Hours after Microsoft announced that it would be slashing 18,000 jobs on Thursday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (A-AL) issued a challenge to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and other Democrats who voted for the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill: Prove that there is a shortage of American high-tech workers.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Sessions mentioned that just a week before Microsoft’s announcement, Microsoft’s former CEO Bill Gates joined with two other “masters of the universe” to urge Congress to remove limits on the number of guest-worker visas that can be awarded.
“So today I’m going to issue a challenge to Majority Leader Reid and every single one of our 55 Senate Democrats who voted unanimously for this Gang-of-Eight bill,” Sessions said, emphasizing that the bill would double the number of guest-worker visas that are awarded. “With Microsoft laying off 18,000 workers, come down to the Senate floor and tell me that there’s a shortage of qualified Americans to fill STEM jobs. Come down and tell us: Do you stand with Mr. Gates or do you stand with our American constituents?”
Gates, along with Sheldon Adelson and Warren Buffett, advocated in a joint New York Times op-ed last week for removing “the worldwide cap on the number of visas that could be awarded to legal immigrants who had earned a graduate degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from an accredited institution of higher education in the United States.”
They did, Sessions said, even though all of the evidence points to a surplus – not a shortage – of American high-tech workers. He said Gates, Adelson, and Buffett wanted to “share the wisdom from on high” and “tell Congress how to do our business” and “conduct immigration reform that they think should be pleasing to them.”
Sessions said they think they know better than the American people who, to them, are just this “great unwashed group, nativist, narrow-minded patriots, possessors of middle-class vales.” Sessions said the “masters of the universe” believe that these Americans “just don’t understand like we know” and “so they declare we need to import more foreign workers in computer science and technology and engineering because the country has a labor shortage.”
The facts do not support their assertions, as Sessions noted. There are twice as many STEM graduates as jobs. And numerous nonpartisan scholars and studies have determined that there is a surplus – not a shortage – of American high-tech workers. Sessions cited a recent Census report that determind that “74% of those with a bachelor’s degree in these subjects don’t work in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) jobs.” That report prompted CBS News to conclude that the notion that there is a shortage of American high-tech workers “is largely a myth.”
Sessions took offense that Gates, Buffett, and Adelson asserted that Members of Congress who do not support amnesty legislation and increases in guest-worker visas are not honoring their duty to the “300 million Americans that we collectively represent.”
Sessions said he feels a deep duty to the millions of Alabamans whom “I represent and the whole country, and I do my best every day to ask what’s in their interest.”
“And as far as I’m concerned… those three billionaires have three votes,” he said. “The individual who works stocking the shelves, at the grocery store, the barber, the doctor, the lawyer, the cleaners operator, the person who picks up our garbage are every bit as valuable as they are.”
He also said what’s good for Mr. Adelson, “Mr. Microsoft,” and Mr. Buffett is “not always 100% in acord with what’s good for the American people. I know that.”
“So I know who I represent,” Sessions said. “I represent the citizens of the United States.”
Sessions said if wages are down, that indicates “we have a soft labor market, not a tight labor market. Wages go up when there are not enough employees, because businesses have to pay more to get good employees.”
“What is the situation for American graduates of STEM degrees and technology degrees? Sessions asked. “Do we have enough, and do we need to have people come to our country to take those jobs?”
He said these are some of the questions that Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama need to ask while looking at the data that represent an “absolute refutation” that there is a shortage of American high-tech workers.
Sessions said he had to push back a little against the likes of Gates and other companies like Merck and Hewlett Packard that push for more guest-worker visas while slashing jobs for American workers. He lamented that the country has the lowest workplace participation rate since the 1970s and emphasized that “we need to create jobs for Americans first, before we bring in foreign workers to take those jobs.”
“It’s long past time we had an immigration policy that truly served the needs of the American people,” Sessions said. “That’s the group to whom we owe our loyalty and our duty and our first responsibility. That’s who elected us. That’s who, in our Constitutional system, ultimately judges us on our performance.”