This past weekend, the Orange County Register ran a Q&A with NumbersUSA's Roy Beck. The interview, conducted by staff writer Roxana Kopetman, touched on the ongoing immigration debate in Congress, our recent evangelical poll and the disparity between church leaders and their followers, and the future of immigration policy in the United States.
NOTE: This interview can be found in its entirety on the Orange County Register's website.
Q: The pro-immigration reform forces regularly stage rallies, fasts and other events that draw media. Members of your group are not as visible, focusing instead on faxes, letters and phone calls. This seemed to be effective in 2006-2007. Can this lower-key approach work now?
A: Our emphasis on the civic virtue of putting a lot of individual citizens in touch with offices of individual members of Congress on a regular basis still trumps political theatre.
Q: What is your top legislative priority?
A: NumbersUSA's top legislative priority is reducing overall immigration and lifetime work permits by at least half by limiting immigration to a generous system for spouses and minor children of Americans and of those that come here legally, for our fair share of internationally recognized special needs refugees, and for people with truly extraordinary skills.
Q: NumbersUSA also supports the idea of no longer granting citizenship to all children born in the United States. Why? And how would a "Birthright Citizenship Act," such as the one introduced in the U.S. House last year, work?
A: Birthright citizenship for tourists and unlawfully present foreign citizens is incompatible with a modern age and has been abandoned by every industrialized nation in the world except the U.S. and Canada. This federal regulation that Congress can change adds around 500,000 additional citizens. That’s in addition to the one million immigrants a year. These become anchors for their illegally-present parents who use them as excuses for why they shouldn’t go home. The bill we support would automatically grant U.S. citizenship only to children who have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen or a permanent legal immigrant.
Q: An Evangelical coalition has joined with the Catholic Church and other denominations in broad-based support for immigration reform. NumbersUSA just released a new national poll that shows these voters reject those immigration goals. What were the poll's results?
A: By huge margins, Catholic and evangelical Christian voters told Pulse Opinion Research that the nation’s higher moral priority is to protect unemployed and low-wage Americans from having to compete with extra foreign labor for jobs, rather than to help illegal immigrants keep jobs to provide for their families. Both polls found strong compassion for the Black and Hispanic Americans who suffer the greatest joblessness and poverty. The two religious groups strongly preferred requiring businesses to do more to recruit and train from those populations instead of being provided more foreign labor for the employers.
Q: How do you explain the sharp contrast between these numbers and the message of support we're hearing from the faith community?
A: The religious leaders lobbying for legalization and foreign-labor increases were not chosen by Catholic and evangelical voters to speak for them on this. Those leaders speak for themselves and apparently are driven primarily by a priority that they have placed on the needs of illegal immigrants and the business lobbies. The polling, though, shows that most members of their denominations have a very different set of moral priorities.
Q: Your website clearly states "No to immigrant bashing." Are those who oppose illegal immigration unfairly brushed as racist or xenophobic?
A: After 24 years traveling the country, researching and writing on this issue, my experience is that the worst racism tends to be found among those who advocate for high immigration. I devote two chapters in my W.W. Norton book to how throughout our country’s history, reckless and sometimes racist politicians and business interests have pushed for high immigration that intentionally or inadvertently slowed and even stopped the progress into the middle class of freed slaves -- and then the descendants of slaves. That has been true over the last 30 years, as well. In my mind, the opponents of illegal and high legal immigration are the greatest activists against the institutional racism inherent in the disproportionately high poverty among not only Black but Hispanic Americans. Everybody has their own reasons for advocating immigration security and enforcement, but the results of our efforts are either intentionally or inadvertently the combating of racism in our economic system. Although we have always argued that immigration policies should not be based on the race of applicants, we know that lower immigration disproportionately benefits the non-white citizens of our society.
Q: What do you think will happen with this issue? Where is it headed?
A: The bi-partisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform was appointed by Congress and chaired by the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. It especially focused on how immigration policy can help the most vulnerable members of our national community. Until today’s national debate focuses on the same thing, Washington is likely to remain deadlocked.
Q: How does this movement compare to immigration campaigns over the last 20 years?
A: The campaign over the last two years for awarding work permits to millions of illegal workers and greatly increasing the importation of new foreign workers is quite imilar to the past efforts of elites from nearly every part of society, except that there is even more money involved this time. For 20 years, Democratic leaders have been trying to change immigration policy to add more pro-government-expansion voters and Republican leaders have been looking to provide the excess labor to their corporate donors that will allow them to increase their profits by holding down the wages of their U.S. workers. The battle over whether the government should tighten the labor market or loosen it is very similar to what was happening a hundred years ago in this country. The tight-labor advocates eventually won that one, and we saw the majority of American move into the middle class over the next 40 years of low immigration.
This interview first ran in the Orange County Register.
Updated: Mon, Oct 2nd 2017 @ 2:57pm EDT