As of late last week, an impasse between business and labor over work visas appeared to be all that stood in the way of a Senate bill on comprehensive immigration. And, as we noted, since this dispute pertained only to dollars and cents, not principles, resolution seemed likely.
Now, it has occurred. “Labor and business reach deal on immigration issue” reads the headline of this article in the New York Times. According to the Times, “the accord between the influential business and labor groups all but assured that the bipartisan group of senators would introduce their broad immigration legislation in the next few weeks.”
With their legislative work done, Thomas Donohue, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, are ready to celebrate, along with their go-between Sen. Chuck Schumer:
Shortly before the conference call on Friday night between Mr. Schumer, Mr. Donohue and Mr. Trumka ended, one of the men suggested that the three of them get together soon for dinner; it had been, they all agreed, a long few weeks.
It’s nice that, through arduous efforts, big business and big labor have come together to do the nation’s business for us. It would have been nicer if all other relevant interests had been included.
One such interest is that of the officers who enforce our immigration laws on the front line. It happens that this interest is represented by a union — ICE. Unfortunately, as Jeff Sessions has pointed out, ICE has asked repeatedly to be given a chance to participate in White House discussions and to speak with the Gang of Eight, but has been unable to get a meeting.
I guess this union falls into the “little labor” category.
It will also be nice if Congress holds open public hearings on every aspect of the Gang of 8 deal. Marco Rubio, the pivotal member of Chuck Schumer’s Gang, promised such public hearings, and other forms of careful deliberation, to Rush Limbaugh and his audience:
The next step in this process is to craft a starting point of legislation, and then after that it’s gonna have to go through committees and people are gonna have their input. There’s gonna be public hearings. I don’t want to be part of a process that comes up with some bill in secret and brings it to the floor and gives people a take it or leave it. I want this place to work the way it’s supposed to work, with every senator having input and the public having input.
The Times reports that Rubio sent a letter to Sen. Leahy of the Senate Judiciary Committee urging against “excessive haste” in considering the soon-to-be-introduced legislation. Rubio said that the support of voters will be crucial for passing any immigration law, and “that support can only be earned through full and careful consideration of legislative language and an open process of amendments.”
I fear that this letter may be more about providing Rubio with political cover than about promoting real deliberation. Rubio casts himself as a supplicant to Leahy rather than what he really is — the key to any deal. As such, he need not beg. The process he described to Limbaugh should be a done deal at this point.
The letter is also disingenuous on its face. Support of voters isn’t crucial to passing immigration reform. The legislation can be imposed from the top down, just as Obamacare was. This time it requires only unified Democrats (a given) and a relatively small number of squishy Republicans (not a given in the House, but far from a long-shot).
This is always what Sens. Schumer, McCain, and Graham had in mind. Either Rubio also had it in mind or he is hopelessly naive.
What Rubio really means, I suppose, is that the support of Republican voters — or at least their non-disgust — is crucial to Rubio’s political future. Public hearings may not be sufficient for this purpose, but their absence (one hopes) would severely limit that future.
In any case, big business, big labor, and Chuck Schumer are happy and Marco Rubio seems squishy. At the end of the day, that may be all that matters.
STEVE adds: Even if you’re for immigration reform, this is a totally crappy deal. The idea of a guest-worker program is one of the only things about immigration reform that makes any sense. But the details of this deal as reported in the Times smack of central planning and protectionism for labor unions and big business. The restrictions on the kind of occupations and size of companies that may use guest-worker visas (limiting one-third to companies with 25 employees or less–that is, non-union businesses for the most part–is yet another disincentive, like Obamacare, not to grow), along with “prevailing wage” regulation of the jobs that guest workers may fill, assure the program will not be responsive to actual labor market needs. To the contrary, this “compromise” seems designed to make sure that there will be lots of future illegal immigration and underground employment if the economy ever starts growing again.
Another detail unclear from the story is how many of these visas will be available to high skill jobs in high tech sectors. The Times story seems to suggest the Chamber-big labor deal concentrates more on low- and semi-skilled jobs in the construction and hospitality industry. If a large number of guest worker visas aren’t available for high tech, the whole effort is a total farce.