The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has released a report that found that a massive increase in foreign workers in the United States will “immediately boost employment for US workers and accelerate the country’s economic recovery.” The report is nothing more than regurgitated apologia for multi-national corporations that abuse guest worker systems and discriminate against American workers.
The report’s author, Madeline Zavodny, makes the argument that there is a correlation between a large presence of immigrant workers and a strong job market, because immigrants create jobs. Realizing that previous studies that have made the same argument have been discredited by the fact that immigrants are attracted to areas where more favorable job conditions already exist (why would they go to North Dakota instead of New York City?) the author sidesteps this inherent flaw in her methodology by designing an “estimation technique” that – voila! – makes the problem disappear. By doing so, the author was then able to conclude that immigrants do not in any way compete with Americans for jobs but amazingly only complement native-born workers. This canard is nothing new, and is an assumption, not a “finding,” that can only be accepted if one chooses to ignore the reality of the U.S. labor market.
It is amazing, really, to believe that an economist would argue that there is absolutely no correlation between millions of foreign workers employed in the United States (8 million illegally) and millions of native-born unemployed or underemployed (over 10 million). One has to wonder just how such a portentous and utterly fantastical occurrence has come to be. Is it the work of the infamous “invisible hand,” or has AEI revealed the alchemic formula that turns depressed wages and deteriorated working conditions for Americans into gold for employers.
But AEI doesn’t stop with the claim that foreign-born workers and native-born workers don’t compete for jobs. The report claims that immigrants are responsible for creating jobs for native workers on a massive scale. The “evidence” that proves this? The author attributed the increase of native-born workers in the U.S. workforce from 2000 to 2007 to the increased presence of foreign workers in the U.S. during the same period. In other words, the author substituted a correlation for a cause. It is the same as arguing that the enormous economic growth the U.S. experienced in the 1980s was due to Tom Cruise’s success at the box-office during that decade.
The author’s claims are totally devoid of any evidentiary support, only a fervent belief in her arguments. Using the same logic, one can argue the seven million jobs lost from 2000-2010 were caused by the increased presence of foreign workers. Burying more recent data in the appendix, and hiding the fact that she cherry-picked favorable data, the author can ignore one of the worst economic downturns in U.S. history that has resulted in massive jobs losses for American workers. And the fact that when employers began to hire again in 2009, the foreign-born gained jobs while the native-born continued to lose jobs. Or that between 2008 and 2010, 1.1 million new immigrants to the U.S. landed jobs, while overall employment declined by 6.3 million.
The report makes many false claims about American workers being unable to fill jobs in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and technology) fields, – claims that FAIR has refuted in Jobs Americans Can’t Do?: the Myth of a Skilled Worker Shortage – but the most harmful part of AEI’s publication is the recommendation that H-1B visas for skilled foreign workers be increased by at least 100,000. AEI also wants to increase visas for low-skilled workers to “stimulate” the U.S. economy. This is reprehensible when so many American workers are out of work and are competing with foreign workers for scarce jobs. AEI should ask unemployed Americans struggling to find work what they think of the “null effect” of immigration. But to AEI these Americans don’t seem to matter much. They are mere statistics upon which “estimation techniques” are performed.