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Report: 40% of Texas “Miracle” Jobs Went to Undocumented Workers

September 23, 2011

WASHINGTON - A new look at census data reveals that of the net 279,000 jobs created in Texas since the start of the last recession, 81 percent went to recent immigrants, and half of those to undocumented workers.

Steven Camarota, the director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit organization advocating strict immigration policies, wrote the report. He says the findings wouldn't be overly alarming if employment among U.S.-born workers had also gone up.

"But something very different happened. The native-born population accounted for most of the population growth among the working age, but they got virtually none of the new jobs, or only a small fraction of the new jobs, and that's very strange."

He says that, despite talk of a "Texas Jobs Miracle," native-born workers in the state face a jobs picture that's bleakly similar to the rest of the country, with an employment rate that would rank 29th nationally if recent immigrants were removed from the equation.

Fernando Garcia, who heads up the Border Network for Human Rights, takes issue with Camarota's number-crunching, saying that, instead of wishing away immigrants, people should recognize the contributions they're making to the economy, both as employees and consumers.

"So if you take away those immigrants out of the equation, the recession would have been more profound and deep in Texas. What we need to do is - recognizing that those workers are here - let's bring all of those workers out of the shadows."

Many of the recently-created jobs in Texas pay at or below minimum wage. Camarota admits that even under-educated native-born workers might not want a lot of these unskilled positions but, he argues, tightening immigration would force employers to improve pay and conditions.

"If you're talking about making the working poor better off by having fewer immigrants come into the country and thus having employers compete for the existing pool of workers, I think most people would say that's probably a good thing."

While Garcia agrees that low-end wages could be better, he says Camarota is ignoring economic and cultural realities. He says that, in a healthy economy, certain industries will always tap unskilled immigrant labor. Blaming immigration for middle-class unemployment, he adds, will lead to misplaced priorities.

"The focus should be actually to stabilize the situation and get those middle-class jobs back."

Garcia is calling for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.

See the report at bit.ly/nEgbSy

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX