Last week, Politico featured a piece by right-wing pundit Pat Buchanan suggesting that rather than talking about a second stimulus package, tax credits, or public works projects, lawmakers should be seriously considering an immigration moratorium during these hard economic times. A few days later, former Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) authored an op-ed calling for a moratorium on legal immigration until “Americans are back on their feet.” ThinkProgress sat down with Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Hilda Solis yesterday to discuss what a ban on immigration, coupled with ramped up deportations, could mean for the U.S. as a whole:
I think we’d have a big shortage of workers out there and I think as we move through this decade, we’re going to see people retiring from different types of jobs…so who is going to help fill those positions?
You would probably see towns shutting down, communities shutting down. You’d see second and third industries being affected — restaurant industries, service sectors industries where immigrants tend to work and be found. It would also impact the current ability to put food on your table because if you don’t have a certain number of people out there doing jobs that others wouldn’t want to do, then how are we going to provide the sustenance we need for all our American families?
What Buchanan, Goode, and all the others advocating an immigration moratorium fail to note is that, because of the recession, both legal and undocumented immigration are at record lows. And while it’s true that many immigrants work side-by-side American workers, that doesn’t serve as credible evidence that there is a significant number of American workers who have pursued those jobs and lost a job opportunity to an immigrant. In fact, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), has found that “despite the controversy it generates, illegal immigration has no significant impact on the overall U.S. economy.” MPI has also pointed out that, as of November 2009, immigrants are facing higher unemployment rates than American-born workers due to the fact that they are more likely to work in sectors that rise and fall with the business cycle.
As Solis points out, immigration policies should also take into account the future needs of an aging population. University of Southern California professor Dowell Myers recently pointed out that “as baby boomers become seniors, immigrants can fill the roles vacated by boomers shifting modes within the economy.” If the U.S. cuts future immigration, it could be in for a rude awakening when the recession is finally over. In an event at the Center for American Progress yesterday, Solis and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said today that comprehensive immigration reform would do a better job of strengthening the U.S. economy by improving pay, benefits, and working condition for all workers, along with adding billions of new tax dollars to the nation’s coffers.
Unemployment probably isn’t Goode and Buchanan’s only concern. In 2006, Buchanan called for an immigration moratorium to preserve the dominance of the white race in America. “If we do not get control of our borders, by 2050 Americans of European descent will be a minority in the nation their ancestors created and built,” wrote Buchanan. That same year, Goode also warned that “we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States.”
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.