While the nation has been transfixed by the recent debt ceiling debate, 22 million Americans have continued their search for a full-time job. Now that a compromise on the debt ceiling has been reached, Members of both parties are promising to get back to work creating jobs. Yet their promises are hard to believe considering both parties have refused to act on one of the most pressing job-related issues -- lowering annual immigration levels.
A report in today’s Wall Street Journal brings some hope to the jobs market -- 114,000 private sector jobs unofficially created in July -- but if true, that number still falls short of the number of jobs needed for the 125,000 work permits issued to foreign workers each month by the federal government.
Over the last 12 months, our economy has shed more jobs than its created, but the United States continues to welcome new immigrants – even though we don’t have enough jobs for them.
Our economy’s inability to create jobs has had such a negative impact on employment that even illegal aliens are self-deporting and heading back to their home countries where job prospects are brighter. The Sacramento Bee reported last week that illegal aliens in California are heading back to Mexico where a 4.9 percent unemployment rate is healthier than the 9.2 percent rate in the U.S.
What Can Congress Do?
The Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has already taken some action to deal with the ongoing jobs crisis. Two weeks ago, the Committee marked up and sent Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s SAFE for America Act (H.R. 704) to the House floor. This bill would end the Visa Lottery and immediately provide some relief to America’s unemployed without costing American taxpayers one dime.
The Visa Lottery issues approximately 50,000 green cards with work permits to foreign nationals with at least a high school degree, but there aren’t very many requirements beyond that.
The lottery hurts some of the most vulnerable Americans. According to research conducted by Dr. Steve Camarota at the Center for Immigration Studies, the U-6 unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2011 for U.S.-born citizens with at least a high school degree was 21.3%. That’s 4.6 million Americans with only a high school degree who want a full-time job, but can’t find one.
Also on the Judiciary Committee’s docket is Chairman Smith’s Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2164). This bill would also provide relief for unemployed Americans by requiring the use of E-Verify nationwide. Private employers would have to begin using the system for their new hires within 6-24 months (based on company size), while federal and state agencies would be required to use E-Verify for both new hires and current employees within 6 months. The Legal Workforce Act would ensure that new jobs only go to legal workers.
In addition, Rep. Smith’s Legal Workforce Act goes after the 7 million illegal aliens who currently hold non-agricultural jobs by re-implementing no-match letters and identifying Social Security numbers that are used multiple times.
The Costco Example
Congress isn’t the only body that can help out America’s unemployed. Retail giant Costco took a huge step in helping unemployed Americans last week by signing up for Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s IMAGE program.
This voluntary program requires companies like Costco to 1) use E-Verify, 2) establish a written hiring and employment eligibility verification policy, and 3) submit to a form I-9 inspection. Costco joins 100 companies, including Tyson Foods, Hillsborough (Fla.) County, and Bacardi to voluntarily join IMAGE.
If you’re a Costco member, send them an email and thank them for looking out for America’s unemployed.
You can find more companies that use E-Verify by searching through our E-Verify database, but please keep in mind that our list isn’t 100% complete. Just because an employer isn’t listed doesn’t mean they aren’t using E-Verify.
CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA