Following the failure of the recently proposed Immigration Reform Bill, the national debate continues to echo throughout the various echelons of society on the future of the problem in America. Johnathan Tilove from the Newhouse News Service, Steven A. Camarota, Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies, and Carol M. Swain, editor of the newly-published book Debating Immigration were all present at the National Press Club in Late July to reflect upon the present enigma.
Tilove, Swain, and Camarota had been three members of the panel of eighteen leading immigration experts and researchers whose work was documented in the book. “The national unemployment rate,” Steven Camarota began, “is in many ways not applicable to the immigration debate.”
One reason is that the unemployment rate does not officially include those people who are not currently looking for a job. Businesses claim today, he continued, that there is a shortage of labor, and therefore the illegal immigrants migrating into the U.S. become a vital part of the American economy. However, little evidence exists to support this claim.
If a country is short of a certain type of worker, economics explains that wages and benefits should be increasing for that job. However, this is simply not the case today with the illegal immigrants. Approximately 10 million teenagers are unemployed or are not even in the labor force. Hourly wages for men without a high school diploma grew only 1% between 2000 and 2005, a significantly slow increase. Research revealed that between the years of 1980 and 2000, a crucial period in the growth of illegal immigration into the U.S., non-educated men’s wages dropped 7%.
Looking at all 473 listed occupations in America, Camarota found that no occupation existed where American natives did not significantly participate, thus expelling the myth that immigrants are direly needed to perform certain jobs. For example, two-thirds of hotel cleaners, a low-wage occupancy, are natives. Immigration, he concluded, does affect the young and unskilled workers after all. “The concern with young workers is how they interact with the labor force at an early age. It follows you for the rest of your life.”
The influx of illegal immigrants affects young people and low-wage workers of all races and creeds. Immigration affects the black community just as much as it does the hispanic community posited Carol Swain. There is a wide breach in the connection between the general public “restrictionists,” and the elitist “expansionists.” Swain then further refuted the myth of racial disparity in economic America. “There is no rainbow coalition of minorities working toward a common goal,” Swain posits. “It is not about race, it is about social class.”
So after all the problems and effects of illegal immigration upon the heart of America, what are the next steps that must be taken to solve the problem of illegal immigration? Swain presented a number of key issues that must surface in debates and be acted upon. Birthright citizenship, she noted, is a problem at the forefront of the immigration issue, a legislative loophole that is drawing many illegals to America. The family re-unification policy should benefit the immediate family but not distant relatives, a popular loophole for many extensive illegal immigrant families to stay in America. Deterrents must be enforced that will strongly discourage illegals from staying in America, especially stricter penalties for those who overstay their temporary visas. This is a problem that accounts for 40% of the entire illegal population in America today and yet remains largely unknown. Most importantly, a bipartisan commission created to investigate the entire problem must be coupled with a constitutional amendment striking down birthright citizenship to head the fight against illegal immigration.
Hazleton, PA, formerly a small town and a closely-knit community, has gradually been introduced to the influx of immigrants in the last 10-15 years.
The problem, Tilove continued, with the Hispanic population growing from 5% to 30% of the town’s population was not so much the large change, but rather the dizzying rate of the quick change, with no gradual assimilation but rather a sort of immigrant blitzkrieg. “The more diverse a community is, the more distant and withdrawn they are among themselves,” Tilove argued. “It is called socio-psycho overload.”
There were positive effects of immigration on the town, so the subsequent migration of the mostly-white residents away from their former community was not purely race-based. Property values, for instance, had increased in Hazleton, but this growth was useless to families who had held houses through generations, people who “view their house as a covenant.” This sacred bond of community had been upset, in what Tilove described as a “clear, inverse relationship between immigration diversity and the social trust.” The “white flight” away from towns and suburbs and towards other small communities seemed to immigrants as race-based. But the resounding voice of those who were actually moving elsewhere referred to more practical reasons for the domestic migration, such as increased crime and overcrowding in the small town.
Matt Hadro is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.