You’ll find no defense of Jim Acosta here. Quite the opposite. Acosta’s profound ignorance on immigration makes his moral preening on the subject insufferable. No matter one’s view of President Trump, general consensus appears to be that Acosta’s antics have no place in the White House press room.
Lost in last week’s exchange about the migrant caravan resulting in Acosta having his White House press pass suspended is that President Trump continues to insist America needs more foreign workers coming into the United States. Referring to the migrants now making their way to the U.S./Mexican border, President Trump said this:
I want them to come into the country but they have to come in legally. You know they have to come in, Jim, through a process. I want it to be a process, and I want people to come in, and we need the people….You know why we need the people don’t you? Because we have hundreds of companies moving in, we need the people.
Employers in the United States have long called for more foreign workers regardless of the economic and labor market situations. The Gang of Eight made this very same argument on the heels of the Great Recession, introducing a bill that would have added over 30 million new permanent residents to the United States population in just ten years. The unemployment rate at the time was 7.6% and there were 89.8 million people not in the labor force. The labor force participation rate in April 2013, when the Gang of Eight bill was introduced, was 63.4%, down a full three percentage points from its pre-recession level.
The current unemployment rate has dipped all the way down to 3.7%. This is because so many Americans have fallen completely out of the labor market. There are now 95.9 million people not in the labor force, an increase of 6.1 million from April 2013. About 55 million of those not in the labor force are between the ages of 18 and 65. The labor participation rate is down to 62.9% and shows no signs of rebounding to a healthy level.
In October 2018, 6.1 million people were actively looking for work, and another 5.3 million not in labor force indicated they wanted a job. That’s 11.4 million people already in the United States who want a job now.
According to analysis of government data by the Center for Immigration Studies, 38% of U.S.-born Blacks and 36% of U.S.-born Hispanics are not working. President Trump talks a lot about helping put American back to work in good paying jobs, but this will only result from policy changes, not photo ops. The President should focus his attention on ending illegal immigration and cutting legal immigration, not kowtowing to employers’ demands for more foreign workers. Instead, he appears to be aligning himself with Gang of Eight members Sen. Chuck Schumer and Lindsay Graham, and reneging on his repeated promises to put American workers first.
It is clear those traveling in the migrant caravan, and those who have come since the border surge began in the summer of 2015, are economic migrants, not refugees. They are coming to the United States with the hope of finding work, and to take advantage of benefits on offer in this country, including those funded by American taxpayers. There is an on-going crisis at the southern border. No doubt, the President’s failure to lead on this issue (saying he will sign anything Congress sends him on immigration is not leadership), and his insistence that the United States needs more low-skilled workers coming in from Central America is only fueling the problem.
Trump voters who were angry, rightfully, at President Obama’s encouragement and enabling of illegal immigration cannot give President Trump a free pass when he is doing the very same thing. President Trump broke his promise to end DACA on day one of his presidency, and he has prioritized amnesty, even expanding the number of illegal aliens he wants to amnesty beyond those who had DACA status.
As everyone knows, the President wants a wall on the southern border, but he has failed to support mandatory E-Verify, and his administration’s efforts to go after criminal employers who hire unauthorized workers has fallen well short of the mark. This sends a powerful signal to employers that they will be allowed to continue to break the law. Plus, President Trump has signed two appropriation bills that failed to fund a border wall, calling into question whether his call for border security is merely a campaign rallying cry and not a genuine commitment.
Calling for amnesty before enforcement provisions are in place only sets the stage for future amnesties. This is the lesson from IRCA. Any amnesty President Trump signs will be the eighth since 1986, and if the President trades amnesty for wall funding, it won’t be the last. If President Trump is not aware, someone in his administration should tell him that any money appropriated for his wall will be rescinded by the Democratic majority when they take over the House, while the amnesty will remain permanently.
We’ve come a long way since August 2017 when President Trump endorsed the RAISE Act at the White House. He’s now negotiated himself into a position where he may have to sign the largest amnesty in U.S. history in exchange for the promise of a border wall that will never be built. There’s a lot of punditry claiming Trump’s base will forgive him anything, but shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue is not the same as selling out the American people yet again. Polling clearly shows that mid-term voters reject a wall for DACA deal, including 64% of Republicans.
President Trump in 2020 will be judged largely on how he handles immigration. It’s unlikely he’ll be applauded for implementing Jeb Bush’s policies.
ERIC RUARK is the Director of Research for NumbersUSA
Updated: Wed, Nov 28th 2018 @ 1:20pm EST