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Joe Guzzardi: Thousands of Migrants Pressing North is Bad for Almost Everyone

As the latest Central American caravan presses north, it grows in size, and as of last week reached more than 7,000-strong. Whether 700 or 7,000 migrants ever enter the United States, their presence would be bad for almost everyone, including many migrants, which I’ll explain later.

“Winners” would be the immigration lawyers and cheap labor employers. Losers would be the unemployed and underemployed Americans, especially minorities; the social service providers, already overburdened, and U.S. taxpayers who must fund this tremendous resettlement.

For days, hundreds of Central Americans, mostly Honduran women, children and young men under age 35, have fearlessly, often aggressively, crossed immigration checkpoints, military bases and police in their organized march toward the United States.

In a departure from form, Mexico has made some effort to slow the caravan, and Mexican officials made arrests in Ciudad Hidalgo, a Mexican border town. Among those detained was the director of the open border group Pueblo Sin Fronteras.

On the whole, however, Mexico has allowed most to proceed without intervention.

The argument over whether the migrants should be admitted on humanitarian grounds or denied in order to preserve a semblance of common sense in the nation’s immigration laws fails to consider the long view: what happens to the Central Americans after they’re released into the United States?

History shows that once prior caravan participants reached the U.S. interior, they’re here for good. In May, a caravan made it into the United States. Caravan members applied for asylum and were released into the general population.

Permanent presence in the United States, legal or illegal, means that migrants will need jobs to sustain themselves.

Profiled by The New York Times and The Associated Press, the migrants all noted that their main objective is to find employment. According to The Times, one migrant after another told reporters that they’re seeking trabajo — work — in construction, restaurants, landscaping or cleaning.

But being unemployed back home or seeking the proverbial better life doesn’t qualify as a valid asylum claim. Proof: when they reach immigration court, most asylum claims are denied. In 2016, Mexico’s denial rate was 89.6 percent; El Salvador, 82.9 percent; Honduras, 80.3 percent; and Guatemala, 77.2 percent.

As for the migrants, imagine that a lifelong resident of Honduras eventually reached Los Angeles or any other major metropolis, 3,000 miles from his home, family, friends, language and customs.

Major U.S. cities are completely beyond anything the migrant had ever imagined, a new and baffling world. Since only Central American elites speak English or have marketable skills, newly arrived migrants are often economically forced into menial jobs and subject to criminal wage exploitation.

A study by the National Employment Law Project found that 37 percent of illegal immigrant workers are wage exploitation victims. An even higher 84 percent were not paid overtime when they worked more than 40 hours.

The McKinsey Global Institute projects that in 2020 relative to the available number of jobs, there could be 6 million Americans without a high school diploma who won’t be able to find employment. Even if McKinsey has overestimated the number, the United States has no need for more low-skilled labor that the caravan is bringing.

Congress has repeatedly failed to eliminate the loopholes that allow illegal immigrants to make asylum claims that lead to their release. The negative consequences include an expansion of the lower end of the labor market and vulnerable American workers are made even more so.

Luma Simms, a fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center, once asked if immigration is good for immigrants. Her answer: the best thing for immigrants comes when the United States does everything it can to “give immigrants and refugees a future and a hope in their own lands.”

— Joe Guzzardi is an analyst and researcher with Progressives for Immigration Reform who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter: @joeguzzardi19. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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