Immigration does not happen in a vacuum. Unless you look at the economic and political system you end up blaming victims and giving the perpetrators a free pass. The ultimate perpetrator is the profits system, at home and abroad. It’s not that all these immigrants prefer to live in the United States or the European Union. They’d much rather remain with their families and friends, be able to speak their native language at all times, and avoid the hardships imposed on them by the xenophobes and right-wing.
There is no question that life is getting harder, more precarious, more stressful, and less certain for the majority of people. In the US and across Europe, racist and nationalist politicians are blaming this on immigrants and refugees. Nevertheless, on 18 February over 160,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona to demand that Spain takes in more refugees, highlighting the support for a politics that cares for migrants and refugees. There needs to be a widespread campaign that provides real explanations of why people are suffering, and that exhorts struggles for real solutions. Simply condemning anti-immigrant nationalism is not enough. The reason you can’t afford your rent is because of unscrupulous landlords, a lack of social housing, and property being purchased as assets and investments from overseas. The reason social services are being cut are because the central government transferred huge amounts of public funds into propping up a financial elite or to fund foreign military missions. For those who care about the work and living standards of the entire global working class, not just indigenous workers, it is important to note that wage, job and living condition improvements experienced by workers who move from poor to wealthy countries are massive compared with any reductions native workers experience as a result. Immigrants aren’t unnaturally obedient or authority-obeying people. But even a difficult, dirty and poorly paid job is a ticket out of developing-world misery and terror for many.
There is no basis for the claim that undocumented immigrants—or any other part of the immigrant population—are disproportionately prone to criminal activity. A recent study by the venerable criminal and social justice research and advocacy group The Sentencing Project showed that the opposite is true: “Foreign-born residents of the United States commit crime less often than native-born citizens.” The report even suggests that “higher levels of immigration in recent decades may have contributed to [a] historic drop in [U.S.] crime rates.
What about the claim that immigration depresses wages? To say that immigrant workers are “stealing” jobs that would otherwise be available for U.S.-born workers is misleading. It finds little support in serious social science research. A study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute seven years ago found solid evidence backing what the EPI called “broad agreement among academic economists” that “immigration has a small but positive impact on the wages of native-born workers overall.” Except for male U.S.-born workers with no high school degree in California (where immigrant competition caused a 2.9 percent relative real-wage decline between 1994 and 2007), the EPI found minimal justification for the idea that recent immigration has had a significant negative impact on U.S.-born workers’ incomes. Immigration, in fact, shows a modestly positive effect on “native” U.S. workers’ wages, the EPI determined. The finding is less counterintuitive than it might at first seem. It is true that new immigrant workers add to local “unskilled” labor supplies. They feed what Karl Marx called the reserve army of labour, exercising downward pressure on wages at the bottom of the labour market. But those workers also consume goods and services, which creates jobs. Job creation tightens the job market and thereby increases the marketplace bargaining power of native-born (and other) workers.
As economist Kim Moody has noted, many jobs immigrant workers “take” exist because “natural” U.S. population growth is too weak to fill them, because “racism blocks ‘native’ blacks, particularly young black men from some of them,” and because many “native” whites and blacks are unwilling to do jobs immigrants willingly perform.
Recent immigrant influxes to the U.S. have been correlated with wage stagnation and other forms of declining job quality. But correlation is not causation. A number of factors aside from immigration have combined to erode working and living standards for the U.S. working class over the last four decades. The culprits include the drastic decline of unionisation, automation (technical displacement), the falling value of the minimum wage, the shredding of the social welfare safety net, and global trade and investment practices that “expose U.S. workers with low levels of education to competition from much lower wage workers around the globe.” They are part of a determined and many-sided, top-down effort to suppress wages at the bottom and concentrate wealth at the top.
Immigrant labour would have less or no depressive impact on “native” U.S. workers’ bargaining power if immigrant workers were accorded full civil and economic rights and if U.S. unions were strong and willing to aggressively organize them.
The call to deport immigrants back to their lands of origin carries more than a hint of sadistic racism. It amounts to sending people back to regions where it is impossible to make a decent living and where violence and terror are a constant threat.
The whole immigration thing is not about immigration. What’s really going on is that the world economy is in trouble. Capitalism isn’t working for the majority of American people and that’s true of the British people, and the French people etc. These societies are not working well and when societies begin to break down, when their problem gets to the point where we are at, you face a kind of existential crisis and when a system is in crisis, it’s got to come up with an explanation for its problems that lead to actions that can be taken that leave the system out of the debate. That’s what the immigration issue is for. The Socialist Party raise it voice to say “it’s the system” and to tell you it’s the capitalist system. Capitalism naturally produces extreme downward pressure on the incomes of the vast majority (the working class), and demands freedom of capital to migrate, in order to maximise profit for a tiny privileged minority (the ruling class). Capitalism is therefore in direct opposition to any form of real social democracy.
● Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. contribute nearly $12 billion each year to state and local tax coffers in the form of income taxes, property taxes and sales or excise taxes.
● The average tax rate for undocumented immigrants in the country (8 percent) is higher than the rate paid by America’s top 1 percent (5.4 percent).
● Three-fourths of the “illegal” population pays into Social Security—a system they aren’t eligible to benefit from.
● Immigrants added $1.6 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product in 2013.
● Immigrants started 28 percent of all new U.S. businesses, despite accounting for only 13 percent of the U.S. population in 2011.