Memo to GOP: Curb Immigration or Quit | Commentary
America is about to break every known immigration record. And yet you are unlikely to hear a word about it.
The Census Bureau projects that the foreign-born share of the U.S. population will soon eclipse the highest levels ever documented, and will continue surging to new record highs each year to come.
Yet activists and politicians who support unprecedented levels of immigration are never asked to explain how they believe such a policy will affect social stability, community cohesion or political assimilation.
They can simply cry out, “We must pass immigration reform!” without ever explaining what they believe “immigration reform” means.
Immigration reform should mean improvements to immigration policy to benefit Americans. But in Washington, immigration reform has devolved into a euphemism for legislation that opens America’s borders, floods her labor markets and gives corporations the legal right to import new foreign workers to replace their existing employees at lower pay.
Consider the giant special interests clamoring for the passage of the Senate’s 2013 “gang of eight” immigration bill: tech oligarchs represented by Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us, open borders groups such as La Raza and the globalist class embodied by the billionaire-run Partnership for a New American Economy.
For these and countless other interest groups who helped write the bill, it delivered spectacularly: the tech giants would receive double the number of low-wage H-1B workers to substitute for Americans. La Raza would receive the further opening of America’s borders (while Democratic politicians gain more political power). And the billionaire lobby would receive the largest supply of visas for new low-skilled immigrants in our history, transferring wealth and bargaining power from workers to their employers.
What would be the effect on schools? On hospitals? On police departments? On labor conditions? On poverty? What would the effect be on millions of past immigrants forced to compete for scarce jobs and meager wages against these new arrivals?
Few seemed to ask, or care.
This is not immigration reform. This is the dissolution of the nation state, of the principle that a government exists to serve its own people.
When stories broke of loyal workers at Southern California Edison and Orlando Disney being forced by executives to train the lower-wage H-1B workers flown in to replace them, our political class could not be budged to even the slightest action. No tears were spilled by a cultural elite who would march on Washington to get drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants.
Instead of pleas for justice on behalf of these discarded workers, industry and lawmakers pushed for legislation that would accelerate their replacement. They demanded passage of the Immigration Innovation Act — a bill to triple the number of foreign tech workers brought in as lower-wage substitutes.
The narrative could not be allowed to depart from the approved script.
Here are the forbidden facts which have been edited out:
The great and broadly-shared middle-class growth that occurred in the 20th century took place during a period of low immigration.
Following the 1880-1920 immigration wave, which saw the foreign-born population double from 7 million to 14 million people, Congress passed a law to reduce future immigration. Between 1920 and 1970, America’s foreign-born population shrank from 14 million to 9.6 million. For half a century, the number of immigrants declined both in total number and as a share of the population.
This period witnessed rapid wage growth.
According to the Congressional Research Service, from 1945 to 1970 — as the foreign-born population fell — the bottom 90 percent of wage earners saw an 82.5 percent increase in their wages. During this time, millions of prior immigrants were able to climb out of the tenements and into the middle class.
In 1965, Congress passed a new immigration law which helped produce an unprecedented wave of low-skilled immigration. The foreign-born population more than quadrupled, from fewer than 10 million in 1970 to more than 42 million today. In 1970, fewer than 1 in 21 residents were foreign-born, today it is approaching 1 in 7. In cities such as Los Angeles and New York, almost 4 in 10 current residents were born in another country. One-fifth of our residents now speak a language other than English at home. One-quarter of our residents is now either an immigrant or born to immigrant parents.
This ongoing immigration wave continues during a time when workers are being replaced with automation, when record numbers are living on welfare and when manufacturing plants are closing their doors. All of this has combined to help create an immense wage-compressing surplus of labor: 66 million working-age residents are not working. Real average hourly earnings are lower now than they were in 1973.
The Congressional Research Service reports that during the 43 years between 1970 and 2013 — when the foreign-born population grew 325 percent — incomes for the bottom 90 percent of earners fell nearly 8 percent.
And yet, on autopilot, each year the U.S. further swells the labor supply by issuing millions of new visas to foreign nationals seeking jobs and residency in the United States.
The green card is the immigration document responsible for the overwhelming majority of immigration into the United States. One million green cards are now being handed out each and every year. This document legally invites foreign nationals to live permanently in the U.S., claim virtually all federal benefits, receive lifetime work authorization, and ultimately become voting citizens. No nation on Earth admits more new permanent immigrants each year than the United States. No nation on Earth has more than one-fourth as many total immigrants as we do today. And no nation on Earth anywhere near as large ours has a higher percentage of foreign-born residents.
Over the next 10 years, the U.S. will hand out more green cards than the combined populations of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. This has absolutely nothing to do with the border or immigration enforcement: These green cards will be issued — this year and a hundred years from now — unless Congress passes a law to prevent their issuance.
On top of this, the U.S. issues each year approximately 700,000 visas to temporary foreign workers, 500,000 visas to foreign students, and 100,000 visas to refugees and asylum-seekers.
Because these new immigrants and foreign workers arrive legally, corporations can legally substitute them for their existing workers at lower pay. From 2000 through 2014, all jobs gains among the working-age were claimed by foreign labor. Moreover, because immigrant workers are paid lower salaries, their wages are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. A recent report from the Center for Immigration Studies revealed that 3 in 4 immigrant households with kids are drawing welfare payments.
Including all forms of immigration, the Census Bureau estimates another 14 million immigrants will enter the U.S. on net between now and 2025 — that’s almost five times the number of students who will graduate from public high school in America this year.
Assuming no law is passed to reduce immigration, the Census Bureau estimates that, in less than eight years’ time, the percentage of U.S. residents born in a foreign-country will be the highest level in our history. And the bureau estimates — again, assuming Congress does not reduce immigration rates — that the foreign-born population share will keep rising to new all-time records for as long as they can project.
Pew Research Projects that new immigrants and their children will add another 103 million residents to the U.S. over the next five decades. That’s the population equivalent of 25 cities of Los Angeles.
Did any American vote for this extreme and untested policy?
Yet our politicians who have created this policy do print or speak a word about it. This remains the forbidden conversation.
And the reason it is not discussed is because it cannot withstand scrutiny. Pew Research polling found that Americans want immigration reduced — not increased — by an overwhelming 3 to 1 margin. A mere 20 percent of Democratic voters and a miniscule 7 percent of Republican voters want more immigration.
GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway found that colossal majorities of Hispanics and African-Americans — among those hurt the most by the unceasing arrival of new low-wage workers — want U.S. workers to be given preference for jobs. By nearly a 10 to 1 margin, Americans of all backgrounds believe companies should raise wages instead of importing new labor from abroad.
This is the immigration reform voters want.
Rhetorical games grow weary. We’ve had vastly more immigration than ever before, but our politicians pretend like we’ve had very little. Nearly 1 in 4 residents aged 25-53 is not working, but our politicians talk of needing more immigration to fill “labor shortages.” Billionaire CEOs bully and intimidate concerned parents into silence while helicoptering their own kids to the world’s most expensive private schools.
What is missing from this conversation is a sense of moderation, of limits and of compassion for struggling families.
It is not caring, but callous, to bring in so many workers that there are not enough jobs for them or those already living here. It is not mainstream, but extreme, to continue surging immigration beyond all historical precedent. And it is not rational, but radical, to refuse to recognize limits.
Lettered on our nation’s seal are the words E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. It does a disservice to both the country and the immigrant when we bring in larger numbers than we can reasonably expect to assimilate. If we allow our immigration system to replicate in America the same failed conditions which people have left, we are hurting the country and any who would seek to enter it in the future.
For that reason, we should only admit as many new arrivals as we can reasonably expect to absorb into our schools, labor markets and communities. We must never admit so large a number that the immigrants themselves are unlikely to enter the middle class or achieve stable incomes. And we have to recognize that there are record millions already living inside our borders in desperate need of a job.
After nearly half a century of massive immigration it is time to turn our attention to our own residents. It is time to help our own workers, families and communities — immigrant and U.S.-born — rise together into the middle class.
We need an immigration policy that shows compassion for Americans.
Anyone running for the White House who cannot publicly commit to these principles should consider a different occupation. Americans should no longer have to wonder for whom their leaders work.
Sen. Jeff Sessions is a Republican from Alabama and serves as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest. Rep. Dave Brat is a Republican from Virginia.