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"Immigration and the GOP Agenda" Memo by Senator Jeff Sessions

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


JANUARY 29, 2014



President Obama—after five years of openly and aggressively defying federal immigration law—is now demanding that House Republicans adopt an immigration plan he has no intention of enforcing. Republicans must end the lawlessness—not surrender to it—and they must defend the legitimate interests of millions of struggling American workers.

Attached to this memo are the key findings from my staff on the Budget and Judiciary Committees regarding the negative impact that the immigration proposals moving through Congress would have on American workers, taxpayers, and the rule of law. You will also find objective polling data— not misleading polls from special interests—demonstrating the depth to which these measures are repudiated by working and middle class voters from all backgrounds. And finally, included is a summary document of the opposition from conservative thought leaders to the proposals under consideration.

Where We Stand

Coordinating with a small group of the nation’s most powerful special interests, last year President Obama and Senate Democrats forced through an immigration bill which can only be described as a hammer blow to the American middle class. Not only would it grant work permits to millions of illegal immigrants at a time of record joblessness, it would also double the annual flow of new immigrant workers and provide green cards to more than 30 million permanent residents over the next decade. These new workers, mostly lesser-skilled, will compete for jobs in every sector, industry, and occupation in the U.S. economy.

Under current law, our nation provides green cards—legal admission, permanent residency, and the ability to apply for citizenship—to approximately 1 million largely lesser-skilled immigrants each year. Under the Senate Democrat / White House plan, the number of green cards would more than triple in a decade: it would expedite the applications of nearly 5 million previous applicants, offer green cards to 11 million current illegal immigrants, and increase the regular annual flow at least 50 percent, to 15 million immigrants over a decade. Together, that provides for a minimum of 30 million green cards, a number that could grow substantially as a result of ensuing chain migration.

Over the last six years, 6.8 million Americans left the workforce and 15 million were added to the food stamp rolls. For the first time in history, the majority of food stamp recipients are now working-age adults. The urgent moral task before our nation is to undertake a robust effort to transition millions of Americans from welfare and dependency to work and rising wages.

The President’s immigration plan is antithetical to that goal.

A record influx of new immigrant workers will benefit certain CEOs who want lower labor costs, as well as certain politicians and interest groups. But it will only further hollow out a shrinking middle class.

Consider the recent complaint of Bill Marriott, the global hotel magnate who has been lobbying for such immigration measures. Marriott said an immigration bill was needed to “help us staff positions that might otherwise go unfilled, especially in our seasonal resorts.” What about hiring unemployed Americans?

House Republicans, in crafting immigration principles, should reply to the President’s immigration campaign with a simple message: our focus is to help unemployed Americans get back to work—not to grant amnesty or to answer the whims of immigration activists and CEOs. In turn, that message could be joined with a detailed and unifying policy agenda for accomplishing that moral and social objective.

The Wrong Approach

Yet, according to news reports, House Republican leaders are instead turning 2014 into a headlong rush towards Gang-of-Eight style “immigration reform.” They are reportedly drafting an immigration plan that is uncomfortably similar to a “piecemeal” repackaging of the disastrous Senate plan—and even privately negotiating a final package with Democrat activists before consulting with their own members.

In three essential components, the GOP leaders’ plan appears to be similar to the Senate Democrat / White House plan: it grants work permits almost immediately to illegal immigrants to compete against unemployed Americans for any job; it substantially expands the flow of new immigrant workers, including a drastic surge in unskilled workers; and it provides amnesty and the ability for a large number of those here illegally to apply for citizenship through green cards.

In the rush to pass an immigration bill, there has been a near absence of any serious thought about the conditions facing American workers. The last 40 years has been a period of record immigration to the U.S., with the last 10 years seeing more new arrivals than any prior 10-year period in history. This trend has coincided with wage stagnation, enormous growth in welfare programs, and a shrinking workforce participation rate. A sensible, conservative approach would focus on lifting those living here today, both immigrant and native-born, out of poverty and into the middle class—before doubling or tripling the level of immigration into the U.S.

A sensible immigration policy would also listen to the opinion of the American people. Not the opinions of the paid-for consultants trotted out with their agenda-driven polls to GOP member meetings— but the actual, honest opinion of the people who sent us here. There is a reason why none of the corporate-funded ads for amnesty breathe a word about doubling immigration levels. According to Rasmussen Reports, working and middle class Americans strongly oppose large expansions of our already generous immigration system. Those earning under $30,000 prefer a reduction to an increase by an overwhelming 3-1 margin.

But while these details will never be introduced by the donors and consultants who lecture us about why we must get on board with their brilliant plan, the facts are well known to everyday citizens living in the real world outside Washington, D.C.

According to a recent study, between 2000 and 2013 the number of American workers with jobs declined by more than 1 million even as the population of working-age Americans increased by more than 16 million. During that same time, the number of jobs held by immigrant workers increased more than 5 million.

Bill Kristol recently urged the GOP to abandon this newest immigration push, saying that “the guiding principle should be do no harm.” Instantly legalizing millions of new workers would of course do enormous harm to the struggling and the unemployed.

A Better Agenda

The GOP’s 2014 agenda should not be to assist the President in passing his immigration plan. Rather, it should be a consuming focus on restoring hope and opportunity to millions of discouraged workers. The GOP’s 2014 agenda should be a national effort— announced proudly and boldly—to reduce the welfare rolls and get America back to work, including:

An all-out immigration push is inimical to these goals. As Peter Kirsanow, the Republican appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, recently wrote: “The assurances of the [Gang of Eight] bill’s proponents that the bill will somehow help the economy obscure copious evidence that the bill will wreak enormous damage to the employment prospects of American workers who have already seen their wages and employment rates plummet over the last several years.” Why would Republicans want to follow a similar path in the House?

Republicans should honor our clear duty to defend the core interests of the American workers who form the backbone of this nation. And they should tell the President’s CEO lobbyists, loudly for all to hear: we don’t work for you; we work for the American people.


[1] "Immigration and the GOP Agenda", Jeff Sessions, 29-Jan-2014

[2] "Sessions Warns House GOP: Immigration Bill Is Bad Politics, Bad Policy", Daniel Halper, The Weekly Standard, 29-Jan-2014

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