Supporters of the lottery took to the floor this morning to repeatedly denounce NumbersUSA and its 1.3 million activist members for our efforts to hold down the number of new permanent foreign workers with which the government forces unemployed Americans to compete each year.
Nonetheless, the U.S. House overwhelmingly voted 245-139 to kill the Visa Lottery in the multi-issue HR 6429 bill which now goes to the Senate in this lame duck session that will end before Christmas. Voting with the Republican majority were 27 Democrats from California, Oregon, Utah, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Texas, Arkansas,Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York and Maine.
My rough analysis is that about half the 27 Democrats are from competitive districts and generally agree with us on protecting American workers, and that the other half are more afraid of university and tech lobbyists in their state and voted primarily to get the extra STEM visas despite their party leaders' opposition to the lottery elimination.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) gave the closing arguments against the bill, seething in anger that the House Republican majority had brought a bill to the floor that offset an increase in high-skill green cards with an elimination of the Visa Lottery which randomly awards 55,000 foreign citizens each year with permanent work authorization regardless of their skills and nearly regardless of any education.
Mr. Gutierrez claimed that Republicans had not negotiated with Democrats in crafting the bill and said Republicans were more interested in the opinions of NumbersUSA's members:
I'm going to tell you why you (Republicans) wouldn't negotiate with us. Because you had to negotiate with NumbersUSA. Why don't we just say it. They're the party that's not present here in the well of the House, but they are here in the spirit and in the legislative policy that is being reiterated today.
"You can't negotiate with us because you have to negotiate with the most extreme element of American society on immigration and not with those that want to bring about comprehensive immigration reform and immigration reform in our immigration system."
Mr. Gutierrez echoed a number of other supporters of the Visa Lottery in claiming that HR 6429 might result in an actual reduction of overall foreign workers coming into this country. Apparently, the worst thing they could say about an organization is that it wants less immigration.
Here's more of what Mr. Gutierrez had to say about us:
What is NumbersUSA. They say, the short descriptive modifier of what to call it is immigration reduction organization. So who did you negotiate with? The immigration-reduction organization, and that's why you" eliminated the lottery visas to off-set the extra STEM visas.
"If we're going to move America forward then we have to stop negotiating with those that want to keep us in the past and that's NumbersUSA. NumbersUSA who said to you 'self-deportation should be the rule of law in America. SB1070 is great and should be institutionalized in every state in the union.' Look, we rejected that this last election. This last election, there was a referendum and there were those of us on one side that said we want an immigration system that is fairer and sets aside the political bickering and another that says that we want to stand in the path."
Pro-lottery speakers repeatedly claimed that voters in November had cast their ballots in favor of "comprehensive immigration reform." You can't blame them for trying, but this is a rather ridiculous claim. If indeed immigration was the main reason people cast their votes, then one has to conclude that they chose a President who supports a mass amnesty and they chose a House majority who have resolutely opposed a mass amnesty. Thus, any "referendum" produced decidedly inconclusive results.
IT DOESN'T USUALLY GET SO PERSONAL
I think all of your activism must be getting a little under the thin political skin of the open-borders leaders in Congress. We were a little surprised to see things get so personal on the House floor this morning. Nonetheless, we take great pride in having open-borders leaders make it clear to the nation that NumbersUSA indeed is working to "reduce" the number of foreign workers brought in to compete with jobless Americans. For that, we were called "extreme" and "shameful."
The White House has told Senate Democrats to just allow the bill to die in the final days of this lame duck Congress because it wants next year to exchange STEM visas for a full-scale amnesty. Thus, the importance of today's House activity was what it may have told us about the shape of immigration debates when the new Congress convenes in January.
The attacks on NumbersUSA's 1.3 million activist members by many of the Democratic speakers during the debate suggest that pro-amnesty forces believe that every immigration bill has to increase the number of foreign workers -- that there can NEVER be any reduction.
This would put the Democratic Party in Congress in direct opposition to one of the great modern-day icons of the Democratic Party, the late Barbara Jordan.
The federal bi-partisan commission chaired by the celebrated civil rights champion Barbara Jordan recommended both of the things that the open-borders folks were decrying today. Jordan called for the end of the lottery (among other things) and for REDUCTIONS that might cut the annual new foreign worker competition in half.
The pro-Lottery statements about extremism today would be funny if they weren't such an insult to a woman and her commission who worked so hard to recommend an immigration system that showed true compassion for the most vulnerable workers of our society and their families.
HOUSE TURNED DOWN ATTEMPT TO SAVE THE VISA LOTTERY
Democratic leaders made a last-ditch effort to create an overall increase in foreign workers with a "motion to recommit" that in effect would have changed the bill so it increased STEM visas but no longer eliminated the lottery.
That attempt failed 157 to 231.
We were especially pleased to see the newly elected Democratic Senator from Indiana, Joe Donnelly, cast one of the five Democratic votes against this decidedly anti-American-worker motion. This is a very good sign that he is more interested in the needs of the workers of Indiana than he is in abiding by a Party line that requires a looser and looser labor market that depresses wages and throws more Americans into dependency on government and family.
No Republican voted to keep the lottery alive. Encouraging.
In addition to Donnelly, the Democrats who stood with American workers in voting against the effort to keep the lottery alive were John Barrow of Georgia, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Tim Matheson of Utah, and Brad Sherman of California. Donnelly, Barrow, DeFazio and Matheson have consistently been among the Democrats with the most concern for unemployed Americans. Sherman's vote, on the other hand, is a mystery to me at this moment. He has a Career grade of "D."
WHOLE DEBATE IGNORED AMERICAN WORKERS
Sadly, a person listening to the speeches by both Democrats and Republicans this morning would not have the slightest indication that our country remains in a jobs depression with 20 million still unable to find full-time employment. Nor would a listener have sensed that immigrants and Americans compete in the same job markets.
But, at least, the Republicans did point out the near insanity of every year raffling off another 55,000 permanent work authorizations to foreign citizens regardless of their skills and nearly regardless of their education. And that made Democratic speakers furious. They castigated Republicans for their failure to simply increase the overall number of foreign workers and instead bowing to the long-standing pressure from NumbersUSA's grassroots army to end the Visa Lottery.
Despite implications to the contrary from the pro-lottery speakers today, NumbersUSA neither endorsed nor wrote HR 6429. We took a neutral stance. But we did work diligently for months to ensure that it contained as many protections for American STEM students and workers as possible and that it included the elimination of the Visa Lottery. And because so many Members of Congress really care what you think about their immigration actions, HR 6429 was improved considerably over all other versions.
Rep. John Conyers (who managed the opposition on the floor) said the elimination of the lottery was a "naked attempt" to satisfy groups like NumbersUSA. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (ranking member of the House immigration subcommittee) claimed that the bill had "actually been designed to REDUCE immigration." And so it went for a couple of hours of complaints that there appears to be a "zero sum game" going on in which no door to new immigration can be opened unless a door to some other immigration is closed. Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia even accused all of us of racism, if not in intent, in effect.
But apparently no epithet could be worse than the word "reduce."
Mr. Gutierrez made this clear when he produced what he suggested was the smoking gun for why NumbersUSA is the "most extreme element of American society on immigration." He quoted from our website that NumbersUSA is an "immigration-REDUCTON organization." The word "reduction" seemed like a snarl that he hurled back at Republicans: "So who did you negotiate with? The immigration-REDUCTION organization."
Thanks so much to all of you at NumbersUSA who have for years pounded the fax machines, phones and local offices of your Members of Congress with demands to REDUCE the unfair foreign worker competition.
View the roll call for today's vote on the motion to recommit.
View the roll call for today's vote on final passage of the bill.
ROY BECK is Founder & President of NumbersUSA