The President's State of the Union address and the Republican and Tea Party responses were supposed to focus on the need to put Americans back to work. But I was not surprised to hear very little compassion for the jobless when they talked about immigration.
Nonetheless, the sense of inevitability of an amnesty passing this year seemed to recede somewhat tonight (despite attempts by TV reporters and commentators to suggest otherwise).
The main reason for a mild sense of optimism out of the night was in Sen. Marco Rubio's "Republican response." With so much of the fate of a comprehensive amnesty bill seeming to ride on Rubio's role in the Gang of Eight, it was a relief to hear him say so little about immigration and to emphasize the priority of fulfilling enforcement promises of past immigration bills.
It was quite a different story with Pres. Obama's State of the Union address and Sen. Rand Paul's Tea Party response. Both claimed concern about rewarding Americans who want to work hard and pull their weight but callously insisted on increasing foreign labor that will keep millions of Americans unemployed or underpaid. Obama and Paul proposed immigration principles that would continue the wage depression and rising income inequality that has accompanied the last 30 years of record-high immigration.
So much for expanding the middle class.
And Rep. Paul Ryan -- who didn't have a marquee speech -- continued his embarrassing string of auditions to be part of John McCain and Lindsey Graham's open-borders club by doing an interview on CNN in which he praised Pres. Obama for his "measured" and "productive" tone in the immigration part of his speech. Look below at what the President said and determine for yourself whether American workers whose incomes are depressed or erased by foreign labor competition would think his policy suggestions were "productive."
PRES. OBAMA tripled the time he has usually given to immigration in previous SOTU addresses. It was all generally bad stuff that we have heard from him many times before.
Perhaps the good news is how little emotion seemed to be in these paragraphs. Also, it is interesting that he failed to use this occasion to provide any new specifics about what he wants in legs.islation. That is not a sign of great confidence. Rather, it appears that he may be putting off the pain of reactions when there are real details to consider.
Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants.
(A smattering of applause interrupts him and then grows a bit.)
And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. "
(This was the cue that the amnesty enthusiasts were waiting for. Republican Senators McCain and Graham were sitting with Democratic Senator Durbin so that all three could lead the standing ovation. I had feared that even anti-amnesty Republicans would have been told by consultants that they would have to stand during these demonstrations so as not to look "insensitive" to certain voting blocs. Sur eenough, it looked like most Republicans were standing at this point.)
Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years. "
Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship
(I found it interesting that the mention of "citizenship" didn't get applause.)
– a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally. "
(Applause broke out over "back of the line.")
And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy. "
(Big standing applause on this one.)
In other words, we know what needs to be done. As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. Now let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away."
(The President departed from his prepared text during lots of standing applause to say:)
And America will be better for it. Let's get it done. Let's get it done."
Indeed, though, it is sad to be in the fifth year of a President who is as clueless as the previous President was after eight years over the fact that you can't have federal policies that continually loosen the labor market and expect conditions to improve for your citizens who are having the toughest time.
For example, he talked about illegal aliens being at the "back of the line." But, in fact, we know from other comments from the Administration that he intends for illegal aliens to be at the FRONT of the employment line, allowing them to keep their jobs while 20 million Americans stay unemployed.
Perhaps the most insulting aspect was that he called for a mass amnesty and mass increase in immigration immediately after saying this:
But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where everyone who's willing to work hard has the chance to get ahead. "
It sounded like he was expressing concern for the millions of Americans want to work but can't find a job -- especially the younger Black and Hispanic Americans who are treated the most brutally in this loose labor market. But in the President's worldview, any citizen of any country who wants to work hard and get ahead is as entitled to a job as an American, even if that citizen of another country has broken our laws to be here.
The President may think he means the following words, but his immigration demands show he is not willing to back them up:
It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love."
Well, Mr. President, 20 million Americans who want a full-time job can't find one and you are insisting that 7 million non-agricultural jobs currently held by illegal aliens be kept out of the hands of those Americans who would dearly love a chance to work hard and meet their responsibilities. And to make matters worse, you want to speed up the entrance of who knows how many millions of other foreign workers to take even more U.S. jobs.
It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation."
Mr. President, our immigration policy is designed to help the "few" capitalists who own the businesses that profit from the lowered wages. It is designed for the "few" lawyers who make their living off immigration law. It is designed to help the "few" special interest group leaders who gain power from it.
But, Mr. President, you refuse to recognize the need of the "many" who work full-time jobs and still live in poverty because labor markets are so loose that the toil of too many of our workers does not have a market value high enough to support a family in dignity.
FIFTY MILLION working-age Americans are not working for all kinds of reasons. TWENTY-SEVEN MILLION of them are Americans with no more than a high school degree. They are the "many" Americans that this Administration and this Congress never consider and never even seem to see as they talk of labor shortages and the need for more immigraiton to "meet" so-called market demands for more immigration in lower-skill jobs.
For all the President's lofty rhetoric, I didn't get a sense that he particularly notices that some 30% of under-30 Hispanic Americans with a high school degree can't find a full-time job. Or that nearly 40% of Black Americans in that demographic are similarly unemployed.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-Fla.) was pushed hard by the open-borders groups to use his speech to advance the cause of the Gang of Eight's principles for a "comprehensive immigration reform" bill that would give direct paths to citizenship for some 11 million illegal aliens.
He was also under pressure from citizens across the country -- many of them NumbersUSA members -- to protect American workers and his own political career by stepping back from the open-borders cheerleading and emphasizing that no legalization should be considered at least until triggers of enforcement are met.
In the end, he and his speech writers seemed to recognize at least the political danger and got in and out of immigration as fast as they could:
We can also help grow our economy if we have a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world’s best and brightest. We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws."
That was the entirety of it. That sounded a lot like triggers to me. Others in the Gang of Eight have said they won't accept triggers. Hmmmm.
I love the fact that he talked about "broken promises." There were seven amnesties between 1986 and 2000. None of them had enforcement triggers, although there was always talk of eventually doing the things needed to stop future immigration -- and the push for future amnesties. All gave the right to work, get drivers licenses, etc. etc. immediately, and the enforcement to stop building up new illegal populations never really came.
I like the fact that he didn't stop with promises about "borders" and included the phrase "and enforce our laws." Republican Senators McCain and Graham usually limit their concern about enforcement to the border and neglect the workplace. I hope Rubio's addition of the phrase after "borders" indicates that he realizes that the elimination of the jobs magnet has to happen before Congress can possibly consider giving any illegal alien a work permit, let alone citizenship.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-Ky.) gave the Tea Party response with immigration principles that would undermine all efforts of the Tea Party to rein in the size of government and reduce government spending.
We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future. We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities. We must be the party that says, 'If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you."
This is disastrous talk that resembles Pres. George W. Bush's insistence that every willing worker around the world should be allowed to come to the U.S. if they find a willing employer.
Certainly, part of Paul's comments are on target. We at NumbersUSA believe that every person we allow to be an immigrant should be embraced as he/she wants to work and wants to become an American.
But to suggest that we should allow entrance of every person in the world who wants to work and become an American would mean tens of millions more immigrants in the next few years.
Surely Sen. Paul is aware of the many studies showing the net costs to taxpayers of most immigrants. While most immigrants do find a better future by moving to the United States, a lot of what makes it better is paid by taxpayers.
With government data showing that 57% of all foreign-born households with children on welfare programs, increasing the number of foreign-born households sounds like a betrayal of the Tea Party.
ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA