The threat of the immigration reform push underway in Congress.
Ninety two million Americans have left the workforce. Another 50 million live below the poverty line. One-in-five American households are on food stamps. Household income is down 4.4 percent since the so-called recovery began in 2009. Only 74,000 jobs were created last month, and America remains mired in the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression. The bipartisan "solution" for these problems steadily gaining steam in Washington? Comprehensive immigration reform that will heighten the competition for jobs between newly legalized immigrants and Americans workers struggling to find employment.
Make no mistake: Americans are struggling to find employment. Even Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, admitted as much, conceding that there are "three people looking for every job." Despite that reality, one of the proposals contained in the Senate immigration bill passed last June would double the number of guest workers admitted to the United States on an annual basis. That increase is four times larger than the one contained in the 2007 Bush-Kennedy proposal.
America currently admits one million legal immigrants per year, far more than any other nation in the world. Yet when one combines the aforementioned guest workers with illegal aliens who would be granted work permits and permanent residency, the bill supported by the Senate Democrats and Obama would triple that number to 3 million immigrants per year, and 30 million mostly lower-skill immigrants coming to America over the next decade.
Sixteen conservative House members sent a letter to the president illuminating the consequences. “The White House has entertained a parade of high-powered business executives to discuss immigration policy, all while shutting out the concerns of everyday wage-earners who overwhelmingly oppose these measures,” it states. "So-called comprehensive immigration reform may be a good deal for big businesses who want to reduce labor costs, and it may be a good deal for progressive labor unions seeking new workers from abroad, but it's an awful deal for U.S. workers - including African-American and Hispanic communities enduring chronically high unemployment."
The letter is spot on. The current official unemployment rate for Hispanics is 8.3 percent, well above the national average of 6.7 percent. And just like the average unemployment rate is completely misleading because it doesn't include the millions who have left the labor force, so it goes for Hispanics whose workforce participation rate shrank by 261,000 in December. For black Americans, the stats are even worse. Their official unemployment rate is 11.9 percent, and their labor force participation rate of 65.6 percent is the lowest ever recorded.
Unemployment is only half the equation. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), wages would also be negatively affected -- for an entire decade. "Average wages would be slightly lower than under current law through 2024, primarily because the amount of capital available to workers would not increase as rapidly as the number of workers and because the new workers would be less skilled and have lower wages, on average, than the labor force under current law," the CBO writes. The CBO further notes the Senate proposal would "slightly raise the unemployment rate through 2020."
Yet it is the other part of the letter that is likely to resonate with ordinary Americans. Average Americans were shut out of the process of immigration reform while organizations like Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, United Technologies, American Express, Procter & Gamble, T-Mobile, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Cigna and Texas Instruments all petitioned Congress to increase the number of immigrant workers. Mirian Graddick-Weir, Merck Executive Vice President for Human Resources, sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), insisting more foreign workers were necessary to "address the reality that there is a global war for talent" and to "align our nation's immigration policies with its workforce needs at all skill levels to ensure U.S. global competitiveness."
In 2013, Merck laid off 16,000 workers. The other companies mentioned above have also laid off thousands of workers over the last few years.
The Chamber or Commerce (COC) is an equally hypocritical organization. Despite their purported alliance with Republicans, they also support comprehensive immigration reform. "We're determined to make 2014 the year that immigration reform is finally enacted," said COC president Tom Donohue. Toward that end, the COC has targeted the one stumbling block to that reform, namely conservative House members. As conservative columnist Michelle Malkin reveals, the COC will spend "$50 million subsidizing the Republican incumbency protection racket and attacking anti-establishment conservatives."
Donahue laid out the COC's agenda for the 2014 election campaign. “In 2014, the chamber will work to protect and expand a pro-business majority in the House and advance our position and our influence in the Senate,” he said in his annual State of American Business speech in Washington. “The business community understands what’s at stake.”
So does Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who is leading the charge against comprehensive immigration reform. "Senate Democrats, the Gang of Eight and the White House have all apparently decided that large corporations should be able to tailor the nation's immigration policy to suit their own financial interests," he said in a statement released last October. "Now it falls on the shoulders of House Republicans to do the right thing and to defend the legitimate interests of American workers."
The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) illuminates the immigration trends, both legal and illegal, that have already adversely affected those interests. Their analysis of government data shows that over the last 13 years, all of the net gain in employment has gone to legal and illegal immigrants. During that timeframe, which was also a period of record immigration, the net number of jobs held by U.S.-born Americans declined by 1.3 million, while the number of jobs held by both legal and illegal immigrants increased by 5.3 million.
The report undermines several other shibboleths promoted by the pro-reform advocates, especially the notion that immigration reform is necessary to fill the jobs "Americans refuse to do." CIS reveals that out of the 472 civilian occupations defined by the Department of Commerce, only six occupations are majority immigrant, both legal and illegal. Those six occupations account for only one percent of the total American workforce. "Given the employment situation in the country, the dramatic increases in legal immigration contemplated by the Gang of Eight immigration bill seem out of touch with the realities of the U.S. labor market," the report concludes.
Unfortunately those with vested interests, including Democrats, who envision a plethora of new voters giving them a permanent majority, labor unions who envision millions of new dues-paying members, and establishment Republicans, more than willing to kowtow to their big business campaign donors eager for cheap labor, couldn't care less.
Of the three entities, the GOP establishment truly stands out. It is not often that a political party mired in minority status since 2006 is given a gift as large as ObamaCare to run against in 2014. It is truly remarkable that they would even consider alienating their core constituency in return for….what?
Certainly not the allegiance of Hispanics. In every presidential election since 1980, Hispanics have favored Democrats over Republicans by an average margin of 64-31 percent. That included the 1988 election, which followed the granting of unambiguous amnesty to 2.7 million illegals, courtesy of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. Despite a blowout win for George G.W. Bush, he received only 30 percent of the Hispanic vote, even as loser Michael Dukakis garnered 69 percent.
Thus one is left to conclude the establishment wing of the GOP is doing nothing more than serving interests of their big business campaign donors. Townhall's John Hawkins explains the dynamic:
"There are a lot of businesses out there that want an endless supply of cheap labor, which would be fine, except that they want everyone else to pay for it. An illegal alien with no car insurance, no health insurance, who claims he has 14 kids so he can get an earned income tax credit can work cheaper than a law abiding American. So, when the illegal crashes his car, you pay for it. When he gets sick, you pay for it. Your taxes put his kids through school. Your taxes pay the bills if he goes to jail. Your tax dollars go into his pocket when he cheats on his taxes -- meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce crowd makes so much money off of these illegals that they can afford to donate some of it to politicians like John Boehner, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Lindsey Graham and John McCain in order to get them to keep the gravy train going."
That gravy train is utterly antithetical to the interests of the average American worker, and the conservative members of the GOP know it. “Job number one for Congress should be to reduce the unemployment rolls, get families and communities out of poverty and government dependency, rebuild our deteriorating communities and collapsing middle class, and increase wages for American citizens,” the above letter concludes.
Unfortunately, the signs remain ominous. GOP leaders will soon release their so-called "statement of principals" regarding comprehensive immigration reform. As Sen. Sessions explains, they mirror many of the central elements of President Obama's plan, allowing millions of illegals to gain work permits and permanently increasing the flow of foreign workers into America. And while pro-immigration advocates ramble on about the supposed economic benefits that will accrue as a result, a fundamental economic law is being calculatingly ignored in the process: more of anything, including millions of additional workers, makes the individual value of that thing (worker) worth less. Combine that economic fundamental with the current, largely jobless, recovery that already has three people competing for every one job, and it's a formula for disaster for the American worker.
"The choice is clear," writes Sessions. "Either the GOP can help the White House deliver a crushing hammer blow to the middle class--or it can stand alone as the one party defending the legitimate interests of American workers."
It could be clearer than that. A day after the president has made populist rhetoric the central part of his agenda, the GOP has an opportunity to seize the high ground on populist reality. It may be the last chance they get for a long time.
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