Sen. Jeff Sessions, a top GOP advocate for a reform aimed at lowering immigration and helping ordinary Americans, says a majority of Americans will back the GOP’s candidates if the party promises to reduce the annual inflow of guest workers and immigrants that have helped cut wages for more than 30 years.
The inflow now adds roughly one short-term foreign worker and one immigrant to the labor supply for every four Americans who turn 18.
If President Barack Obama’s proposed immigration rewrite becomes law, the government will add roughly one guest worker or immigrant for every single American who turns 18 in the next decade.
If the supply of labor increases faster than the stalled economy, workers get less pay, Democrats get more dependents, and Wall Street snags higher profits. Even President Barack Obama’s economic adviser and the Congressional Budget Office agree on that economic reality.
So Sessions is trying to leap over the Democrats’ strategy of dividing Americans into competing wedges, including whites, African-Americans and Latinos. He’s trying to rally them all under a traditional American ideal — the revived opportunity for a middle-class life for every American who works hard.
Sessions laid out his vision in a recent interview with The Daily Caller.
TheDC: Can a high-wage, low labor-supply strategy work for the GOP legislators?
Sessions: Americans overall, and especially middle-class Americans, have been pleading with their political leaders to end the lawlessness in immigration, to create a policy that serves the national interest, and to protect them from excess labor flow that pulls down their wages and may cost them their jobs. … Congress, because of an unhealthy attachment to corporate America and political maneuvering, has refused to give it to them.
That’s a good and honorable request by the American people. … [It is] a policy that honestly benefits all blue-collar workers, and most of them fully support it [and] it would be a direct and powerful appeal to recent immigrants and to African-American blue-collar workers.
[President Ronald] Reagan did very well among lower-income voters. They were called Reagan Democrats and blue-collar Republicans. Let’s look at the last big [GOP] national victory in 2004 where [President George W. Bush lost] the $30,000 to $50,000 income American worker … by one percent only.
Gov. [Mitt] Romney lost it well in the double digits. He also lost the under-$30,000 vote considerably more than President Bush.
That’s the message we should take into the next election: ‘Our policies will work for you, their policies are hurting you, and if you doubt what I say, look at your take-home pay.’
TheDC: Has the excess supply of labor hurt average Americans?
Sessions: Median income has dropped $2,300 per household since 2009. That’s huge for a family struggling to get by. That’s $200 less per month for their families — this is unacceptable and cannot continue, and it is clear that a significant part of that is a result of an excessive flow of labor into America during this time of high unemployment.
TheDC: Will your critique of an excessive labor supply be seen as anti-Latino or anti-Asian?
Sessions: We are not opposed to immigrants or immigration. … We need to say an excess of immigration is pulling down wages for you and your children, and we need to emphasize that we support people of all racial and ethnic groups. We need to show our love and compassion for voters by fighting for them. We are passionately committed to reversing policies that are hammering the futures of immigrants, of people of color, and we’re not going to allow it to continue if given the opportunity to lead this country.
We need to be more sensitive to the feeling of people who may interpret calls for ending lawlessness as an attack on them personally. I think we can do that more effectively, and all of us need to work in that regard.
We need to help the American people see the distinction between guest workers and those who emigrate to America.
[The annual inflow of 700,000] guest workers are not in line to be citizens. They’re not asking to be citizens. They’re simply here to take jobs that some people claim Americans won’t do. I do think it is legitimate to say we oppose doubling the guest-worker program, which hurts recent immigrants as well as the native-born.
TheDC: Will your lower labor-supply policy help immigrants fully integrate into the center of American life, instead of being trapped as hyphenated-Americans on the periphery of our community?
Sessions: I’m offering a concept — the American concept that treats all people equally, regardless of their ethnicity or their religion, and that is consistent with the American vision.
There’s no doubt that the Republican vision will advance the desire of immigrants who want to see their children prosper, move up into the middle class and the upper-middle class and even to great wealth.
Our principles and policies provide that avenue, whereas the Democratic vision is driving up costs and pulling down economic growth with regulations. It over-regulates, it overtaxes … which is guaranteed to stagnate wages, job growth and the opportunity of new Americans — as well as the native-born Americans — to prosper.
It is the Democratic agenda that breaks people down into groups, and pits groups against another and rewards some groups in order to obtain votes. That’s destructive to America.
Sessions: Republicans somehow felt that we must utilize the rhetoric of the Democrats to appear supportive of immigrants. Also, businesses have very special interests in these issues, and they’re not at all hesitant to advocate for them and even raise money to promote their agenda.
It is particularly galling. The business view is even worse than being wrong in economic terms [because] they go even further and make a ludicrous claim that it is good politics for Republicans to abandon the perfectly legitimate goal of having a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest.
We’ve got to stand up and be counted.
We owe all Americans the right and opportunity to rise and prosper, but recent immigrants and native-born Americans absolutely can find themselves unable to prosper or see their wages rise if the flow of workers into the country exceeds the ability of the economy to absorb them.
So I do think it is critical for the Republicans Party to join with the decent plea of the American people to create a lawful system of immigration that serves our national interest.
TheDC: Can GOP legislators say no to the business donors who want to import more workers and customers, regardless of the cost to American workers or to the GOP’s future?
Sessions: Some politicians are influenced by friendships and being on the same side as others on issues of importance.
But there’s a old principle of politics; Voters trump money, and if you’re serving the interest of your people and you’re popular, it is pretty easy to win contributions from businesses. Democrats get huge amounts of money even when they’re serving critics of business.
I know who I represent — I represent four million Alabama citizens, and their interests are not the same as [interests as Facebook founder] Mark Zuckerberg.
A number of people — Sheldon Adelson, the Chamber of Commerce, Michael Bloomberg, Steve Case — [say what] they want the GOP to do in their financial interest is also going to help Republicans get elected.
We should probably roll on the floor and guffaw at them.
We need to tell people who think they can buy bad policy with money and contributions to go jump the lake. We need to tell them with clarity — we don’t represent specials interests, we represent the American interest.
We’re not going to be seduced into adopting the policy of a narrow group of billionaires and ignore the legitimate interests of millions of working Americans.
They do have highly paid lobbyists who make these argument, and get articles written in the paper to make these arguments, but as time has gone by, people are beginning to evaluate the situation differently. There has been a willingness to push back on them.
TheDC: Are other GOP leaders distancing themselves from the business lobbies to boost the inflow of legal immigrants and guest workers up to 33 million over the next decade?
Sessions: There has been an honest awakening on the part of Republican members of Congress, leaders and candidates, to the fact that things have not gone well for working Americans. When you see a decline of $2,300 in [household] median income per year, we know we’ve got a real problem.
We’ve got the lowest workforce participation rate in 36 years. We’ve added 15 million people to America since 2007, but we’ve actually have fewer people working today than in 2007.
Anybody who wants to win an an election needs to take seriously the plight of middle-class and lower middle-class workers. I think there is a genuine awakening among Republicans to this trend, and Republicans do have the answer. Republican policies will make this better, and we need to assert that.
TheDC: Are there other issues where Republicans should stand up to business donors?
Sessions: A couple of issues would demonstrate that we have heard the concerns of our constituents. One is immigration, another is trade, another is energy. I’ve been a supporter of international trade — most Americans have — but I think the average American worker has the right to insist that government protect them from unfair trading practices by many of our trading partners.
We buy trillions of dollars [of merchandise] annually from trading partners, and they won’t even buy our chicken and steaks. It is very hard to penetrate Asian markets with American agricultural goods. It ought to be a lot easier.
We’ve got currency manipulation in China which provides an extraordinary trade advantage for their products over American products. Gov. Romney even acknowledges that, and said, ‘If you don’t stand up to China, they’ll run over you.’
You’ve got the crowd on Wall Street that thinks anyone who pushes back against unfair trade is against trade. But a trade agreement with a partner is a contract.
The Democratic energy policy is devastating to working Americans. Anytime you talk about more production of energy, [Democrats] say its because you want to help oil companies.
We need to insistently demonstrate to Americans that our concern is for you — we don’t want your electric bills going up. We want them to go down, and the policies of this administration are driving them up. It is like a secret tax.
Fair trade and immigration represent opportunities for the Republican Party to say to the American people, ‘We heard hear you, you’re right, and we’re going to respond positively.’ This is more than words or spin — it is an actual substantive alteration in what a lot of people have perceived to be Republican doctrine.
TheDC: Do the media people in Washington, D.C. understand the impact of immigration?
Sessions: They have no real conception that Americans are graduating from college and not being able to get a job. They’re not aware of what a very large flow of lower-skilled workers can do to young American workers who are trying to learn a skill and advance financially. They just don’t understand. … They don’t get it.
[They also] are saying things that aren’t true. They’re suggesting that guest-workers are just working seasonally on farms. But guest workers do so much more than that and compete directly with Americans, even in skilled positions, and at a time of falling wages.
I’m beginning to sense a slight improvement, because this issue has been before the people more intensely and a lot of the talking point arguments for ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ are being proven to be as bogus as a $3 bill. The [reporters are] understanding a little more, but it is slow.