*Immigration During a Recession

An academic essay

by Tearsa Joy Hammock

for an International Relation course at San Francisco State University

 

There are differing viewpoints on whether or not immigration negatively affects economic growth and whether a recession lowers immigration levels. Changes in both immigration and the rise and fall of economic growth are highly interrelated. However the same direct impact that the economy makes on immigrants is not reciprocated by immigrants’ impact on our economy.  

The article, as its name implies “Reduce immigration rates during recession, think-tank suggests” by Peter O’Neil of The Gazette in Montreal, Quebec advocates that governments take measures to decrease immigration in their country during a period of economic downturn. O’Neil quotes Arthur Sweetman and Garnett Picot from a paper published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, a Montreal-based think-tank. “During recessions, economic outcomes deteriorate more among recent immigrants than among the Canadian-born.” 

This however still does not provide a direct connection between immigration having a negative impact on economic growth. It merely suggests that immigration should be discouraged during a recession because a recession will negatively affect immigrants’ way of life. 

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in the article says “he’s trying to maintain a ‘balance’ between critics who say immigration is too high, and demands for an even higher intake from the business community, provincial governments and opposition parties.” This is an example of how dependent economies are on immigrant labor which is a better example of how the two impact each other. It reveals how reliant economies are on foreign labor. 

A couple of statistics shared in O’Neil’s article are noteworthy. “Canada has one of the highest intakes of immigrants in the world, with a per capita rate double that of the U.S. rate, even after taking into account the flow of illegal migrants from Mexico and Central America.” Also, information from the 2006 census in Canada showed that immigrants earn 60 to 70 percent of the wage earned by the average Canadian-born worker in their first few years in the country, compared to 85-90 percent in the late 1970s. Immigrants are earning less today than previous years according to recent studies in Canada!

According to David Sherfinski of The Washington Examiner in his article “Report: Immigrants staying put during recession,” again as the name implies, immigrants are not returning to their homelands during an economic downturn. The author notes that this is contrary to popular belief (especially in the United States.) This shows how the state of the economy influences whether or not immigrants chose to move or not. So, while immigration may or may not cause a worse outcome for the economic state, the state of the economy does in fact directly cause a decrease in migration flow. 

Sherfinski goes on to discuss how the Washington, D.C. area is a particularly prosperous place for working immigrants. Michelle Mittelstadt, communications director for the Migration Policy Institute said, “While immigrants are overrepresented in construction in the Washington area, the region has not experienced the real estate free fall seen in states such as California and Nevada.” Also, Immigrants from that area are “wealthier and have higher homeownership rates than elsewhere in the country.” Economic effects on immigrants varies regionally.  

In the article “Immigration Amid a Recession,” Moira Herbst of Bloomberg Businessweek examines the legitimacy of the fear that working U.S. citizens have of losing their jobs or priority for new positions, “especially for those created by the taxpayer-funded economic stimulus plan.” 

The author says economists argue that “legitimizing the status of the 12 million undocumented workers will level the playing field both for U.S. workers competing with them and for employers who compete against rivals that use cheaper, undocumented labor.” This age-old argument still holds validity but not to the extent that many fear. 

According to a 2007 report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, “immigration as a whole increases the U.S. gross domestic product by about $37 billion each year.” The increase in the size of the work force directly impacts the GDP in a positive way. 

Finally, a very relevant article that hits close to home to all of us in college was the last article: “NumbersUSA Convention TV Ad Asks Why Admit More Immigrant Workers When Recent College Grads Can’t Find Jobs.” In this report,  Investment Weekly News announced the launch of a national TV ad in cable network news coverage of the recent Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention which makes note of the difficulty recent graduates of college have in our economy here in the United States. It begs the question as to why the U.S. government should allow one million more immigrants to work here for another year. 

However, our economy was already on the course for economic downturn even before many of the current college graduates were half-way done with school. Thus, it cannot be stated truthfully that it is because immigration the graduates will have no jobs. Additionally, many graduates are not seeking employment in fields anywhere near the line of work as that of recent immigrants in the U.S. Most students do not typically attend college with the intent to eventually land the same job that an immigrant with unskilled or even skilled labor experience is seeking! Career opportunities are not lacking because immigrants are stealing them, but because the regular ebb and flow of the market, deficit and surplus of exports and imports and changing values of exchange rates create an unstable economic market to become a part of. 

The fear many people have concerning the number of immigrants working in the United States affecting the condition of the economy negatively is over-exaggerated as to the reality of the situation. Greater forces caused the economic downturn than simply increasing the work force in the US to include foreign people. A variety of forces contributed to the economic crisis we are facing today. The up and down flow of the free market world economy we now have naturally has its highs and lows. This is the way capitalism works. Freedom comes with some insecurity. 

 

 

Other references: 

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5312900

 

http://money.cnn.com/2006/05/01/news/economy/immigration_economy/index.htm

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/net-immigration-dips-to-216000-8095759.html

*Follow me on Twitter for Live UStream of the San Francisco May Day March!

May Day March San Francisco, Calif., May 1, 2013.

May Day March San Francisco, Calif., May 1, 2013.

Follow me, @OffSFbeatNpath, on Twitter to see a Live Stream of the San Francisco May Day March!

In case you missed it, I live streamed via Ustream, in a series of short videos, the pre-march madness of the Immigrant and Worker Rights march that took place in the Mission District of San Francisco today, May 1, 2013.

The following were interviewed:

-Denise Solis, vice president of SEIU United Service Workers West at 0:56 of video

San Francisco May Day March (7:12)

-Alfredo Serrano, member of the San Francisco State University chapter of MEChA at 6:25 of video

San Francisco May Day March (7:12)

-”Gato” de la unión Yo Soy 132 Bay Area at 0:06 in English and at 1:03 en español de video

San Francisco May Day March (10:07)

-Renata Moreira, Policy & Communications Director of Our Family Coalition at 7:06 of video San Francisco May Day March (10:07)

 

Special appearance by:

-Josue Arguelles, co-director of Young Workers United (YWU) at 3:16 of video San Francisco May Day March (10:07)

*No Legal Recognition | An Undocumentary

An audio story by: Tearsa Joy Hammock

First in a series called An Undocumentary—personal stories of immigrants in the Bay Area.

Erika Cisneros, a lesbian immigrant who is out of status, seeks hope through deferred action. Her friends from high school, Aliens Serna and Hana Martucci, also discuss going through Erika’s struggles with her.

I recorded the interviews for this audio story in October of my old friend from community college. So much has happened since then, but now we can finally enjoy the fruits of my labors editing, editing, editing.

Today, Erika is still dealing with legal issues surrounding her status even though she has been granted deferred action.

Image

Photo by: Hana Martucci

*INTERACTIVE PHOTO via ThingLink of SF Public Press’ front page | Special Report: Labor

Here is a ThingLink I made of the front page of the Spring 2013 Labor Issue of the publication I am interning at, San Francisco Public Press. This edition features a story and photos by me of a Salvadorian immigrant who was being paid less than minimum wage and who fought and won his case against the restaurant owner through an organization called Young Workers United in San Francisco, Calif.

SF Pub Press Cover

*Good News for D.R.E.A.M.ers!!!

Good News for D.R.E.A.M.ers!!!

With the new immigration reform bill being discussed in the U.S. Senate, Prerna Lal of the Latino Voices blog with Huffington Post helps us understand the “Good, Bad and Ugly.” 

Personally, I am quite excited about what this may mean for immigrants who arrived here undocumented as minors: 

“No age cap on the DREAM Act and DACA grantees would be grandfathered into the RPI program”

Keep on dreaming! 

In case you want to dig a little deeper (ahem, 844 pages deeper!), you can read the bill in its entirety HERE