Friday’s headlines were peppered with superlatives like “surged,” “smashed,” and “huge,” when describing the latest jobs numbers. Another 304,000 jobs were added in January. The official “U-3” unemployment rate is down to 4.0 percent. Employers are being forced to recruit from the tens of millions of people who don’t show up in the unemployment rate.
Finally, after decades on — or under — the bottom rungs of the jobs ladder with their stagnant or declining wages, millions of Americans may get their chance to be valued enough to be recruited and to earn raises.
The last thing those Americans need is for Congress or the president to stop the positive momentum by taking immigration actions that would add competition from millions of new job seekers through increased immigration, more guest workers, weaker enforcement and new amnesties.
Some 50 million working-age U.S. residents (aged 18-64) are still not in the labor market at all. Of course, not all of them need a job. But large numbers do. For example, 35 million people under age 65 live in poverty. One of every five Hispanics is impoverished. One of every three working-age black Americans still has no job.
Journalists routinely provide compelling stories of demographic and geographic pockets filled with economic despair across the country. Let’s abandon them no more.
One group of concern is people who have been incarcerated. Hundreds of thousands of Americans and immigrants will be released from U.S. prisons this year. The number will be even higher than usual because of the new criminal justice reform law the president is certain to tout in his State of the Union address.
The first thing all these vulnerable Americans — and their communities — need is for employers to offer jobs. Because of the robust job creation in this Trump economy, the chronically unemployed, the under-employed, the discouraged and the ex-offenders should have the best opportunity in decades to enter the steady-paycheck world.
Unfortunately, many politicians of both parties fail to see the tightening labor market as an historic opportunity to lift the left-behind Americans. Rather, those politicians are joining with the many business lobbyists who demand more foreign workers even though our country clearly has no shortage of potential workers.
On the eve of his State of Union address, the president is under great pressure to increase the number of foreign workers instead of continuing to honor his campaign promises that immigration policies should prioritize the needs of Americans that have not benefited by the national economy in recent decades. Good jobs have always been the most effective anti-poverty program.
To be fair to employers, current non-workers who haven’t held a job for some time may be more difficult to recruit than filling jobs with new immigrants. But the country will be far better off moving these Americans from dependency on taxpayers and charity and into productivity. And the lives of those individuals can be transformed by the dignity and the financial rewards of work.
It is doubtful employers will do the necessary recruiting of those Americans and immigrants already here if the government increases the flow of foreign workers even higher than the current one million new immigrants who are given lifetime work permits each year plus hundreds of thousands of guest workers.
How much better it would be if the president could persuade Congress to speed up the momentum of recruiting previously unwanted workers. He can do that by sticking with his campaign promises to help American workers by working with Congress to cut unnecessary, generalized immigration like chain migration and the lottery, and to mandate E-Verify to shut off the jobs magnet that encourages illegal workers to come and stay in the United States.
The president should urge Congress to keep the recruitment momentum going.
Roy Beck is the president of NumbersUSA, a nonprofit group advocating for reduced immigration.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.