The National Interest, July 2, 2013
The recent movement on immigration legislation shows how many in the U.S. Congress are out of touch with the voters.
If it becomes law, the Senate amnesty bill (S.744) will welcome tens of millions of immigrants to our country at a time when over 20 million Americans are struggling to find work. Based on the Congressional Budget Office numbers, the Center for Immigration Studies projects that the bill would result in the foreign-born share of the U.S. population hitting a record high of 15 percent in 2020—surpassing the all-time high of 14.8 percent reached in 1890. Based on the CBO’s analysis, we further project that the foreign-born would reach 17 percent of the population (65.2 million) by 2033, a level never before seen in U.S. history. For perspective, the foreign-born population was less than 20 million as recently as 1990, or 7.9 percent of the total population.
Since economic law suggests that increasing the supply of cheap labor will result in lower wages, it is not surprising that the CBO concluded that the bill would decrease the wages of American workers for at least the first decade after the bill’s passage. It finds that amnestied illegal aliens, on the other hand, would see an increase in their wages. The CBO predicts that the wages of American workers should go back up sometime after 2025. But there’s no guarantee.
An equally troubling revelation is that the bill actually creates an incentive for employers to hire the amnestied aliens over American citizens. Under the terms of Obamacare, businesses that employ fifty or more workers must offer health insurance or face fines that range up to $3,000 per employee. This is a significant fine that most employers would of course want to avoid. Since S. 744 prohibits amnesty recipients from receiving Obamacare until they become citizens some thirteen years down the road, the easiest way for employers to avoid Obamacare fines would be to hire illegal aliens amnestied through the Senate bill. Simply put, the convergence of Obamacare and the amnesty bill would make the idea of hiring U.S. citizens a lot less attractive.
The solution demanded by the Obama administration will inevitably be an extension of Obamacare to all aliens who receive provisional legal status six months after the bill is signed. That would put conservatives in the position of choosing the lesser of two evils: growing Obamacare through immigration policy, or maintaining an incentive for employers to hire legalized illegal aliens over American citizens.
Such absurd decision making is the natural outcome of passing 1,200-page bills authored by special interests and activist groups. And this is just the beginning. New controversies and loopholes will likely be created by the various agencies tasked with carrying out the law as they fill the legislative holes with their own interpretations. While administrative rulemaking is anticipated for most laws passed by Congress, the immigration bill leaves so much discretion to the executive branch that the law may play out in ways that no one can yet predict.
Advocates of an expansive immigration policy often argue that the United States needs to embrace illegal immigration and increase legal immigration because there are “jobs Americans won’t do.” But there are very few occupations that are majority immigrant, according to Census Bureau data that look at 472 separate occupations. Many of the jobs generally thought to be so-called “immigrant jobs” are made up of a majority of native-born workers. There are no occupations in which the majority of workers are illegally in the country. The data are from the most recent collected employment statistics between 2009 and 2011.
We found that of 472 civilian occupations, only six are majority immigrant (legal and illegal). These six outlier occupations account for 1 percent of the total U.S. workforce, and native-born Americans still comprise 46 percent of workers even in these occupations. Other jobs often thought to be overwhelmingly filled by immigrants are actually majority native born. For example, of maids and housekeepers, 51 percent are native born. Of butchers and meat processors, 63 percent are native born. Of grounds-maintenance workers, 64 percent are native born. When it comes to construction laborers, 66 percent are native born. And of janitors, 73 percent are native born.
This idea that somehow American citizens are unwilling to do difficult or unglamorous work is a fiction created by open-border advocates. But it is easy to see why such claims are not persuasive to the average American—many voters are either employed in these jobs or know people who are. Such a mischaracterization of the American workforce is only persuasive to members of newspaper editorial boards and similarly situated individuals who work in an elite echo chamber.
Not surprisingly, amnesty and mass immigration remain wildly unpopular with the American people. Even the advocates know this. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) often spoke of the “urgent” need to act “quickly” on immigration; allowing the debate to take place too close to an election year is problematic, it seems. The bill’s unpopularity is why the hearings were limited to one day with twenty-three panelists made up of experts, advocates and activists spread over four panels. Better to have one newspaper article summarizing the day’s events rather than a series of articles over the course of a week or two highlighting the various objections raised by the panelists.
And if the bill were so popular, why would Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) feel the need to praise the amnesty-backing GOP senators by saying that “Our Republican guys showed amazing strength”? And why did Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) recently feel the need to reference the “courage” of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)? And why did Rahm Emanuel argue years ago that amnesty should not be attempted until the second term of a Democratic president? Answer: There’s simply no mandate for higher levels of immigration and mass amnesty. Any effort to advance such a cause is done against the wishes of the American public.
In the final moments before the vote, Senator Schumer made this outlandish claim: “To reject this bill would tear the fabric of America asunder.” But the exact opposite is true. The bill is designed to undermine immigration law, dismiss our sovereignty, lower wages and cheapen the value of our citizenship while creating voters who will vote to do it again in the future after the next wave of illegal immigration.