Immigration Myths

The following is an archive of all previous “Immigration Myths” posts.

Immigration Myths: #1 “They Take Our Jobs”

The first myth we are going to look at will one of the most popular among critics of immigration. In her book Aviva Chomsky highlights two fallacies that seem to feed into this myth. The first one being the idea of the “American job”. This may very well have been the case some 30 to 40  years ago, but in the globalized world we live in this is simply not the case. The second fallacy resides in the idea that immigration and immigrants reduce the number of jobs available to people already in the United States.

In todays economy business are doing whatever they can to keep costs low and profits high. A good majority of companies do this through out sourcing their labor to other countries with cheaper labor, which often times also means worse working conditions for employees and little or no worker rights or protections. Chomsky writes “by maintaining and exploiting global inequalities, the US economic system has managed to create a high profit/cheap product model.”

When it comes to the increase of immigrants reducing the amount of jobs available, there is simple no valid correlation between the increase of immigrants and unemployment. In fact during the depression when unemployment was at its all time high, immigration was also at one of its lowest points in our nations history. Some argue that the increase of population actual helps. As populations in communities increase it is common to see those communities expand in the areas of commerce and service.

The number of jobs in this country is not finite, if it were then it would reason that when the population increases, which it has been doing for years, then unemployment would also rise. This is simply not the case. Our economic systems are complicated to be sure, but to single out a segment of a population due to anger over unemployment when there is insufficient evidence to support these claims is  simply not the answer.

Immigration Myths: #2 “Immigrants compete with low skilled workers and drive down wages”

In our second installment of our monthly look at immigration myths we look at one that goes well with the first myth we talked about. As you may recall last month we covered the myth that immigrants take “american jobs”. We talked about the US economic system creating a high profit/low production model which has caused corporations and business to go wherever work is cheapest, often times leading them outside the US.

In her book Aviva Chomsky doesn’t argue that immigrants in no way compete with low skilled workers, what she does argues is that this happens because the structures in place bring about this competition. She points out that at one point or another industry has always had a section of the population with which to turn to when not wanting to provide workers with all of the rights that they should be afforded. This happened in the south, while the north was making gains in the creation of unions, and workers rights, the south held on to their use of slaves for their ability to work in conditions others would not.

Chomsky writes “It was the institutions of slavery and racial exclusion, the disenfranchisement and dispossession of African Americans, combined with white racism, that prevented poor southern whites-as well as blacks-from achieving social justice and equality.”

So what we have essentially is a system that while discouraging undocumented workers, is in fact looking for a section of the population to work that do not need the rights of documented workers. This causes pull forces that draw in undocumented workers from other countries.

The answer to the low wage problem Chomsky writes is, “not to restrict the rights of people at the bottom even more(through deportation, criminalization, etc.) but to challenge the accord between business and government that promotes the low-wage, high profits model.” “Expanding democratic rights downward benefits everyone, especially those at the lower end”.