Written by Joe Guzzardi
Because Congress has for more than a decade steadfastly refused to close the asylum loopholes, the federal government has created a landmine situation for low-skilled and minority American workers.
A little-known Obama-era immigration process called parole allows certain inadmissible but already present aliens without criminal convictions or other serious offenses to, on a discretionary basis, remain in the U.S.
In the cases of Central American asylum seekers, once the Department of Homeland Security determines that they have satisfied, at least superficially, the credible fear guideline, they’re released on parole into the interior. Parole includes the invaluable, internationally coveted bonus of employment authorization documents. With work permits in hand, the Central Americans slip into the interior to enter the labor force or the underground economy. Their immigration court hearings, which they are highly unlikely to show up for, are years away.
Sweet deal! Prospective asylum seekers have only to get to the border, surrender to immigration officials, mutter the “credible fear” words they’ve been coached to say, and work permits and what amounts to indefinite residency will soon follow.
Once employment documents are in hand, the prospective asylees will most likely look for jobs in sectors that workers with less than a college education already dominate: food services, the leisure industry, maintenance and construction.
For American workers, the sudden availability of cheap labor comes at a bad time. For years, U.S. wage growth has been indifferent even as the economy added jobs and the unemployment rate showed month-over-month declines. But the April Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis showed that working Americans are, at last, getting long-overdue raises.
The best news in the April report: wage growth. The April report showed that average hourly earnings rose by 0.2%, which follows an increase of 0.1% in March. Over the past 12 months, earnings have risen by an encouraging 3.2 percent. But blue-collar workers, beware. More available labor – the asylum seekers – equals soft employment markets and declining wages.
Recently, for example, Hispanics have benefited significantly from tight labor markets. From 2016 to 2017, Hispanics had among the largest year-to-year decline in poverty rates, declining 1.1 percentage points to 18.3 percent.
The border mess, and its never-ending cheap labor supply, will continue into the foreseeable future, and threatens to reverse the gains made by Hispanics and other minorities. In his testimony to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said that “100 percent” of illegal immigrant families in the latest border surge are being released into local communities, rather than being held and deported.
Within a month or two, McAleenan added, the parolees will have their work permits, and along with them a foothold in the U.S. from which it will be increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to remove them. McAleenan described the process from illegal entry to work authorization as a reward for lawbreaking, and the foundation on which smugglers build their illegal and predatory, but lucrative, businesses.
Being able to deliver on promises of entry, and eventual work authorization, has enabled smugglers to profit from record-breaking human trafficking. The statistics speak for themselves. In 2012, the Border Patrol apprehended only about 10,000 migrants traveling as family units. Over the last two months alone, the total soared to 111,679.
The coyotes have touted their success stories back in Central America, and have drummed up more interest among the gullible. NPR reported on Guatemalans who claim that their country offers them “nothing,” and that migration represents their only hope. The Guatemalans cite poverty, violence and joblessness as the reasons they must flee. In the end, though, Central Americans migrate north for one main reason. They know that U.S. immigration policy favors admitting aliens, and that remaining in America and eventually collecting affirmative benefits will be their journey’s easiest part.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at [email protected].