Sessions slams Obama’s closed-door meetings on immigration

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

Sen. Jeff Sessions is slamming President Barack Obama’s closed-door meetings with lobbyists pushing greater immigration, including the business interests that profit from low-wage labor by skilled and unskilled immigrants.

“Obama is meeting privately with the most powerful men in finance and business to discuss how to bring in more low-wage labor at a time when millions of Americans can’t earn enough to pay their bills,” Sessions said in a statement to The Daily Caller.

“Republicans should seize this issue as a crucial moment in history to stand up for the working people of this county, and to defend them against elite Washington interests,” he said.

“This is an issue that ought to make natural allies out of the GOP, union workers and even the unions themselves … [it] also an important moment for a number of Democrats who were elected on the promise of defending workers: will they side the economic interests of the workers in their states or will they side with the powerful interests meeting at the White House?”

Sessions, an Alabama GOP Senator and the ranking chairman of the Senate’s budget committee, is trying to rally public opposition to the proposed immigration rewrite.

He’s backed by a series of immigration reform groups, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which also highlight businesses’ push for more immigration of skilled workers.

“Unemployment is at its highest level [and] there are many out-of-work Americans who want and need the jobs now being held by illegal aliens,” according to FAIR, which is now running TV-ads against business-backed proposals to award visas to skilled workers, such as accountants and academics.

The issue has yet to get much media coverage, but in January 2012, Obama was confronted by the wife of a Texas-based American high tech engineer who could not get a job amid competition from foreign tech workers carrying short-term H-1B visas.

When faced with the woman’s argument during the online chat hosted by Google, Obama seemed surprised that American tech experts faced competition from short-term immigrants.

For many years, business groups have pushed to increase the number of H-1B visas by arguing they cannot find information-technology experts to fill jobs.

In response, advocates for American engineers say many older tech experts are sidelined by lower-priced H-1B visa-holders. Salaries for IT experts have risen only slowly, belying claims of a shortage, they say.

However, more and more companies are using H-1B visa to bring in temporary skilled workers for jobs outside the information-technology sector.

A new report by a federal agency, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, showed that more companies are getting H-1b visas for teachers and professors, accountants and auditors as well as engineers and programmers.

In 2011, amid a tough recession, companies got 17,859 visas for higher-education jobs, and 8,750 auditing and accounting jobs, plus 16,470 engineers’ jobs and 17,859 programmers’ jobs.

On Feb. 5, Obama held a White House meeting with a series of industry leaders, progressive advocates and ethic lobbies, including La Raza, to boost support for his plan that would provide a conditional amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants, allow new immigrants to get residency for their relatives and elderly parents, and also establish rules for a “Future Flow” of skilled and unskilled workers.

The invitees included the CEO of Goldman-Sachs, Motorola, Marriott and DeLoitte.

This coalition of business, ethnic and progressive groups is fragile, and may fly apart as it did in 2006 and 2007 when labor unions persuaded Senators to curb business’ ability to bring in more immigrants.

For example, Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson said Feb. 5 that his company is chiefly interested in rules that would allow illegal immigrants to get work permits. He’s also backing progressives’ demands that immigrants be allowed on a “path to citizenship” that would give them access to welfare programs — such as Obamacare — and eventually to a voting card.

In contrast, Joe Echevarria, the CEO the international accounting firm Deloitte LLP, told reporters that he’s interested in ensuring the continued immigration of skilled experts. More immigrants, he told The Daily Caller, will increase the size of the economy.

However he twice declined to answer TheDC’s question asking how more immigrants will improve the wages and job opportunities of Americans.

“After Microsoft, the top 2 H-1B requesting corporations are in the financial industry: Deloitte, one of the ‘Big 4’ professional services firms, and Tata Consultancy Services, an arm of the India-based Tata Group that offers business and technology solutions,” according to a Feb. 4 posting on the “ImmigrationProf” blog.

“Who at the White House is speaking for the working people of this country?” Sessions said in his statement.

“Who is speaking for the $15-an-hour legal worker who doesn’t want to lose his job to federally subsidized illegal labor? … Somehow I doubt Goldman Sachs or La Raza is speaking for these Americans,” he said.

“We have seen this before: the ‘masters of the universe’ want low wages and cheap labor and don’t seem to care much about how it impacts workers or taxpayers.”

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