Congress Members Use Immigration Myths To Justify Reform Opposition


Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) poses with protesters at anti-immigration rally on July 14, 2013.

Here we go again. While some House Republicans are keen on maybe bringing immigration reform “to the floor over the next few months,” others are bringing back old fallacies to justify legislative inaction. Led by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), 16 House Republicans sent a letter to President Barack Obama (D) on Wednesday, saying that they would not support an immigration bill in the House because it “would permanently displace American workers.”

House Republicans oppose legalizing undocumented immigrants namely because they believe it would hurt American worker wages, add millions of “lower-skilled” workers, “American unemployment would rise,” and “per-capita GNP would sink as well.”

We write to you today on behalf of the 21 million Americans who can’t find a full time job […]

[…] That is why we reject your call for the House to get an immigration bill to your desk that would permanently displace American workers. The Senate immigration bill, which the White House helped craft and which you personally endorse, would double the number of guest workers brought into this country at a time of crippling joblessness and falling incomes. […]

CBO confirms that these immigrants will be mostly lower-skilled, and that wages for American citizens would fall while American unemployment would rise. Per-capita GNP would sink as well.

According to research from Harvard Professor Dr. George Borjas, low-skilled immigration has, between the years 1980 and 2000, resulted in nearly an 8% wage reduction for US-born workers without a high school degree […]

So-called Comprehensive Immigration Reform may be a good deal for big businesses who want to reduce labor costs … but it’s an awful deal for US workers — including African- American and Hispanic communities enduring chronically high unemployment.

Read the full letter.

House Republicans who signed the letter include Reps. Lou Barletta (R-PA), Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Walter Jones (R-NC), Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), John Fleming (R-LA), Steve King (R-IA), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Steve Stockman (R-TX), Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), and Mike Rogers (R-AL).

The 16 House Republicans who signed off on the letters have all expressed opposition to a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. The only immigration bill they did vote on in 2013 was a measure that gives wider discretion for federal immigration authorities to deport undocumented youths. Even so, the claims in the letter have been perpetuated so often that it’s worth revisiting since it’ll likely come up again:

CLAIM: Legalization would displace American workers.
FACT: Research shows that immigrants do not displace American workers because many immigrants actually create jobs by starting their own businesses. About 7.5 percent of the foreign-born population are self-employed, while immigrants make up about 18 percent of all small business owners. Immigrant workers and American workers generally have different skill sets so they do not compete for the same job. And when immigrants and American workers have similar skills and therefore increase the supply of labor, research found that businesses responded by “increasing the number of establishments.

CLAIM: Per Dr. George Borjas’ study, legalization would lower American wages.
FACT: Borjas’ study has been superseded by many other studies, which all agree that immigrants have a small, but positive effect on American worker wages. What’s more, during a presentation given in 2013, Borjas said that his empirical findings say “nothing at all” about U.S. immigration policy.

CLAIM: Legalization would lead to unemployment among African-American and Hispanic communities.
FACT: No. Just no. Immigration restrictionists have a long history of manufacturing tension between vulnerable communities. According to a NBC News interview, Wade Henderson, chairman and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights said that high unemployment rates “for more than 50 years have been almost double what they are for white Americans … even as the population of foreign-born people in the U.S. has increased,” a reality that’s influenced by economic factors and not by increased immigrant employment. In fact, evidence bears out that African Americans are three times more likely than non-African American workers to “change their relative task specialization” — in other words, transition to higher-skilled jobs — as a result of immigration. Finally, at least 66 percent of more than 800 African Americans surveyed in a May 2013 poll support passage of progressive immigration policies.