Feature:Opinion

Reclaim 8 million jobs

The United States is facing the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. As the unemployment rate stubbornly hovers around 10 percent—15 percent for those without a high school diploma—job creation is our most pressing domestic issue.

More often than not, job creation discussions center around issues such as whether tax cuts or government spending are the most effective method to spur economic growth. These topics are undoubtedly important, but often overlooked is the impact illegal immigration has on Americans and legal immigrants.

About 8 million jobs are held by illegal immigrants. Vulnerable and disadvantaged American workers have seen their incomes and job opportunities shrink. Forcing unemployed workers to compete with undocumented workers is not fair to hard-working Americans.

By simply enforcing immigration laws already on the books, we could create job opportunities for American citizens and immigrants who played by the rules to enter the U.S. Instead, the Obama administration has all but abandoned worksite enforcement efforts. In the past year alone, administrative arrests fell by 68 percent; the number of criminal arrests fell by 60 percent; the number of criminal indictments fell by 58 percent; and the number of criminal convictions fell by 63 percent. This is unacceptable and is an insult to unemployed and underemployed American workers.

Recognizing the direct link between unemployment and illegal immigration, we have formed the Reclaim American Jobs Caucus. Comprised of 30 members of Congress, we are dedicated to promoting policies that will help citizens and legal immigrants reclaim the eight million jobs held by illegal immigrants. Specifically, the Caucus seeks to expand use of the E-Verify system that allows employers to validate the eligibility of new hires, enforce workplace immigration laws, encourage attrition through enforcement, and oppose policies that encourage illegal immigration.

E-Verify is a successful and commonsense program that checks workers’ names and Social Security numbers to confirm employment eligibility. This program provides American employers who want to do the right thing with an effective way to ensure that they are hiring a legal workforce. Although nearly 180,000 employers currently use E-Verify, this program is voluntary under current law. The Reclaim American Jobs Caucus supports making E-Verify mandatory, both for new and current employees.

In addition, interior enforcement of our immigration laws is critical to the recapture of stolen American jobs. Worksite enforcement in previous years has opened up thousands of jobs for American workers.

The Reclaim American Jobs Caucus supports turning off the jobs magnet that draws illegal immigrants to America. If the federal government were to strongly enforce our immigration laws, many illegal immigrants would simply return home voluntarily. This approach—‘attrition through enforcement’—will dramatically reduce the illegal immigrant population over time.

The Reclaim American Jobs Caucus opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants. We are a nation of immigrants and also a nation of laws. Respect for the rule of law is a core American value.

Our government must send the message that the United States takes our immigration laws seriously. It is simply wrong to award citizenship and permanent access to American jobs to those that have recklessly disregarded our nation’s immigration laws. If nothing else, amnesty is patently unfair to would-be immigrants who have played by the rules.

Some argue illegal immigrants do the work Americans cannot or do not want to do. Such statements demean Americans who work hard in every occupation. There are no jobs that American workers will not do; any honest job is a worthy job.

Members of the Reclaim American Jobs Caucus have worked in Congress—and will continue to work—to get Americans back to work. Millions of individuals and families are hurting and we should open those jobs for them immediately.

Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Gary Miller (R-Calif.), and Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) are the co-chairs of the newly formed Reclaim American Jobs Caucus.