The ever-hysterical Tea Party is now hysterical about unauthorized immigrants. In a frenzied email blast to its members, the Tea Party Nation warns that the Obama administration wants to grant “amnesty” to the millions of unauthorized immigrants in the United States, whom the Tea Party alleges have inflicted various “horrors” upon Americans by stealing their jobs and committing unspeakable crimes. Not surprisingly, the Tea Party Nation gets its facts completely wrong. As a litany of evidence-based reports have demonstrated, most native-born workers are not in competition with immigrants for the same jobs, and immigrants are less likely than the native-born to commit serious crimes, regardless of their legal status.
As a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) illustrates, native-born and foreign-born workers differ markedly in terms of the occupations in which they work, the amount of education they have, and the parts of the country in which they live. For instance, the report found that the top three occupations for immigrant workers in 2009 were construction and extraction; production; and building and grounds cleaning and maintenance. In contrast, the top three occupations for native-born workers were administrative support, management, and sales. Moreover, roughly 63 percent of immigrant workers lived in six states (California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, and Illinois), while 66 percent of native-born workers lived elsewhere in the country.
The CBO report reinforces the findings of other, more detailed studies that immigrants and natives are filling different niches in the U.S. labor market and are not simply interchangeable. A series of reports by Rob Paral and Associates has demonstrated, for example, that immigration is not associated with high unemployment at the regional, state, or county levels; nor is it associated with high unemployment among minorities. In fact, as a study by the Economic Policy Institute points out, while immigrant “workers add to the supply of labor, they also consume goods and services, creating more jobs.” The end result is a bigger economy with more employment.
Also undermining the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Tea Party is a century’s worth of evidence demonstrating that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native-born. The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform reached a similar conclusion in a 1994 report, as have academic researchers using data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 Census; the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health; and the results of community studies in Chicago, San Diego, El Paso, and Miami. The problem of crime in the United States is not caused or even aggravated by immigrants.
By its very nature, Tea Party rhetoric is immune to evidence. It is about emotion, not fact. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that, when it comes to the subject of immigration, the Tea Party has no facts.
Photo by Caro Wallis.