Opponents of immigration reform erroneously argue that native-born Americans will lose out on scarce jobs if currently unauthorized immigrants acquire legal status — despite the obvious fact that unauthorized immigrants are already here and in the labor force. The best available evidence suggests that neither legal nor unauthorized immigration is the cause of current high unemployment. In fact, a report released in February by the Economic Policy Institute not only finds that immigration raises the average wages of U.S.-born workers, but fuels the growth of the U.S. economy. The report emphasizes that “more people, including more foreigners, do not mean lower wages or higher unemployment. If they did, every time a baby was born or a new graduate entered the labor force, they would hurt existing workers.” In reality, “an economy with more people does not mean lower wages and higher unemployment; it is simply a bigger economy.”
A second study, by University of Southern California researchers, estimates that legalizing unauthorized immigrants would yield $16 billion in annual economic benefits to California alone when all the “multiplier effects” of higher wages, increased consumer spending and increased tax revenue are taken into account. The study estimates that “granted legal status, California’s unauthorized immigrants could strengthen our national social safety net by bolstering Social Security and Medicare taxes by an additional $2.2 billion annually.”
Employment is not a zero-sum game in which workers compete for some set number of jobs. Workers who earn higher wages also buy more goods and services from U.S. businesses, and pay more in taxes to federal and state governments, both of which create jobs.