What Obama’s Amnesty Means for the American Worker | Commentary

Posted December 8, 2014 at 5:35pm

Work permits for millions of illegal aliens is just the beginning of President Barack Obama’s unlawful attack on American workers at every skill level.

He “can’t wait” to impose new immigration regulations in order to expand the pool of people looking for work — despite stagnant wages and record low labor participation rates signaling the foolishness of doing so — he’s just not going to tell you about it.

A funny thing was missing from Obama’s address. Not once did he acknowledge he was granting work permits and Social Security numbers to people in the country illegally. Nor will you find any mention of on the White House’s “Share the Facts” page about the executive action.

Yet the Los Angeles Times reports: “In the most consequential change to the administration’s policy on deportation, the program will invite parents of either U.S. citizens or long-term permanent residents to apply for a work permit and a three-year protection from deportation.”

Why was “the most consequential change” missing from both the White House’s facts page and Obama’s speech? The president of the United States is no fool. He knows handing out work permits to illegal aliens before lifting a finger to secure the workplace for citizens and legal immigrant workers is deeply unpopular. Obama saw support for his immigration bill fall apart last year, once voters became aware the only thing it guaranteed was work permits for legalized aliens up front. As hard as they tried, pollsters never could word a survey in such a way to find majority support for an amnesty-first plan.

That’s why the president delayed his announcement until after the elections; why the details of the plan were kept from the public; and why, when it came time to make the public case for executive action, the president looked directly through the camera lens at the American people and said: “All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.”

For all the moralizing in his speech, the president couldn’t bring himself to be completely honest with the American people.

Obama took great care not to alarm middle-class voters, describing the beneficiaries of this plan as “workers who pick our fruit and make our beds.” (Translation: These amnestied workers won’t be competing for your jobs.) Even if that were so, are the Americans who rely on those jobs to put food on the table not as deserving of less competition from foreign workers as law professors or community organizers? Are they not as deserving of the protections that immigration law is meant to provide? Of course they are.

And despite Obama’s attempt to persuade otherwise, middle-class voters have their own stake in opposing his executive action. The White House has long courted the backing of corporations that lobby for greater access to foreign workers, even as they lay off Americans. And according to Politico, one of the first things the White House did as it shifted into “sales mode” was to call tech companies and assure them of provisions “that would make it easier for them to retain foreign workers.”

But when it came time to sell the provisions to the public, Obama spoke as if foreign workers wouldn’t need existing jobs at all because they would be creating new “jobs, businesses, and industries right here in America.”

The reality is that, entrepreneurial as some of these foreign workers are, they are going to be competing with American workers, including recent graduates whose families worked and saved and sacrificed so they could get a fair shot at good paying jobs and fulfilling careers.

There is nothing wrong with demanding an immigration policy that puts the interests of citizens first, and exit polling from the midterm elections indicate that 4 out of every 5 Americans who voted want to see new U.S. jobs go to American workers and legal immigrants who are already here. Only 6 percent thought new immigrants should be brought in to take those jobs. No wonder Obama skated around the issue.

The U.S. already issues a million permanent work permits to immigrants every year, plus another 700,000 or so temporary permits to guest workers. Immigration has tripled since the 1970s, the last time we saw consistent increases in real wages for all skill levels. Jobs that 30 years ago paid middle-class wages now keep workers at near poverty levels and drive them into the welfare system.

We have a shortage of jobs, not workers. College graduates are working in jobs that don’t require a degree, leaving workers who lack a college education fewer opportunities to make a life of dignity for themselves. More and more of our veterans are returning home to a “shot to the gut” when they discover how difficult it will be for them to find work to support their families. It is impossible to reconcile their future and promise with this president’s determination to make U.S. jobs available to anyone in the world who wants one.

And that’s why, over the next few days, it is my hope the Republican leadership in the House will seriously consider the implications of the president’s executive order before they push through a bill that funds it.

Kenneth Blackwell is a former mayor of Cincinnati and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission.