Sure enough, the story I wrote about that appeared Monday in USA Today that said the stimulus bill would provide jobs for some 300,000 undocumented immigrants has created a firestorm.
Picked up widely and the subject of a fear-mongering report on Lou Dobbs’ primetime show on CNN last night, the story cited the conservative Heritage Foundation and the immigration restrictionist group Center for Immigration Studies for their recent studies claiming that, of 2 million estimated construction jobs they estimated would be provided by the stimulus package, 15 percent of those would likely go to immigrants who aren’t legally authorized to work.
But Monday afternoon, the Immigration Policy Center, the research arm of the American Immigration Law Foundation, shot back with a correction: those estimates are based on outdated and misleading data, the group claims.
According to IPC, the claim that the stimulus bill will create two million new construction jobs is based on a 2007 estimate by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on how many “construction-oriented” jobs are directly created by each $1 billion of “federal highway expenditures.” But those “construction-oriented” jobs include technical and management positions, which undocumented immigrants don’t usually qualify for.
What’s more, the claim that 15 percent of these jobs — or 300,000 — will go to undocumented workers is based on estimates of the construction industry in 2005, well before the current economic collapse decimated the industry and led many undocumented workers to leave the country. CIS itself has claimed that undocumented workers are leaving the country due to the loss of jobs.
In addition, the reach of the stimulus bill goes well beyond highways, and there’s really no way to know in advance how many low-skilled jobs it will create, much less how many might be filled by undocumented workers. Moreover, the law already prohibits employers from hiring undocumented workers, so simply enforcing the law should keep those numbers down.
While CIS and other conservative groups advocate mandating the use of E-Verify, as I’ve written before and immigrants’ rights groups emphasize, E-Verify is hardly a reliable solution. It relies on the social security database, which is riddled with inaccuracies and would create a bureaucratic nightmare for employers. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that its use would decrease federal revenue by $17.3 billion over 10 years.
The answer, then, is not to try to exclude and deport some 11 million undocumented immigrants estimated to be living and working in the United States, but real immigration policy reform that will deal humanely with those willing to abide by U.S. laws, pay taxes and otherwise contribute their hard-won earnings to our teetering economy.