NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Do Immigrants Threaten American Workers' Jobs?

February 25, 2000

At an AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting in New Orleans last week, union council members passed a resolution seeking surprisingly fundamental reforms of U.S. immigration policy. For the first time in its history, the union called for the federal government to grant amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Labor unions have viewed immigrants as a major threat to their members' economic well-being. Consequently they have been among the nation's most forceful opponents of liberalizing immigration policy. However,

  • "Immigration does not reduce job opportunities for native-born Americans," say economists Lowell Gallaway and Richard Vedder. "Nor is there evidence, either earlier in our history or today, that immigration leads to increased unemployment," they wrote in USA Today (1997).
  • Nor do immigrants take undue advantage of the American welfare state -- excluding political refugees, immigrants resort to welfare less often than native-born Americans, says an Independent Review article based on the economists' forthcoming book on immigration.

"We do not deny that superficially it appears that immigrants are now moderately over-represented in the welfare system than they were previously," the economists write. "However, when three conditions are taken into account -- the increase in the relative numbers of immigrants in the population, the marked tendency for immigrants to settle in high-income, high-welfare-benefit states, and the high welfare participation of refugees -- then the high and increasing welfare participation of modern-day non-refugee immigrants in revealed to be illusory."

Source: "Immigrants Pose No Threat to American Workers," Lighthouse, February 24, 2000, Independent Institute, 100 Swan Way, Oakland, Calif. 94621, (510) 632-1366.


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