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CBO – The Role of Immigrants in the U.S. Labor Market

This is a very interesting report from the CBO.  Let me start out by saying a couple of things here. 1: I am both a product of immigrants from Italy, Ireland, Germany and England, and of American Indian ancestry.  So I guess that makes me both a proud product of (legal) immigrants to the USA,  and a product of the original possessors of this land and country.  2: I am a firm believer in comprehensive immigration reform. What is my definition of comprehensive immigration reform? Simple. 1: Effectively and immediately secure and manage our borders. 2: Create a comprehensive program to deal with the 12+ million folks here illegally – of ALL nationalities. 3: Ensure a legal and effective path to citizen ship for those who truly want to assimilate, contribute to our society, economy and national value i.e. fully becoming an American. 4: Attract educated and motivated people from around the world who can and want to contribute to our growth, national values and defense, and economic success. Thus, creating jobs, opening business, innovating, etc.

Just like many immigrants from China, Korea, Japan, Western and Eastern Europe, etc.. They come to build a better live and ultimately build a better country. To be part of something special. Something exceptional. To become an American. These people, families – immigrants could go any where i.e. Germany, Canada, Australia, the UK, etc. And many do and contribute in a positive and exceptional manner to those countries.

Yes, I know immigration is a touchy and politically sensitive topic. (I can also hear some of you saying what the hell does this have to do with business, innovation, etc. Keep reading.) But the reality in America is that its a huge uncontrolled mess with a critical negative impact and consequence for national security, national prosperity, employment, and economic issues facing all American’s and American Business. To quote a Founding Father, shrewd business man and objective thinking – Benjamin Franklin “The importation of foreigners into a country that has as many inhabitants as the present employments and provisions for subsistence will bear, will be in the end no increase of people, unless the new comers have more industry and frugality than the natives, and then they will provide more subsistence, and increase in the country; but they will gradually eat the natives out. Nor is it necessary to bring in foreigners to fill up any occasional vacancy in a country for such vacancy will soon be filled by natural generation.”
(“Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind and the Peopling of Countries,” 1751)

This brings me to my point and this report from the CBO. One of the biggest strengths the United States has is its diversity of culture and thinking. We are a truly a nation of immigrants. A nation of immigrants that have traditionally and historically followed the law, assimilated into our national ideals and collectivly worked to build a greater country for both their family and their fellow citizens. Throughout American history many if not most of these immigrants brought with them highly skilled labor, professional skills in medicine, science, technology, and much more. ALL of which have directly and tangibly contributed to and made a direct impact on our national success and identity.

What the CBO’s report is showing is that the current flood of immigrants over the last decade, etc. to the U.S. are primarily from Mexico and Central America. Many illegally. More importantly, over half of the immigrant population in 2009 coming from these regions did not even have a high school diploma OR GED credential.

How does this help America and American Business? OR any country for that matter facing a similar challenge. It doesn’t. We are not an agrarian society any more, nor a manufacturing one since we off shore everything to China! So…. what to do in a world and country, in this case the USA, that is heavily technology and information based. These types of economies need and require skilled, educated, trained, intelligent and innovative workers. Not an uneducated mass of people who do not contribute to the greater growth/value and at worst, have limited potential to truly help themselves and their families to a better life . I know that sounds cruel. But reality and truth is cruel. This is fact and undisputed. It is also the nature of things through time and memorial and is nationally and regionally universal. This is the case around the world and through the centuries.

So what to do? Well, there are a lot of things that can be done now at least as far as the U.S. is concerned outside of the 4 definitions of immigration reform I outlined above. Some ideas include the following:

  • Create an accelerated recruitment and fast track to citizenship program for highly skilled , trained, and motivated people who are interested in wanting to become an American citizen, contribute to our country, and build a better life for their family and ours.
  • Help support Universities and Colleges to work with foreign students who want to stay, become citizens, and contribute to America i.e. attract bright minds, hard workers and motivated people who want to become a positive part of our country.
  • Create a more efficient and effective work visa programs for people who want to come here legally, work and contribute but may not for legitimate reasons want to become an American.
  • Help educate and/or re-educate/train American’s who have lost their jobs to out sourcing, economic issues, etc. Lend a helping hand to lift up American’s who are willing, able, and motivated to learn, contribute and prosper.
  • Create tax credits to help American’s who cant afford to send their kids or themselves to college so they can learn and gain the skills necessary  to contribute more effectively to their own lives and those of their fellow citizens.
  • Create a tax system that enables American business – small, medium and large, to recruit, hire, train and place American workers to succeed and excel in today’s global economy. Do you know that American businesses pay the highest corporate tax rates in the world when combining Federal, State and Local taxes? Add to this the upcoming tax changes and you kill small business. Do you really have to ask why American companies send jobs and work to China, Egypt, Vietnam, etc.? We need something like Ireland’s corporate tax plan.
  • Punish American business that knowingly hires, retains, and utilizes illegal aliens/immigrants – regardless of nationality and country of origin. We are a nation of laws. Additionally, we don’t need no new laws. Simply enforce what we have in place.
  • Look at the situation holistically and from a point of reality not from one political view or another. Look at it Nationally and whats in the best interest of the country and the American people first. Most importantly what is consistent and in compliance with the Constitution and laws of our nation.
  • And more.

Look, this isn’t rocket science. Its not complicated. In fact, the Constitution is pretty clear on this. The existing laws of the nation are clear on this. So what is the problem here? In addition to the Constitution and existing laws,  there are additional  real, effective, simple and productive ways to create a win win for all and work within the framework of our laws and constitution. However, it is politically tough, sensitive, and when viewed from prejudiced, biased, and close minded binders its becomes damn near impossible. Especially in our current political climate. It takes will, perseverance,  vision and an understanding of the Constitution and will of the American people to lead. Currently, we don’t have that in our national leadership. To quote the former President of MIT – Francis Walker (President MIT 1881-1897)

“For it is never to be forgotten that self-defense is the first law of nature and of nations. If that man who careth not for his own household is worse than an infidel, the nation which permits its institutions to be endangered by any cause which can fairly be removed is guilty not less in Christian than in natural law. Charity begins at home; and while the people of the United States have gladly offered an asylum to millions upon millions of the distressed and unfortunate of other lands and climes, they have no right to carry their hospitality one step beyond the line where American institutions, the American rate of wages, the American standard of living, are brought into serious peril. “Restriction of Immigration” by Francis A. Walker, The Atlantic Monthly, June, 1896; Vol. 77, No. 464; pages 822-829.

The current path we are on as a nation is one of peril and unsustainability, especially when viewed through unbiased reality supported by the CBO’s report. We need REAL pro-active and pro-American change and now. The alternative is bad for everyone – Americans, American Business, and immigrants. I would be curious as to your thoughts on this. Please comment!


One final thought: The U.S. is not the only country that has this problem. Look at Germany, the U.K, Canada, Australia, France, etc. Some countries control and manage this challenge tightly i.e. Switzerland, others are an abysmal failure – the USA.


People born in other countries represent a substantial and growing segment of the U.S. labor force—that is, people with a job or looking for one. In 2009, 24 million members of the labor force—more than one in seven—were foreign born, up from 21 million in 2004. However, the growth of the foreign-born labor force was much slower between 2004 and 2009 than between 1994 and 2004. In that earlier period, the size of the foreign-born labor force grew at an average annual rate of more than 5 percent, whereas from 2004 to 2009, the rate was about 2 percent. As a share of the total, the foreign-born labor force grew from 10.0 percent in 1994 to 14.5 percent in 2004 and to 15.5 percent in 2009.

Among members of the foreign-born labor force in the United States in 2009, about half came to this country before 1994. In 2009, 40 percent of the foreign-born labor force was from Mexico and Central America, and more than 25 percent was from Asia.

In 2009, over half of the foreign-born workers from Mexico and Central America did not have a high school diploma or GED credential, as compared with just 6 percent of native-born workers. In contrast, nearly half of the foreign-born workers from places other than Mexico and Central America had at least a bachelor’s degree, as compared with 35 percent of native-born workers.

Over time, participants in the U.S. labor force from Mexico and Central America have become more educated. In 2009, they had completed an average of 9.8 years of schooling— up from 9.5 years in 2004; 55 percent lacked a high school diploma or GED credential — down from 59 percent in 2004; and among 16- to 24-year-olds, 50 percent were not in school and were not high school graduates — down from 60 percent in 2004. Nevertheless, those born in Mexico and Central America are constituting an increasingly large share of the least educated portions of the labor force. For example, in 2009 they made up 64 percent of labor force participants with at most an 8th grade education — a figure that was 58 percent in 2004.

To a considerable extent, educational attainment determines the role of foreign-born workers in the labor market. In 2009, 70 percent of workers born in Mexico and Central America were employed in occupations that have minimal educational requirements, such as construction laborer and dishwasher; only 23 percent of native-born workers held such jobs. On average, the weekly earnings of men from Mexico and Central America who worked full time were just over half those of native-born men; women from Mexico and Central America earned about three-fifths of the average weekly earnings of native-born women.

Foreign-born workers who came to the United States from places other than Mexico and Central America were employed in a much broader range of occupations. They were more than twice as likely as native-born workers to be in fields such as computer and mathematical sciences, which generally require at least a college education. Their average weekly earnings were similar to those of native-born men and women.

The information on immigration in this report comes from the Current Population Survey, a survey of U.S. households conducted monthly by the Census Bureau. The survey asks respondents where they and their parents were born. Those who were born in another country are asked when they came to the United States to stay and if they have become a U.S. citizen by naturalization. They are not asked about their legal immigration status.



Written by David Frederick

July 30, 2010 at 1:40 PM

One Response

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  1. Very interesting report about the U.S. Immigrants. Looking forward to get there in the future.

    Accountancy Recruitment

    July 31, 2010 at 3:15 AM

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