Sen. Sessions slams Obama, CEOs on immigration

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions wants wealthy CEOs to butt out of immigration policy.

“America is not an oligarchy… A Republic must answer to the people,” Sessions said today, in a direct response to President Barack Obama’s latest effort to get wealthy California CEOs to increase their support for his unpopular push for increased immigration.

“Congressional leaders must forcefully reject the notion, evidently accepted by the president, that a small cadre of CEOs can tailor the nation’s entire immigration policy to suit their narrow interests,” Sessions declared in a populist statement that contradicts the media’s image of Republican coziness with CEOs.

Sessions’ statement was released shortly before Obama used a San Francisco speech to ask friendly high-tech CEOs in California to revive his failing effort to pass an immigration-boosting bill.

The bill has been blocked by top GOP leaders in the House, who are trying to balance donors’ demands for more workers with voters’ demands for more jobs.

Obama has been working with top CEOs since summer to push the Senate’s immigration expansion that would welcome 30 million immigrants, plus millions of temporary guest workers, over the next decade.

That influx would import roughly one immigrant or guest-worker for every American aged 11 to 21, or one immigrant for every American teenager in 2012. Current law allows 1 million immigrants and 700,000 guest workers to enter the country each year.

The push is being supported by numerous billionaires, including New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Fox News’ Rupert Murdoch and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

Since 2007, progressive and business groups have spent more than $1.5 billion on advocacy and lobbying to pass an immigration bill, despite massive unemployment, stalled salaries and negative polls. Other business groups have been pressured by the federal government and progressives to provide rhetorical support for the push.

Obama’s alliance with the wealthy CEOs is mutually beneficial. The CEOs would gain because high immigration will lower many Americans’ salaries and boost shareholders’ value. Progressives would gain a lock on political power once immigration boosts the number of government-dependent voters.

Sessions, however, is working alongside various U.S. groups to raise Americans’ wages by lowering immigration.

Polls shows Sessions’ populist low-immigration, high-wage pitch is popular, but his allies have far less less money or media coverage than Obama and his allies.

On Nov. 21, Sessions held a press conference in D.C. with Americans4Work, where he slammed CEOs who demand more immigrants.

“These business people do not get to set the [immigration] policy for the United States of America. They do not represent the United States of America, they represent their special interests… [and] I represent 4 million Alabamians and 300 million Americans,” Sessions said.

Sessions was backed up by Jan Ting, a law professor at Temple University, who told the conference that the current high-immigration, low-wage economy is “Blade Runner with food stamps.”

“Blade Runner” is a 1982 science-fiction movie in which most Americans are jobless and trapped in a violent, poverty-stricken nation.

After two decade of low-skill and high-skill immigration, California’s middle class is shrinking, and the gap between the wealthy and the poor is expanding.

The Americans4Work group has no “anger or animosity towards any immigrant,” said Thomas Broadwater, the group’s president. “Instead, we are fiercely and passionately pro-American.” The group gets no donations from business.

But Sessions acknowledged that many senators echo industry’s talking points when they’re asked by Americans about the issue.

“So many of my colleagues in the Senate, when they’re out campaigning, when they’re asked about immigration, without much thought, they say things like ‘I believe in immigrants, we’re a nation of immigrants, we’ve got to end this lawlessness, and I‘m for fixing the fence and the border, but really, we need more immigrants,’” Sessions said.

“They have not thought through the implications of the economic condition of America at this time,” Sessions told the press conference.

“The fundamental question we need to talk about is what would be the right [level] of immigrants.. [and] who it is we should give priority to,” he said.

“We’re a nation with an economy, not an economy with a nation… [and] we have a responsibility, a moral duty, to our citizens, to make their lives better, and we’re not doing a very good job,” Sessions said.

Follow Neil on Twitter