NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 2, 2007

When it comes to immigration reform, we need more common sense from liberals; their main position perpetuates a policy that guarantees rising U.S. poverty, says Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson.


  • From 1990 to 2005, the increase in the number of people living beneath the government's poverty line (now about $20,000 for a family of four) was 3,365,000.
  • The increase in the number of Hispanics living below the poverty line over the same period was 3,362,000.

Does anyone doubt that this coincidence stems mostly from immigration?  True, much of it was illegal.  But many liberals -- along with the Bush administration and business groups -- favor a sizable program of "guest workers."  In effect, the annual flow of illegal immigrants would become an annual flow of guest workers.  But they'd still be poor; and they'd also be promised a path to U.S. citizenship.  In other words, they wouldn't be "guests," explains Samuelson.

Liberals have embraced an unholy alliance with business in which business gets most of the gains and immigration's costs are thrown onto the public sector.  The justification is an alleged shortage of unskilled workers.  That's a fiction, says Samuelson:

  • In March, the unemployment rate for college graduates was 1.8 percent.
  • For the 13 million workers without a high school diploma, it was 7 percent.

Tight labor markets raise wages.  Admitting more poor, low-skilled Latino workers hurts Latinos already here by depressing their wages.  It's anti-Hispanic and anti-assimilation. Almost certainly, it also hurts the wages of other low-skilled Americans.  Businesses grasp this -- hence their support for guest workers -- even if some academic economists do not. Why many liberals don't is a puzzle, says Samuelson.

Source: Robert J. Samuelson, "Seeking Sense on Immigration," Washington Post, May 2, 2007.

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