Immigration Reform versus Unemployed America

With millions of Americans un- or underemployed, it's difficult to see how any political party that's looking out for the folks would want to import more people. America doesn't seem to be able to provide jobs for the people already here. Yet, importing more people to compete for jobs in a stagnant economy is exactly what Democrats want to do with their comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Democrat-controlled Senate rolled out on June 27.

Since the Democratic Party is the party of free stuff, the millions of new American citizens they want to import will vote for Democrats. On the op-ed page of the July 21 issue of the Kansas City Star, columnist Steve Rose writes:

Republicans who believe that they can never win another presidential election, given the number of Hispanics who vote Democratic, will be shooting themselves in the foot if they grant amnesty and, thus, give citizenship to millions more Hispanics, who then will be eligible to vote -- and probably will vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

Rather, the compromise is staring us in the face. The answer is permanent residency -- the "green card" -- which would give illegal immigrants the ability to live indefinitely in the United States (which can be revoked because of a number of circumstances) and to receive all the benefits of a citizen, but would not give them the right to vote.

I'm glad Mr. Rose wrote that. That's because he's not a conservative, nor does he play one on TV. Indeed, when he appears on the Kansas City Public Television political talk show Ruckus, he sits across from the conservatives. But although Rose's proposal is certainly better than what came out of the Senate, the jobs problem remains.

Charts at the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the Labor Force Participation Rate is lower now than at any point during recession; in June the participation rate was 63.5 percent, down 3 percent from what it was exactly ten years ago in June 2003.

Commenting on July 22 on statements by Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke, Ed Yardeni at Business Insider wrote: "It's not hard to see that all of the drop in the unemployment rate so far can be attributed to the decline in the participation rate." Yardeni runs the numbers and concludes:

This analysis shows that nearly all of the 3.6 million drop in unemployment from the peak at 15.4 million during October 2009 through June of this year can be explained by the drop in the participation rate from 65.0% to 63.5%. The same can be said for the drop in the unemployment rate from its most recent cyclical peak. Currently at 7.6%, it would be at 9.7% if the participation rate were 65%.

A chart at Shadow Government Statistics shows official government unemployment rates (U3 and U6) as well as their own ShadowStats rate. If the ShadowStats rate is accurate, then the real unemployment rate is about three times worse than the official U3 rate we're constantly being fed. Americans are simply dropping out of the labor market.

Not only are jobs not coming back, but the "quality" of the jobs that have come back is lousy. Americans are taking part-time jobs when they need is full-time work. (Watch "Lowest Labor Participation Rate Since 1970s" on Fox Business for more on the declining quality of new job opportunities.)

The current recovery has been deemed the worst since the Great Depression. America's structural unemployment is growing, and government can't fix it. America's seemingly permanent underclass is also growing, and certain societal problems seem intractable. That all brings us back to Steve Rose.

America should think twice about giving even permanent residency, much less citizenship, to illegal aliens, especially agricultural workers from Latin America. The "stoop labor" these folks perform is low-skill; anyone with a strong back can do it, (although they'd prefer not to). Allowing these people permanent residency will mean they'll get welfare, free public education for their kids, Social Security, disability when their strong backs finally blow out, ObamaCare, unemployment insurance, you name it. It would be a huge cost not only to the feds, but to state and local governments. It would be a better deal for the taxpayer if agribusinesses would just hire these people temporarily and let them go back home when they're not needed. Their American dollars will go much further back home than here in America.

What America should do for the uneducated agricultural workers we depend on is to expand our temporary workers' visa program and provide these workers with biometric cards that allow them to easily come and go across our Southern border without fear. And here's a sweetener: for temporary workers not seeking permanent status, don't take payroll taxes out of their wages. Social Security and Medicare are already in dire enough condition without adding more benefit recipients. If they're not going to get those entitlements, foreign workers shouldn't have to pay into them.

Coming in at 1,198 pages, the Senate's immigration bill (S. 744; text) is yet another monstrosity in the style of ObamaCare. The bill expects the Republican Party to dig its own grave, lie down in that grave, and then cut its throat. Thanks, but the GOP needs no assistance in committing suicide.

Nonetheless, there are several things that have been lumped together under the rubric of "immigration reform" that should be enacted. Requiring all American businesses to use the E-Verify system is one of them. E-Verify would ensure that U.S. citizens get the first shot at jobs. Mandating E-Verify seems at least as important as building the fence on the border; it would demagnetize the jobs magnate that draws folks to illegally cross the border. And it should be easy to enact, as Democrats are great at mandating.

America is such a mess right now that importing yet more people to add to the mess seems at the very least irresponsible. Things may get so desperate that Americans might even start clamoring for the jobs Americans won't do.

Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

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