What motivates opponents of amnesty and higher immigration? Concern for American workers

Dan Stein Dan Stein is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
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Immigration laws exist to protect the social, economic and security interests of the people of the United States. In the realm of economic security – the issue that is indisputably at the top of the American public’s list of concerns – they serve to protect American workers at all skill levels from corporations that profit off of cheap labor.

Yet, as the House of Representatives takes up consideration of immigration policy this year, supporters of amnesty for illegal aliens and massive increases in new immigration are trying to convince the Republican-led House that bigotry, not important public policy concerns, are what is driving opposition to this agenda. Digging up scurrilous 20-year-old allegations, FWD.us, a group founded by Mark Zuckerberg and funded by corporations, circulated a memo to all House offices attacking the motives of those who seek to have immigration laws enforced and set more moderate limits on new immigration.

For readers who may be new to the mudslinging over immigration policy, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has published a detailed response to the recycled allegations in the FWD.us memo. Those who do know the issue and the players – members of Congress, state and local government officials, and the mainstream media – have rendered their verdict. The views and research of FAIR and the other organizations attacked by FWD.us continue to be sought by those genuinely interested in the complex issues of immigration policy.

Those who care about immigration know that what is at stake is nothing less than the continued existence of a viable middle class in the United States. Over the past 40 years, American business has outsourced jobs that can be done by lower wage workers in other countries. Mechanization has replaced other jobs that used to provide good middle class wages. All of these factors have increased corporate profitability and shareholders at the expense of labor. As the prime sponsor of the Senate amnesty and immigration increase bill, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), recently noted, median U.S. income has declined by 10 percent since 2001.

The last frontier for groups like FWD.us and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are those jobs that, by necessity, must be done here in this country. You can’t outsource service industry, construction and hospitality, or similar jobs. What you can do is in-source the workers – and that is precisely the aim of the business-backed lobby for radical changes to U.S. immigration policy.

It simply defies common sense to enact legislation that would make some 12 million illegal aliens instantly entitled to compete for every available job in the U.S. At time when 20 million Americans are officially unemployed or underemployed, and 92 million working age Americans are outside the labor force, and the number of people giving up seeking employment vastly exceeds the number of jobs being created, the immigration legislation backed by the corporate lobby betrays any sense that a nation exists to serve the common good of its citizens.

Tellingly, while Zuckerberg (whose net worth grew by $12.4 billion in 2013) and others in his income bracket have committed to spending millions of dollars to push amnesty and immigration increases through the House, fixing our immigration system is considered a pressing priority for about 3 percent of American voters. Within that small subset it is not even clear how many of these voters support the sorts of reforms being promoted by the corporate elite.

To be sure, America’s immigration system is badly broken and in serious need of reform. To most Americans, immigration reform means striking a balance between the legitimate needs of our economy and the rights of American workers to have a fair chance of filling jobs, at decent wages, in their own country.

Immigration reform means that the government must fulfill past promises to the American people that it will secure our borders and prevent employers from hiring illegal aliens, and not hand out new rewards for the people who broke our laws, or even greater access to foreign labor for business interests.

To the billionaires who finance FWD.us, and who are used to getting their way with Congress, such notions of immigration reform may seem like “shocking extremism.” To millions of people who are struggling to maintain their grip on the middle class, FWD.us’s positions and tactics seem like shocking arrogance.