A growing number of Republican legislators say President Barack Obama’s business-backed amnesty unfairly discriminates against Americans.
“When it comes to illegal immigration, the conversation is always about the illegal immigrant, not about the people it will effect,” Pennsylvania Rep. Louis Barletta said a Dec. 2 hearing with Obama’s amnesty deputy, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
“I don’t think it is fair … to put illegal immigrants ahead of the American worker,” Barletta said.
The president’s amnesty and his Obamacare law ensures that employers must pay $3,000 extra to hire an American instead of an illegal carrying with a work permit issued by Obama, Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp said Dec 2. “How fair is it that?” he asked The Daily Caller. “The more folks learn about that, I think the more angry they’re going to be.”
So far, Republican leaders have objected to the way Obama enacted the amnesty, rather than the substance of the executive order. For example, the leaders have made impersonal complaints that Obama’s amnesty makes it more difficult for Congress to draft an congressional immigration bill, and that his amnesty violates several articles of the Constitution.
In contrast, Democrats and their media allies have defended the amnesty by showcasing personal stories of foreign migrants who gain from the White House edict.
Even when GOP leaders use dramatic language, it has lacked reference to Americans’ well-being. “We are going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path,” House Speaker John Boehner said Nov. 13. “This is the wrong way to govern. … Our goal here is to stop the president from violating his own oath of office and violating the constitution.”
Boehner has focused, rather, on the migrants themselves.
“The action by the president yesterday will only encourage more people to come here illegally, and putting their lives at risk,” he said in November. “We saw the humanitarian crisis at our border last summer, how horrific it was. Well, next summer it could be worse. And this action also punishes those who have obeyed the law and have waited their turn.”
But the amnesty could become political poison for the Democratic Party because it grants work permits to four million low-wage illegal immigrants during a period when Americans’ wages have stayed flat for 15 years, when roughly 20 million Americans are unemployed or have given up looking for work, and when more taxpayer funds are being transferred from retirees to unskilled poor migrant families.
But public opposition to the amnesty is muted by social pressure to support for the tradition of immigration, and by Americans’ reluctance to been seen as critical of migrants.
“How does [Obama’s amnesty] advance the job prospects of Americans who are out of work, whether they are Hispanic, black, rural or urban, to have this kind concession made to people who are here illegally?” Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis asked at a Dec. 2 press conference.
The voters’ “concerns are about jobs and the economy,” said Lummis, who is a member of Boehner’s advisory committee. “I wish [Obama] was more concerned about jobs.”
Rep. Tom Cotton made the same pitch during a Nov. 30 appearance on “Meet The Press.”
“The president just lost an election in no small measure because wages for working families are declining and unemployment is still too high in too many places,” said Cotton, who has just been elected to the Senate. “The first big action he took after the election was to make it easier for illegal immigrants to get jobs, not for working families to get jobs.”
Obama’s amnesty provide special favors to illegals immigrants, Huelskamp said Dec. 2. “I think Americans would find that fundamentally unfair,” he said.
“Nearly 20 million Americans woke up this morning either unemployed or underemployed,” Barletta told Johnson during a Dec. 2 hearing.
“The president didn’t mention these Americans when he announced his plan to grant de facto amnesty and work permits to up five million illegal immigrants. He didn’t discuss the competition this would create for them, or the impact it would have on their pocketbooks,” Barletta said.
On Nov. 15, Alabama Rep. Martha Roby slammed Obama’s expected amnesty. “What has been reported would absolutely undermine opportunities for working class Americans,” she said in a statement to TheDC. “It takes some serious gall for President Obama to talk about ‘fixing’ income inequality on one hand and then acting unilaterally on the other to deflate wages and threaten jobs.”
In the Senate, Sen. Jeff Sessions has argued since 2013 that the amnesty would hurt lower-income Americans — and weaken the GOP’s support among the voters it needs to win the White House in 2016.
Boehner’s bill “is substantially weaker than the language the House adopted this summer, and does not reject the central tenets of the President’s plan: work permits, Social Security and Medicare to 5 million illegal immigrants [which reduce] wages, jobs and benefits for Americans,” Sessions said in a Dec. 2 statement.
“Polling shows voters believe that Americans should get preference for available jobs by almost a 10-1 margin. Republicans should not be timid or apologetic, but mount a bold defense of struggling Americans,” he said. “Who will be their voice, if not us?”
Sessions also cited the estimate by Harvard labor economist George Borjas that current immigration imposes a $402 billion annual loss in wages for the American workers forced to compete against low-wage immigrants.
GOP leaders, however, avoid the fairness argument or any talk about how the amnesty can hurt Americans’ wages, even though the likely cost is roughly $22,000 per college graduate.
They are under strong pressure from corporate donors and lobbyists to support continued immigration of low-wage farm workers and blue-collar workers, and also of white-collar professionals for use in a variety of jobs sought by American graduates.
For example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell used a Nov. 20 press release to slam how Obama’s amnesty tactics. “If the President truly follows through on this attempt to impose his will unilaterally, he will have issued a rebuke to his own stated view of democracy. And he will have contradicted his past statements on this very issue,” he said.
The statement went on to say that Obama’s amnesty would be unfair — but it focused on the unfairness to foreigners who are legally immigrating into the United States.
“The action he’s proposed would ignore the law, would reject the voice of the voters, and would impose new unfairness on law-abiding immigrants,” said his statement.
“What does the President have to say to the countless aspiring immigrants who’ve spent years waiting patiently in line? To the people who’ve played by all the rules? Where is his compassion for them?” McConnell continued.