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Nomination of Roy K.J. Williams to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SESSIONS. I would like to thank Senator Barrasso for his leadership on this issue. As a longtime practicing physician before he came to the Senate, he has provided great leadership and expertise and is able to evaluate and comment so wisely on the important issue of health care.

I thank the Senator.


Today, Majority Leader Reid--the leader of the Democratic majority of the Senate--and Senator Chuck Schumer came to the Senate floor to demand that the House of Representatives pass their immigration bill. They labeled Republicans as extremists for not giving in to their demands. And they are correct about one thing: The House is not giving in.

At this point in time, the House is refusing to yield to the pressure of special interest groups and political lobbyists and Senate Democrats to pass a bill that would be bad for America. It just will be bad for America. So I think once again the special interests will lose and the voice of the American people will be heard.

Senator Schumer said Republicans are xenophobes because they won't pass his plan. Let's talk about what is extreme. A new report just out revealed that this administration has released 36,000 criminal aliens from ICE detention.

Our Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers receive them as prisoners from a State or Federal penitentiary where they have been convicted of some criminal offense unrelated to immigration, usually in a State court. 36,000 are now being released into the general population.

This report found there were 193 homicide-type convictions, 1,153 sexual offenders, 303 kidnapping convictions, and 1,075 aggravated assault convictions. These are serious crimes. If you will recall, these criminals are the only group this administration says they are the deporting. They don't deny that they are not deporting others who violate our immigration laws. They promised they are faithfully removing people who commit crimes unrelated to immigration. This report proves that claim not to be so.

These dangerous offenders should be kept in custody. They should not be released into the general population. We had a study of such releases several years ago. The statistics showed that when a person who entered the country illegally was released on bail, they didn't show up for court. If they are willing to enter the country illegally and a judge has them set for trial and he releases them on bail, we then have an incredibly high number who don't show up for trial. This was called catch and release and was roundly criticized. This is now being done with immigrants who have serious criminal charges and convictions.

Do you know what else is extreme? Extreme is trying to pass an immigration bill that would double the flow of guest workers into our country and triple the number of new permanent residents when 50 million working-age Americans are out of work. We have a very serious unemployment problem. Is no one concerned about that?

It is not xenophobic, but it is compassionate to say we should focus our attention on struggling and hurting American workers. It is not xenophobic. It is our patriotic duty to defend the integrity of our borders and enforce the long-established laws of the United States. It is the oath we all took as Senators to defend the Constitution of the United States. It is the oath the chief law enforcement officer, President Obama, took. We have a duty to defend our citizens and our people at a time when they are struggling financially. There is just no doubt about it.

There was one group of people not referenced when Majority Leader Reid and Senator Schumer talked earlier this morning. Do you know what group it was? Completely omitted from the conversation was the American worker. The American worker is not being discussed by amnesty supporters in this debate. We know the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's view. They would like more workers creating slack labor markets and lower wages. We know certain special interest groups want more immigration. We know certain politicians think this will be good for them politically.

According to the Congressional Budget Office--our own professional team that is selected in a nonpartisan way and gives us advice on the ramifications of legislation we pass--has looked at the Reid-Schumer bill that passed the Senate. According to CBO, the Senate Democratic immigration bill--which was supported by a small number of Republicans, but it is overwhelmingly a Democratic bill--would increase unemployment while reducing wages. It would increase unemployment while reducing wages of American workers for the next 12 years, and it will reduce the per person wealth or GNP for the next 17 years.

If we bring in 30 million people over the next 10 years--as this bill would do--it will triple the number that normally would be given legal status in America. It will bring down the per person wealth and it will bring down wages. Surely the U.S. Chamber of Commerce understands the free market, do they not? Surely Senator Reid understands that, does he not?

We were on a conference call yesterday regarding the American steel industry. A large amount of steel is being dumped into America. What is the impact of that? What is the concern? If we bring in more steel, there will be lower prices for steel. If we bring in more cotton, there will be lower prices for cotton. If we bring in more labor, it will result in lower wages for American workers.

CBO told us that. There is no dispute about it. Yet we have Senators who come to the floor and repeatedly say this is going to increase wages. Give me a break. You can't just say something and think it is going to make it reality when it is the opposite of reality.

Under current law, we are admitting more than 600,000 guest workers each year. Guest workers come to America not to be citizens but just to take jobs that someone contends we don't have enough workers. We grant permanent residence to 1 million immigrants each year and perhaps ultimately become citizens. That is the current law. Right now wages are falling and it is serious, but this is the law that has been established and that is what the nation has agreed to.

The bill Senator Reid maneuvered through this Senate would admit more than 1.2 million guest workers each year, thereby doubling the number of guest workers, and it will give permanent residency to 30 million immigrants over the next 10 years and that is triple the normal rate.

Research from Harvard professor Dr. George Borjas--perhaps the most preeminent student of labor, wages, and immigration in America--shows that American workers lose more than $400 billion in wages each year due to competition from low-cost workers from abroad. That is $400 billion in wages each year--not million but billion.

Dr. Borjas's research also shows that from 1980 to 2000--he did an empirical study using the census, the Department of Labor, and other official data--wages declined 7.4 percent for lower skilled working Americans. These are the people who go out and work every day. These are not people who have a college degree. I am talking about the working people in this country. Their wages declined from 1980 to 2000 by 7.4 percent as a result of this very large flow of legal and illegal immigration.

There is no doubt--and my colleagues have to understand this--a vote for the Reid-Schumer immigration bill is a vote to lower the wages of American workers. Not only that, it will make it harder for Americans to get a job, period. It appears the people who are hurt worst by the Democratic immigration policies are young Americans, low-income Americans, and minority workers.

According to Dr. Borjas's studies--and others--minority workers are particularly damaged by high levels of immigration. This includes Hispanics who have lawfully come to America. They are trying to get started so they can make their way up. They would like to have a pay raise, but their wages are also being pulled down by an extraordinary, unjustified flow of labor that the economy can't absorb effectively. We don't have jobs for them now. That is the problem.

I don't dislike people who want to come here. I know most of them are good people who would like to advance themselves. But, as Senators we have a responsibility to the citizens of our country and we need to ask: Is this good for America? Can we absorb this number of people and maintain decent wages or are we in a long term trend that will allow lower and middle-income workers' wages to continue to erode? I think it is a serious issue that we need to be honest about and I hope we will do so. Young and low-income Americans are also hurt.

Senator Schumer says we should do the bidding of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce--buddying up with them now. He says there is a hijacking out here, but it seems Mr. Schumer's party has been the one that has been hijacked by special interests, and they have lost sight of whom they claim to represent--working Americans. That is my charge and that is what I say.

We have a generous immigration policy, and we need to make sure it is enforced correctly and lawfully carried out. That is what the American people have asked of us. They have demanded this from us. They want a lawful system that we can be proud of and treats people fairly, where a person fills out an application and lays out their qualifications. Those qualifications are then evaluated on an objective basis, and the best qualified person, the one who is most deserving, is then admitted to the country. What is wrong with that? That is what Canada does. That is what the UK does. That is what Australia does. There is nothing wrong with such a policy. That is what we should be doing.

We should decide how many people the country can absorb and in what wage categories before we admit huge numbers of people and certainly before we double the number we presently bring in.

A number of Senators have complained on the floor of the Senate that the tech industries can't find qualified Americans. We have all heard that charge. I sort of accepted it at first, but in fact the data shows something different and it is rather surprising. In fact, we have twice as many STEM graduates each year as there are STEM jobs--science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Here is a recent paper by Professor Hal Salzman from Rutgers University. He carefully analyzed data from the Department of Education and the Department of Labor. He concluded that we first need to get accurate data to truly inform policy decisions. If we are going to make a policy decision about how large our immigration flow should be--not to end it but how large it should be--shouldn't we have good data?

He says:

The first data to consider is the broad notion of a supply crisis in which the United States does not produce enough STEM graduates to meet industry demand. In fact, the nation graduates more than two times as many STEM students each year as find jobs in STEM fields. For the 180,000 or so annual openings, U.S. Colleges and Universities supply 500,000 graduates.

They supply more than twice the number of graduates as we have jobs for now, so I am a little dubious about these big business types claiming they can't get enough people.

What about IT specifically? We hear some of our Silicon Valley executives promoting any kind of immigration as long as they get more IT workers.

Mr. Salzman says:

The only clear impact of the large IT guest worker inflows over this decade can be seen in salary levels, which have remained at their late-1990s levels and which dampens incentives for domestic students to pursue STEM degrees.

Did you know that? IT graduates' salaries are stuck at 1990 levels.

It is causing students in college to wonder if this is such a great field to go into. In fact, the author says there are other fields that do better. If that is true, does that change Senator Reid's view of the legislation he jammed through the Senate and he is so proud of and he is demanding the House pass? If that is true, if Mr. Salzman is correct, will Senator Reid change his mind?

Then he goes on to say--and I agree with this line. He is talking about all STEM graduates now:

If there is a [talent] shortage, where are the market indicators (namely wage increases) ..... ?

So Mr. Donohue and friends at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who believe in the free market: Why are wages down if we have a shortage of workers? Why aren't wages going up?

Another businessman said recently:

There are 600,000 jobs in manufacturing going unfilled today. This immigration bill can go a long way toward helping us fill these positions.

Well, great Scott. I have seen instances where thousands of people apply for just a few jobs. Does he have any interest, first of all, in promoting sound national goals? Our goal as policymakers for the United States of America should be to say: Wait a minute. You have jobs at your manufacturing plant and we have to get unemployed people ready to take them. Americans are on welfare and on dependency who need to go to work. Give us a chance to get our people into those jobs first before we start bringing in more foreign workers to take a limited number of jobs.

From 2000 to 2013, the grim fact is that all net job gains went to immigrant workers. Can you imagine that? That is what the numbers show. Under the Democratic plan, this bill, if it were to pass the House, job decline will accelerate.

From 2000 to 2013, the number of working-age Americans increased by 16 million. Yet the jobs for American workers--the number of American workers actually working--fell by 1.3 million. That is why the unemployment rate and the workforce dropout rate is so high.

But during that same period, 2000 to 2013, the number of working-age immigrants increased by 8.8 million while 5.3 million immigrants got jobs. So all the jobs created during this period of time have been, in effect, mathematically speaking, taken by foreign workers. Is this healthy? Isn't this one of the reasons why people are having a hard time today?

There are 50 million working-age Americans who are not working today. Wages are lower today than they were in 1999. Median household incomes, adjusted for inflation, have dropped nearly $2,300 since 2009. We have the smallest workforce participation in 36 years.

So I say to Mr. Reid and Mr. Schumer, I am glad to talk about this issue. I am glad to talk about immigration, but we are going to talk about what is in the interests of the American people. We are not going to talk about your politics and your ideology and your special interests. We are going to talk about what is good for America and what is good for America is to get more of our unemployed working, to get wages going up rather than down. I am not surprised they didn't talk about workers and wages in their remarks when they demeaned people who disagree with them and who oppose their great bill they drafted that will not work.

We are not going to be scared off. We are not going to be intimidated into handing over control of our immigration laws to a small group of special interests who are meeting in politicians' offices and maybe promising support. I feel strongly about this. I don't feel there is anything wrong, morally or public policy-wise, to say we need to have a lawful system of immigration we can be proud of. That is what the American people have asked of us for over 30 years and Congress refuses to give. Congress is not listening to the people. And we can do it. It is possible. I have been in law enforcement almost as long as I have been in the Senate. I know this can be done, if we have a leader who wants to see it done. But if the President doesn't want to enforce the law and says he is only going to enforce it against people who commit serious crimes, and we now find out even those criminals aren't deported when they are caught, then I think we have a deep problem. I think we can do better.

Let's don't go down this road of pushing, pushing, pushing, just pass a bill, any bill--oh, we have to do it fast. That has been the message all along. We have to ram it through, but this thing has been out there in the public now for a long time. The mackerel has been in the sunshine for a long time and it doesn't smell so good when it is examined, and the American people are not prepared to eat it and they shouldn't.

I thank the Chair and the Senate for giving me a chance to express these concerns. I believe we need to put American interests first, and when we do we will draft an immigration bill that is far different from the one being promoted today.

I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.


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