It’s AI, not Immigrants, Who Are Coming for Our Jobs

The concept of immigrants as outsiders who “steal” jobs and contribute to depressed wages has long been a lynchpin of the Trump Administration’s rhetoric, despite a plethora of evidence demonstrating that sustained levels of immigration have an overall positive effect on our economy. And to be fair, unfounded suspicion of immigrants as a threat to the livelihood of native-born Americans permeated our culture long before the rise of Trump. But it’s hard to argue that his constant bloviating on the merits of border walls, his repeated promises to slash legal immigration levels, and the double digit increase in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids since he took office haven’t placed immigrants under a new level of scrutiny. However, a new study released recently reveals that more Americans are beginning to recognize that technology, not immigration, is the real menace to their job security.

The study, which was conducted by Northeastern University / Gallup, reveals that 58 percent of Americans now view technology as the greatest threat to their jobs over the next decade, while 42 percent feel that immigration and offshoring are the greatest threat. The findings are even more compelling when broken down into political subgroups. Participants of the study who identified as Republican were the only group who considered immigrants and offshoring a bigger threat to their jobs than technology, with 48 percent most concerned about technology versus 52 percent who were most concerned about immigration and offshoring. That’s a striking comparison to respondents of the study who identified as politically independent, with 57 percent viewing technology as their greatest job threat and 43 percent viewing immigrants and offshoring as their greatest job threat. Participants who identified as Democratic had by far the most negative view of technology as it related to their job security, with 67 percent viewing AI as the greatest threat and only 33 percent viewing immigration and offshoring as the greatest threat. [See AI Seen as Greater Job Threat than Immigration, Offshoring, by RJ Reinhart,, 09.Mar.2018.]

The wariness of U.S. workers towards rapidly advancing technology is supported by several studies forecasting that AI will eliminate more jobs than it creates in the coming decades. Some of the direst predictions estimate that up to 47 percent of the workforce will see their professions displaced by technology, although it’s important to remember that theories on this issue vary widely. However, most experts agree that technology will have some measurable level of impact on the labor force in the coming years. In contrast, claims that immigrants negatively impact native-born U.S. workers fail to stand up to close inspection. Rather, studies consistently show that immigrants demonstrate an elevated rate of entrepreneurship compared to the native-born U.S. population, and add gains to the U.S. economy as a large part of our workforce is aging into retirement.

Despite this body of evidence, President Trump continues to denounce immigrants as “job stealers” at every opportunity, while remaining largely silent on the looming threat of AI. And while it may be politically expedient to make immigrants a scapegoat for our collective unease in the face of technology, it certainly isn’t conducive to a strong future for our nation. Immigrants are, and always have been, a key component of our success on the world stage. To vilify them now, just as our workforce is about to merge with AI and undergo a dramatic and unpredictable transformation, could be disastrous.


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