For Successful Prison Reform, Scale Back Immigration

Tousands of nonviolent inmates are getting out of prison early thanks to President Trump, who worked with a bipartisan group in Congress to pass into law the First Step Act, the biggest prison reform in decades.

But these newly freed Americans still face enormous challenges.

Employers are leery of hiring people with criminal records. Historically, three in four former inmates have been unable to find employment a year after release. Without gainful employment, many fall back into their old lives of crime. Those who do find jobs are paid up to 20 percent less than the average employee.

President Trump’s prison reform won’t be truly complete until he ensures that these former inmates can find good jobs. The easiest way to do so? Crack down on illegal immigration — and also scale back legal immigration. By shrinking the number of foreign workers pouring into our country, the president could engineer a tighter labor market that forces businesses to hire ex-convicts and other Americans on the margins of the work force.

Each year, more than 600,000 Americans are released from prison and begin searching for jobs. These men and women hope to become contributing members of society. But too often, bleak economic prospects leave them suffering in poverty — and they often turn to illegal activity. Nearly 68 percent are reincarcerated within three years.

Loose labor markets make it harder for former inmates to find jobs, because employers can be more selective about whom they hire. This could mean hiring an illegal immigrant, whose criminal record is unknown in the United States, over Americans looking for a second chance. It’s no wonder many African-American men become disillusioned with the American dream when they’re treated as second-class citizens in their native land.

And it’s outrageous that employers who hire illegal immigrants are almost never charged with crimes.

Decades of lax immigration enforcement have oversaturated the labor market. Figures are debated and hard to verify, but at least 11 million illegal immigrants live in the United States. (Researchers from Yale and MIT recently gave an average of 22 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S.) Over 70 percent hold jobs. And more are coming every month. U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner Kevin McAleenan told reporters that, in February alone, 76,000 foreigners were arrested or turned back at the southern border. This is more than twice the number of border apprehensions during the same period of time in 2018. Many more have slipped through undetected.


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