Why Trump’s Effort to Curb Immigration Could Hurt US Economy

Lost in the immigration debate is the vital economic role played by immigrants who don’t have the education, training or skills that the Trump administration and many Republicans in Congress say should be a pre-requisite for today’s economy.

WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s 21st century job market increasingly demands high-tech skills and knowledge. Yet consider this: Nearly half the new jobs the government foresees emerging by 2026 will require only a high school diploma — or none at all.

Those jobs share something else in common, too: Hundreds of thousands of them will likely be taken by low-skilled immigrants who are willing to do work that many Americans won’t.

Lost in the immigration debate raging in Washington is the vital economic role played by immigrants who don’t have the education, training or skills that the Trump administration and many Republicans in Congress say should be a pre-requisite. Economists say that especially with unemployment at a 17-year low and the growth of the workforce slowing, immigrants — skilled as well as unskilled — are vital to the economy.

“The idea that we only need people with certain degrees — it’s never been true in America, and it’s less true now than it was in the past,” said Michael Clemens, an economist and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank.

Sixty-three percent of current American jobs — and 46 percent of jobs expected to be created between 2016 and 2026 — require no more than a high school degree, according to the Labor Department. The new positions include low-paying jobs that most native-born Americans are loath to pursue — an estimated 778,000 personal-care aides (median pay in 2016: $21,920), 580,000 food-service workers ($19,400), 431,000 home-health aides ($22,600).

Many of those jobs, Clemens says, “will either be done by immigrants, or they will not be done at all.”

Already, foreign-born workers — about 17 percent of the overall workforce — account for 52 percent of America’s maids, 47 percent of roofers and 40 percent of construction laborers and laundry and dry-cleaning workers.

Low-skilled immigrants harvest sweet potatoes and cucumbers in fields in North Carolina. They serve dementia patients in nursing homes. They vacuum offices. They are waiters, cooks and maids at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

By ASSOCIATED PRES for WTOOP
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