Last Friday, the so-called “comprehensive immigration reform” effort received a boost when U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Tom Donohue and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka reportedly came to an agreement regarding a guest-worker program. The deal indicates that one of the bill’s major stumbling blocks — the worry that a flood of unskilled, low-wage workers would crowd poorer Americans out of the job market — has apparently been overcome. Politically speaking, it has. For low-skill, low-wage Americans, however, it is an economic disaster-in-the-making. And though Democrats are once again casting themselves as the champions of beleaguered minority groups for pursuing this legislation, it is American blacks and Hispanics — the communities that suffer from some of the nation’s highest unemployment rates — who will pay the price for the Left’s amnesty folly.
A report published in 2011 by the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) made the case that illegal aliens were already competing with Americans for jobs, especially in the low-wage, low-skilled category. “Immigration, Poverty and Low-Wage Earners: The Harmful Effect of Unskilled Immigrants on American Workers,” revealed that of the 1.1 million legal immigrants admitted to this country on an annual basis, less that 6 percent “possessed skills deemed essential to the U.S. economy.” “Some family-based immigrants may be highly educated or skilled, but the vast majority of admissions are made without regard for those criteria,” the report stated. “The immigrant population reflects the system’s lack of emphasis on skill. Nearly 31 percent of foreign-born residents over the age of 25 are without a high school diploma, compared to just 10 percent of native-born citizens.”
FAIR spokesman Ira Mehlman illuminated the implications of adding a pathway to citizenship for illegals into the mix, explaining that “they will still be unskilled and poorly educated. The only difference is they will be legally able to stay here. They will file a tax return and will be able to claim all sorts of benefits,” he added. Mehlman was challenged by the Chamber of Commerce. “Immigrants do not ‘steal’ jobs from American workers,” a report titled “Immigration Myths and Facts” stated. “Immigrants come to the United States to fill jobs that are available, or to establish their own businesses.”
FAIR noted the absurdity of such a statement, contending that “there is no such thing as an ‘immigrant job.’ The reality is that immigrants and natives compete for the same jobs and native workers are increasingly at a disadvantage because employers have access to a steady supply of low-wage foreign workers.”
Last Tuesday, Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder Bob Johnson inadvertently confirmed FAIR’s assessment of the jobs front with regard to black Americans. He noted that their unemployment rate is double the national average. Johnson claimed the challenge was to find out why that level was so high. A poll commissioned by Johnson revealed that 50 percent of blacks blame the “failure of the education system,” while 48 percent believe a “lack of corporate commitment to hiring minorities” is to blame. The truth is that low-skill workers, who are produced by poor education, are the most vulnerable during times of economic hardship, and unemployment rates reflect this. An influx of unskilled labor only stands to make the job market less hospitable for those blacks who are economically marginalized.
Not that this matters to Sen. Charles Schumer, who mediated the deal between Donohue and Trumka. “With the agreement between business and labor, every major policy issue has been resolved,” he said.
The deal creates a new “W’’ visa category aimed at low-skill workers. It would allow immigrants to earn the same wages paid to Americans, or an industry’s prevailing wages, whichever is higher. Since such wages can vary from city to city, the Labor Department would determine the prevailing wage. The proposal also includes the additional promises of border security, a crackdown on employers who hire illegals, and a 13-year pathway to citizenship for the millions of illegal aliens currently in the country.
It’s the oh-so-familiar promises that ought to infuriate Americans well aware that the exact same promises about border control and a crackdown on businesses were made when the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed into law. The one notable difference is that 2.7 million illegal immigrants were granted amnesty immediately under that version of “comprehensive immigration reform” — reform that was supposed to solve the problem once and for all.
Since the other two promises were broken with impunity, the resulting effects were easily predictable. If one believes the media-promoted estimates, more than 11 million illegals will be granted the right to remain in the United States this time around. Remarkably, that same media has failed to ask a single politician in either party a simple question, but one with profound implications for the nation: what if those estimates are wrong? Would the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” working to make this deal a reality have any reservations if the number of illegals about to be placed on the pathway to citizenship numbered 20 million–or higher? Would the millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans, especially low-skill workers in direct competition with these immigrants for jobs, buy into the idea promoted by activist groups and business, along with their newfound allies in labor, that such mass legalization won’t affect their chances of finding a job?
A report from the Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative of the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, tried to put a happy face on the prospects for all American workers, contending that the influx of immigrants would increase overall wages between 0.1 and 0.6 percent. Yet it was forced to concede that low-skill American workers would be afflicted by a wage decrease of up to 4.7 percent.
Nonetheless, the Huffington Post contends that low-skill American workers should support reform regardless. Their rationale is that while newly documented immigrants would compete for low-skill jobs now, once they become citizens, they would pursue better paying employment, lessening the competition, and giving immigrant workers more money to spend, supporting the economy. In other words, as the bill now stands, low-skill Americans have to wait “only” 13 years before their quest for a low-skill job becomes easier. Meanwhile, since our underlying immigration problems will remain unaddressed, a steady flow of legal and illegal low-skill immigrants should be expected in perpetuity.
Last week, Sen. Jeff Session cut through some of the nonsense being peddled by the pro-amnesty campaign. “We have an immigration policy that says we have jobs but we don’t have enough workers,” he said. “That is what the businesses are telling us. We don’t have enough workers. They all ought to add … ‘And by the way, you need to give more welfare and more aid to people who don’t have jobs.’ Now, what is the disconnect there?”
He continued. “We need to be protecting American citizens who are here, out of work, and hurting today–minorities, Blacks and Whites and all colors and races that are hurting today with high unemployment, but we seem to be more focused on how we can ram through this Senate a bill that would legalize millions and create an even more robust guest worker program. There are not enough jobs now. Give me a break.”
Despite this reality, some kind of bill seemingly remains on track. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) sought to downplay the ostensible progress, noting that a “final product will require it to be properly submitted for the American people’s consideration, through the other 92 senators from 43 states that weren’t part of this initial drafting process.” He further noted that a “rush to legislate…would be fatal to the effort of earning the public’s confidence.”
If the economy remains the public’s number one concern, such confidence may never materialize. In the middle of 2012, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute revealed that between 90 and 95 million low-skill workers could be permanently jobless by 2020. Meanwhile, the nation’s labor force participation rate continues to decline, and the number of part-time employees continues to increase, to almost one-in-five workers. Furthermore, the New York Times reveals that “since 2008, 3.1 million new jobs have been created for college graduates as 4.3 million jobs have disappeared for high-school graduates and those without a high school diploma.” The paper further contends this divergence “will only continue, and even become more sharply defined.”
“Comprehensive immigration reform” will import millions of low-skill workers into America, even as millions of illegal alien, low-skill workers already here will be put on a pathway to citizenship. Obama, Democrats, and more than a few Republicans terrified by the political ramifications of walking away from a deal, will get behind a plan that apparently ignores basic economics: if you have more of something — like an over-abundance of low-skill workers — each one of those workers will be “worth” less.
For years, Americans have complained about jobs being “outsourced.” For low-skill American workers, a terrifying new reality has emerged: if anything resembling the current agreement is passed, increasing numbers of jobs will be “in-sourced.”
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