President Obama has just opened a floodgate of opportunity for young illegal immigrants in the United States, but could it squeeze the aspirations of legal Americans in the process?
Across the nation Friday, immigrant advocates and Hispanic youth groups
hailed Obama’s decision to offer legal status to some undocumented
immigrants under 30 as a watershed in U.S. immigration history and a
long-sought victory for ambitious youths denied a chance to realize the
But opponents of illegal immigration warned that the policy could
create significant new competition for jobs and university slots at a
time of nationwide recession and numerous states’ efforts to curb public
“I see a tidal wave coming,” said Brad Botwin,
president of Help Save Maryland, a group that opposes legalization for
undocumented immigrants. “Half of our college graduates today can’t find
jobs, and the unemployment rate for high-school-aged Americans is
extremely high. This is unfair to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who
are out there struggling to get ahead.”
The new policy could entail additional costs for administration and
enforcement, however, and put pressure on state systems of higher
education to meet growing demand for slots.
Effect on low-wage jobs?
But Steven Camarota, a researcher with the nonprofit Center for Immigration Studies
in Washington, said that the Obama administration was not taking into
account the new measure’s probable impact on competition for jobs at the
low end of the economic scale, where chronic unemployment is highest.
Among Americans with less than a high school education, he said, the
jobless rate is 13 percent.
“It doesn’t seem the administration is
considering the cascading consequences,” Camarota said.
“What does this
mean for unemployed Americans who will be competing for jobs with a
million-plus people who can now apply for work authorization? Is this
really a good idea?”