House Speaker Paul Ryan says the nation needs a policy of “merit-based immigration,” marking a rhetorical shift towards President Donald Trump’s popular pro-American immigration policy.
“Ultimately, I think we should go to a merit-based immigration system,” Ryan declared during a January interview at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
But immigration reformers suspect Ryan’s statement is merely a rhetorical shift — and may even be political cover for a quick budget-deal sellout of Trump’s steady demand that protections and offsets be packaged with any amnesty for some or all of the 3.25 million ‘dreamer’ illegal immigrants.
“He’s not endorsing the [merit-immigration] RAISE Act… which would reduce overall immigration,” noted Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “It is perfectly consistent with the way Ryan sees immigration — to accept merit-based immigration but just make sure the numbers are very high,” said Krikorian, who prefers an immigration cutback to help raise Americans’ wages.
But Ryan also defines “merit” downwards to include people who can work at a Wisconsin dairy farm or in California vegetable field. That definition is far below reformers’ definition of “merit” as a person with rare and valuable technical or scientific skills.
Ryan’s support for unskilled “merit” cheap labor also suggests that he will not support a new House bill which reduces overall immigration unless there is more pressure from voters and GOP legislators in the run-up to a 2018 midterm election.
The House GOP bill would deal with the problem created by millions of illegal immigrants who brought roughly 3.25 million children to the United States. Democrats have labeled those now-grown illegals as ‘dreamers’ and are threatening to block the government’s 2018 budget unless the illegals are allowed to become citizens.
The House bill would provide three-year work permits to 670,000 of the illegals — but would not provide green cards or citizenship. The bill would also implement a series of reforms to deter and block future illegal immigration, and would it reduce nudge up wages by reducing the annual inflow of legal immigrants by roughly 260,000 people, to around 800,000 per year.
“We need higher wages — that is the most important thing,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, the co-author of the GOP immigration-and-amnesty bill, titled the “Securing America’s Future Act.”
House Republicans are pressing Ryan for a vote on a partisan immigration bill that has little chance of passing the Senate. They want floor action on legislation by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), which goes well beyond what the White House has said should be in a deal codifying the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program into law — and which is unlikely to garner a single Democratic vote.
“It’s a good bill…I think it’s something that bears consideration by the entire House,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), a former leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee. “If I were the majority leader… I would recommend that we bring it” to the floor.
Ryan and his top lieutenants have not committed to a vote on the Goodlatte bill, which GOP leaders worry could undermine bipartisan negotiations. And they’re not even sure the text could garner the 218 GOP votes needed for passage in the House. Still, he’s risking a backlash from conservatives if he doesn’t put it forward for a vote.
Ryan explained his view of immigration policy on January 12.
Ryan started his interview comments by praising America’s history of immigration, saying:
My family, like a whole lot of people, came from Ireland on what they called coffin ships and came here and worked the railroads. The Irish were really looked down upon in those days.
Then he suggested that large-scale immigration is a central part of the United States’ collective power, regardless of its damaging impact on Americans’ wages and their stable civic culture. His own family’s history “is a beautiful story of America … it is what makes this country so exceptionally unique in the first place … it is a big part of our strength,” he declared.
The primary focus on Ryan’s comments was his eagerness to import more skilled or unskilled foreigners for companies in the United States, including the Chinese company, Foxconn, which announced in 2017 it would open a huge, high-tech factory in Ryan’s home state.
For Ryan, “merit” means useful for companies:
Ultimately, I think we should go to a merit-based immigration system and the reason I say that is — we fixate on labor force, and I was talking about workforce development, if we get every single able-bodied American who is not now working or looking for work, you know, and close the skills gap, get them from poverty to the workfrce, we’re still going to be needing [more] people in this country …
I am just saying I think we need to rework our immigration system so that the visas are not given based on [chain-migration] relations other than the nuclear family, but are based on skills, based on what we need. We are going to need people with our dairy industry in Western Wisconsin, they need people in the vegetable industry in California, we’re going to need — after we find every software single software engineer in southeastern Wisconsin for Foxconn, we’re going to need more, that kind of thing.
So that’s why I’d like to take this opportunity to fix this particular [DACA] problem — which does need to get fixed and also try to knock down some of the other problems so we can get some solutions here.
Ryan has repeatedly endorsed the importation of more unskilled refugees to work as government-subsidized dairy workers, even though American-built cow-milking robots are being sold to farmers in his home state.
In passing, Ryan also seemed to oppose Trump’s policy of returning roughly 200,000 migrants El Salvador who were given “Temporary Protected Status” when their home nation was hit by earthquakes in 2001. Most of the migrants are poorly educated and most were already illegal immigrants when the earthquake hit, but Ryan appears to support their continued presence, as he showed in this exchange with the host:
Q: You don’t want to ship 200,000 El Salvadoreans …
Ryan: Yeah, right, that’s the TPS thing…
Q. … that exacerbates the labor shortage.
But the “labor shortage” that Ryan wants to avoid is exactly what ensures higher wages for Americans — including the millions of Americans who vote Republican.
Labor shortages also create more incentives for sidelined Americans to start work, more incentives for young Americans to acquire new skills, more incentives for companies to hire sidelined or isolated Americans, and more incentives for companies to buy American-made labor-saving machinery.
In Ryan’s world-view, labor shortages are bad things, and fixing DACA is a way to prevent any free-market labor shortage which helps Americans — but which is a problem for donors and investors.
That view echoes the federal government’s long-standing policies, which skew the free-market for labor by importing one million extra workers per year and by ignoring the 8 million wage-cutting illegal immigrants in the workforce. Ryan said:
Do we need to fix DACA? Yes, we need to fix DACA, but I think it is really important that we fix it is such a balanced way that it A., gets strong bipartisan support, that B., does it in a thorough way so that we don’t have a DACA problem five, ten years down the road. You don’t want to just fix the symptoms, not the root cause, so you’ve got to deal with that, and C., you have a balanced DACA solution that has security components along with a DACA fix and that gets you bipartisan support for fixing a lot of these broken immigration problems.
So that is what I want to see come out of this, which is not just some little discrete fix for this particular little problem but let’s put together a solution that starts with knocking down some of these other thorny problems we’ve got in the immigration system.
Trump was elected to shift the national policy in favor of working Americans. In his inauguration speech, Trump called for a national policy of “Buy American, Hire American,” and that policy has helped create the national labor shortage which is forcing companies to pay higher wages to Americans, and to find and train sidelined workers in urban and rural areas.
Trump’s low-immigration/high-wage strategy — plus his pro-business policy of lower regulation and lower taxes — has dropped the formal unemployment rate to 2 percent in Wisconsin, has pushed the formal national unemployment rate for African-Americans to a record low, and is nudging up wages before the critical 2018 election.
But those economic gains have only begun to reverse the post-1970s history of flat wages and declining employment rates.
Unsurprisingly, as wages rise, Trump is also being pushed to accept more imported workers by his business-first deputies, such as the former Goldman Sachs chief Gary Cohn. In a January 14 interview with the Wall Street Journal, and Cohn nearby, Trump said:
We need workers in this country; we need people to come in and work because I have a lot of companies moving in.
And I’m getting a lot of questions like we want to move to Wisconsin, we wanted—like Wisconsin, I have Foxconn coming to Wisconsin; that’s my deal. You know the head of Foxconn, you know he’s a friend of mine. He’s still only moving there because of me. And the governor has been fantastic …
We need people so we have to be a little bit flexible. I don’t want to be so—I’ve had another pledge that I’m going to move companies back into this country. I don’t want to make it so tough that they can’t come back in. Would you say that’s a correct statement, Gary, we have to have people.
Gary Cohn: Yeah.
Polls show that Trump’s American-first immigration policy is very popular.
For example, a December poll of likely 2018 voters shows two-to-one voter support for Trump’s pro-American immigration policies, and a lopsided four-to-one opposition against the cheap-labor, mass-immigration, economic policy pushed by bipartisan establishment-backed D.C. interest-groups.
Business groups and Democrats tout the misleading, industry-funded “Nation of Immigrants” polls which pressure Americans to say they welcome migrants, including the roughly 670,000 ‘DACA’ illegals and the roughly 3.25 million ‘dreamer’ illegals.
The alternative “priority or fairness” polls — plus the 2016 election — show that voters in the polling booth put a much higher priority on helping their families, neighbors, and fellow nationals get decent jobs in a high-tech, high-immigration, low-wage economy.
Four million Americans turn 18 each year and begin looking for good jobs in the free market.
But the federal government inflates the supply of new labor by annually accepting 1 million new legal immigrants, by providing work-permits to roughly 3 million resident foreigners, and by doing little to block the employment of roughly 8 million illegal immigrants.
The Washington-imposed economic policy of economic growth via mass-immigration floods the market with foreign labor, spikes profits and Wall Street values by cutting salaries for manual and skilled labor offered by blue-collar and white-collar employees. It also drives up real estate prices, widens wealth-gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, hurts kids’ schools and college education, pushes Americans away from high-tech careers, and sidelines at least 5 million marginalized Americans and their families, including many who are now struggling with opioid addictions.
The cheap-labor policy has also reduced investment and job creation in many interior states because the coastal cities have a surplus of imported labor. For example, almost 27 percent of zip codes in Missouri had fewer jobs or businesses in 2015 than in 2000, according to a new report by the Economic Innovation Group. In Kansas, almost 29 percent of zip codes had fewer jobs and businesses in 2015 compared to 2000, which was a two-decade period of massive cheap-labor immigration.
Because of the successful cheap-labor strategy, wages for men have remained flat since 1973, and a large percentage of the nation’s annual income has shifted to investors and away from employees.