Jason Richwine, an independent public policy analyst and National Review contributor, began by discussing his recent paper, "Immigrants Replace Low-Skill U.S.-born in the Workforce". He found that, as native-born men without high school degrees drop out of the job market, immigrants are taking their place. Richwine emphasized that this did not necessarily mean immigration was the cause of natives working less, though it may well contribute. Rather, "immigrants have been the backstop, they've been the crutch. Immigration has basically helped to devalue the problem in people's minds . . . you just don't have people necessarily feeling like they need to care about the problem." Without such a large flow of low-skilled workers from abroad, he noted, "politicians and employers would be very, very interested – suddenly – in getting natives back to work."
Charles Murray, the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, declared he had changed his thinking on low-skilled immigration and proposed what he called "the Grand Experiment": a temporary end to low-skill immigration in the hopes of lifting the native underclass. Murray expects that an immigration cut-off will impose costs on certain businesses, but he argued such costs are worth it if they help bring back the more tightly-knit social structure that made the U.S. an exceptional nation in the eyes of the world.
Amy Wax, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, noted that an "influx of less-educated foreign workers . . . has distracted us politically and otherwise from declining low-skill male workforce participation." She spoke to the quality of the native workforce, employers' demonstrated preference for immigrant workers, and the ideology and self-interests of the business class that seeks cheap labor.
Mass immigration hides the high workforce drop-out rate of low-skill workers, reducing the urgency for policymakers and employers to address the problem. With 35 percent of natives without a high school degree neither working nor looking for work, reviewing the country's low-skill immigration flow should be explored as a means to help the many Americans at the bottom end of the economic scale.
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SOURCE Center for Immigration Studies