Ira Mehlman


Last week, President Obama laid out for Congress and the American public his plan to address the nation’s unemployment crisis. The proposal calls for $447 billion in government stimulus spending, which the president estimates will result in 1.3 million new U.S. jobs by the end of 2012.

Given the magnitude of the unemployment problem we are facing, 1.3 million new jobs would represent an improvement, though clearly not a panacea. Then there’s the matter of the $447 billion. The president assures us that his program will not increase overall government spending and will not add to the deficit. That means, of course, that there will be $447 billion less that is available for other programs funded by the federal government.

While any new jobs would be welcome, the president’s plan to put Americans back to work neglects some 7 million existing U.S. jobs which should be available to American workers, but are not. Seven million is the estimated number of jobs held by illegal aliens. In addition to harming American workers who might otherwise fill these positions, it is estimated that about half of the illegal aliens employed in this country are working off-the-books, thus denying the Treasury substantial tax revenues.

The president’s failure to consider jobs now held by illegal aliens as part of his effort to deal with unemployment is not an oversight; it is a conscious policy decision. Just three weeks before his speech to Congress, his Administration announced that it would all but cease to enforce immigration laws against non-criminal aliens and would begin exercising (dubious) discretionary powers to grant work authorization to many illegal aliens.

Enforcing immigration laws would not provide a panacea to unemployment either, but it would have a much greater impact than the plan proposed by President Obama and wouldn’t cost nearly as much. For one thing, the jobs don’t need to be created; they already exist. Even if only half of the jobs held by illegal aliens were filled by American workers, it would still open up nearly three times as many jobs as the president hopes to create through his plan.

Second, freeing up existing jobs would cost a fraction of what it costs to create a new one. Under the president’s $447 billion package, the government would spend about $344,000 for each of the 1.3 million new jobs the Administration expects to create.

Ira Mehlman

Ira Mehlman is the Media Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.