Unemployment Rate May Be Lower For Illegal Immigrants in US Than Nation's Black Citizens

Leah Barkoukis

3/14/2014 11:16:00 AM - Leah Barkoukis

The problem of illegal immigration in America is only getting worse as the years go by. And as those on both sides of the aisle pitch their “solutions,” it’s become all too clear that too often they aren’t addressing one of the root causes of the problem to begin with. It’s true our borders are not secure at all, despite what the Obama administration would like you to believe. But why the mad dash to enter the States? Simply put, there are jobs to be had—even though we’re a nation struggling with high unemployment.

A recent Op-Ed from the editorial staff at Bloomberg View making this point puts the problem in perspective in a very eye-opening way (emphasis mine):

As many as 8 million undocumented immigrants hold jobs in the U.S. In fact, they account for more than 5 percent of the U.S. labor force. Their unemployment rate might even be lower than that of the nation's black citizens.

And, stereotypes aside, the undocumented are hardly relegated to agriculture and domestic service. Construction, manufacturing and retail are among their biggest employers, according to the Migration Policy Institute. So, either quite a few of the nation's 6 million employers have welcomed undocumented workers into their factories and stores, or a smaller number of employers have hired an awful lot of them.

Either way, little is being done to stop the practice. Workplace enforcement is minimal. Fines are small. Amid all the political bellowing about the border, no one in Washington pays much attention to employers' practices.

Yet with 95,000 miles of shoreline, 500 commercial airports and a northern border that's twice as long as its southern one, the U.S. could transform its Southwest into North Korea and still not stem the flow of undocumented immigrants seeking work, many of whom simply overstay legitimate visas.

Essentially, if a foreigner knew they would not be able to find work in the U.S. we’d not only see less illegal immigration but unemployment rates among U.S. citizens would also decrease. What about E-Verify, you ask?

E-Verify can still be gamed. One independent study found that during a three-month period in 2008, about half the unauthorized workers whose backgrounds it checked were nonetheless approved for work. But DHS has been upgrading the system so that it can access additional databases and more carefully filter applications.

As the system improves, of course, the demand for high-quality identity fraud stands to increase commensurately -- as does off-the-books employment of undocumented workers. If Congress is serious about turning off the flow of undocumented immigrants, it will have to give DHS the resources it needs for workplace enforcement, including on-site inspections.

There has to be a will to make these policy changes, of course, which is more than half the battle.