Immigration Groups Protest FRB Report

By Miller, Steve | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 17, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Immigration Groups Protest FRB Report

Miller, Steve, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)

Immigration-rights groups contest a report by the Federal Reserve Board that claims the second immigration boom could bring in relatively uneducated newcomers who lack the skills to maintain this country's current standard of living.

As the nation's 76 million baby boomers retire, these new Americans will both enlarge the labor pool and dilute its skill level, according to the preliminary draft report from the Boston Federal Reserve Bank.

The report questions whether the current wave of immigration, an influx that rivals the first boom in the early 20th century when arrivals entered through New York's Ellis Island, can yield the same productivity as when America emerged as an industrial giant. Ailing U.S. public schools and the already-low educational skills of many of these new immigrants may hamper productivity, according to the report.

Yet the report has its critics. "I reject that notion," Stephen Moore, an economist at the Cato Institute, said of the findings. "I don't think there is any question that over the last 20 years, immigration has boosted productivity. It is very inconsistent to conclude that in the future, these immigrants will reduce productivity."

He noted that the United States, a vibrant melting pot that has allowed 10 million immigrants into the country in the past decade, always has been the most productive of all nations in the world.

"One point of this argument would be that immigrants are lower-skilled," Mr. Moore said. "That's not an argument for lower immigration, but for the immigration of higher-skilled workers."

The report, however, says that the massive immigration of the past decade has brought in foreign workers whose level of education is lower than those of native workers.

"While immigration is projected to make a huge contribution to the growth in the U.S. working-age population, this gain comes at a price, since the gap between the average educational attainment of the foreign- and native-born populations is large," the report says.

Jane Little, coauthor of the 40-page report, said: "I do not see this paper as being anti-immigration. We state that, while immigration boosts global productivity, . . . it might not boost U.S. productivity because of education gaps. We can do something about it by addressing these education issues."

The report notes that educational levels of Latin American immigrants are far below those of U.S. residents. For example, 11 percent of Americans have less than a high school education, but 34 percent of Latin American immigrants fall in that category.

Yet groups critical of the report's anti-immigrant position say most immigration analysts dispute its conclusions. "I would say that this is the minority view," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the Washington-based National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigration advocacy group.

"Too often these kinds of analysis are about `Are these the right kind of people?

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