Illegal Aliens Taking U.S. Jobs
Many illegal aliens come to the United States seeking an opportunity to work, and many are welcomed with open arms by U.S. employers who are able to hire them for wages lower than they would have to pay to hire U.S. workers. Although this employment is illegal under a 1986 law – known as the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) – some employers ignore the law and knowingly hire illegal workers nonetheless. Others do not properly vet employment documents and hire the illegal workers who apply using fake documents. This practice is made easier because there is no requirement to verify documents presented by workers, and because E-Verify remains voluntary on a nationwide basis, employers can rather easily evade compliance.
The defenders of illegal aliens — ethnic advocacy groups, business lobbyists, and some religious organizations — often assert that illegal aliens only take jobs Americans “will not do.” This is patently false because they are working in jobs in which U.S. workers are also employed — whether in construction, agricultural harvesting, or service professions. In fact, as one study demonstrates, “of the 474 civilian occupations, only six are majority immigrant (legal and illegal).”
When the hiring of illegal alien workers is prevalent in a sector of the economy, such as it is in seasonal crop agriculture, employers come to rely on illegal workers who will work for less in order to protect their bottom line. In turn, this depresses wages and working conditions for all workers in that occupation. For obvious reasons, these jobs and the wages offered become less attractive to U.S. workers who have other options.
How Many Illegal Aliens Work in the U.S.?
One recent Pew Hispanic Center estimate puts the number of illegal aliens employed in the U.S. in 2016 at 7.8 million out of an overall population of 10.7 million illegal aliens, i.e., 73 percent. That estimate is generally accepted as reasonable.
FAIR’s estimate of the illegal alien population in 2017 is 12.5 million. Consequently, our estimate of the number of illegal aliens in the workforce — using the share estimate of the Pew study — is similarly slightly higher, i.e., about 9.1 million jobs encumbered by illegal alien workers.
According to Pew, the illegal alien component of the U.S. labor force has consistently hovered at around 5 percent (Pew Hispanic, November 27, 2018), although in a few states that percentage is significantly higher (Ibid., November 3, 2016). These states include: Nevada (10.4 percent), California (9 percent), Texas (8.5 percent), and New Jersey (7.9 percent).
Illegal Immigration is Not Necessary for the U.S. Economy
The advocates of open borders and cheap-labor business lobbyists would have Americans believe that the U.S. economy would suddenly collapse without illegal immigration and cheap foreign labor. This is a classic scare tactic. It is also implicitly based on the false and outright insulting claim that native-born Americans are somehow averse to hard work. The fact, however, is that the average American works more hours annually than do the inhabitants of most other developed nations. Moreover, Americans will perform any work for a market-clearing wage and under safe working conditions.