National Data | Enforcement Works! Worker Displacement Down!
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For several years we have tracked a destructive, albeit seemingly inevitable, trend: the displacement of native workers by immigrants. The government's employment figures tell the story. Since the start of the Bush Administration (January 2001) through December 2007

  • National employment rose by 8.433 million (+6.1 percent)

  • Hispanic employment rose by 4.4 million (+27.3 percent)

  • Non-Hispanic employment rose by 4.0 million (+3.3 percent)

Bottom line: Over the past seven years Hispanic employment (the best available proxy for immigrant workers) grew more than 8-times faster than native (non-Hispanic) employment.

Since late summer, however, the roles have been reversed. From August through December 2007 Hispanics either gained jobs at lower rates, or lost jobs at greater rates, than non-Hispanics. Over this period:

  • National employment rose by 458,000 (+0.3 percent)

  • Hispanic employment fell by 61,000 (-0.3 percent)

  • non-Hispanic employment rose by 519,000 (+0.4 percent)

The past four months marked the longest stretch of declining native displacement in seven years—as seen in our VDAWDI graphic:


Obviously, four months do not (necessarily) a trend make. The sharp contraction in residential construction, a sector notoriously dependent on illegal alien workers, undoubtedly played a role. A housing recovery could send VDAWDI back to record levels.

But 2007 was also a year in which the federal government ramped up enforcement efforts. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made 4,940 workplace arrests [Worksite Enforcement fact sheet, ICE] last year, a 13 percent increase from 2006. (In 2002 only 510 such arrests were made.)

Although fewer than 100 of the arrestees were employers, ICE obtained more than $30 million in fines, restitutions, and civil judgments against them in just the first three quarters of FY2007. (In FY2005 these fines totaled a laughable $6,500.)

Equally relevant, ICE "fugitive operations teams" arrested 30,408 criminal aliens in fiscal 2007. That's nearly double the 15,462 arrests made in 2006, and a whopping 15-times the 1,901 arrested in 2003. 

Let's not get carried away. There may be 10 to 15 million illegals working in the U.S. At 50,000 removals per year it would take a century to reach half of the current alien work force.

Employer sanctions offer a far more efficient way to resolve the problem, by switching off the jobs magnet.

The 1986 Immigration Act promised heavy fines on employers who "knowingly hire" illegal aliens – but provided no easy way for them to verify the authenticity of documents presented by illegals.

However, twenty years have passed. The technology to verify work papers instantaneously is available and is already used by a few employers. Unfortunately, it is voluntary – except in Arizona

But the word is out. Employers read stories of companies who have lost their entire workforce and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. [NewsOK: Employers may pay price for not embracing changes] Illegal workers are increasingly anxious: More than half of Hispanic adults in the U.S. fear that they or someone they know could face deportation.

Perception is everything. ICE may have deliberately created a false sense of strict enforcement. This Potemkin Village can produce significant levels of voluntary deportation—at least initially.[ Enforcement fueling immigrant exodus, By Devona Walker,, January 13, 2008]

Are the past four months the start of a longer-term trend?

Stay tuned.

Edwin S. Rubenstein (email him) is President of ESR Research Economic Consultants in Indianapolis.

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