On January 20, Reuters published a news article with the following headline: “Exclusive: Over a Million Immigrants land U.S. jobs in 2008-10.” The article, which reported on data exclusively provided to Reuters by the Center for Labor Market Studies (CLMS) at Northeastern University in Boston, appeared just a few days before the House Immigration Subcommittee held its first hearing of the new Congress criticizing the Obama Administration on worksite enforcement. The article was also quoted in testimony by Mark Kirkorian of the Center for Immigration Studies as proof that the native-born are losing out to immigrants in the work force. The CLMS “study,” however, which supports the flawed restrictionist theory that America can deport its way out of unemployment, actually backfired during the hearing.

Committee member California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), also interested in understanding the findings of the study, instructed her staff members to request a copy from CLMS, which they were denied. The Congresswoman took issue with this in the hearing.

LOFGREN: Mr. Krikorian, just briefly, you, in your testimony today, discussed a recent study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University that purported to demonstrate that recent immigrants were gaining employment while Americans were losing their jobs.

And then you cited a story by Reuters in your written testimony, not the report itself. Have you seen the report itself and analyzed its data?

KRIKORIAN: I’ve looked for it. No, I’m not sure — I think they did it for Reuters. So I’m not…

LOFGREN: Well, I asked my staff to call the center and ask for the report. And they refused to give it to us. And they said it’s — it isn’t being made public. I just wondered if you had a copy…

KRIKORIAN: No, I do not.

LOFGREN: Yes. I — I’ll just advance my view that if something can’t ever be examined by people, I’m not going to rely on it.

The Reuters article reports that CLMS analyzed data produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. This data is not impossible to access, but how the data is analyzed is the key hidden component. CLMS has, to date, refused requests to provide this analysis so that it can be reviewed and/or replicated, which is the norm in academia.

Also troubling was the lack of double sourcing by Reuters. Journalists normally double source or verify the information they report on with a second source. Given that the study is not publicly available, this should have compelled Reuters to conduct their journalistic due diligence.

Pushing aside the missteps of both CLMS and Reuters, the article presents data on immigration and unemployment that is far more nuanced than its shrill title would suggest. At first glance, the story seems to incorrectly suggest that every job filled by an immigrant since 2008 could have been filled by an unemployed native-born American. Numerous, public studies have refuted such findings. Indeed, the story itself makes the following observations:

  • Some immigrants “land jobs that unemployed Americans turn up their noses at or lack the skills to do.”
  • “Some of those who entered the country since 2008 were employed in sectors that generally require a high level of skills and education, such as finance and insurance.”
  • Some “newcomers since 2008 got work in health care and social services, a fast-growing sector where skills are in demand.”

In other words, not all unemployed Americans possess the skill sets required to fill the jobs which became available. Not to mention the fact that many unemployed Americans may not even live in the same part of the country where job openings occurred. This isn’t to say that some unemployed Americans didn’t find themselves in direct competition with immigrants for the same jobs. But the Reuters story uses hyperbole and insinuation to greatly exaggerate the extent to which this occurs.

Developing immigration policies that maximize the many benefits that have been bestowed on America by immigration while minimizing the potential negative effects on the current labor force isn’t easy. CLMS and Reuters decision to manufacture a “study” without making it available to policymakers simply adds more heat to a debate that is already too heavy on rhetoric and short on facts.”

Photo by (cup)cake_eater.