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Senator Sessions: Immigration spikes income inequality

Posted on 30-Jan-2014
Topics: Effects of Immigration on American Workers  

By Senator Jeff Sessions:

In Tuesday'sState 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 againstunemployed Americansand 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 arethreeunemployed people for every job available. Wagestoday have been flat since 2000. Last year, a recordone in five American householdsreceived food stamps.

This is a national emergency.

So what is thepresident's proposal? With three job seekers for every open job, he proposesdoubling the number of guest workersentering 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 to3 million a year, or 30 millionlargely lower-skill immigrants over the next 10.

Did anyone ask the American people whether they wanted to triple immigration?

Pollingshows 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 ofrecord immigration, thenumber of U.S.-born Americanswith 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 thathigh levels of immigrationfrom 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 workerscompeting 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.


[1] "Sen. Sessions: Immigration spikes income inequality", Jeff Sessions, USA Today, 27-Jan-2014

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