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Weekly Diaspora: Unemployment Feeding Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

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This post is a weekly feature by Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger.

The nation’s 10% unemployment rate is feeding anti-immigrant sentiment, as Marcelo Ballvé reports for New America Media. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) critiqued President Barack Obama’s recent jobs summit as “fatally flawed” because President Obama did not discuss wresting millions of jobs away from undocumented families. Smith’s argument is flawed.

A “known Capitol Hill immigration hardliner,” Smith asks us to assume that for every job the U.S. could theoretically “take back” from an undocumented worker, an eager U.S. citizen would flock to fill it. But, as Ballvé reports, “several studies suggest that among Americans and legal residents, it’s mainly those lacking a high school diploma who are competing directly with undocumented immigrants for jobs (and by most estimates, that’s less than one out of every 10 U.S. workers).”

Smith’s reasoning is a leap that only a hardliner could make, and is simply not borne out by any reliable data or experience.

In fact, a soon-to-be released book called Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do by journalist and SEIU researcher Gabriel Thompson tells the opposite story, as In These Times reports. Thompson went undercover to work alongside migrant workers for one year. The work was so strenuous that Thompson used painkillers to make it through. But he gained a crucial perspective: Despite the detached and abstract imaginings of Republican politicians, these are jobs that “even most unemployed and destitute ‘Americans’ are not necessarily willing or able to take … even if the pay is decent.”