By Jan C. Ting
We hear a lot from the Obama administration, big business, and immigration advocacy groups about the moral reasons that Congress should enact the Senate bill providing an amnesty for immigration law violators and a tripling of legal immigration over the next decade. But we don't hear much about the moral reasons that Congress should not do that. Here they are:
According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report, released Dec. 6, for the month of November there are 11 million unemployed American workers, more than four million of whom are considered long-term unemployed. There are also eight million involuntarily part-time workers who can't find full-time jobs and 800,000 discouraged workers who have given up looking for work after concluding there are no jobs available for them.
Adding up those numbers, there are about 20 million unemployed and underemployed American workers, 1.3 million of whom are going to exhaust their unemployment benefits as of Saturday. The official unemployment rate remains high, at 7 percent of all Americans who want to work. And the labor participation rate of Americans who could work is near a record low.
The unemployment rate is 10 percent for post-9/11 veterans. For veterans! It's 12.5 percent for African-Americans and 18.6 percent for teenagers seeking work. The unemployment rate for African American teenagers seeking work is 35.8 percent. That's an outrage.
More than 47 million Americans, about one in six, qualify for and receive food stamps, including many of those counted as employed at full-time jobs, because they can't earn enough to get their families above the poverty level.
President Obama tells us that rising income inequality is tearing at the social fabric of America. He calls inequality "the defining challenge of our age" and pledges to make it a major focus of his remaining time as president.
A widely publicized economic study from the University of California, Berkeley, tells us that during Obama's first term, from 2009 through 2012, the incomes of the top 1 percent of American households grew by more than 31 percent, while the incomes of the bottom 99 percent of American households grew only 0.4 percent on average, confirming what seems obvious, that many American families are losing ground even as the stock market hits record highs.
How does the president think unemployed and underemployed Americans will find better jobs if millions of illegal immigrants are legalized and able to compete openly with Americans for jobs? How will they manage if, in addition, the number of legal immigrants is tripled from about a million each year to about three million? How realistic are their hopes for higher wages if the pool of labor in which they compete is expanded through additional immigration as the president advocates? Is income inequality reduced or enhanced when millions of additional low-wage immigrants are added to the legal labor pool?
The moral argument for keeping legal immigration at current levels and enforcing existing laws to reduce illegal immigration is that we first have to be concerned about the welfare of American families struggling to survive at or below the poverty level. Just as when a member of one's immediate family is seeking a job and we hope that he gets a position over someone else, so it is understandable that, if jobs are available, we hope they can be had first by our extended family, or by our larger community of fellow Americans.
Here's an important point: If so-called immigration reform is rejected and we are left with the current system, we will continue to have the most generous legal system for immigration in the world. Each year, the United States continues to admit more permanent legal immigrants with a clear path to full citizenship than all the rest of the nations of the world combined. As I testified to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in March, that is an immigration system worthy of American values.
And as President Bill Clinton said in a commencement speech at Portland State University in Oregon in 1998, "It is wrong to condone illegal immigration that flouts our laws, strains our tolerance, taxes our resources. Even a nation of immigrants must have rules and conditions and limits, and when they are disregarded, public support for immigration erodes in ways that are destructive to those who are newly arrived and those who are still waiting patiently to come."