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The Immigrant Dilemma: Workers Pitted Against Workers

September 16, 2013
Plain English Version


A famous philosopher once said that sometimes two ideas are so different that they cannot be reconciled.

There are two realities about whether immigrants take jobs away from native-born Americans. They do, and it makes no sense to suggest otherwise. But do they take away so many jobs that it upsets the economic balance in the U.S.? The evidence is that they do not.

Everyone agrees that black American workers are the ones most affected by the influx of foreign workers. Some economists say that black workers demand higher wages and better working conditions. If there were no immigrants, wages might be higher and worker conditions better.  But there probably would be less overall employment, as bosses would find new ways to get the jobs done more cheaply.

Other people add that older immigrant groups are losing ground to new immigrants.

Throw in the costs of health care, education and other social programs. Only people really good in arithmetic can figure out the costs and benefits. But there is agreement that immigrants have helped the American economy. Their energy and work ethic are prized. Although critics add that the willingness of immigrants to please the boss sometimes makes them docile.

As the immigration debate continues, expect to read stories about people whose job prospects are harmed by immigrants. You will also see stories about immigrants who are succeeding in very American ways. They are both true.

It may very well be that the two big ideas about the impact of immigrants cannot be reconciled. But in our political system, there will have to be compromise because both groups have to live with one another.

Source: The Washington Post

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