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Does the U.S. need illegal immigrants? There are 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States and intense disagreement over whether they help or hurt the U.S. economy.

YES

Somewhere between 7 and 8 million of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. are working, doing jobs we need done, and contributing to the economy.

With the unemployment rate above 8 percent, couldn't those jobs be filled by U.S. workers? Actually, no: Even the unemployed make choices about which jobs they're willing to take, and not enough of them want to work in the fields or wash dishes or work on an assembly line in a meatpacking plant to keep American agriculture, restaurants, hotels, and food processing alive.

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There are historical reasons for this. Americans have become more educated over time. In 1960, half of the native-born men in the labor force were high school dropouts eager to do unskilled, physically demanding work. Today, it's less than 10 percent. But we still need unskilled workers, and there is only so much employers can pay them before the prices they charge for their products increase so much that no one will buy them.

In fact, most unskilled immigrants support and sustain jobs for more highly skilled American workers. Think about your favorite restaurant. If the owner had to close for lack of busboys or dishwashers, that would put a lot of Americans out of work: the chef, the waiters, and the manager. It would also mean less work for other workers up- and downstream in the local economy: farmers, food processors, truckers, insurance agents--the list goes on and on.

Of course, employers should try to hire Americans first, and the law should require that. But there is no question: Whether they're legal or illegal, America needs these immigrant workers--and we will need them even more as the economy recovers and adds more jobs.

--TAMAR JACOBY

Immigrationworks USA

NO

The United States does not need illegal immigrants. In fact, the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. are an enormous burden to our country at a time when our ability to provide services for Americans is already strained.

The official unemployment rate is above 8 percent, and it's closer to 15 percent if you count those who can't find full-time work and those who are so discouraged that they've stopped looking. The federal government is struggling to deal with a $15 trillion national debt. And the U.S. already accepts more than 1 million legal immigrants each year.

Most illegal immigrants have no health insurance and end up seeking medical care in hospital emergency rooms. Our hospitals are already providing care to millions of uninsured Americans who can't afford to pay. That cost is passed along to American taxpayers.

According to the Federation

for American Immigration Reform, illegal immigration costs U.S. taxpayers $113 billion a year. The biggest expense--nearly $52 billion a year--is educating the children of illegal immigrants, a cost borne mostly by state and local governments.

It's often claimed that our economy needs these low-skilled workers "to do jobs Americans will not do." But what are those jobs? In every type of field you can name, Americans and legal immigrants perform the majority of those jobs. In only one area, seasonal agricultural jobs, is there a case that we need more temporary workers, and we already have a federal program to fill those jobs legally.

Illegal immigration is not only unneeded, it imposes great costs on our country and cheapens the value of legal immigration.

--TOM TANCREDO

Former Republican Congressman from Colorado
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Title Annotation:DEBATE
Author:Jacoby, Tamar; Tancredo, Tom
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 12, 2012
Words:572
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