Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions is responding to two recent Wall Street Journal editorials critical of the Alabama lawmaker’s position that high immigration rates are harmful to American workers, specifically those in tech fields.
In a letter to the editor, Sessions pointed to the publication’s April 25 article “Scott Walker’s Labor Economics” and its April 27 follow up “The Sessions Complaint” in which The Journal took both Walker and Sessions to task for arguing that immigration policies should be determined based on what is good for American workers.
“To support your belief that American workers should receive no protections, you recycle the myth that there is a shortage of qualified Americans to fill jobs in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—and then demand more guest workers as substitutes,” Sessions, the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest wrote in the letter, dated Friday.
“Your evidence for this claim is that the government ‘received a record 233,000 requests from American business for the 85,000 H-1B visas available.’ But the only thing this statistic proves is that companies prefer low-wage, bonded guest workers over higher-paid Americans,” he added.
In its editorials, the Journal argued that more high-skilled immigrants can serve to increase productivity and increase the proverbial pie for everyone.
The newspaper further took issue with the proposition that such workers are replacing American workers, writing that few American STEM workers are not working in their chosen field. The Journal also questioned Sessions’ definitions, saying the Alabamian has been too narrow in his delineation of what constitutes a STEM worker.
Not so, argues Sessions.
“Each year, the U.S. graduates twice as many students with STEM degrees as are hired in STEM occupations. Contrary to the suggestion that these students are finding better, higher-paying jobs, the opposite is true,” he wrote.
“About 35% of science students, 55% of technology students, 20% of engineering students and 30% of math students who recently graduated are now working in jobs that don’t require any four-year college degree,” Sessions continued. “As further proof of no shortage, wages in the profitable IT industry have been largely flat for more than a decade.”
Sessions added that currently, two-thirds of entry-level tech jobs are going to foreign-born workers.
“That is because the H-1B visa is not a high-skilled immigration program,” he wrote.
It operates as a low-wage nonimmigrant temporary visa, undercutting the jobs and wages of highly qualified Americans. Just recently, Southern California Edison laid off hundreds of loyal employees and forced them to train the H-1B guest workers hired to replace them. One of those replaced American workers was a mother with a physical disability caring for two children.
Sessions concludes that: “America is a country, not a spreadsheet. A country puts the needs of its own citizens first.”