Nearly one third of all jobs in the U.S. now are filled by immigrants, group says

Two-thirds of the 301,319 jobs designated during the historic North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada are currently filled by immigrants or permanent residents, according to a new report by the…

Nearly one third of all jobs in the U.S. now are filled by immigrants, group says

Two-thirds of the 301,319 jobs designated during the historic North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada are currently filled by immigrants or permanent residents, according to a new report by the pro-immigration group United We Dream.

The group is doing its own census to track immigration contributions to the United States. It found that 44 percent of the jobs “necessary to U.S. economic prosperity” in the years 1991-2010, or the period of NAFTA, were actually filled by “offshore immigrants,” even as the population of immigrants living in the United States more than tripled in that period.

That is why NAFTA could have made a major contribution to America’s economy: hundreds of thousands of jobs went to people from the Americas and immigrants, in exchange for concessions on labor and the environment from Mexico and Canada.

When it came to jobs “obligating future economic growth,” however, only 18 percent of the workable jobs were filled by immigrants or permanent residents during the period, United We Dream said. The report released Monday said 20 percent of the jobs “required highly skilled workers,” which includes immigrants and legal permanent residents, the category for people like Mark Zuckerberg who started Facebook.

“[NAFTA] opened the doors of our economy to millions of foreign workers who took jobs that Americans were too smart, old, or dumb to do—mostly because their pay cheques would help maintain poverty-wage jobs for everyday Americans,” said United We Dream Interim Executive Director Sarahi Uribe.

There has been controversy over where to draw the line on who needs to be paid wages equivalent to the lowest wage that would support a family, which is a requirement for those workers to be included in the NAFTA labor agreement.

The agreement was the first free trade pact among nations that represent two-thirds of the world’s total economic output, signed in 1994 by President Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush. The signing was the product of intense lobbying by industry and agricultural interests who argued that they needed the agreement to advance the American food industry.

NAFTA was the signature accomplishment of the end of the Cold War but it brought rifts with the United States’ closest allies in Europe and Canada, who opposed aspects of the deal, including allowing the entry of Mexican truckers into Canadian and American roads.

In 2013, a leaked report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that the percentage of employers with immigrant workers in their firms had nearly doubled from 3 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2012. It also found that immigrants provided nearly $50 billion of the direct payroll payroll tax revenues from 2001 to 2010, an increase of more than 15 percent over the previous five years.

That same report showed that the percentage of employees from Canada and Mexico with jobs matching the minimum wage was 24 percent of all U.S. workers, up from 16 percent in 2000.

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