Dispelling the Myth of Immigrants Stealing Jobs from Americans: The Rational Middle

Armed with data and cool reasoning, the filmmakers at the Rational Middle are taking direct aim at one of the biggest myths out there: That undocumented immigrants are stealing jobs from Americans. 

“Stability in employment is a concern for many Americans,” said filmmakers Loren Steffy and Gregory Kallenberg in the introduction to the newest installment of their documentary series. "The stability and growth of the American economy requires the ability to track and respond to worker availability and consumer demand. How does undocumented immigration impact the job market?” 

The documentary series has spent months interviewing key players, drilling down and bringing facts to light about the issue in an effort to foster genuine discussions. 

In this installment, called “Protecting American Jobs,” Kallenberg and Steffy go in-depth on what’s happening in the United States’ dynamic labor market and how unauthorized immigrants add to – not subtract from – this country’s economy.

Those immigrants tend to do the “low skill level work” said Luz Garcini, Research Fellow at Rice University. She said those jobs include positions in farming, construction, the service industry, housekeeping, and maintenance.

“Those are jobs that have been done by immigrants throughout our history,” said Charles Foster, a prominent immigration attorney in Houston who advised Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“Italian immigrants built the skyscrapers and the subway tunnels of New York. Chinese immigrants and Irish immigrants built the railroads,” Foster said. “We have an agricultural industry because of immigrants. Without that, we would be dependent on importing all of our foodstuff and that would be a national security issue.”

Director of the Mexico Center at Rice University Tony Payan pointed out that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (or ICE) has raided farms where many workers were detained. Despite that, Americans did not immediately take those jobs. 

“You would expect US citizens and permanent residents to line up and say ‘these are the jobs we couldn’t get. We were actually waiting for those jobs to vacate so that we could actually get them,'” Payan said. “There isn’t a line out there of American citizens willing to do that kind of backbreaking work,” he said. “No one is lining up.”

Immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh at the Cato Institute said there is almost no academic research showing immigrants are taking jobs from native-born workers. 

“What we do find is that by having more immigrants in the US, it increases the supply side of the economy which means there’s more people working and making things. But it also increases the demand side which means there’s more people buying things which also increases demand for the production and products made by workers which increases salaries and jobs,” Nowrasteh said.

“If you take out that consumer, then you’re destroying job opportunities elsewhere (in the economy) even though you might free up that person’s specific exact job for an American," Nowrasteh said. 

Theresa Cardinal Brown, Director of Immigration and Cross-Border Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said other nations without as much inbound migration have found themselves facing serious economic challenges that the US has been able to avoid. 

Japan, as a prime example of a traditionally closed society, is finally allowing for more legal immigration because its citizens are “literally dying and getting so old that they cannot fill the jobs they have,” Cardinal Brown said. “It’s really our history of immigration that’s prevented us from being in some similar situations."

She told the filmmakers that the lack of any progress on the issue for three decades is simply unacceptable.

“To say we can’t get the perfect so we’re not going to do anything is not the way to run a country,” Cardinal Brown said.

You can watch the full video below.


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