House Democrats are trying to jump-start their stalled effort to open up America’s immigration laws.
“We’re ready to move… the time if now to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” Los Angeles Rep. Xavier Becerra said at a press conference introducing a House version of the immigration bill passed in July by the Senate.
The draft “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act” is “not just a Democratic dream come true,” he said at the press conference Oct. 2.
But one of the House bill’s sponsors, Colorado Democrat Jared Polis, acknowledged the political trade-off behind the immigration push.
The strategy — at least according to critics — is for business-backed Republicans to allow at least 10 million illegal immigrants to win citizenship by 2025 in exchange for Democrats’ agreement to double the annual 1 million inflow of immigrant workers and guest-workers used by companies.
“Many Democrats, myself included, would also be willing to separate out a pathway to citizenship for the 10 million and pass it tomorrow,” without allowing in some of the extra workers, Polis told The Daily Caller.
“But in the interest of forging a bipartisan coalition, we’re taking the work of the Senate and moving forward with it in the House,” he said.
Republican leaders suggest they’d like to push through a major rewrite of the immigration law, but have delayed action because of disagreement from GOP legislators and base voters.
Democrats at the press conference touted the bill as a stimulus for the economy. “We believe that fixing our broken immigration system will be good for our economy… it is actually a wonderful element in resolving this fiscal and budget fight that we’re in,” said Becerra.
“Immigration is truly the economic engine that has grown our economy for generations,” said Polis, who made a fortune in the 1990s dot.com bubble by selling an online greeting-card company, Blue Mountain, for $780 million.
“This is going to create jobs, grow our economy, become a more vibrant economy that it would otherwise be,” said Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House.
In recent years, however, record levels of immigration haven’t reliably spurred the economy, but have generated strong public opposition to any immigration increase.
Roughly 1.3 million fewer native-born Americans have jobs today than had jobs in 2000, even though their working-age population has grown by 16.4 million, according to a July 3 report by the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigration group. In contrast, 5.3 million new immigrants have won jobs since 2000, while the nation’s working-age immigrant population has grown by 8.8 million, said the CIS report.
Some Democrats suggested they might temporarily accept an emerging proposal from Republicans that would provide residency and work-permits to the 11 million-plus illegals, but deny them a novel “path to citizenship.”
That proposal has been pushed throughout September by Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House judiciary committee.
Democrats might temporarily support a House bill without a clear citizenship option, but would insist that any final bill provide a citizenship option, said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader. “This is about a ‘path to citizenship,’” she insisted.
“We are not for a second class of citizenship in this country,” said Becerra, presaging the Democrats’ likely campaign-trail pitch if the GOP legislators endorse a bill that allows the 11 million illegals to work alongside Americans, but not to vote.
Becerra’s argument was extended even further by Pelosi, who said every additional immigrant “makes America more American.”
Democrats, including Pelosi, say extra immigrants highlight the importance of immigration in America’s collective and cultural life.
Pelosi’s argument reflects the fact that immigrants are far more likely than Americans to support greater levels of government aid, and to vote for Democrats.
For example, in Pelosi’s home state of California, Democrats hold all state-wide offices because the poverty rate is of 22 percent, partly because of a high poverty rate among immigrants.
“Immigrant poverty, at nearly 30%, is remarkably high,” and is pushed roughly 50 percent above the official level because of high property prices, says a new report by a California group, the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.
Democrats, however, turned defensive when they were asked by TheDC if the doubled immigration rate would disadvantage the roughly four million young Americans who enter the workforce each year.
“We‘re preparing to talk about those issues, and move forward in a comprehensive way,” declared New York Rep. Joseph Crowley, vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, before ceding the microphone to another Democrat.
“This bill creates jobs… this bill is an enormous job engine,” insisted Polis, who did not say how many of those new jobs are well-paid and would go to Americans.
“Having a large illegal workforce, like we’ve had for the last several decades, undermines wages for American workers, and the most important thing we can do to prevent the deterioration of wages and salaries for American workers is to make sure that we don’t have a population that’s working here illegally,” he told TheDC.
The population of 10 million illegal immigrants would have a larger impact than each year’s intake of 2 million new immigrants, he said, before acknowledging the political bargain between the progressive Democrats and the business-backed Republicans.
Some Republicans, such as Sen. Jeff Sessions, however, jab at the Democrats’ support for foreigners during a period of hugh unemployment.
“Democrats are pushing for legislation that would legalize millions of illegal immigrants, increasing competition for scarce jobs and making it harder for U.S. citizens and legal immigrants to find work,” said a statement from Texas Republican Lamar Smith.
“Democrats are putting the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of American workers… We [Republicans] want to make sure that our nation’s immigration policies put the interests of Americans first,” he said.
But Smith — like many other business-backed GOP legislators — wants to import university-trained specialists and workers for the agricultural sector, which was once dominated by American workers.
A good policy “means attracting and retaining highly-skilled immigrants who contribute to American innovation, and the establishment of an agricultural guest worker program that meets the demands of our food supply,” said his statement.