The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement hosted a hearing Tuesday morning called “Making Immigration Work for American Minorities.”
The Congressmen in attendance were Elton Gallegly (Subcommittee Chairman) of California, Lamar Smith (Committee Chairman) of Texas, Steve King (Subcommittee Vice-Chairman) of Iowa, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Ted Poe of Texas, Zoe Lofgren (Subcommittee Ranking Member), John Conyers (Committee Ranking Member), Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Maxine Waters of California, and Pedro Pierluisi the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico.
The witnesses were Dr. Carol Swain of Vanderbilt University, Dr. Frank Morris with Progressives for Immigration Reform, George Rodriguez with San Antonio Tea Party, and Wade Henderson, the President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
While the hearing was likely designed to correspond with February’s Black History Month festivities (I remember it initially being posted a couple weeks ago), March 1 is better late than never because it was quite entertaining by Congressional hearing standards.
Notwithstanding the other great opening statements by the committee leaders and witnesses, Chairman Lamar Smith provided a great testimonial to frame the committee discussion when he mentioned the current unemployment rate for minority Americans and the Administration’s lack of worksite enforcement. Here is an excerpt from his testimony:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in January the unemployment rate for blacks was 16% and for Hispanics was 12%. These unemployment rates are well above the national average. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, seven million people are working in the U.S. illegally. These jobs should go to legal workers, many of whom would be minorities. Virtually all credible studies show that competition from cheap foreign labor displaces American workers, including legal immigrants, or depresses their wages…
But research is not the only proof. After illegal workers are arrested and detained during Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite enforcement actions, many businesses replace them with American minorities. ..
Each time ICE arrests, detains or deports an illegal worker, it creates a job opportunity for an American worker. Each time the Department of Justice brings a criminal action against an employer who knowingly hired illegal workers, it sends a powerful message that their illegal employment will not be tolerated. Unfortunately, worksite enforcement has plummeted under the Obama Administration. Administrative arrests have fallen 77% from 2008 to 2010. Criminal arrests have fallen 60%. Criminal indictments have fallen 57% and criminal convictions have fallen 66%. With millions of Americans unemployed, it is hard to imagine a worse time to cut worksite enforcement efforts by more than half.
After opening statements, the question and answer segment pushed the discussion into a full blown debate, with emotions running high and the Democrats on the defensive. John Conyers took the first big shot of the hearing with a snide remark aimed at Dr. Swain because of her criticism of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Dr. Swain is an African American professor, and nothing upsets a CBC Member like Conyers more than an educated black woman siding with the Republicans, so much for freedom of thought (I wish I could have seen Conyer’s face on election night when Tim Scott and Allen West were elected). He went on to say that the:
CBC is the conscience of the Congress.
CBC Members use that line so much I’m beginning to think they actually believe they are a mainstream organization. Conyers then went on to tell Dr. Swain that:
I’ve been elected 23 times. I hope you won’t hold that against the Congress or my constituents.
Dr. Swain insisted that the CBC needs to do a better job of protecting the downtrodden.
After questioning Dr. Swain, Conyers turned his attention to George Rodriguez who had said in his earlier statement that if our laws were enforced, many illegal aliens would go home on their own. Conyers said,
that’s the most preposterous thing I’ve heard all morning.
Rodriguez went on to say,
we as Hispanics are tired of being lumped together with illegal immigrants,
a statement no one on the committee could contradict.
When it was Zoe Lofgren’s turn to speak, she immediately went on to plug comprehensive immigration reform (amnesty) by saying,
the polls show Americans overwhelmingly support comprehensive immigration reform.
She cited a Fox News poll, but I can’t help but wonder how the question was worded because I know most Americans don’t support amnesty. Of course, the Senate used similar polling and took a position similar to Ms. Lofgren’s in 2005 and 2007 and the public outcry crashed their telephone system.
While Steve King didn’t ask a specific question during his turn, he did make a great speech about believing in the rule of law and a tight labor market. He said,
A tighter labor supply improves the wages for everyone.
It’s always good to hear someone who understands the problem. We need more like Steve King.
Apparently, Sheila Jackson Lee wasn’t paying close attention to the hearing or witness statements because when it was her turn to speak she immediately said,
this hearing is the dead on point reason for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
She then went on to defend the Obama Administration by saying that ICE raids have yielded a 45% increase in arrests. Like I mentioned in a previous blog, these numbers are skewed because the Administration sets the formula for compliance; a numerator without a denominator.
Fireworks usually erupt when Ted Poe speaks and he made another good point today when he brought up the problem at the border. He said,
only 15% of the border is airtight
56% of the border is not controlled by the United States.
How scary are those numbers! Like Mr. King, Ted Poe went on to discuss the rule of law saying,
there is a philosophy in the United States that the rule of law doesn’t apply to everyone. They seem to discriminate in applying the rule of law.
Is that not our amnesty problem in a nutshell? Mr. Rodriguez responded by saying that the rule of law needs to apply to everyone equally. There are no loopholes in life. You’ve done something wrong, you’ve done something wrong.
Dr. Swain then said,
the breakdown of the rule of law undermines our constitutional system. If there is a law we’re uncomfortable with, there is a system to change it.
The Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico took his turn to clarify that the United States is a nation of laws, but also a nation of immigrants and that:
it makes no sense to demonize immigrants.
It’s unbelievable how different Mr. Pierluisi is from Mr. King just a couple speakers earlier. It’s like they exist on a totally different plain of reality, of course in fairness, Puerto Rico is vastly different from Iowa. While Mr. King totally understands the issue, Mr. Pierluisi of Puerto Rico can’t seem to wrap his mind around the idea that no one is “demonizing” immigrants.
American citizens welcome immigrants more than ever before, but the problem is with illegal aliens breaking our border entry laws as their first act in the United States along with the simply overwhelming number of immigrants as a whole who create undue job competition with low wages in a nation with unemployment creeping above 10%. Pierluisi went on to say that all the major labor unions reject Mr. Rodriguez’s attrition through enforcement illegal immigration solution. Rodriguez then responded by saying that union leaders only want to grow their unions at this point and have no real desire to protect American workers. I can’t speak for Mr. Rodriguez or union leadership, but I know of numerous union members who support attrition through enforcement.
The last two speakers were Maxine Waters and Louie Gohmert. While Ms. Waters used her full question time (even got gaveled by the Chairman) to criticize Mark Krikorian of the Center of Immigration Studies (who has been a previous committee witness, but not a current witness and thus could not respond to her allegations), Mr. Gohmert focused on the culture problem. Gohmert said,
enforcing illegal immigration protects Hispanics” and that “we’re corrupting a Hispanic culture, which came here with a strong faith in God.
How can Democrats like Maxine Waters say Republicans like Louie Gohmert don’t care?
In closing, what I initially thought would be a slow and sparsely attended hearing, became a highlight reel of immigration politics. The Committee is starting to come together and there is clear talent and opportunity to debate some true red meat immigration issues like chain migration and the Visa Lottery in future hearings. I just hope the committee leaders bring Dr. Swain back for an encore. I revel in her brilliance and the way she gets under the skin of John Conyers and Maxine Waters equates true entertainment.
JONATHAN OSBORNE is the Chief Legislative Analyst for NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, Mar 3rd 2011 @ 11:21am EST