TRUMP: “Working-class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal migration: reduced jobs ...” — State of the Union address.
THE FACTS: Employment data suggest that the influx of immigrants helps increase overall hiring for the U.S. economy rather than erode job growth. The trend is clear in the government’s monthly jobs report. The statistics don’t distinguish between immigrants who are in the U.S. legally and illegally.
Nearly 64 percent of immigrants hold jobs, compared with roughly 60 percent of workers born in the United States, according to the Labor Department. Last year, immigrants accounted for roughly 40 percent of the 2.4 million jobs added.
Because a steady growth in the workforce helps the economy expand, economists say fewer immigrants would equal slower growth and fewer jobs. Falling birth rates and the retirement of the vast generation of baby boomers mean fewer people will flow into the workforce in the coming years — a drag on economic growth, which will, in turn, probably limit hiring.
Many economists have noted that adding immigrants would help maintain the flow of workers into the economy and support growth.
TRUMP: “Working-class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal migration: ... lower wages ....” — State of the Union address.
THE FACTS: The weight of research suggests that immigrants have not suppressed wages.
David Card, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley first studied the issue in 1990 by reviewing the arrival of Cuban migrants in Miami during the 1980 “Mariel boat lift.” This historical rush of immigrants created a natural experiment to measure what then happened to incomes in the local area. He concluded: “The influx appears to have had virtually no effect on the wages or unemployment rates of less-skilled workers.”
Giovanni Peri, an economist at the University of California, Davis studied immigration into California between 1960 and 2005. He wrote in a 2010 paper that it had “essentially” no effect on wages or employment of native-born workers.
But many people seeking to reduce immigration rely on research from George Borjas, a Harvard economist. His research found that the arrival of Cubans in the Mariel boat lift caused wages to fall for native-born high school dropouts in Miami. Other economists have questioned his methodology.
In addition, Borjas’ findings would apply to a small fraction of U.S. jobholders today, only about 6.2 percent of whom lack a high school degree.
Other explanations for sluggish wage growth go beyond immigration. They include the decline in unionization, an intensified push to maximize corporate profits, growing health insurance costs that supplant wages and the rise of a lower-wage global labor force that in an intertwined worldwide economy can hinder pay growth for Americans.
TRUMP: “The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime, one of the highest in the entire country and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, immediately upon its building, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of the safest cities in our country. Simply put, walls work and walls save lives.” — State of the Union address.
THE FACTS: That’s a distorted picture of El Paso.
El Paso has never been considered one of the nation’s most dangerous cities. In fact, its murder rate was less than half the national average in 2005, the year before the start of its border fence. The city has experienced ebbs and flows in violent crime but they have largely mirrored national trends and been under national averages for decades.
TRUMP: “The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety and security and financial well-being of all America.” — State of the Union address.
THE FACTS: Whether the border is sufficiently secure or not cuts to the core of a heated national debate, but it’s far from lawless. The number of people arrested for crossing illegally has plunged in the past decade and is near its lowest level since the mid-1990s, illustrating a substantial downward trend in the number of migrants trying to sneak in. Border Patrol personnel, detection technology and physical barriers have increased in that time.
TRUMP: “I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever but they have to come in legally.” — State of the Union address.
THE FACTS: His policy recommendations to date do not reflect this wish.
The plan he proposed upon taking office would have sharply limited the ability of citizens and permanent residents to bring in family, which he derisively called “chain migration.” The Cato Institute, which favors more open immigration policies, estimated his plan would cut the number of legal immigrants by up to 44 percent, the largest cut to legal immigration since the 1920s.
According to data from the Homeland Security Department, about 750,000 of more than 1.1 million people who obtained green cards in 2017 — or two-thirds — did so through family relations. Trump’s plan called for limiting family-based green cards to spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and green card holders, a dramatic cut. He’s also slashed the number of refugees the U.S. will accept for two straight years and he wants to eliminate diversity visas.
He’s talked about switching to merit-based, instead of family-based, immigration and said at times that he wants to make it easier for temporary workers to work and graduates from top colleges to stay in the country. But researchers have said the net effect of his proposals would be fewer legal immigrants.
TRUMP: “Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide open areas between our ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery.” — State of the Union address.
THE FACTS: His administration has not supplied evidence that women and girls are smuggled by the “thousands” across remote areas of the border for these purposes. What has been established is nearly 80 percent of international trafficking victims cross through legal ports of entry, a flow that would not be stopped by a border wall.
Trump distorts how often trafficking victims come from the southern border, according the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, a global hub for trafficking statistics with data contributed by organizations from around the world.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline, a venture supported by federal money and operated by the anti-trafficking group Polaris, began tracking individual victim records in 2015. From January through June 31, 2018, it tracked 35,000 potential victims. Of those, there was a near equal distribution between foreigners on one hand and U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents on the other.
Most of the labor trafficking victims were foreign, and most of the sex trafficking victims were U.S. citizens. Of foreign nationals, Mexico had the most frequently trafficked.
TRUMP: “African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded.” — State of the Union address.
THE FACTS: What he’s not saying is that the unemployment rates for all three groups have gone up since reaching record low levels.
Black unemployment reached a record low, 5.9 percent, in May, but rose to 6.8 percent in January.
Latino unemployment fell to 4.4 percent, its lowest ever, last October, and Asian unemployment fell to a record low of 2.2 percent in May. But Latino and Asian unemployment also have increased, in part because of the government shutdown, which elevated unemployment last month.
The African-American rate is still nearly double the jobless rate for whites, at 3.5 percent.
The most dramatic drop in black unemployment came under Obama, when it fell from a recession high of 16.8 percent in March 2010 to 7.8 percent in January 2017
STACY ABRAMS, in the Democratic response: “We know bipartisanship could craft a 21st century immigration plan but this administration chooses to cage children and tear families apart.”
THE FACTS: The cages that Abrams mentions are actually chain-link fences and the Obama administration used them, too.
Children are held behind them, inside holding Border Patrol facilities, under the Trump administration. As well, Obama’s administration detained large numbers of unaccompanied children inside chain link fences in 2014. Images that circulated online of children in cages during the height of Trump’s family separations controversy were actually from 2014 when Obama was in office.
Children are placed in such areas by age and sex for safety reasons and are held for up to 72 hours by the Border Patrol.
The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general visited five detention facilities for unaccompanied children on the Texas border with Mexico in late June, during the height of the furor over family separations, and found they appeared to comply with detention standards. The government watchdog reported that cleanliness was inconsistent but that the children had access to toilets, food, drinks, clean bedding and hygiene items.
At the height of the family separations, about 2,400 children were separated. Since then, 118 children were separated. Immigration officials are allowed to take a child from a parent in certain cases — serious criminal charges against a parent, concerns over the health and welfare of a child or medical concerns.
That policy has long been in place and is separate from the now-suspended zero-tolerance Trump administration policy that saw children separated from parents only because they had crossed illegally.