Joel Kotkin says Amnesty Will Lead to More Poverty

(Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)
(Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)
Expanding amnesty to undocumented immigrants without creating new jobs is a recipe for keeping new Americans poor and dependent on social services.

With his questionably Constitutional move to protect America’s vast undocumented population, President Obama has provided at least five million immigrants, and likely many more, with new hope for the future. But at the same time, his economic policies, and those of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, may guarantee that many of these newly legalized Americans will face huge obstacles trying to move up in a society creating too few opportunities already for its own citizens, much less millions of the largely ill-educated and unskilled newcomers.

Democratic Party operatives, and their media allies, no doubt see in the legalization move a step not only to address legitimate human needs, but their own political future. With the bulk of the country’s white population migrating rapidly to the GOP, arguably the best insurance for the Democrats is to accelerate the racial polarization of the electorate. It might be good politics but we need to ask: what is the fate awaiting these new, and prospective, Americans?

In previous waves of immigration, particularly during the early 20th Century, there were clear benefits for both newcomers and the economy. A nation rapidly industrializing needed labor, including the relatively unskilled, and, with the help of the New Deal and the growth of unions, many of these newcomers (including my own maternal grandparents) achieved a standard of living, which, if hardly affluent, was at least comfortable and moderately secure.

Demand for labor remained strong during the big immigrant wave of the 1980s until the Great Recession. The country was building houses at a rapid clip, which required a large amount of immigrant labor. Service industries, particularly before the onset of digital systems, such as ipads for ordering, that replace human staff in fast-food restaurants, tend to hotels and provide personal services, although often at low wages.

More recently, this wave of undocumented migration has diminished, as economic prospects, particularly for the low-skilled, have weakened. Yet the undocumented population remains upwards eleven million. Largely unskilled and undereducated, roughly half of adults 25 to 64 in this population have less than a high-school education compared to only 8 percent of the native born. Barely ten percent have any college, one third the national rate.

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SOURCE: The Daily Beast

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