A watchdog group warns that illegal immigrants might end up filling many of the estimated 2 million-plus new construction jobs featured in the Senate stimulus bill.
The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) estimates that about 15 percent of workers employed in construction in the United States are illegal immigrants. If no effort is made to bar illegal immigrants from these vital jobs, it is extremely likely that about 300,000 of the coveted jobs will go to them.
“If more people know Congress was going to let illegal aliens get these jobs, there would be even less support for the bill,” Steven A. Camarota of CIS told Newsmax.
The Senate stimulus bill being considered contains about $104 billion in new government funding for construction projects, including highways, schools, and public housing, with the goal of creating jobs for millions of unemployed Americans.
But there is no provision in the Senate bill to bar illegal immigrants from getting these taxpayer-funded jobs, said Camarota, author of “Dropping Out: Immigrant Entry and Native Exit from the Labor Market, 2000-2005” and other CIS white papers. This could result in several hundred thousand illegal immigrants receiving jobs, he warns.
“Business groups and the ACLU, and ethnic advocacy groups all don’t want it [the U.S. workers only provision], so if it is not there, I would guess there might be a political reason. I can think of no good policy reason for not keeping the jobs with legal workers,” Camarota said.
The $104 billion figure for new construction is based on the present version of the Senate stimulus bill. Government estimates indicate that each $1 billion spent on construction should create roughly 19,600 construction jobs, each lasting a year. Therefore, $104 billion for construction projects should create construction-related jobs for about 2.04 million workers over several years.
“The 2 million-plus figure is suppose to include those who are directly involved, including skilled workers like engineers, but not the people who will sell the workers lunch,” Camarota said.
CIS draws this key 19,600 jobs statistic from the Federal Highway Administration study, “Employment Impacts of Highway Infrastructure Investment, April 2008,” and, as Camarota suggested, the figure does not include jobs that construction spending creates indirectly.
Camarota conceded that even jobs going to illegals have a trickle-down benefit to the general U.S. economy, adding, "But why not have an American get the job and let money trickle down from him or her?”
As to the sheer number of illegal construction workers poised to grab stimulus-created jobs, Camarota noted that his organization is being conservative with the figures.
A 2006 Pew Hispanic Center study, “The Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S.,” estimated that 14 percent of construction workers were illegal immigrants. Both the CIS and Pew studies were based on the March 2005 Current Population Survey (CPS).
“The March 2007 CPS shows that the illegal share of construction workers may have grown to 18 percent, but we use 15 percent in the figuring to be conservative,” Camarota said.
The CPS is a joint undertaking by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
The House version of the stimulus package has a provision requiring contractors to use the so-called “E-Verify” system, which enables employers to quickly determine if new hires are authorized to work in the U.S. At present, the Senate has no such provision.
“I do not know if this was an oversight or intentional. But it seems hard to imagine they just overlooked this problem,” Camarota said.
Assuming that some of these monies will be released to various states for in-house construction projects, Newsmax asked whether these state governments have their own onboard safeguards to prevent the hiring of illegals.
“States do not always have safeguards against hiring illegal aliens,” Camarota said.
E-Verify Is Key to Keeping Jobs with Citizens
The House-passed version of the stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, contains specific language, introduced by Congressman Jack Kingston, R-Ga., requiring that all contractors receiving funds under the bill use the federal E-Verify system to determine whether workers are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants authorized to work.
E-Verify is a real-time, web-based verification system run by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. E-Verify can verify the authenticity of the personal information and identification credentials offered by new hires. The verification in most cases is instantaneous.
E-Verify is ready to go, but, presently, outside construction contractors receiving federal monies are not required by law to use the system.
Requiring contractors receiving stimulus funds to use E-Verify will go a long way to ensuring that taxpayer stimulus money will not be used to employ illegal immigrants, Camarota said.
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