Jan 27 2014
By: Sen. Jeff Sessions
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.
Republicans have the opportunity to give voice to the working and middle-class Americans whose wages and job prospects have eroded drastically in recent years. House GOP leaders are reportedly planning to release their “immigration principles” this week. Unfortunately, leaks reveal the leaders’ plan mirrors central elements of the president’s plan, combining work permits for millions of illegal immigrants with large permanent increases in the flow of new workers from abroad. This would be an extraordinary act of self-sabotage.
Would it not be in the national interest to help move Americans off of welfare and into good paying jobs that can support a family? Is there not an argument to be made that we should slow down and allow wages to rise, assimilation to occur, and both immigrants and citizens to rise together into the middle class?
Republicans have a chance to recapture the trust of millions of disaffected voters who have turned away. But it will mean resisting the influence of corporate interests acting on the president’s behalf. And it will mean recognizing the practical real-world concerns of everyday Americans.
The choice is clear. 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.
Sen. Jeff Sessions is an Alabama Republican.