- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2024

Former President Donald Trump says the surge of illegal immigrants is more than a safety risk and a drain on public resources — it’s also hurting Black and Hispanic Americans’ ability to get jobs.

Mr. Trump has made the claim a staple of his campaign speeches, urging voters to punish President Biden for unleashing the record-shattering border chaos that has flooded the country with perhaps 5 million newcomers.

“The people coming across the border — all those millions of people — they’re inflicting tremendous harm to our Black population and to our Hispanic population,” Mr. Trump said at a recent campaign stop in Detroit, which is predominantly Black and the key to Mr. Biden’s chances of winning the swing state of Michigan.

Democrats call Mr. Trump’s claims wrong and insulting. They say the proof is in the economy’s performance, which has been far stronger than analysts had predicted. A low unemployment rate (4% in May) is part of that.

Steven A. Camarota, a demographer at the Center for Immigration Studies, said Mr. Trump is tapping into something real.

He said the new foreign workers in the U.S., both legal and illegal, are generally less educated and tend to compete with less-educated Americans.

“The immigrants are the big beneficiaries, but the losers tend to be — especially in terms of illegal immigration — Americans at the bottom end of the labor market, and African Americans are disproportionately at the bottom end,” he said.

The House Budget Committee recently released a report showing that immigrants, both legal and illegal, have filled half the jobs created in the U.S. economy since October.

Mr. Camarota said that trends back to 2019. Over that time, the number of foreign-born workers has grown by 3 million, but the number of native-born workers has increased by only 1 million.

The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Trump, who says he is making inroads with Black and Hispanic voters, figures the immigration-jobs message will help seal the deal with many of them.

According to 2020 exit polls, Mr. Biden carried Black voters by 87% to 12% over Mr. Trump. It marked an uptick in support for Mr. Trump, who four years earlier lost the Black vote to Hillary Clinton by 89% to 8%.

For Mr. Biden and other Democrats, any signs of slippage among Black voters are troubling. Polls this year have regularly shown the president running behind his 2020 numbers.

Rep. Gwen Moore, Wisconsin Democrat, said a dramatic expansion of Black-owned businesses, historically low Black unemployment and wage growth among “the bottom 80% of workers” show Mr. Biden’s policies are working.

“Claims that immigration hurts native-born workers is a scapegoating lie,” said Ms. Moore, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “In reality, a realm in which Donald Trump does not care to visit, immigrants buoy the economy and prevent workforce shortages.

Donald Trump is not interested in solving any issue for Black communities,” she said. “This is just a clumsy tactic to pit communities against each other.”

More broadly, Mr. Biden’s allies say, immigration has been good for the U.S. economy by increasing growth and spreading gains.

The Congressional Budget Office said in a report this week that the U.S. netted 2.4 million new immigrants in 2023 and will match that this year.

That surge will boost gross domestic product by nearly $9 trillion over the next decade, CBO said, 2.4% higher than a lower-immigration scenario would have produced.

CBO also found that the new workers “put downward pressure on wages,” particularly for those with a high school education or less.

Those at the higher education levels generally benefit because of more demand for them to work with the less-educated.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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