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Newton Campbell

English 111.1

Lecturer Eric Meljac

November 29, 2004

Immigration’s True Effect on the Economy

On Ellis Island of New York Harbor lies an American national monument that is

meant to stand for all values that Americans hold true. At the base of this monument,

these words are inscribed:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me:

I lift my lamp beside the golden door. (Debate Topics: Immigration)

These words, as the monument itself does, give a description of one of America’s

greatest morals. It is usually the first thing that many immigrants see coming into New

York Harbor. These statements are no longer completely supported by America. In the

late 1800s and all through the 1900s, the United States started to view immigration as an

issue that needed to be dealt with. It began to create demographic problems for

Americans of that time. But the economic issue of immigration’s affect on the workforce

is one of the biggest controversial issues today. Immigration will not have an affect on the

US job market that will be large enough to bring about the downfall of this country’s

economy.
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Immigrant employment is one of the fundamental necessities for many large

companies today. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan says:

I have always thought that under the conditions such as what we now

confront, we should be carefully focused on the contribution which skilled

people from abroad, unskilled people from abroad, what they can

contribute to this country as they have for generation after generation.

Foreigners provide new, innovative ideas for companies along with a hard work

ethic. Immigrants applying for jobs that most likely would not be otherwise filled help a

business to function. They bring with them a sense of hard work and productivity.

According to The Congressional Politics of Immigration Reform, “employment-based

immigrant categories have included professionals, individuals with exceptional ability,

and skilled and unskilled workers.”(69) Because of the lack of education that many of

them suffer from, majority of immigrants from poorer countries take on lower class jobs.

This is not to say that every immigrant has a lower class job. The argument comes from

the idea that hiring foreign workers is an easy way for American businesses to get labor at

minimum cost. This creates the idea that immigrants are taking American jobs away. But

there are no immigrants that literally come to America, ambush a citizen in the street, and

take his/her job. Companies give these jobs to immigrants because it is an intelligent

thing to do from a business standpoint. Furthermore, in Economic Effects of

Immigration, W.S. Bernard states:

One of the most persistent and recurrent fallacies in popular thought is the

notion that immigrants take away the jobs of native Americans. This rests
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on the misconception that only a fixed number of jobs exist in any

economy and that any newcomer threatens the job of any old resident.

What Bernard is saying is that as the population of a country increases, so can

many eventual job opportunities. The truth is that if many of these companies did not

have the immigrant workers that they have today, some of the jobs that they do offer

would be relocated in foreign countries. Many poorer immigrants take on jobs that most

native born American citizens would not want to take.

This is not to say that there are no Americans willing to work on assembly lines or

on construction crews. There is simply not enough demand for these blue-collar

occupations. The goal of any employer is to maximize profits and minimize costs. By

immigrants creating a large labor supply, the demand for these jobs rises. Moreover,

immigrants can not take away too much from the economy because many immigrants

that are poor when they arrive in the United States end up staying poor or contributing to

the economy. Immigrants that come into America poor are always likely to be poorer than

native citizens. A study by the National Immigration Forum shows that “in their first low-

earning years in the United States, immigrants typically are net drains on the public

coffers, but over time –usually after 10 to 15 years in the United States – they turn into

net contributors.” In other words, after spending a few years in America, immigrants start

to become great contributors to the economy. Currently, about fifteen percent of US

citizens fall below the poverty line. Twenty nine percent of all immigrants fall below this

line also. Eleven percent of all immigrants in the US are literally “half-broke.” They

make half of the income that is set at the poverty line. (About.com: Research Perspectives

on Migration) Only six percent of official citizens fall under that category.
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One of the main purposes of the argument against immigration is the large

number of immigrants that get jobs here. Though a large number of immigrants do come

to this country, a great number of them allow our economy to become even greater.

According to a study from the National Academy of Sciences, legal immigration adds

about ten billion dollars to the United States economy each year. (AILA Fact Sheet)

Another study shows that, “By the year 2050, the U.S. population is projected to increase

to about 400 million, with immigrants contributing to two-thirds of that growth.”

(Opposing Viewpoints, 11) There are many arguments that say that the country needs to

put an end to immigration before the overpopulation problem gets out of control. As

overpopulation becomes more of a problem, unemployment also becomes a dilemma.

The problem with this argument is that much of the research done to support it is either

completely made up of allegations or is inconclusive. Moreover, if this country does

become overpopulated, it still will not be as poverty-stricken as other countries such as

China or India who have overwhelming overpopulation problems. We still would hold

much of the world’s economic power.

With the rising prerequisites for jobs, it is difficult for an immigrant as well as any

other American citizen to get a job without an education. Many middle and upper class

jobs require a college degree while most immigrants that come into this country do not

even have a high school education. According to a subcommittee for the 2004 United

States House of Representatives of the one hundred eighth Congress, about seventy nine

percent of America’s current workforce is still made up of native born citizens. (12) Since

the 1960s, studies have shown that immigrants have been unemployed far more than

native born citizens. (Kposowa, 128) Because anyone who is born here, whether or not
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they are from foreign descent, becomes a citizen, there will always be more native born

workers than immigrant workers in America. A subcommittee for the 2000 United States

House of Representatives of the one hundred sixth Congress noted that there are about

1.8 million people entering the workforce every year. (10) Of all these people, one out of

every six of them is an illegal immigrant. The others include high school dropouts,

college graduates, and people who are no longer able to receive financial assistance from

the government. Even with population increase, native born citizens will always control

the largest part of the economy.

This country has let many people through its door in an effort for them to have

better lives. Trying to protest against immigration is like keeping a door open for a few

hundred years and then slowly closing it off to anyone else. There are about 24.8 million

immigrants living in the United States today. This is, economically, one of the greatest

countries in the world. It has proven to be a place where others can succeed. At the same

time, it is also a country based on competition. Gimpel and Edwards said it best in The

Congressional Politics of Immigration Reform, “Competition is the engine of the global

market economy, and America clearly benefits from maintaining a labor force that is

highly skilled.” (69) Because this country was built on economic competitiveness it only

seems fitting that more competition be brought in. It helps to keep this country, as a

whole, successful.

Poverty is still active around the world. As people dream of one day being free

from oppression, they see a country in which millions of people have succeeded. They

see the most successful country in the world. However, because this country, for the most

part, does not do anything to help them, they come looking for help. In doing so, they end
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up helping our country. This is a country that has always relied on and been improved by

immigrants. Many immigrants believe that through hard work, they can succeed in this

country. That is an inspirational attitude that many native citizens no longer care to think

about. It is for this reason that so many immigrants work so hard and will take any job

that they can get when they come to America. It is why they are a beneficial factor in the

American workforce and the economy in general.
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Works Cited

AILA Fact Sheet. 27 Nov. 2004

<http://www.immigrationlinks.com/news/news253.htm>.

Bernard, W.S. Economic Effects on Immigration. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company,

1953

Debate Topics: Immigration. 26 Nov. 2004

<http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/composition/patterns/immigration.htm>

Edwards Jr., James R., James G. Gimpel. The Congressional Politics of Immigration

Reform. Allyn And Bacon, 1999

Kposowa, Augustine J. The Impact of Immigration on the United States Economy.

University Press of America, Inc, 1998

Moore, Stephen. A Fiscal Portrait of the Newest Americans. Washington DC: National

Immigration Forum and Cato Institute, 1998

Research Perspectives on Migration 27. Nov 2004

<http://immigration.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fww

w.ceip.org%2Fprograms%2Fmigrat%2Frpm1sum.htm>

United States. Subcommittee on Immigration And Claims of the Committee on the

Judiciary House of Representatives: One Hundred Sixth Congress. Benefits to the

American Economy of a More Educated Workforce. Washington: GPO, 2000

United States. Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, And Claims of the

Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives: One Hundred Eighth

Congress. How Would Millions of Guest Workers Impact Working Americans and

Americans Seeking Employment. Washington: GPO, 2004
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Williams, Mary E. Immigration. Opposing Viewpoints Series. Greenhaven Press, 2004