The Republican Party is undergoing a revolution — and Senator Marco Rubio wants to lead it.
In recent months, he has slammed the GOP establishment for caring more about elite donors and big corporations than the blue-collar workers who comprise the Republican base. Rubio argues the GOP needs to abandon its free-market dogma and instead embrace “common good capitalism” — the sorts of pro-worker, pro-family policies that benefit all Americans, not just the rich.
He’s right, of course. But Florida’s senior senator can’t credibly refashion himself as a champion of blue-collar workers until he repudiates his longstanding immigration stances.
Throughout his career, Rubio has favored policies that would increase legal immigration levels and amnesty illegal aliens. He blocked E-Verify legislation while he was speaker of the Florida House, and most egregiously, in 2013, he spearheaded the infamous “Gang of Eight” bill, which would have amnestied millions of illegal aliens and roughly tripled legal immigration levels. He recently voted to amnesty 1.8 million illegal aliens brought to the United States as minors. And he’s currently urging the Trump administration to grant temporary protected status to illegal immigrants from Venezuela.
High levels of immigration —of both the legal and illegal varieties — displace American workers.
For proof, just look at the latest jobs report from the Labor Department. Over the last two decades, the percentage of working-age Americans holding a job declined from roughly 67 percent to about 63 percent.
The official unemployment rate is 3.6 percent, but that doesn’t include people who want full-time jobs but can only find part-time work. Nor does it include “discouraged workers” who have abandoned the job hunt altogether. Factor in those groups, and suddenly, the unemployment rate climbs to 7.7 percent.
High levels of immigration also depress Americans’ wages. That’s not a knock on immigrants — it’s just a basic fact of supply and demand. When there’s a surplus of workers, employers don’t need to raise wages to attract talent. Illegal immigration alone drives down the wages of native-born workers by up to $118 billion each year.
Immigration disproportionately harms America’s less-skilled workers. In the past two decades, immigrants without high school diplomas have increased the size of the low-skill labor force by nearly 25 percent. This has reduced wages for native-born workers without high school diplomas up to $1,500 annually, according to George Borjas, a professor — and an immigrant himself — at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Despite these negative consequences, the federal government continues to grant over 1 million lifetime work permits to immigrants every year. Most of these permits go to individuals without extensive educations, community ties or job prospects. The government also hands out tens of thousands of temporary work permits to low-skilled foreigners through the H-2B visa program.
Sen. Rubio is right that America’s economy should work for all citizens, not just the elites. He can make that dream a reality by helping fix our broken immigration system.
For instance, he could join other pro-worker conservatives like Senators Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, David Perdue and Marsha Blackburn in supporting the Raise Act. The bill would slash low-skilled legal immigration levels in half, thus empowering blue-collar Americans to find better job opportunities and bargain for higher wages.
Likewise, Senator Rubio could champion legislation that would make E-Verify mandatory for all employers. E-Verify is a free, online tool backed by 91 percent of Republicans that determines the legal status of recent hires within seconds. Mandating E-Verify would prevent employers from hiring illegal immigrants — and discourage people from entering the country illegally in the first place.
Senator Rubio’s embrace of “common good capitalism” is encouraging. But actions speak louder than words. If he truly wants to build an economy that helps working-class Americans, he’ll need to change his tune on immigration.
Ryan James Girdusky is a writer and commentator. He is author of the upcoming book They’re Not Listening: How the Elites Created the Nationalist Populist Revolution.