Congress no sooner reconvened than the-all out push for comprehensive immigration reform picked up where it left off. For clarity’s sake, I’ll define “reform” the way Capitol Hill interprets it-legalizing and granting amnesty to 11-20 million illegal immigrants, giving them instant work authorization and tripling legal immigration to more than 30 million high and low-skilled foreign workers within the first decade.
On January 8, House leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor announced that immigration is on its 2014 must do list. On the same day, in an obviously coordinated effort, Chamber of Commerce president Tom Dohohue issued thinly veiled threats to those in House that don’t get on board with amnesty. The Chamber will “pull out all the stops” to make sure those incumbents “feel some heat,” e.g. fewer campaign donations from the business community. In 2013, the Chamber spent a hefty $52 million in lobbying.
Donohue is a long standing, unabashed open borders supporter. Higher immigration translates into more cheap labor which in means higher profits for Chamber members. Last year in his annual “State of American Business Address,” Donohue called for higher caps on H-1B worker visas and introduced a new idea, a “provisional” visa for low skilled labor. In 2011, Donohue played a key role in securing an agreement that allowed Mexican trucks to drive on US highways despite national security and highway safety concerns.
Immigration advocates like the Chamber have spent a fortune on lobbying. Last year, the non-partisan, non-profit Sunlight Foundation issued its findings based on nearly 8,000 lobbying reports. After analyzing the data, Sunlight reported that since 2007, the pro-immigration lobby has spent $1.5 billion in efforts to pass legislation that would expand permanent and temporary visas, liberalize family-based immigration laws and pass the DREAM Act. The tidal wave of money was instrumental in hiring 3,136 lobbyists from 678 lobbying groups to promote one or more of 987 immigration bills.
The proposed reform that Boehner, Cantor and Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte are so enamored with comes at a time when 21 million Americans can’t find a full time job. Those who are lucky enough to be working have been saddled for decades with declining or stagnant wages. The Congressional Budget Office projects that that most of the new immigrants given work permits would be low-skilled. Their presence in the labor market would, according to the CBO, further depress American wages and lead to higher unemployment.
A letter 16 House Republicans recently sent to President Obama on behalf of the 92 million Americans not in the labor force made the point that more immigration hurts the unemployed. In its conclusion, the letter reminded the president that while immigration reform may be a good deal for businesses looking to hire cheap labor, it’s terrible for US workers including Hispanics and African-Americans that have suffered chronically high unemployment.
Despite gathering storm clouds, immigration reform’s window grows smaller every day. The political reality of the November mid-term election has incumbents in campaign mode. They know that while amnesty may be popular among Beltway insiders, it has few fans back home. Instead of negotiating with and caving in to special interests, Congress should focus on reducing American unemployment, ending poverty and restoring the middle class.