The immigration strategy announced by Mitt Romney today provided a lot of reasons for hope among most American workers -- especially for Hispanic Americans -- but troubling news for the country's students and workers in high-skill fields.
His approach to illegal immigration is solid in focusing on identifying visa overstayers and denying jobs to illegal aliens, and he avoided promising any amnesties.
He correctly suggested that legal immigration should focus on spouses and minor children and on people with skills needed by our economy.
But he showed a tin ear to the plight of many unemployed Americans in lower-skilled service occupations and in high-skill professions by seeming to propose large increases in foreign workers in both.
STICKING WITH ATTRITION THROUGH ENFORCEMENT
Although he didn't use the term, all his comments about illegal immigration were consistent with the attrition through enforcement strategy that avoids both mass deportations and mass legalizations and encourages self-deportation by taking away jobs and benefits from illegal aliens.
Although some reporters who have phoned me suggest that Mr. Romney's comments to a Latino audience today were a change from what he said in the Republican Primary debates, I don't find anything contradictory in them. He said some new good things and some new bad things, but he didn't flip from previous good and bad positions.
Romney's plan indicates that his administration would force far less illegal-alien competition for jobs on American workers -- particularly those in construction, manufacturing, service and transportation.
He showed that he understands that the primary problem and cause of illegal immigration is that foreign citizens are able to illegally hold U.S. jobs.
- He promised mandatory electronic verification to keep illegal aliens from obtaining payroll jobs.
- And in also promising to finally complete the computerized entry-exit system authorized by Congress in the 1990s, he recognized that border security can't do a thing to stop the overstaying of visas by the tens of million of tourists and other temporary visitors each year.
Taken together, these two actions would identify all those who overstay their visas and prevent them from earning a living if they do.
Romney showed restraint and leadership in addressing the national group of Latino elected officials by avoiding any pledges of amnesty for illegal aliens and instead focusing on the brutally high unemployment rates for Hispanic Americans, who have to compete the most directly with illegal aliens because they disproportionately are in the same occupations and geographic areas.
PROPOSED MORE FOREIGN WORKERS DESPITE HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT
However, the Romney camp stumbled badly in its press release with a section entitled "Grow Our Economy By Growing Legal Immigration."
The government already gives out permanent work permits to more than a million legal immigrants every year -- four times higher than the traditional average -- while 20 million Americans who want a full-time job can't find one. Struggling Americans need immigration to be reduced, not to grow.
Gov. Romney also continues to act on erroneous information by indicating that the country has a huge shortage of workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math. He said he would give a green card to every foreign student with an advanced degree in one of those fields.
While NumbersUSA supports a small increase in immigrants with skills that are truly extraordinary and in short supply among Americans, most foreign students with advanced degrees simply don't meet that high standard. Labor statistics indicate that even Americans in these high-skill fields are having a hard time in this economy and don't need the government to add more foreign competition.
For example, 1.8 million Americans with engineering degrees either have no job at all or are working in non-engineering jobs. Likewise, Mr. Romney shows a callousness toward unemployed American teenagers and lower-educated young adults by suggesting that he would significantly raise the caps for non-agricultural temporary work visas. America has more than enough out-of-work less-educated workers to fill the jobs of the hospitality industry that Mr. Romney says he wants to aid with more foreign workers.
ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, Jun 21st 2012 @ 3:14pm EDT