by Stephen Dinan
WASHINGTON D.C. – Since 2000, all of the net jobs added by the U.S. economy have gone to immigrants, both legal and illegal, according to a report being released Friday by the Center for Immigration Studies that challenges prevailing wisdom that the country needs an influx of workers.
Nearly 6 million more people are working in the U.S. now than in 2000, but the number of native-born Americans holding jobs has declined slightly, from 114.8 million to 114.7 million, according to census figures crunched by CIS. Instead, all of that job growth — a total of 5.7 million — has gone to immigrants.
Some of the native-born are unemployed, but a huge number have been chased from the workforce altogether, in part because of competition from immigrants, said Steven A. Camarota, research director for CIS and lead author of the report.
“Some may think that immigrants and natives never compete for jobs. But a majority of workers in virtually every occupation are native-born. Immigrants have made gains across the labor market in lower-, middle- and higher-skilled jobs. Thus the idea that there are jobs Americans don’t do is simply not supported by the data,” Mr. Camarota and co-author Karen Zeigler wrote.
The study is being released as business leaders step up their push for Congress to pass an immigration reform bill this year, saying the country could use the workers.
In an op-ed published last week in The Wall Street Journal, media magnate Rupert Murdoch said passing an immigration bill could “revitalize our economy.”
Earlier this month, FWD.us, founded by Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, began an ad campaign to try to push congressional Republicans to action.
While most of the focus of the debate is on legalizing the estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., the bill that passed the Senate a year ago would have increased legal workers. Combined, they would add 9.6 million people to the country — most of them eligible workers.
The Congressional Budget Office said that overall, the bill would boost the economy by 3.3 percent in 10 years and by more than 5 percent 20 years from now. However, average wages would drop slightly in the first decade as workers compete for limited jobs. Wages would recover, however, the CBO said.
Action on that immigration bill has halted as the surge of children crossing the southwestern border has exposed problems with the immigration system and with border security.
On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators demanded that President Obama personally get involved and make it clear that the new arrivals will be sent home quickly.
“The present situation begs your personal efforts to clarify U.S. immigration laws and to spur action from leaders of the primary sending countries,” the 40 senators said in a letter, led by Sens. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, and Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat.
Even as Republicans say the surge of children has killed chances for an immigration bill this year, some Democrats counter that passing a bill would help stem the tide by making a clear public statement about who is eligible for legal status and who isn’t.
Most of the children who have crossed the border say they are hoping to get “permisos,” or free passes, to gain entry into the country.
The administration says that stems from a misunderstanding of the immigration bill or of Mr. Obama’s nondeportation policies, but the immigrants appear to be referring instead to the fact that the immigration system is so overwhelmed that it takes years for people to be deported.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Republicans were using the surge of children as a smoke screen to duck a tough issue.
“They’ve had excuse after excuse after excuse,” Mr. Schumer said.
If the House hasn’t passed an immigration reform bill by the end of July, he said, Mr. Obama will claim executive powers to halt more deportations.
House Republican leaders have said they won’t take up any legislation until Mr. Obama shows he is serious about enforcing existing laws. They also said they want to take up the immigration issue in pieces rather than the broad bill the Senate passed.
Some senior Democrats have said they are open to that approach, but Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, on Thursday defeated a Republican-led effort to pass one of those pieces.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, tried to get unanimous consent to pass a bill that would require all businesses to use E-Verify, the government’s electronic system for checking work eligibility.
Mr. Durbin said he wanted to see the broad Senate bill pass instead.
“We are not going to take that bill apart piece by piece,” he said.
Mr. Sessions said worker verification is the first step to protecting Americans who are being crowded out of the job market by illegal immigrants.
The CIS study didn’t distinguish between legal and illegal workers.
The study said a major factor in the changes in the labor force is the decline of native-born who are dropping out altogether, having given up looking for work.
Young native-born workers have been hit particularly hard. The number of those ages 16 to 29 who are in the workforce has dropped by 2.9 percent since 2000. Native-born minorities also have fared poorly, the study found.