Jeff Sessions: Help Low-Wage Workers By Controlling Immigration

Protesters march in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour as part of an expanding national movement known as Fight for $15 in Miami.
Lynne Sladky, AP

Low-wage workers are rising up to protest their wages and call for a drastic increase in the minimum wage.

The disgruntled, largely fast food, workers — spurred by labor organizations such as the Service Employees International Union — staged a rally this week calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. They insist the current economy is unfair to low-wage workers.

But while labor unions and progressives push for a higher minimum pay, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) argues that what’s really depressing wages is the continued influx of immigrant labor — which, ironically is also part of the current big labor agenda.

“Regrettably, real hourly wages have fallen beneath 1973 levels,” Sessions explained in an exclusive commentary to Breitbart News. “Yet, as some union leaders seek higher pay they are also pushing for immigration policies that would reduce both their members’ pay and job security. Improved wages and employment in low-skilled industries comes when labor markets tighten.”

Sessions, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, pointed to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute which showed that there are about 20 unemployed people in the food and accommodation service industries for every 15 job openings.

“If you were to raise the wage floor without reducing the supply of new immigrant labor into these various industries, three things would happen: First, you would end up with an even more unbalanced ratio of jobseekers to jobs and thus artificially high unemployment; second, pay increases would remain scarce due to the surplus of available entry-level labor; and third, American workers with a poor employment history would be disadvantaged when applying for the same jobs as newly-arrived immigrant workers,” he wrote.

The Alabama immigration hawk was one of the key opponents of the failed Senate Gang of Eight bill that would have drastically increased immigration levels. Instead, he argues the goal should be an economic stability brought about by controlling immigration.

“If your goal is to create more stable social conditions, greater access to the middle class, higher employment and wage rates, then it is clear you should stop adding millions more low-skilled workers to the labor market – particularly at time when automation is steadily reducing demand for workers,” the Alabama lawmaker explained.

Sessions highlighted the impact of low-skilled labor on African American workers.

“Another item that must be discussed is the impact of high immigration on African-Americans. A paper authored by Harvard Professor George Borjas, University of Chicago Professor Jeffrey Grogger, and University of California Professor Gordon Hanson found high levels of immigration to be enormously detrimental to African-American workers in the United States,” he explained. “They determined that a ’10-percent immigrant-induced increase in the supply of a particular skill group reduced the black wage by 2.5 percent,’ and also ‘lowered the employment rate of black men by 5.9 percentage points.’”

With the U.S. already legally offering green cards to about 1 million low-wage immigrants and work permits for 700,000 guest workers annually, Sessions noted the current, relatively high rates of welfare use among Americans.

“It is not only an economic question, but a social one: is there not an inherent public interest in asking our companies to hire from the unemployment office before seeking workers from the immigration office?” he asked.

“As conservatives, we believe the lessons of the past should guide our decisions in the future. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the share of the population born outside the U.S. will soon exceed 1 in 7 persons and eclipse all historical records,” Sessions continued. “The last time the percentage of population foreign-born was at a peak, in 1910, it declined for the next six decades, falling to less than 1 in 21 people in 1970. But now, unlike the prior wave, Census data shows the foreign-born share rising to a new record every year and decade to come.

According to Sessions, the drastic change in the size and composition of the American work force has been largely obscured and done without the consent of the citizenry.

“This unprecedented development has never been discussed with the public, and they have never voted upon on it,” he wrote. “Polls show Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds think future immigration flows should be moderated to lower, more historical levels. It should be incumbent upon the proponents of unchecked immigration to explain why it is in the national interest to sustain a level of immigration never before experienced in American history – and one that is negatively impacting wages and employment.”

While low-wage workers at the behest of unions — many of which pushed for the immigration-boosting Gang of Eight bill — protest against what they say is an unfair system, Sessions’ commentary may ring a familiar tone to some older members of the labor community.

“Those who favor unrestricted immigration care nothing for the people,” Samuel Gompers, the first president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), wrote in 1921. “They are simply desirous of flooding the country with unskilled as well as skilled labor of other lands for the purpose of breaking down American standards.”

“You must not forget that if low wages, long hours of employment and unbearable working conditions are signs of prosperity China and India would be the greatest commercial and industrial countries in the world,” he continued. “They have no strikes in China. It is the Utopia of the ‘open Shop.’ America, however, where men are free to voice their desires for greater and still greater advancement in economic conditions, is the greatest country on earth. Its people live better than anywhere else, and the trade unions are responsible for maintaining those standards.”


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