Immigrant Workers’ Influences on the US Economy

Introduction

In a globalized economy, immigration has become a contentious issue. In highly industrialized countries like the United States and United, Kingdom immigration is seen as a problem especially when viewed from an economic perspective. According to a basic understanding of economics, resources are limited, and therefore the greater the number of people in the given area, the more difficult it is to satisfy all the needs of the inhabitants of the said place.

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Therefore, there are stringent measures in place to drastically reduce the number of immigrants that can pass through national borders. At the same time, governments are pressured to deport and remove by force undocumented aliens. But the supposedly strong stance against immigration is something that is based on misinformation because in certain cases, immigration can improve the national economy.

It is easy to understand the reason why immigration is an emotionally charged issue. It is a social problem with different facets. Immigration deals with the basic human right of a person to pursue happiness. In other words, if there is a famine in a particular area then the inhabitants are expected to move out and transfer to a location that is favorable when it comes to raising a family and sheer survival. Thus, it is inhuman to turn away a family or a group of people trying to cross borders in order to find a better place to live in.

Problem with Immigration

A human being is more important than the economy and more important than material possessions. But on the other side of the discussion, immigration is seen as a disruptive phenomenon. Imagine a horde of people moving from a city to a small town. The comfort and stable economy enjoyed by the local residents can be easily disrupted by an exodus of immigrants. There will be a great number of people fighting over limited land, limited jobs, and limited public funds. A healthcare clinic for a thousand people cannot support the influx of five thousand immigrants.

A globalized economy is made possible by the rapid acceleration in the development of telecommunication and transportation technology that enabled the faster movement of people since time began. A mere two hundred years ago it would require weeks or even months of travel to cross the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. There were terrible barriers to the mass migration of people. But when scientists and engineers perfected shipbuilding and airplanes, the ability to travel around the world can be achieved in a shorter period of time. It is now easier for Africans, Asians, and Middle-Easterners to migrate to the United States. Another pressing issue is the short distance between the United States and those that live in Latin American countries as well as the Caribbean Islands.

The belief that the United States is one of the richest nations on Earth is a powerful incentive that pushes poor people to leave their Third World existence behind and transfer to a land flowing with milk and honey. But conditions are far from ideal even in the United States. The aftermath of the financial crisis of the recent past coupled with the negative impact of business outsourcing has created a dearth of job vacancies in this country.

Due to the significant failures of American banks and lending institutions the inability of entrepreneurs to jump-start the economy has left many Americas without a job. Factories that had been relocated overseas also contributed to the high unemployment rate.

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It is therefore illogical to invite more people to the United States because by merely looking at the unemployment rate, defective healthcare system, inadequate government assistance to the poor, increase the crime rate, and other social problems, adding more people into the mix can only spell disaster. But a generalized assumption regarding the peril brought by immigration is based on fear rather than on facts. It must be clarified that opening the borders of the United States can surely create problems of epic proportions because law enforcement agencies and various social institutions will be overwhelmed. But in a realistic assessment based on the current capabilities of the government to regulate migration, the fear of immigration is based on mere assumptions.

The US Economy

Those who oppose immigration based their argument on the following statement: “a surge of low-skilled immigrants should increase the supply of such workers, driving down wages at the expense of working-class Americans” (Henderson 1). As mentioned earlier the forces of competition can easily create anxiety in the hearts and minds of ordinary people when it comes to the sudden influx of foreign-born workers.

This fear however is based on statistics because according to the U.S. Census Bureaus’ March 2005 survey, there at least “11.5 to 12 million illegal immigrants, and of that number 6.2 million come from Mexico and about 2.5 million come from the rest of Latin America” (Forbes 1). This is not a small number; 12 million foreign workers ready to compete with poor Americans for low-paying jobs is something that is unacceptable to many.

However, there is another way to look at these facts. On the other side of the fence, policymakers, economic advisers and business leaders pointed out that the US economy will collapse without immigrant workers. In the words of one analyst, immigrant workers are important because “they do jobs most Americans wouldn’t take, for wages they wouldn’t want” (Quintanilla 1). It is important to have chefs and dishwashers in a restaurant. It is important to have managers and garbage collectors in a waste management facility. Most Americans prefer the less strenuous jobs but if no one will take the place of gardeners, furniture movers, fruit pickers, and other low-paying and menial jobs then the US economy will falter.

Aside from filling up job vacancies in the blue-collar section of the employment market, there is another reason why immigrant workers are indispensable components of the US economy. According to one report “lower-wage labor helps create more work for higher-skilled, higher-paid workers who are generally native-born” (Isidore 1). The following report from the U.S. Department of Labor supports this assertion: “at least half of the nearly 2 million crop workers in the United States are illegal aliens … the cheap labor they provide is crucial to the $30 billion U.S. farm industry” (Parker 1). It is now unthinkable to assure business continuity without the contribution of immigrant workers.

Consider the implication of the following information, that the Hispanics alone represent 25% of workers in the meat and poultry industry; 24% of workers in the drywall and ceiling tile installation industry; and 24% of dishwashers in US restaurants (Grow 1). It is now safe to say that “some US industries have become so dependent on illegal labor that a wholesale expulsion would be crippling” (Grow 1). Another important contribution of immigrant workers is that their presence can be used to prevent the relocation of American-based companies to Third World countries.

Local businessmen will not consider relocating a successful business if they can have access to a relatively lower cost resource. In this regard, “the easier it is to find cheap immigrant labor at home, the less likely that production will relocate offshore” (Cowen 1). It is for the best interest of the American people if these multinational companies decide not to relocate their manufacturing facilities to China, Vietnam, or Thailand. But they are constrained to do so if they cannot be competitive in a globalized economy.

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The concern that immigrant workers will compete with Americans in terms of available jobs must be analyzed in-depth. Based on a study made between 1960 and 2000, experts said “working-age native-born U.S. residents without a high school degree fell to 12% from 50% of the population” (The Wall Street Journal 1). In other words, there are now a greater number of college graduates in the United States as compared to the 20th century. Thus, in the absence of immigrant workers, native-born Americans are forced to work on jobs that they are overqualified.

Conclusion

The idea that Immigrant workers are a threat to the US economy must be revised because it is not the whole truth. It is true that there is a negative effect on some sectors. American citizens that do not have high school diplomas will suffer from the onslaught of immigrant workers especially those coming from Mexico and other Latin American countries. But on a larger scale, immigrant workers can revitalize the US economy and their contribution is made more manifest in the long-run. If the US government can successfully regulate the flow of immigrant workers and not close the borders to prevent them from coming in, then immigrant workers will prove to be a vital component in the economic rehabilitation of this country.

Works Cited

Cowen, Tyler. How Immigrants Create More Jobs. The New York Times. 2010. Web.

Forbes. Immigration’s Impact. Forbes. 2007. Web.

Grow, Brian. Embracing Illegals: Companies are getting hooked on the Buying Power of 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants. Bloomberg-Businessweek, 2005. Web.

Isidore, Chris. Illegal Workers: Good for U.S. Economy. CNN Money, 2006. Web.

Parker, Serena. Immigrants: US Economic Savior or Social and Economic Burden. Voice of America, 2005. Web.

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Quintanilla, Carl. The Economic Impact of Immigration: Do Illegal Workers Help or Hurt the Economy? CNBC. 2006. Web.

The Wall Street Journal. Immigration Out of Sight: Ignoring Immigration Policy Does no Favors for the U.S. Economy. 2009. Web.

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