A lot of the heat surrounding immigration policy debate comes from the fear that immigrants take jobs from American citizens, a fear easily exacerbated during a job-starved recession. But do new immigrants, legal and illegal, really take jobs from citizens? The authors of a report released Monday by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, found that immigration has no significant effect on the number of jobs available to U.S.-born workers, mainly because immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, for example, take jobs that don’t require them to speak English and jobs like cleaning up a major oil spill in Michigan, where they work something like 70 hours a week for little money without bathrooms and where safety procedures aren’t followed and where they work covered in toxic oil-water sludge and drink from toxic-sludge-covered coolers and without health insurance or any other benefits.
For anyone seriously looking into the matter of immigration and our broken immigration policy, including our porous border with Mexico, the target should not be the “illegals” people like Ted Nugent want to shoot, but companies like Texas-based oil-spill contractor Hallmark, which marshal major resources specifically to recruit and employee immigrants. As the Michigan Messenger reports, Halmark bused hundreds of workers from Texas to Battle Creek, Michigan, over the last weeks, putting them up in hotels and to work cleaning oil-soaked islands and shorelines along the Kalamazoo river. Hallmark’s admitted undocumented workers are working 12 hour to 14 hour shifts, seven days a week, for which they receive $800 a week in cash and food. Those are jobs for which Hallmark will come under all kinds of justified legal fire.
Lead author of the San Francisco Federal Reserve report economist Giovanni Peri argues that language barriers force immigrants to take lower-paying jobs that require less communication, which leaves those higher-paying service and professional jobs to native-born English speakers.
Of course workers who remain in low-skilled sectors will compete with immigrants and will suffer as the result of practices and abuses perpetrated by companies like Halmark, and comprehensive immigration reform, analysts say, will better get after interstate-hopping Halmark, for example, than any patchwork of state laws.
Hat tip to Elise Foley.