Immigration Reform in the National Interest: Me First! How Big Stakeholder Immigration Preferences Ignore the Public's Interest

By Stanley Renshon and Stanley Renshon on May 1, 2013

Political observers have long been aware that major policy stakeholder groups "justify and package their interests in terms of the common good", thereby supporting and enhancing their power positions. There would be no reason to suppose that the current Senate immigration legislation is any exception. And it isn't.

Anytime powerful, well-funded, and well-connected "stakeholders" like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the liberal Center for American Progress, the AFL-CIO, and the SEIU (Service Employees International Union), and ethnic lobbies like La Raza come together for a deal, it is certain that each of them will get a preponderance of their policy wishes, subject to negotiation at the margins. And the American national interest and that of ordinary Americans will be presumed by big stakeholders to be synonymous with theirs.

So, to take just one point, a headline in the New York Times announced that "Labor and Business Reach Deal on Immigration Issue". Business wanted 400,000 new low-skill workers visas, but settled for a number that could eventually reach a 200,000 ceiling.

The Times article demurely notes, "Business groups, which had long been pushing to allow in 400,000 such guest workers each year, will get what they regard as an adequate number to meet the needs of employers."

Unions wanted wages for the new low-skill workers to be at the level already being paid for specific job categories, but also wanted certain kinds of workers, those who had higher-level skills (like crane operators and electricians) to be excluded from this deal. They got both.

What is the impact of having up to 200,000 new low-skilled workers every year on the United States? How do these numbers, 200,000 (and their dependents) add up in impact to the number of new high-skilled visas, that are not subject to any caps, that are being offered in the legislation? What about the additional impacts of issuing enough new visas to clear the waiting list of people waiting legally, with their families, for green cards?

There are many — political, economic, social, and cultural. What is the impact of expanding the family preference categories to include adult unmarried and married children, and the families of lawful permanent residents (LPRs)

Did either the unions or the big business counterparts analyze these impacts? I think it a very safe bet to say, no, they did not.

Why? Because their focus is on their own self-interest and not on the larger public impact of the deals for which they successfully bargained. I say this not to criticize, since stakeholder self-interest is a legitimate and normal part of democratic politics. These organizations are simply acting on their basic political DNA: their own self-interest, not the public interest or that of individual Americans.

So, given that stakeholders are not expected to, and don't, give much thought to national interests except as a cloak for their own, who in our system is charged with maintaining a focus on the ordinary public and American national interest?

Alas, the politicians and our political class.

Next: Naked Political Interest: The Bipartisan Kind