A Burden That Does Not Affect All Americans Equally

By Jan Ting on September 3, 2015

The New York Times, September 3, 2015

Over 8 million Americans were officially unemployed in July, with more than 2 million classified as long-term unemployed, according to the latest jobs report. Another some 6 million Americans were involuntary part-time workers — unable to find full-time work — and about 2 million Americans were marginally attached to the work force, including discouraged individuals convinced there is no work for them.

These distinctions do not affect all Americans equally.

For example, while the official unemployment rate is still around 5 percent, for African-Americans the unemployment rate is over 9 percent. American teenagers looking for work have an unemployment rate of about 16 percent, but for African-American teenagers, the unemployment rate is over 28 percent. Can we all agree that's an outrage?

Americans are struggling with stagnant wages, rising inequality, increasing personal debt and reduced opportunities for their children, even as the economy expands and the stock market regularly hits new highs. Some say the solution is to further grow the economy by reducing taxes and regulation. Others say the government should just force private employers to pay higher wages.

Here's a third solution: Reduce immigration. Start by enforcing existing immigration laws, which the Supreme Court has recognized exist for a "primary purpose" to "preserve jobs for American workers." Let's reconsider whether the U.S. every year must give out more green cards for legal permanent immigrants than all the rest of the nations of the world combined, including 80 percent of the world's permanently re-settled refugees.

Because even though some 9 million new jobs were added to the U.S. economy from 2000 through 2014, about 18 million new immigrants, legal and illegal, entered the U.S. during that time, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. This, even as the native population also grew.

Indeed, the Pew research center has projected that 82 percent of the rapid increase in U.S. population over the next 35 years (over 100 million people) will be due to 21st-century immigrants and their descendants.

But in Philadelphia we don't have enough money to fund our public schools. Across the country, we don't have enough money to repair roads and bridges. And we seem to be running out of water, not only in California but throughout the West. How will another hundred million U.S. residents affect water and energy consumption, social services, infrastructure and the environment?

The world is awash in migrants understandably seeking better opportunities and lives for themselves and their families in countries not their own. But Americans must decide if borders, citizenship and the nation-state still have meaning in the 21st century. Don't we have a greater obligation to improve the lives of our own fellow citizens than to others? We fulfill it by enforcing the current immigration laws and limits enacted by Congress in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.