born workers from elsewhere in the country,”McLaren and Hong stated.
“We find that 1,000 new immigrants to a U.S. Metropolitan Area generate approximately 1,200 new local jobs, about 62 percent of which are in the non-traded sector,” and the bulk of the jobs go to native-born workers.
In reference to the study,Time Magazinenoted that raising the minimum wage is ultimately the solution to assisting American workers.
“Whether immigrant workers increase or lower wages is debatable but one thing is clear: the sure fire way to ensure unscrupulous employers pay better wages would be raising the minimum wage something the same conservatives have largely opposed.”