13 Industries the Immigration Crackdown Could Hurt

American Jobs Hurt By Immigration Sanctions


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American Jobs Hurt By Immigration Sanctions

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The backlash against immigrants and unauthorized workers has reached a fever pitch, with the same old they're "taking American jobs" rhetoric. President Donald Trump has made cracking down on undocumented workers a cornerstone of his administration. But the reality, economists say, is that immigrants made up just 17.1 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2014, or about 27.6 million workers out of 161.4 million, and a small portion (5 percent) were undocumented immigrants. Many jobs held by immigrants are low-paid or seasonal, which others often don't want; some are high-paying tech jobs available by visa that many Americans lack the skills to take.

The Pew Center offers some numbers on jobs with high numbers of immigrant workers, though in other industries the effect is anecdotal. All told, undocumented workers account for about 3 percent of the GDP, according to a study by Queens College professor Francesc Ortega, who warns that deporting millions of undocumented immigrants could create job losses not seen since the Great Recession. 

Related: 24 Job Hunting Tips for Workers Over 50

Home Builders

Construction and Extraction

Percent of immigrant workers: 27
Percent of undocumented immigrant workers: 15
These workers include everything from brick masons and floor sanders to drywall and ceiling tile installers. Expect construction delays and higher costs on that home or office building.

Clothing Factory

Apparel Manufacturing

Percent of immigrant workers: 31
Percent of undocumented immigrant workers: 20
The apparel manufacturing industry relies heavily on unauthorized immigrants. The clothing in stores may be made in the USA, but not always by documented Americans.

Transportation and Material Moving
Alex Potemkin/istockphoto

Transportation and Material Moving

Percent of immigrant workers: 19
Percent of undocumented immigrant workers: 6
This diverse industry includes everything from airline pilots to bus drivers, truck drivers, and locomotive engineers, but also crane and tower operators, parking lot attendants, and sailors and marine oilers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Rural Farmers
Catalin Petolea/shutterstock


Percent of immigrant workers: 33
Agriculture is another industry to be hard hit. An estimated 50 percent to 70 percent of farm workers are undocumented. If farmers lost all access to undocumented workers, agricultural output could drop $30 billion to $60 billion and push food prices up 5 percent to 7 percent, according to a American Farm Bureau Federation study.



Percent of immigrant workers: 21
Among our 164,000-plus foreign-trained doctors, more than 8,000 are from the seven nations targeted in President Donald Trump's first travel ban, Doctors for America says, citing Harvard data. Immigrant doctors are particularly essential to the rural health care system: Seeking visa guarantees from employers, they often choose to work in rural areas that highly trained U.S. citizens are leaving behind.

Computer and Mathematical Science

Computer and Mathematical Science

Percent of immigrant workers: 25
Percent of undocumented immigrant workers: 5
This highly skilled and highly compensated group of workers includes computer systems analysts, information security analysts, computer programmers, software developers, database administrators, and computer network architects, to name a few examples from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Personal Appearance Workers
Bobby Coutu/istockphoto


Percent of immigrant workers: 63
Percent of undocumented immigrant workers: 12
Including manicurists and pedicurists, makeup artists, shampooers and skin care specialists, this industry has the highest share of immigrant workers.

Private Household Workers

Private Household Work

Percent of immigrant workers: 45
Percent of undocumented immigrant workers: 22
This category includes babysitters, domestic servants such as cooks and maids, as well as chauffeurs and gardeners.

Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance

Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance

Percent of immigrant workers: 34
Percent of undocumented immigrant workers: 17
Because these sorts of jobs cannot be exported, worker shortages are likely to be more pronounced, forcing costs higher for businesses, economists warn.



Percent of immigrant workers: 24
A struggle to find workers is why landscaping companies turn to visa programs. A Denver area landscape business owner said he posts ads in newspapers, on Craigslist, and on street signs for positions paying $14 to $25 an hour with health care and benefits, hiring every person who shows up — but is lucky if any report to work, according to the Times. Offering employees $100 referral bonuses also hasn't worked.

Monkey Business Images/shutterstock


Percent of immigrant workers: 24
An annual list issued by Manpower showed that engineering, which includes mechanical, electrical, and civil engineers, is one of the hardest jobs to fill in this country, though every engineer working in manufacturing supports 20 other jobs, according to the federal government. When engineers are in short supply, companies often outsource production to countries where there's more plentiful talent.

Restaurant Support Staff


Percent of immigrant workers: 22
Percent of undocumented immigrant workers: 10
The sous chef at the Yankee Rebel Tavern on Michigan's Mackinac Island told The New York Times he was coming in  three hours early each day to do tasks once done by visa workers. With cooks, dishwashers, and servers short, the restaurant's owner has been washing dishes herself.


Hotels and Hospitality

Percent of immigrant workers: 21
Innkeepers are particularly affected by the reduction of H-2B immigration visas, especially in places such as Maine where unemployment is low. Don't bother calling housekeeping, unless it's to join up.