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3 Layers of Immigration: Facts, Policy and Advocacy

We have two candidates with differing views on immigration.

One candidate wants immigration enforcement that is humane, targeted, and effective.  The focus would be on detaining and deporting those individuals who pose a violent threat to public safety, and ensure refugees who seek asylum in the U.S. have a fair chance to tell their stories.

Another candidate wants to build a wall and engage in “extreme vetting” and states that “too many visas like H-1B, have no requirement to hire Americans first.”  Further, this candidate notes, “In the year 2015, with 92 million Americans outside the workforce and incomes collapsing, we need companies to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed.”

What is important, is not rhetoric, speculation or opinion, but facts. We’ve already written about the need for interfaith action in a post-factual era, but, when it comes to the immigration debate, facts need to take precedence.

The History of the Immigration Debate

The immigration debate in the United States has a longstanding history. Over the last few decades the share of immigrants in the country has increased rapidly; according to official data, the share of foreign-born individuals in the US increased from 7.9% in 1990 to almost 13.3% in 2014, representing about 41.3 million people. Furthermore, from the total immigrant population, in 2014 about 11.3 million immigrants were estimated to be unauthorized immigrants.

These trends have shaped the immigration policy in the US and motivated a large body of research focused on examining the economic impacts of immigration. The majority of the immigration research has been focused on analyzing the effects that immigrants, particularly unauthorized/illegal immigrants, have on the wages and employment opportunities of native-born workers.

The main concerns regarding immigration are based on the expectations that the arrival of immigrants would displace natives out of their jobs, while putting downward pressures on wages. These expectations are based on a standard competitive model of supply and demand in a closed economy.

The Effects of Immigrants on the Labor Market

Despite the appeal of the theoretical framework and the anecdotal evidence connecting rising immigration rates with lower wages and higher unemployment, the research finds modest effects of immigration on the labor market opportunities of native-born workers. The large body of research finds that immigration has a negative and small, albeit statistically significant and consistent, impact on wages; some have found a positive impact on productivity and wages with only a few studies showing evidence of larger negative effects.

Regarding job displacement, most of the evidence suggests negative, but mostly small effects on employment . Similarly, most of the evidence also indicates that unemployment rates do not seem to be affected by immigration in the 3 aggregate, even among young and minority workers. Nevertheless, some of the literature states that immigration significantly reduces employment and increases native-born workers’ outmigration.

According to Rios-Avila, F. and Gustavo, Canavire-Bacarreza, evidence suggests that immigration has no effect on the availability of jobs for unemployed citizens, and no observable effects on the probability of attrition, which is related to the outmigration effect described in the literature. On the other hand, while the marginal effects are small, we do find that citizens living in states with high levels of immigration are less likely to remain unemployed for an additional month, but are more likely to leave the labor force. We suggest that the main driving force of this effect is the expectation that immigration lowers wages and reduces the number of jobs available in the job market.

The Need for Policy and Advocacy

Since 2002, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has increased the number and scope of relevant background checks, processing millions of security checks without incident. However, in some cases, USCIS customers and immigrant advocates have expressed frustration over delays in processing applications, noting that individual customers have waited a year or longer for the completion of their adjudication pending the outcome of security checks. While the percentage of applicants who find their cases delayed by pending background checks is relatively small, USCIS recognizes that for those affected individuals, the additional delay and uncertainty can cause great anxiety. Although USCIS cannot guarantee the prompt resolution of every case, they assure the public that applicants are not singled out based on race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.

There is a need for policy and advocacy.  Policy advocacy is a key component of any effort to bring about systemic change. Pushing for federal, state and local immigration policies that promote and protect the human and civil rights of immigrants has to be a critical part of the work of the volunteers and community partners. Whether it is visiting and educating legislators or administrative agencies, empowering community members to civically engage, or researching and tracking changes in immigration law, advocacy work needs to continue as a voice that promotes economic justice for immigrants within our nation.

Photo credit: © Rrodrickbeiler | Dreamstime.com

Carlos V. Guzman

Carlos V. Guzman

Carlos V. Guzman, Ph.D., teaches psychology, counseling, research and statistics at Brandman University, where he is also a part of the core planning team. He has 20 years of experience as a psychotherapist and 12 years of management and vocational rehabilitation experience within the worker’s compensation industry. He holds a Ph.D. in Psychology/Human Science from Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center in San Francisco, and an M.S. in Counseling Psychology (MFT) and a B.A. in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton.

Claremont Core

Claremont Lincoln University

1 comment

  • Thank you for your article on an important topic, Dr. Guzman.
    I myself applied for admission legally as a permanent resident and later became a naturalized citizen.

    We need to clearly differentiate between the different categories of immigrants, in order to have a clear policy and the will to execute the policy and laws with sufficient human and other resources. Politicians and interest groups often deliberately lump all categories under “immigrants” and state that this is a land of immigrants so all have a right to enter and live in the USA. The history of Native Americans who first settled the land, the Europeans who first forcibly took the land from Native Americans and then developed it, the Africans who were forcibly brought as slaves to work the European plantations, and the validity and priority of their claims is not properly considered in the big picture.

    One category of immigrants are those who enter the USA legally and often wait for years after applying due to the quota established for different countries and insufficient government resources to process applications. Within this category are those who apply for permanent residence (green cards) and who can after five years apply for full citizenship. Still another category are relatives of legal residents or citizens (under family unification laws) who sponsor (financially responsible) them
    Another sub-category of legal immigrants are those who apply for temporary residence based on their need by industries that cannot get local workers with necessary skills.

    Another category who apply for immigration legally are those who apply for political asylum with sufficient proof to back up their claims.

    Another category of immigrants are those who enter the USA illegally (without applying for immigration). This category includes people who cross borders without going through immigration checkpoints. It also includes people who enter as tourists and overstay their allocated time of stay.

    There is a valid reason for all countries to have criteria for accepting immigrants, so that their current citizens would not suffer in jobs, wages, cultural disruption, social benefits, etc. When my ancestors went to India in the ninth century C.E. to escape religious persecution from Muslim rulers of Iran (after the Arab Muslim invasion of Iran), they were given a number conditions by the Hindu ruler who accepted them, such as laying down weapons, adopting the local language, dress code that was followed by local citizens, etc.

    As an engineer and manager in several high-tech companies in California, I have seen higher management laying off some American citizens and hiring foreign temporary workers (and asking laid off workers to train their replacements). I have seen some managers not doing enough to find American workers and preferring to hire foreign workers to benefit from lower salary expenses for foreign workers. In the hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants) we also see hiring of workers without questioning their legal status in order to save on salaries.

    Our immigration and refugee policies need to study the impact of accepting applicants on resources currently available for our own poor and homeless population. Currently, senior citizen relatives of legal residents who are allowed to enter the USA based on sponsorship of their resident relatives become eligible for Supplementary Social Security payments of around $700 per person per month, even though they have not worked a single day in the USA.

    We also need to ask the rich Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia to take in Muslim refugees from middle eastern and African war torn countries. Currently they are not taking in any refugees and nobody is asking them to do their share.

Carlos V. Guzman

Carlos V. Guzman

Carlos V. Guzman, Ph.D., teaches psychology, counseling, research and statistics at Brandman University, where he is also a part of the core planning team. He has 20 years of experience as a psychotherapist and 12 years of management and vocational rehabilitation experience within the worker’s compensation industry. He holds a Ph.D. in Psychology/Human Science from Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center in San Francisco, and an M.S. in Counseling Psychology (MFT) and a B.A. in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton.

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