After three years of a Jobs Depression, we saw today the first action by Congress to stop driving up unemployment by importing so many immigrant workers.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 19-11 just before noon to pass H.R. 704, the SAFE for America Act, to end the Visa Lottery. (See roll call at bottom of blog.)
If we can get this passed on the House floor and then in the Senate and signed into law by Pres. Obama this year, that will mean 55,000 fewer permanent work permits will be handed out next year to immigrants. (And 550,000 fewer over the next decade.)
It would be a good start to finally start dialing back the exorbitant annual immigration numbers that routinely run over a million a year (while 22 million Americans who want a full-time job can't find one).
BI-PARTISAN HOUSE MAJORITY VOTED TO KILL LOTTERY IN 2005 (but no Senator forced a vote)
This very same legislation by Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) passed 273-148 with a large bi-partisan majority on Dec. 16, 2005 at 7:08 p.m.
It was an amendment to the large Sensenbrenner Immigration Bill.
Only six Republicans voted to continue the Visa Lottery.
And 57 Democrats voted with most Republicans to kill the lottery.
This was before the Jobs Depression!
Our hope would be that once the bill comes to the floor that similar numbers of Democrats would break with their Leadership's insistence on flooding the country with foreign labor.
But we have to persuade the current House Republican leadership to give this bill some priority and bring it to the floor. The 2005 bill died in the Republican-held Senate because not one Senator would invest the effort to force the bill to the floor of the Senate.
ARE HOUSE REPUBLICANS FINALLY SHOWING SOME SYMPATHY FOR PLIGHT OF UNEMPLOYED?
In power for seven months now, the new House Republican leadership until today has been no action and only a tiny bit of talk when it comes to some kind of sympathy for 22 million U6-category unemployed Americans having to compete with an extra 1 million LEGAL immigrants every year.
It is a good sign that Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) put such an important spotlight on the Visa Lottery in the middle of the debt debate which has grabbed almost all attention this month.
But Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip McCarthy (R-Calif.) now have to bring this visa lottery bill to the floor of the House for a vote. And quickly. Once passed, our allies in the Senate will need to introduce it as an amendment to another bill to move it along. With the full mobilization of the NumbersUSA grassroots network, we can make all this happen. And the committee action today has been an all-important first step.
I give the Republicans on the committee only a "B" today for their arguments in favor of the bill because they were weak on making the jobs justification for killing the program that was begun in 1990 by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). On the other hand, the Democrats on the committee were absolutely enfuriating in their insistence that America needs more foreign workers. Most of the Democrats represent Districts with especially high unemployment. But they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that there can be such a thing as too many immigrants when their constituents are struggling to hold on to their homes, jobs and families due to high unemployment.
COMMITTEE REFUSED TO RE-ALLOCATE LOTTERY VISAS TO OTHER CATEGORIES
Perhaps even more importantly, the committee today refused several amendments that would have re-allocated the 55,000 lottery visas a year to other immigration categories.
While it is true that it is a form of insanity for a nation to raffle off 55,000 permanent work permits and paths to citizenship each year, we would gain very little if the lottery were killed and the overall legal immigration level stays the same.
The main point of killing the lottery is to reduce overall annual importation of permanent foreign workers by 55,000 a year.
So, congratulations to the majority of the committee for sticking with the bill's sponsor -- Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) -- who fought amendments even from his own Party that would have re-allocated visas variously to chain migration and employment-based categories.
You can re-watch the Judiciary Committee deliberations, debates and votes -- and our NumbersUSA running commentary -- by going to our TV page at:
ACTION: Please immediately send a free fax to your own U.S. Representative to ask for specific support to get this bill to the House floor so it can be sent on to the Senate to finish killing this lottery program.
SMITH AND GOODLATTE HAVE LONG HISTORY OF TRYING TO KILL THE LOTTERY
Special thanks to Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) who gave this bill priority treatment. For 22 years, Rep. Smith has tried to reduce the numerical level of LEGAL immigration (as well as trying to stop illegal immigration). Elimination of the lottery was in a huge bill he ushered out of the Judiciary Committee way back in 1996.
But the Republican leadership helped strip the lottery-elimination provision from the bill when it came to the floor.
Rep. Goodlatte has co-sponsored bills to kill the lottery for the last 15 years and has been the chief sponsor for the last decade. We are most appreciative of his tenacity.
Interestingly, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) was one of the three constant voices to save the lottery today. She represents the same District as did the late Rep. Barbara Jordan. Both are women, Democrats, liberals and African Americans. But Barbara Jordan chaired a national bi-partisan commission that in 1995 recommended the elimination of the Visa Lottery -- the exact opposite of what Rep. Jackson-Lee now champions.
Barbara Jordan recommended that immigration policy serve the national interest and particularly that it not hurt vulnerable Americans. Rep. Jackson-Lee and all the Democratic Members of the Judiciary Committee recommend that immigration policy serve the interests first of the people who want to enter, with no acknowledgement that the numbers could ever hurt vulnerable Americans.
Thankfully today, the Barbara Jordan vision of immigration, America and the Visa Lottery won!
-- ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
Here is the roll call in the order they voted. We'll get you a cleaner and easier to use version later:
Bobby Scott: no
Hank Johnson: no