Senator Manchin was right to call out Vice President Harris's delusional claim that the border is secure. His firm reproach of her false claim, saying she is "dead wrong," is also timely given that just in this year alone the Department of Homeland Security has so far recorded an unprecedented 2.2 million southern border apprehensions. Still, the old saying rings true in Manchin's case that actions speak louder than words. His voting record on immigration lacks in action what is necessary to match the courage of conviction expressed in his words when he repeatedly claims to support effective immigration enforcement and reform.
Manchin's votes for politically safer, cosmetic "fixes'' in more border patrol officers and technological improvements pale in comparison to what the distinguished senator could do to reduce both legal and illegal immigration.
There are at least six legislative proposals Manchin could support that would strengthen the credible fear standard to prevent migrants, (most of whom are job seekers and not being persecuted), from making fraudulent or frivolous asylum claims to enter and stay in the country indefinitely; stop "parole" abuse, (a measure that is supposed to be used only on a case-by-case basis) now unlawfully used by Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas to issue endless work permits and release people en masse into the country without being properly and safely vetted for signs of terrorist or other serious criminal activity; resinstate "Remain in Mexico" and "First Safe Country" policies.
Millions of Americans, including many of Manchin's constituents in West Virginia, continue to suffer from several decades of job and real wage declines. Varying degrees of pros and cons have been debated in studies of globalization and the "free trade" economy's net positive and negative outcomes for American workers and whether or not globalization has, at least partially, contributed to undelivered prosperity for the middle class as originally promised. But what is not often enough factored into these studies are the impacts, mostly negative, of steadily climbing increases in mass legal and illegal immigration.
It is important not to ignore that while immigrants may add some net value to overall U.S. GDP growth, there are very real and harmful consequences to adding millions of foreign workers annually who inevitably compete with the domestic labor force across many sectors for both lower-skilled and highly-skilled jobs. While that direct competition with immigrants happens less to workers who remain in West Virginia, it is happening to the many West Virginians who are forced to leave the state to find work. Unemployment in West Virginia is 3.7% (July 2022). This is slightly higher than the national rate of 3.5% and at first glance this may not seem too alarming. However, West Virginia also had the highest population decline of 3.2% according to the 2020 Census. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of prime working age residents declined by 12.6% while the 65+ age group increased by 23.9%.
Manchin has an outmigration problem in West Virginia that is hemorrhaging good people and good jobs. But while he works on ways to fix that problem, he needs to take action to help West Virginians and Americans in general, who continue to face a nearly nationwide unfair and saturated labor market, primarily from immigration.
Flooding nationwide employment demand when there is also a disproportionate and transitioning supply of good-paying jobs, erodes employer incentive to increase wages and allows employers to continue hiring illegal workers. This undermines fairness and real market conditions in employment for all.
Then there is the two-pronged impact of illegal immigration: competition for jobs (especially at the lower-skilled and entry-level), and tragically, the cartel's now 20 billion dollar business of extorting and forcing migrants to traffic highly lethal drugs like fentanyl across the southern border. There is a direct correlation between the source of drug entry into the U.S. and the opioid epidemic that is destroying families and taking the lives of so many Americans in the interior. Manchin himself acknowledges on his own website that "West Virginia leads the nation in overdose deaths."
"78.5% of deaths [in WV] involve synthetic opioids...
42.4 out of every 100,000 residents die from an opioid overdose. That's 190.4% above or nearly three times the national death rate."
According to the National Institute of Health, "opioid-involved overdose deaths rose from 21,088 in 2010 to 47,600 in 2017 and remained steady in 2018 with 46,802 deaths. This was followed by a significant increase through 2020 to 68,630 overdose deaths."
Former Acting Chief of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf "told The Times' "Politically Unstable" podcast that the cash [fees migrants pay to be smuggled into the the U.S.] helps fuel cartels' other deadly activities, such as producing and smuggling in fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that is responsible for record drug overdose deaths in the U.S.
It's all the same enterprise,"'Mr. Wolf said. "So the money that they make on the human trafficking, the $10,000 to $12,000 per head, they're using to either import from China or make fentanyl and push that across the border."
The $20 billion for the total smuggling economy includes the money migrants pay to the recruiters in their home countries, those who shepherd them to the U.S. border, foot or raft guides who get them across the boundary, stash house operators who shelter them on the U.S. side and drivers who take them deeper into the U.S."'
Manchin can support and protect his constituents and millions of his other fellow Americans by exercising the power of his ranking Democratic position in the Senate to vote for proposals that will result in necessary and practical reductions in immigration numbers.
Voters have shown in poll after poll they want all immigration reduced. Manchin can vote for measures that will restore respect and application of current laws for orderly and effective enforcement to reduce and discourage illegal migration, and set caps for legal immigration that take into account first the needs of native born and naturalized workers.
So far, Manchin has chosen to vote for increases, rather than decreases in legal immigration. And his weak actions to address illegal migration do not get to the root of a crisis that is spilling over into the interior and taking the lives of his own constituents falling victim to a U.S -enabled worldwide drug operation that takes full advantage of the wide open border across the Rio Grande.
I am a native born West Virginian. I am also one of nearly every Mountaineer who knows, or knows of, someone who has tragically succumbed to drug addiction, and even death, from overdose. I believe Joe Manchin generally cares about his constituents. His direct involvement in securing recovery support for those West Virginia families ravaged by opioid and fentanyl addiction is commendable. And he is right to demand that the 1.4 billion dollar settlements from predatory and complicit pharmaceutical companies should be spent to fight the crisis.
But ultimately, Manchin must make more proactive moves, not just reactive. He must have the courage to challenge Pres. Biden's complete failure, even refusal, to stop illegal immigration.
Manchin can further set policy to ensure legal immigration numbers stabilize and align with domestic worker needs first. Voting only for detection devices when this administration simply hands out what amounts to a hall pass to those who are caught, allows the cartel and illegal migration to continue, making a mockery of the country's system of law and order, its national security and economic stability.
CHRISTY SHAW is the Member Services Manager for NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, Oct 4th 2022 @ 4:55pm EDT