It is almost unbelievable that Republican leaders in the House are seriously considering an immigration “reform” bill that reportedly resembles the disastrous package that was passed by the Senate. With poverty skyrocketing, labor force participation plummeting and wages declining, why on Earth would we want to import tens of millions of new, unskilled laborers to compete with our own fellow citizens, who are already hurting? In order to lower wages even further, apparently, which is why the Chamber of Commerce wants “reform.” But the first duty of Republican Congressmen is not to the Chamber of Commerce.
Senator Jeff Sessions is Washington’s most tireless advocate for America’s working class. He has a column in USA Today that should not be missed:
In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Obama is expected to discuss the plight of American workers. At the same time, he is pushing Republicans to pass an immigration plan making the problem worse by increasing the flow of immigrant workers to compete against unemployed Americans and those struggling to get by in low-wage jobs. Yet, alarmingly, the move is regarded as a part of Obama’s agenda that has a chance of becoming law.
House Republicans should reply to the president’s immigration effort with a simple message: Our first duty is to help struggling Americans find good work and rising wages.
The president’s own economic adviser, Gene Sperling, recently noted that there are three unemployed people for every job available. Wages today have been flat since 2000. Last year, a record one in five American households received food stamps.
This is a national emergency.
So what is the president’s proposal? With three job seekers for every open job, he proposes doubling the number of guest workers entering every year, granting immediate work permits to millions of illegal immigrants, and tripling the number of new immigrants granted permanent residency over the next decade.
Today, the U.S. admits 1 million immigrants a year. The plan supported by the president and Senate Democrats would increase that to 3 million a year, or 30 million largely lower-skill immigrants over the next 10.
Did anyone ask the American people whether they wanted to triple immigration?
Polling shows that the public opposes these increases. The opposition is particularly strong among lower- and middle-income Americans. Those earning under $30,000 prefer a reduction to an increase by 3-1.
This is not hard to understand. From 2000 to 2013, a period of record immigration, the number of U.S.-born Americans with jobs declined by 1.3 million while the number of immigrants with jobs increased 5.3 million. On net, all employment gains went to immigrant workers.
Harvard professor George Borjas determined that high levels of immigration from 1980 through 2000 resulted in a 7.4% wage reduction for workers without a high school diploma. Similarly, he found current immigration policy resulted in a net wage loss of $402 billion for workers competing directly with immigrant labor.
The message to the Republican House is: just say no. This is an occasion when good policy intersects with good politics. Republicans have an opportunity to avert a damaging blow to America’s blue collar workers. Note, too, that the real issue is legal immigration, not illegal immigration. Building a fence would do nothing to avert the disaster that would result from tripling current legal unskilled immigration levels.
It is understandable that certain business interests want lower wages, and equally understandable that Democrats want to import tens of millions of new Democratic voters. But I can’t see any coherent reason why Republicans should cooperate with Democrats to bring about such a disastrous result.