SUMMARY: The statement is correct for one segment of workers but not for all of them, according to a widely quoted economist that Brooks lists as a primary source for his information. Many Americans are not affected by "wage deflation" at all.
ANALYSIS: In his e-mail response to questions, Brooks referred to a study and a National Public Radio interview by Harvard University economist George Borjas. In the study, Borjas estimated a $1,700 per year average reduction in wages for U.S.-born males in unskilled jobs, roughly 4 percent of the work force, due to more people competing for jobs.
Borjas estimated a 7.4 percent wage reduction, or almost $2,000, for unskilled U.S.-born men who did not graduate from high school. The impact was most significant for U.S.-born black and Hispanic workers, he said.
Not all workers felt the impact.
In the March 2006 National Public Radio interview on the same issue, Borjas said the impact of illegal immigration on U.S. wages is different for more highly skilled workers. Most of those workers don’t compete for jobs with illegal immigrants. And Borjas said for workers who do feel impact, it comes from the presence of more competition in the work force, legal and illegal.
"The most respected recent studies show that most Americans would notice little difference in their paychecks if illegal immigrants suddenly disappeared from the United States," Borjas said in that interview. In addition, illegal workers create demand that leads to new jobs as the workers buy cars, cell phones, get haircuts and eat in restaurants, he said.
In its own fact check on the issues, National Public Radio used studies by Borjas and David Card of the University of California at Berkeley. NPR said although the studies "do not agree, they have some similar findings:
"Overall, the U.S. work force’s wages have either not been changed at all or have gone up slightly (around 1 percent) because of immigration.
"One cohort has almost certainly seen lower wages because of immigration: high school dropouts. Their wages have gone down somewhere between 3 percent and 7 percent, depending on how the study is performed."