How Trump and Sessions Cherry-Picked Data to Blame Immigrants for Lower Wages

4/30/2018 - Professor of Economics Giovanni Peri at the Center for Public Integrity.

In April of 2015, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service responded to a confidential request from the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. The memo was short, but it ignited a fiery outcry about the perceived threat of immigration from Jeff Sessions, then a Republican senator from Alabama.

The debate is not just intellectual. Today, Sessions is the attorney general of the United States, and his boss Donald Trump is president, and they’re both crusading to dramatically slash immigration based in part on the jobs and wages argument. Sessions’ spin shows how years of strategic dissemination of cherry-picked and misleading information has helped set the tone for a polarizing, bruising battle over immigration that is splitting the country. And it illuminates how the work of a small group of researchers can become the fulcrum around which policy changes are developed.

Economist Giovanni Peri at the University of California at Davis has advanced the argument that immigration prompts “task specialization”that lifts lower-skilled natives into complementary higher-ranking jobs—at restaurants or construction sites, for example—because of their English fluency, experience and other comparative advantages.

Read the full story at the Center for Public Integrity.