Does the U.S. Labor Market Really “Need” Immigrants?

Parsing Immigration Policy, Episode 116

By Steven A. Camarota and Oren Cass on August 3, 2023

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Listen to "Does the U.S. Labor Market Really “Need” Immigrants?" on Spreaker.


Permissive legal and illegal immigration policies have been shown to hurt the working class in America the most. Yet, the media and corporate America often repeat the myth that there are certain jobs Americans won’t do, and that the U.S. is experiencing a labor shortage. They conclude, therefore, that we need immigrants to fill these gaps, which are predominantly in less-skilled fields.

On this episode of Parsing Immigration Policy, Oren Cass, executive director of American Compass and author of The Once and Future Worker, joins guest host Steven Camarota, the Center’s director of research, to debunk these myths about the need for immigrants to enter the U.S. labor force. In reality, giving employers access to immigrant labor (both legal and illegal) suppresses wages and removes the incentive for employers to improve working conditions for Americans.

Cass and Camarota discuss the difference in how policymakers and business leaders approach less-skilled labor versus more-skilled, due in large part to an addiction to cheap consumption. Current visa programs benefit consumers and employers with lower prices while hurting the American worker, and Cass notes that very low unemployment rates and rising wages are identified as a problem only when the working class experience them.

Cass argues that our government should take steps to reduce illegal immigration and the best way to do this is to make it costly for employers to employ those not authorized to work. Illegal immigrants compete with the most vulnerable Americans and depress wages. The two experts agree that E-Verify, an internet-based system that allows an employer to determine a new hire’s eligibility to work, is a key tool for influencing employers.

In discussing legal immigration, Cass prefers the number of legal immigrants admitted to our country yearly remain the same, but he contends that the types of legal immigrants we are accepting should change – high-skilled, high-earning immigrants should be emphasized, as they will in turn create better employment opportunities for working-class Americans.

Camarota and Cass close out the podcast with a discussion on the importance of training Americans for these higher-skilled jobs as opposed to expanding the labor supply by importing high-skilled immigrants.


Steven Camarota is the Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies.


Oren Cass is the Executive Director of American Compass and author of The Once and Future Worker.


Oren Cass Bio

American Compass: Rebuilding American Capitalism

Evidence Shows that Immigration Reduces Wages Significantly

How Immigration Affects Workers: Two Wrong Models and a Right One


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Intro Montage

Voices in the opening montage:

  • Sen. Barack Obama at a 2005 press conference.
  • Sen. John McCain in a 2010 election ad.
  • President Lyndon Johnson, upon signing the 1965 Immigration Act.
  • Booker T. Washington, reading in 1908 from his 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech.
  • Laraine Newman as a "Conehead" on SNL in 1977.
  • Hillary Clinton in a 2003 radio interview.
  • Cesar Chavez in a 1974 interview.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking to reporters in 2019.
  • Prof. George Borjas in a 2016 C-SPAN appearance.
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions in 2008 comments on the Senate floor.
  • Charlton Heston in "Planet of the Apes".