Foreign Workers Permeating the U.S. Job Market

A new report on the growing presence of foreign workers in U.S. jobs was recently released by the Brookings Institute. Audrey Singer, the demographer who wrote the report, concludes from the data that, “…our economy is dependent on immigrant labor now and for the future.” She notes that foreign workers now comprise 16.4 percent of the labor force, although they are less than 13 percent of the population. Even more disproportionately, foreign workers represent more than two-fifths (41.5%) of all U.S. labor force growth between 2005 and 2010.

The report’s findings should be looked at with a questioning eye. How much would the recent hiring practices have changed if employers had been required to use the E-Verify system to screen out illegal foreign workers? How would hiring practices have been different if high-tech employers had been required to hire qualified U.S. workers first before hiring foreign workers? How would hiring practices have changed if there were not so many illegal workers available? Would there have been greater recourse to labor-saving technology if not for the presence of so many immigrant workers? These questions are key to deciding whether you agree with Singer’s assertion that our economy is dependent on foreign workers.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    Ok Audrey, now do the report but find out the ratio of foreign to native US workers in the IT sector – I guarantee you it’s 9:1, if that.

    AND under Tilte 8, Section 1182, ALL foreign workers are “inadmissible aliens” if Americans are unemployed. Note the law says not that they just can’t work here, they can’t even BE here. Not even LEGALLY. Time to demand enforcement of this law and deport all foreign wokers now.

  2. avatar
    Randall Burns on

    First off, there are fairly robust economies that have much lower rates of immigration than the US has-so obviously high immigration rates are not necessary.

    The question is who wins, who looses with high immigration rates? The losers are those that work for a living. The winners are those that have property holdings that appreciate as labor costs decrease enough to offset those losses-which means roughly those with at least $5 Million in assets-the only group that has made substantial gains in net worth since 1980 according to Ed Wolff of NYU.

    Yes, the economy of Singer’s donors really may depend on high immigration levels-the livelihood of the rest of us really doesn’t.

  3. avatar

    I think Ms. Singer seems to confuse cause and effect. Do we have all of these immigrant workers in the labor force because they were needed, or do we have so many immigrant workers in the labor force because they just showed up and businesses decided, ‘Hey, they’re here, they work cheaply, so we might as well put them to use’?