Politics

Obama to push immigration, amnesty as economic boost

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama will argue on Tuesday that the nation’s economy will be aided by a proposed rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws.

But he has chosen to give the speech in Nevada, which has the nation’s highest unemployment rate, some four years after he was inaugurated in January 2009.

And some of his progressive supporters say that push to provide a conditional amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants will worsen the economic circumstances for many low-skilled Americans and recent immigrants who cluster in Nevada and other southwestern states.

On Sunday, Sen. Dick Durbin, announced that he had won broad support from four GOP Senators — Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake and Marco Rubio — for a big rewrite that includes a conditional amnesty for roughly 11 million immigrants, including roughly 7 million illegal-immigrant workers.

If passed by the Senate and House, the bill would also provide extra visas for immigrant high-tech workers. Details of the plan are to be released Monday.

Obama’s push for a rewrite of the law — dubbed a “comprehensive immigration reform” by supporters — “is not a partisan or ideological pursuit,” White House spokesman Jay Carney claimed Jan. 25. “It’s the right thing to do for our economy.”

The economic rationale for a major rewrite was pushed by Obama in May 2011 when he gave a speech in El Paso, Texas, titled “Fixing the Immigration System for America’s 21st Century Economy.”

“Reform will also help to make America more competitive in the global economy,” he declared.

“Today, we provide students from around the world with visas to get engineering and computer science degrees at our top universities … then our laws discourage them from using those skills to start a business or a new industry here in the United States,” he said.

But Obama’s economic prescription is wrong, said Steven Camarota, the senior researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies, a reform group that wants to increase employment of U.S. workers and to reduce immigration of foreign workers.

Obama seems to “believe that the key ingredient missing from the US economy is that we don’t have enough workers,” Camarota told The Daily Caller.  But “there are currently 11.4 million high school dropouts … 19.7 million high-school-only … 18 million with some college not working … and 11 million with at least a bachelor’s not working,” he said.

“Total working age folks not working: 60.2 million,” he added.

The left-of-center Economic Policy Institute usually avoids the immigration debate, but recently released a report showing that there are far more job seekers than openings, for both low-skill and high-skill workers.

“These data show that the main problem in today’s labor market is not a lack of the right workers for the jobs that are available; it’s that employers do not have enough work to be done to need to hire more workers,” said the EPI’s Jan. 23 report.

The Institute also released a report in 2011 urging a reform of U.S. policy to match Canada’s successful recruitment of high-skill immigrants to fill high-wage jobs that could not be filled by Canadians.