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An economic hole

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Sunday, April 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Arriving at their current level of about 1 million annually, immigrants enlarge the U.S. economy — but make far harder the struggles of native-born workers already at the bottom of the jobs ladder.

So concludes a new Center for Immigration Studies ( cis.org) report by George Borjas of Harvard's Kennedy School — dubbed “America's leading immigration economist” by Businessweek and The Wall Street Journal.

The report says legal immigrants and illegal aliens annually add an estimated 11 percent — $1.6 trillion — to U.S. gross domestic product. Almost 98 percent of that gain goes to immigrants in wages and benefits, the rest to their employers — in part from reduced wages for native-born workers. Immigration's net economic benefit to natives amounts to just 0.2 percent of GDP.

But the presence of illegals, however, annually reduces natives' wages by an estimated $99 billion to $118 billion. And the biggest negative effect of illegal aliens is on natives who lack high school diplomas — a small part of the workforce whose households nevertheless account for about a quarter of the working poor's children.

Natives made labor-market “losers” by current immigration levels “likely include a disproportionate number of the poorest Americans,” the report says.

Thus, the bill that the “Gang of Eight” U.S. senators are working on — or any other immigration bill, for that matter — must protect America's working poor.

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