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Will Biden use bridge tragedy to pass an amnesty?

author Published by Jeremy Beck

Rebuild the bridge to American workers (image of collapsed Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore)

Here we go again. Advocates of cheap, illegal labor are using the Baltimore bridge tragedy to urge President Biden to bypass Congress – and American workers – to help businesses hire people who are in the country illegally. According to multiple reports, the Biden administration is warming to the idea.

Six workers tragically perished when the Francis Scott Key bridge collapsed in late March. Their families have not disclosed whether or not they were in the country illegally. Mass immigration has historically created labor surpluses in specific industries, which inevitably open the door to exploitation, lower wages, and unsafe working conditions. Rewarding illegal immigration will make things worse.

Here’s a better idea: rebuild the pipeline to local, legal workers.

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“The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse is a moment for Biden to show concern for rebuilding a vital bridge — and for building a bridge of inclusion for Black American workers in the construction industry as well,” writes Professor Roger House in The Hill.

The construction industry already has a problem of “rampant racial discrimination” according to House, who cites a recent report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Black Americans make up just five percent of construction workers nationwide. Industry lobbyists aren’t showing any inclination to address the gap.

J. Doug Pruitt, the former CEO of Sundt Construction Co., “said the proposed executive action could help alleviate labor shortages” and rising costs, according to reporting by Law360. He also complained that E-Verify was preventing many employers from illegally hiring workers who are not authorized to work in the United States.

These are the ideas that are getting “positive signals” from the administration.

As citizens our responsibility doesn’t end at the voting booth. We have to stay engaged after we send our elected officials to Washington. The cheap labor lobby will not let this tragedy go to waste. We have to respond with the power of the citizen lobby to demand immigration policy that serves the national interest.

Fight Back!

We’ve seen this before. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Black Americans were released from their jobs rebuilding their communities when the federal government suspended immigration and workplace enforcement. 

House: "The surge of immigration since the 1980s provided a source of cheap labor that contractors desired and unions could not hold off, and Black labor was the odd man out."

Four decades of moderated immigration in the 20th century empowered an inclusive labor movement that paved the way for Civil Rights victories. Mass immigration undermines those victories.

“[T]he surge of immigration since the 1980s provided a source of cheap labor that contractors desired and unions could not hold off,” House writes,”and Black labor was the odd man out.”

History doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes. As advocates for an economically just immigration system, we too can draw inspiration from history. Immigration reductions have proven the “economic salvation” of left-behind Americans in the past. 

We can do it again.

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Explore More: Hiring Line Initiative; Economic Challenges; Rewarding Bad Behavior.

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