Perhaps no issue better illustrates the current divide between everyday citizens and our political and business elites than the issue of immigration. The latter group draws the financial gains from a generous labor supply without considering the perspective of those on the other side of the ledger: the working people who have to worry about being laid off and replaced with lower-wage workers, about the strain placed on their local hospitals and neighborhood resources, or about cartel violence spilling across the border into their own communities.
For instance, Sheldon Adelson recently wrote that: “The immigrants here illegally need jobs, want to work and are willing to take on jobs that are not appealing to many Americans.” What about Americans who need jobs? Human beings are not commodities. We need to get our own workers off of unemployment and into good-paying jobs that can support their families. That means if a job is hard or strenuous, employers should raise wages and improve working conditions – why shouldn’t Americans who do tough work get paid more for their efforts?
Rupert Murdoch also recently argued for a dramatic expansion of the controversial H1B guest worker program. Murdoch writes that “there is a shortage of qualified American candidates,” to fill jobs in STEM fields like computer services and engineering. But the evidence shows the opposite: the US graduates approximately twice as many STEM-trained students each year as there are STEM jobs to fill. There is a large surplus of unemployed Americans with STEM degrees and yet, per the Economic Policy Institute, “the annual inflow of guestworkers amount to one-third to one-half of all new IT jobs holders.” As Rutgers Professor Hal Salzman poignantly asked, “Average wages in IT today are the same as they were when Bill Clinton was president well over a decade ago…if there is in fact a shortage, why doesn’t that reflect in the market? Why don’t wages go up?”
The United States has the most generous immigration policy in the world. Each year, the US grants permanent legal admission to an additional 1 million immigrants who will be able to apply for citizenship, along with roughly 700,000 guest workers, 200,000 relatives of guest workers, and 500,000 students. These are overwhelmingly not farm workers as activists falsely suggest, but are instead workers brought in to fill jobs in every sector, occupation and industry throughout the US economy.
Overall, the number of people living in the US who were born in another country has quadrupled since 1970. And yet the Senate immigration bill doubles the rate of future immigration and guest worker admissions.
For too long, the immigration debate has been driven by the needs of politicians, business interests, and immigration activists who fail to appreciate that a nation owes certain obligations to its own citizens.
Consider immigration policy from the viewpoint of a middle-aged unemployed American who has to borrow gas money to drive to a job interview 100 miles away. Imagine how his or her life is affected when the company gives that open job to a temporary guest worker hired from 10,000 miles away. Imagine what any of the 58 million working-age Americans who don’t have jobs might have to say to the lawmakers and activists who claim there is a “labor shortage”.
The phrase “immigration reform” has been thoughtlessly applied to any legislation that combines amnesty with dramatic future increases to our record supply of labor. This is the singular vision championed by President Obama and Congressional Democrats. It therefore falls on the shoulders of Republicans to stand alone as the one party representing the interests of everyday working Americans.