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Public Statements

Sessions: Immigration Bill "Would Be Biggest Setback For Poor And Middle-Class Americans In Decades'

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement today on how the Gang of Eight bill would negatively impact American workers and wages:

"Everyone understands that a large increase in the number of immigrants increases the GDP: more people means more overall consumption. But the question is: who benefits from such a large surge in the available supply of labor into a country? If you suddenly provide legal status to 30 million immigrants, most of whom will be lower skilled, it will simultaneously increase the GDP while reducing per-capita GDP--and reducing the wages of the current workforce. It will hit the lower-income worker particularly hard.

Fortune 500 companies will always enhance profit margins from the availability of an increasing supply of lower-skill, lower-wage labor. Any discussion of increased GDP from more foreign workers, therefore, must also look at whose wages are being reduced and whose jobs are being lost.

As Dr. Borjas, the nation's leading expert on this issue, reported in 2012, recent immigration has reduced the wages of native workers by 5.3 percent, and reduces the incomes of native workers by $402 billion per year. At the same time, the incomes of businesses would go up by $437 billion per year. A report from Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies found that unskilled immigrants were taking jobs in the construction sector, a sector many young Americans seek to enter.

Right now, nearly 1 in 2 African-American teenagers looking for work cannot find a job. In Washington, D.C., 1 in 3 youths are living in poverty. In Detroit, 1 in 3 households are on food stamps. Is our top economic priority really to provide immediate work permits to 4 million people who overstayed their visas, as this bill does? In addition to the amnesty, the Senate bill proposes, over the next decade, to at least double the annual flow of guest workers while tripling the number of mostly lower-skill permanent legal immigrants. These staggering increases come at a time when 21 million Americans are struggling to find full-time employment. This is not only an abstract economic issue but one of great human importance.

Will this bill make is easier, or harder, for out struggling residents to find a job? Will this make it easier, or harder, for those living in poverty to get a raise and work their way into the middle class?

So while the authors of this bill will inevitably tout the fact that adding 30 million immigrants to the nation will increase the GDP, they won't say it will be at the expense of struggling U.S. workers--immigrant and native born--who are trying to support their families and climb into the middle class. This is what Dr. Borjas has found. The Senate immigration bill would be the biggest setback for poor and middle-class Americans of any legislation Congress has considered in decades.

We all believe in immigration and will continue to be the most generous nation in the world when it comes to welcoming new people into our country. But a reasonable level of immigration that promotes assimilation, upward mobility, self-sufficiency, and rising wages is in the best interests of both U.S. workers and future immigrants themselves. Polls show the American people overwhelmingly reject a dramatic surge in immigration and, as usual, their common sense is right. The grand plans of business interests for a large increase in immigration may indeed increase the businesses' income, but it will further expand the wealth gap as incomes for struggling workers will decline."


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