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Think. Discuss. Act. Immigration

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Review: The Stolen Job Myth

Jeff Jacoby (2014, July 3). “The Stolen Job Myth: Immigrants aren’t taking jobs that ‘belong’ to Americans.” The Boston Globe, A11.


Jeff Jacoby is recognized as a “conservative” opinion in The Boston Globe. So, the position he takes here does not seem to come particularly from “right” or “left” perspective. He is taking on “America’s energetic anti-immigration advocates.” His article’s basic claim is that their own “jobs wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the influx of immigrants they spend their days seeking to curtail.” The arguments against sane immigration, the author says, defies logic:

… immigrants can be depicted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as indolent leeches who flock to the United States to go on welfare—and condemned on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for taking away jobs that would otherwise go to Americans.

Jacoby summarizes the anti-immigration position from the Center for Immigration Studies which favors a sharp reduction in immigration:

All the net jobs created in the United States over the past 14 years have gone to immigrants, both legal and illegal. Using data collected by the Census Bureau, the report’s authors, Steven Camarota and Karen Ziegler, not that between 2000 and 2014, the number of working-age native-born Americans with jobs decline by 127,000, while the number of immigrants with jobs climbed by 5.7 million.

“This is truly remarkable,” Camerota and Ziegler write, “because natives accounted for two-thirds of overall population growth among the working-age population.” As a result, the number of US-born natives who don’t have jobs—both the unemployed as well as those who have dropped out of the labor force altogether—has swelled by 17 million since 2000.

The takeaway? Far more native-born Americans would be working if immigrants hadn’t soaked up all the job growth since the turn of the 21st century.

Such facts would seem to argue for deportation of illegals and a sealing of our borders. But according to Jacoby: “… the report’s incendiary conclusion—‘What employment growth there has been has all gone to immigrants’—doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.”

To begin with, the number of native-born Americans working in 2014 has not declined since 2000. It has increased by 2.6 million. The author acknowledges as much in an endnote. It is only by excluding the record-high cohort of workers 65 and older, one of the fastest-growing age groups in the labor market, that Camarota and Ziegler can claim that immigrants are taking all the available new jobs.

This, of course, brings in an entirely different but challenging issue. Builders (born before 1946) and Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are living longer and find themselves needing to support their cash-strapped children and grandchildren. But should their wanting or needing to work into their 80’s, and sometimes 90’s, keep a younger generation from jobs (for instance, professorial positions)? But back to this article’s issue—as Jacoby argues:

In the zero-sum world of the anti-immigrant advocates, foreign-born workers can only gain at the expense of the native-born. But in the real world, immigration generally enlarges the economy, boosts productivity, and adds jobs. Immigrants amount to only 13 percent of the U.S. population. Yet 28 percent of all new American companies launched in 2011, as Rupert Murdoch wrote in a Wall Street Journal essay last month, were founded by immigrants (“Immigration Reform Can’t Wait,”, accessed 2July2014).

Jacoby further argues that US-born citizens and immigrants are not competing for the same jobs. Immigrants are most likely employed at high-end and low-end paying positions, “while most Americans have skills in the middle. Supplying the immigrant skills needed by the economy simultaneously enlarges demand for native skills.” Employment gains for immigrants and native-born tend to move in the same direction. And finally, immigrants tend to be more flexible and mobile in going where their skills are needed.

Less encumbered by local ties, they are quicker to take advantage of employment opportunities (elsewhere). Their hustle is admirable, not a cause for resentment.

Immigrants aren’t taking jobs that “belong” to Americans. They are fueling the economic engine that creates more opportunity for everyone, and we would be far poorer without them.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you agree or disagree with Jacoby’s point of view on immigration?        Do you have personal experience to draw on?
  2. Have you employed immigrants and/or do you know immigrants’ personal stories?
  3. With what facts or points made by the writer here do you take exception? What from this article do you think needs further examination or explanation? How might this be found?
  4. What is your opinion about the U.S. Congress’ long inability to act on an Immigration Bill, which most, including Rupert Murdoch in the Wall Street Journal, say needs to be accomplished?
  5. Does your world-view or religious orientation have anything to say on this topic?


  1. To the extent that there is an immigration problem (in most developed countries of the world), a key to this problem, as is true of so many other issues, is poverty. There is a sad failure of the world’s economic system and of national leadership in countries that people are risking their lives to leave. Corruption and crime often replace legitimate economic development.
  2. Like capitalism itself, there are “supply and demand” or “need and opportunity” principles involved in immigration. And like capitalism, immigration needs some kind of regulation and controls.
  3. Bringing together compassion and self-interest, personally and nationally, is a challenge in regards to complex issues such as immigration. That is one reason to take time to study and discuss.

Dean Borgman
© 2018 CYS

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