The ignored elephant in the immigration debate is the negative impact of illegal immigration on job opportunities for unskilled, uneducated, native-born U.S. workers -- particularly young African-Americans, but also native-born Hispanics. In their Hollywood debate, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton refused to admit immigration "hits poor and minorities hardest" as the cliché goes.
While some proponents of a liberal immigration policy admit to anecdotal evidence of the elephant's existence, they typically discount a causal relationship between employed illegal immigrants and unemployed citizens.
Granted, it's hard to document employers hiring illegal immigrants over legal applicants; after all, it's against the law. But it's not necessary to film it happening to know that it is. Statistics tell the story.
First, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, from December 2006 - December 2007 unemployment among Hispanics (legal workers assumed since why would illegals participate in a census?) rose from 5.0 to 6.3%. The number for unemployed African-Americans increased from 7.9 to 9.0%. Second, the U.S. government may be vastly underestimating the number of illegal laborers in the work force. In January 2005, Bear Sterns Asset Management, Inc. released a report entitled "The Underground Labor Force Is Rising To The Surface," that states,
"The number of illegal immigrants in the United States may be as high as 20 million people, more than double the official 9 million people estimated by the Census Bureau.
Undocumented immigrants are gaining a larger share of the job market, and hold approximately 12 to 15 million jobs in the United States - 8% of the employed.
Third, native born Hispanics are not faring as well in the job market as foreign-born Latinos. A report from the Pew Hispanic Center entitled "Latino Labor Report 2006: Strong Gains in Employment," dated September 27, 2006, statistically separates foreign-born Latinos and native-born Hispanics.
"Foreign-born Latinos continued to dominate the Hispanic labor force. About eight out of every 10 new jobs landed by Latinos in 2005-2006 went to foreign-born Latinos.
The unemployment rate for foreign-born Latinos was 3.9% in the second quarter of 2006, a decrease from 4.6% a year earlier. Among native-born Hispanics, the unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2006 was 6.2%, down from 7.2% in the second quarter of 2005.
The wide array of statistics available from government and private sector sources leads to this conclusion: Unemployment disproportionately hits unskilled, uneducated blacks and native-born Hispanics. Why? It is simple, business economics: (1) In the unskilled labor market, legal workers offer no greater productivity than comparable illegal ones; (2) legal hiring requires employers to conform to U.S. law; and (3) citizen new hires often expect benefits. In short, more illegal workers cost employers less.
The flood of undocumented workers into the U.S. labor market is a grand national social-engineering project undertaken with the tacit approval of both major political parties. It's happening without counting the short- or long-term costs to the U.S. labor market and general economy.
The luminaries inside the Beltway seem oblivious to the collateral damage that our open southern border exacts on young black and Hispanic high school dropouts. For example, in March 2007, the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, chaired by Senator Charles Schumer (D.-NY), held hearings on "Addressing the Problem of African-American Male Unemployment." Both Senators Clinton and Obama submitted written statements in their absence. In Schumer's opening remarks he said,
"The growing crisis of joblessness for young African American men...is profound, persistent and perplexing...In 1999, 65% of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless - in other words, not looking or unable to find work - and by 2004, the share had grown to 72%. 72% jobless! This compares to 29% of white and 19% Hispanic dropouts." [emphasis added]
What is most perplexing is the absence of any reference to a major contributing factor to the "Problem of African-American Male Unemployment." None of the 23 references to "workers" in the official transcript refers to illegal workers. The word "immigration" appears in neither Clinton's nor Obama's written statement. Nor, according to the transcript, was the word spoken during the hearings. The elephant was invisible.
Had Frederick Douglass been able to testify, he might have repeated what he said before the A. A. S. Society in New York, May 1853, during the great wave of immigration before the Civil War:
"Every hour sees the black man elbowed out of employment by some newly arrived emigrant, whose hunger and whose color are thought to give him a better title to the place."
The elephant has been in the room for years, growing larger. Steven Camarota, author of "Dropping Out: Immigrant Entry and Native Exit From the Labor Market, 2000-2005," released by the Center for Immigration Studies, writes:
...between March 2000 and March 2005 only 9 percent of the net increase in jobs for adults (18 to 64) went to natives. This is striking because natives accounted for 61 percent of the net increase in the overall size of the 18 to 64 year old population.
As for the less-educated, between March of 2000 and 2005 the number of adult immigrants (legal and illegal) with only a high school degree or less in the labor force increased by 1.6 million.
At the same time, unemployment among less-educated adult natives increased by nearly one million, and the number of natives who left the labor force altogether increased by 1.5 million. Persons not in the labor force are neither working nor looking for work. As poor, unskilled, uneducated illegal immigrants, largely from Mexico, enter the U.S. labor force, their native-born counterparts exit.