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.
Ironically, one of the reasons the Administration gave for curtailing deportation non-criminal aliens was the cost: about $23,000 per case. At that price we could actually deport 15 illegal aliens who hold existing U.S. jobs for what the president estimates it would cost to create one new job. In reality it would cost taxpayers a lot less because many illegal aliens do not contest their removal and, if the government made an effort to deter employers from hiring illegal aliens, many would get discouraged and leave on their own.
Even if we were to deport all 7 million illegal aliens estimated to be working in the U.S. – an idea that even immigration enforcement advocates do not suggest – the total cost to taxpayers would come to $161 billion, or about $286 billion less than what it would cost to create the 1.3 million jobs envisioned under the president’s plan.
Any jobs plan that does not call for meaningful enforcement against the employment of illegal aliens should not be taken seriously by the American public. As recently as 2007 and 2008, when the government briefly engaged in worksite immigration enforcement (and when unemployment was significantly lower), American eagerly filled the jobs vacated by illegal aliens. Moreover, given the Administration’s disavowal of many immigration laws, it is quite likely that many of the new jobs that may be created with $447 billion in federal money would be serve as a magnet for new illegal aliens to enter our labor market.
Before Congress appropriates one penny for President Obama’s jobs package it must hold him accountable for how he is spending the $5.8 billion they have already appropriated for the purpose of enforcing U.S. immigration laws. In the end, the wise expenditure of those already budgeted funds could have a much greater benefit on unemployed Americans than the exponentially larger figure the president is seeking.