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Joe Guzzardi: Amnesty for immigrants won’t help local economy

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Posted: Saturday, November 9, 2013 12:00 am

Obamacare isn’t the only subject the president has been lying about for months. The Affordable Care Act and its disastrous consequences have gotten most of the publicity and has pushed comprehensive immigration reform off the front page.

But since January, when the Senate Gang of 8 began drafting the bill it eventually passed in June, Obama has consistently and defiantly lied about what increased levels of immigration would mean for the nation. In his White House meeting earlier this week with corporate executives, Obama said that immigration reform would represent “a substantive win for the U.S. economy and the American people.”

Here are the crucial facts that Obama and Congress have consistently ignored: Reform — as defined in the Senate and House bills, S. 744 and H.R. 15 — would legalize 11 million illegal immigrants and give them instant work authorization. Once they become legally employable, former aliens can immediately compete with 20 million unemployed or under-employed Americans.

Furthermore — again using Congress’ interpretation of reform — during the next two decades, at least 20 million more workers, skilled and unskilled, would come to the United States on non-immigrant visas. Increasing the labor pool by more than 30 million workers within 20 years would devastate unemployed Americans, especially black and Hispanic minorities.

In its annual “State of Working America” chart, the Economic Policy Institute irrefutably proved that the last thing the labor market needs is more workers. Using statistics from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, EPI analyzed 17 job categories and reviewed them to determine the numbers employed in those fields versus those looking for work. In each of the 17 fields, many more were unemployed than employed.

Here’s a sampling: In construction, more than five times as many people were unemployed than employed; in retail, hospitality, education and manufacturing, all more than three times unemployed than employed.

Job seekers might have better luck in professional and business services, where only twice as many are unemployed than there are available jobs. The finance and insurance sector, where a college diploma may be required, has a 1.25 ratio of unemployed to employed.

Just so readers are clear on my source’s validity: According to its website, “The EPI is a nonprofit, non-partisan think tank, created in 1986 to broaden discussions about economic policy to include the needs of lowand middle-income workers. EPI believes every working person deserves a good job with fair pay, affordable health care and retirement security.”

More immigration would have different effects in different parts of the country. The San José metropolitan area that includes Silicon Valley has a 6.6 percent unemployment rate, the lowest it has been since Sept. 2008. But Lodi has a 9.6 unemployment rate. Since neither statistic includes workers who have stopped looking for jobs, they don’t reflect how dire the employment market is.

But, obviously, a looser labor market would hurt Lodi more than San José. Lodi’s residents have enough fiscal challenges without adding more workers into the mix.

Census Bureau data show that the income per capita in Lodi is 21.8 percent less than the California average and 8 percent less than the national average. Lodi’s median household income is 24.5 percent less than the California average and 6.9 percent less than the national average. Regarding the poverty level, Lodi’s is 23.6 percent higher than the California average and 36 percent higher than the national average.

If there’s any way that expanding the labor pool would help Lodi’s unemployed or working poor, I’d like to hear it.

Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. Contact him at

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