We keep hearing from the Obama administration, prominent employers, and educators that in order to compete in the world economy we must have a better-educated workforce.
This makes sense. Brains are rapidly replacing brawn in the newer parts of the economy. Jobs demanding computer-related and other high skills are increasing just as the number of low-skilled factory (and farm) jobs are diminishing.
Yet in terms of the average educational level of the legal workforce in the United States, the Obama administration is already moving in the opposite direction with its support of the DACA amnesty program — the two-year-old amnesty-by-decree laid on by the administration for aliens who say they came here illicitly before the age of 16. DACA beneficiaries now range in age from the teens to the early 30s.
If there is another lawless amnesty after the fall elections, as the White House has promised, it is likely to further degrade the average educational level of the workforce.
Why is this the case? Because the educational level of the illegal alien population is considerably below that of the rest of the country and legalization of an alien does not make that person more educated. Plus, amnesties increase the number of lightly educated people entitled to work. Let's look at some numbers.
The Census Bureau found in 2009 that 88.0 percent of native-born resident men 25 years old and older had a high school education or more; for the comparable group of women it was 89.2 percent.
In contrast to these 88.0/89.2 percent completion rates, the Migration Policy Institute reports that those potentially eligible for DACA have a high school completion rate of 35 percent. To a mild extent this is an apples/oranges comparison as some of the DACAs are still in high school, and some of those will graduate later; that would raise the rate a bit. Nevertheless, this is a sharp contrast; the native-born high school completion rate is much more than twice that of the DACAs.
I might add that the high school completion rate for the DACAs is not stated as such in the cited MPI document; that number must be extracted from a table that shows four components of the DACA's high-school-or-better population as adding to a total of 35 percent. This is a statistic that MPI does not shout from the rooftops.
Meanwhile, despite the multiple benefits of the DACA program — such as temporary legal status and the right to work legally in the United States — the sign-up rate for the eligibles has been estimated, by MPI, variously as 37 to 41 percent, which has been a disappointment to its supporters.
Another MPI document — advocating more education for this population — stated:
While there are a variety of factors likely influencing the decision of those who have not applied, DACA is unprecedented in requiring applicants who lack a high school diploma or equivalent and are not currently in school to enroll in an adult education program in order to qualify for protection.
Tempted though I am, I will not dwell on the use of the word "protection" to denote "legal status," with all of its implications of a cruel, heartless nation seeking to inflict its nasty laws on the poor and innocent.
Back to MPI's basic argument: that the educational requirements of DACA are real obstacles to the mass legalization of the otherwise eligible illegals. While they may discourage a handful from applying, there are two factors that MPI ignores that play important roles in this program.
First, one does not have to have a high school diploma to enter the program, nor does one have to be really involved in continuing education of any kind. USCIS simply wants to know if the applicant has signed up for an educational program by the day the application was submitted. There is no technique to determine whether the applicant actually spends a single day in a classroom. This must be widely known among illegal aliens.
The second reason for the less-than-outstanding participation in DACA is that there is so little interior enforcement of the immigration law that many rational — if illegal — migrants have figured that the cost of applying, in terms of nuisance and fees, is too high considering the minimal risk of deportation they face. Why bother?
Further, maybe they think that the forthcoming amnesty will have better terms than DACA, so why not wait for that?
In short, do not worry that our government is demanding too much in the way of education from this group of illegals; MPI and friends see the "requirement" as a way to seek more tax-supported education for the amnestied ones.
The alternative to spending more on the education of this part of the workforce is to ask illegals (including the lightly educated ones) to leave. That would, if done on a wide enough scale, do wonders to the average educational levels in our workforce — and that's a goal (if not a mechanism) that even the White House seeks.