An almost shocking story from today's Bloomberg News follows a defiant Sen. Lindsey Graham as he travels South Carolina selling his Gang of Eight comprehensive amnesty.
The bottom line seems to be that Graham will not step away from the comprehensive amnesty bill no matter how many unemployed South Carolinians, their families and friends say it would hurt them.
BUT he WILL turn against the amnesty -- he WILL BACK DOWN -- if the cheap-labor employers say the amnesty bill would require them to pay the foreign workers too much (thus encouraging them to hire jobless South Carolinians instead.)
GRAHAM WON'T HOLD TOWN HALL MEETINGS BUT SAYS HE HAS SOLD SOUTH CAROLINA ON COMPREHENSIVE AMNESTY BILL
In an extensive report today, Sen. Graham essentially said that every Republican in Congress should be able to vote for his Gang of Eight comprehensive amnesty because he is succeeding in selling it in South Carolina:
If I can sell it in South Carolina, don't come to me and say it's hard. This is a conservative state, and the way we're selling it is to fix it.
"I don't feel heat like I used to," Graham said at a March 26 news conference with local faith leaders who support the immigration negotiations. "If you want to talk about immigration, you're welcome to come down and talk to me. If you want to run ads, spend all the money you want to spend. I'm not backing down.
His salesmanship appears to be on display almost entirely in controlled situations where people who disagree with him can't get to him. Our NumbersUSA grassroots team tells me South Carolina voters are having a hard time finding any place to speak to him.
Sen. Graham's defiant "I'm not backing down" makes it sound like he will be the puppet of the cheap-labor employers regardless of what the people of S.C. want or need.
And other parts of the story seem to prove my suspicion. I'll give you a lot of the story below because it really is rather unbelievable how Sen. Graham feels like his chief purpose in the Senate is to drive down wages in South Carolina and ensure a cheap-labor foreign labor force that satisfies the greediest of the employers:
Reporter Julie Hirschfield Davis wrote in Bloomberg News:
With Congress on a two-week vacation, Graham is traveling his skeptical state as aides to the so-called Gang of Eight senators haggle over the specifics in Washington. The Senate group is pushing to unveil its measure the week of April 8.
Graham is making his stand as the environment for an immigration rewrite is improving on various fronts.
Still, it's not a simple argument to make, particularly for Graham, who earned the ire of core party activists for his past efforts on the issue. Opponents derisively nicknamed his work as Grahamnesty.
As he travels the state talking about the issue, Graham is telling South Carolinians their state's economic well-being --driven by agriculture, tourism and manufacturing -- turns on the future availability of immigrant workers. That element has created a stalemate in negotiations on Capitol Hill, with organized labor pressing for stricter limits and higher wages on a proposed visa program for low-skilled workers, while businesses resist those requirements.
That's the major factor weighing on Andy White, the legislative director for the Homebuilders Association of South Carolina, who's waiting for Graham when he arrives to greet the lunchtime crowd enjoying catfish, collard greens and banana pudding.
White wants a measure that legalizes undocumented laborers and brings in more immigrants to work. Yet he's worried the bill taking shape in Washington will mean higher home building costs by applying federal wage requirements that don't currently bind the state. "We're concerned about ensuring that we'll have a supply of labor here to meet the burgeoning housing market, because we are recovering here," White said.
The terms of the low-skilled worker program are the one element Graham said could cause him to walk away from an emerging deal.
Democrats are "overplaying their hand" by siding with the unions on the issue, Graham said.
"I'm, not going to go for a guest-worker program that's unaffordable and unaccessible . . . "
"I don't mind walking away from the bill if it's a bad bill -- I can do that," Graham said, gazing out his car window on his way to the next constituent visit. "I will do it in a heartbeat."
The federal broad unemployment rate for South Carolina citizens for 2012 was 15.8%. That means 337,000 South Carolina citizens who wanted a full-time job couldn't find one.
Graham claims he is trying to meet some kind of serious labor shortage in agriculture, construction and tourism.
Well, every farmer already is allowed to bring in an unlimited number of foreign guestworkers under the H-2A visa program.
As for the lower-skilled jobs in construction and tourism that Graham wants to fill with less-educated foreign workers . . . .
The federal broad unemployment rate for less-educated South Carolina citizens looking for jobs in the same occupations is 22.1%
Maybe some employers really do have difficulty finding employees. But the problem is not a labor shortage but a lack of communication between employers and available citizen workers.
Sen. Graham claims he is fixing the problem with the Gang's comprehensive amnesty.
Wouldn't South Carolinians prefer that the fix be in creating better ways to put citizen job-seekers in touch with employers than in keeping hundreds of thousands unemployed and supported by taxpayer programs?
If so, South Carolinians are going to have to call Sen. Graham and tell him. Because he is telling the national press that you no longer care.
ROY BECK is Founder & President of NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, Mar 28th 2013 @ 4:30pm EDT