In order to determine whether the negative opinion towards immigration by the general public is justified or not, it is necessary to examine the issue from a micro and macro perspective. The macro perspective in this case focuses on the opinion that immigrants, whether legal or illegal, are actually taking jobs away from American citizens. Smith and Edmonston present a compelling perspective where they state that while immigration can result in a positive net gain for the economy, it does tend to have its own negative ramifications.
For instance, immigrants who come into the U.S. are willing to work for a far lower salary as compared to their native born American counterparts. As such, while this creates a positive impact for local business due to the cost savings accrued, it does also have its own negative effects in the form of low wage immigrants being preferred over high wage Americans. However, as explain by Smith and Edmonston, this process does not apply to the entirety of the American workforce; rather, it applies to only the non-skilled labor sector.
What must be understood is that immigrants cannot replace skilled workers but they can replace unskilled labor. The reasoning behind this is quite simple; there is a “gap” so to speak between immigrants and skilled American workers in the form of education, experience and social class. This limits the type of opportunities available to many legal and illegal immigrants entering into the U.S. resulting in them being relegated to jobs that do not have the same requirements in relation to education and experience.
The current idea that immigrants are taking jobs away from American citizens is true only to the extent that it applies to the current unskilled labor force within the country. So while there is a grain of truth in what is being said, the fact remains that immigrants are actually a way for local business to increase their revenue through savings in the type of employees that they hire. It should also be noted that from a micro perspective immigrants are often hired to handle jobs that Americans simply do not want to do anymore. This can be seen in the disproportionate number of illegal immigrants that are hired by local farms during the harvest season.
The reason behind this is connected to the fact that the amount of Americans that actually want to assist in harvesting crops (which is described as grueling, back breaking work) has decreased considerably over the years as more people migrate towards the more urbanized sectors within the U.S. As a result, farmers experience a labor shortfall and have to rely on immigrants in order to get their crops harvested. When taking this micro perspective into consideration, it adds a new perspective showing that hiring immigrants simply because they are cheaper is only one aspect of the current labor dynamic with the other being the fact that immigrants, illegal or otherwise, are filling in a real need within the American economy.
Simply put, the American economy at the present needs immigrants due to the current socio-economic labor trend involving Americans and their desire for jobs that are more intellectually oriented and less labor intensive (i.e. desk jobs over hard labor jobs). Immigration is not bad for the economy since it creates a source of much needed additional labor due to the current labor orientation of the local population.
What must be understood is that these jobs are not limited to farming but also extend to jobs that are considered as far from ideal such as construction, janitorial services, sanitation, mining, etc. Simply put, immigrant labor has helped to keep the economy going as Americans feel that such jobs are “beneath” them resulting in fewer people applying for them. Unfortunately, this trend in hiring immigrants due to labor shortfalls does create issues with non-skilled American laborers that continue to persist in these types of careers.
While it was mentioned earlier that there is a growing shift towards the type of labor preferred by Americans which is further reinforced through access to federally granted loans to pay for a college education, there is still enough of a local population of non-skilled workers that they would develop distinctly anti-immigrant sentiments as they see non-Americans “steal” their jobs away from them. As companies get used to hiring immigrant labor for non-skilled positions, this would of course influence salary trends within their respective industries.
Since the amount paid to immigrants is disproportional to what is paid to natural American citizens, the end result is that immigrants are either chosen over natural Americans for labor positions or natural American citizens simply refuse to work for such a low salary. This helps to explain the origin of the belief that immigrants are “bad” for our country, however, when taking into consideration the various facts that have been mentioned in this paper so far, it can be seen that immigrant labor is a necessary and integral part of our economy and is needed in order to keep it functioning.