Despite being hit particularly hard by the recession, immigrants are experiencing faster job growth than native-born Americans in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, according to reports.
"It seems that the rate of unemployment for immigrants is slightly lower than for the native group," said Jeanne Batalova, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, which analyzed employment data from 2008 to 2010, according to The Times Free Press.
Georgia and Alabama, two of the three states studied by the Migration Policy Institute -- the third state being Tennessee --, are states where immigrants showed faster job growth, and are among the states that have since passed some of the toughest immigration laws in the country.
Both states now require employers use a federal database to verify an applicant's immigration status before hiring, and restrict various state services and benefits to those who cannot confirm their legal resident status.
What may at first appear to be a conundrum -- why would immigrants gain jobs faster in states where undocumented immigrants are unwelcome -- could in fact be a sign of the opposite effect. In reaction to the high growth rate of foreign-born persons residing and working in these states, local authorities enacted laws to try and reverse the trend.
Or, it could be a sign that anti-immigration advocates' greatest fear -- that immigrants take Americans' jobs -- is an accurate concern
According to the Pew Center, the answer, however, is simple: demographics.
The Pew Center reports that the differences in jobs growth across groups largely reflect the differences in population growth.
With faster growth rates of working-age persons who were particularly ready to take low-wage jobs, Latino immigrants were uniquely positioned to capture more employment opportunities in these states.
Even after the introduction of tough laws primarily targeting immigrants from Mexico and Central America, the Latino population in these states continued to increase, growing 18 percent in Tennessee and 30 percent in Alabama from 2008 to 2010. Meanwhile, the U.S.-born population only increased 1.7 percent in Tennessee and 2.3 percent in Alabama.
Hispanics, as well as Asians, whose working-age population increased by 10.9% between 2007 and 2011, are experiencing a faster rate of jobs growth than other groups according to the Pew Hispanic Center . Their employment levels are higher now than before the start of the recession in December 2007.
In comparison, the slower rate of jobs growth for whites and blacks reflects the relatively slow growth in their populations. The white working-age population grew only 1.3%, and the black working-age population increased by 5% from 2007 to 2011, whereas during this same period, the Hispanic working-age (16 and older) population in the country increased by 12.8%.
In addition, there's also the argument that "[Latinos] might be more willing to take low-wage, temporary jobs. And they tend to be more mobile, willing to move from one county to another to get a job," The Los Angeles Times reported.
Immigrants in Alabama, Georgia and Tenesse usually work low-skilled jobs, often in industries such construction, agriculture and manufacturing.
"They often fill a niche that's vacant," said Batalova as reported by the Times Free Press. "That's what happened in a number industries like meat packing and certain agricultural jobs."
Time will tell if the anti-immigration laws passed last year in Alabama and Georgia will succeed in generating job growth for U.S. born workers, at the expense of the foreign-born workers. Initial reports suggest that the efforts may have been too successful, as employers have indicated that the laws have driven immigrant labor out of their communities, but in doing so, have placed economic growth at risk when the states can least afford it.