Put aside the victory lap that President Donald Trump’s administration is taking over the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to uphold the White House’s travel ban from several mostly Muslim majority countries. Ignore the outrage of the refugee advocacy groups over what they call a retreat from traditional American values.
Reducing the refugee flow could and should be a shot in the arm for unemployed and under-employed, low-skilled Americans. Refugees are, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, “aliens authorized to work.” As such, they can immediately compete with American job seekers or possibly displace citizen job holders.
Many major American employers have embarked on a campaign to hire refugees and give them jobs that most citizens and already-present lawful immigrants would eagerly accept. A 50-strong coalition of employers brainstormed on ways to provide greater opportunities to recently arrived refugees.
When Time asked the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants for estimates about employment totals, it said that its nine-agency network placed 4,816 refugees in jobs within six months of their arrival. The employers include hotel and resort chains Hilton and Marriott, and upscale supermarket Whole Foods. Refugees provide convenient, pliable cheap labor.
By extension then, the total number of refugees placed in U.S. jobs in recent years is likely to be in the tens of thousands. Most USCRI-placed are employed in low-level jobs, earning an average of $10.26 per hour.
The total of working refugees and their earnings may seem insignificant to the casual observer unless he happens to be an unemployed or under-employed American. An abundance of low-skilled immigrants drives down opportunities and wages for similarly low-skilled native-born.
On the other hand, many refugees don’t enter the labor market, but instead depend on social services. The pro-immigration Migration Policy Institute found that welfare usage varied widely depending on country of origin. But refugee families immediately qualify for cash welfare benefits, food assistance and public health insurance.
Most other legal immigrants are ineligible to receive these benefits for their first five years of residency, and illegal immigrants are barred altogether. Consequently, the refugee population as a whole is more likely to receive U.S. taxpayer-subsidized affirmative benefits than either the nonrefugee immigrant or the U.S.-born populations.
Immigrants simply are expensive for American taxpayers. In 2016, 42 percent of noncitizen households received some type of federal assistance, most often cash, food stamps and Medicare. The Supreme Court outcome will also slow the importation of poverty, a questionable public policy in light of the nation’s acute income inequality disparity, on the increase since 1970.
By slowing the refugee stream, the Supreme Court decision means that the labor market will tighten, and therefore create more employment chances for Americans and likely at higher wages than previously offered. Those who live below the poverty line and are welfare-dependent should also decline.
— Joe Guzzardi is an analyst and researcher with Progressives for Immigration Reform who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @joeguzzardi19. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.