American workers went unrepresented during talks of illegal and legal immigration with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday.
During a panel discussion, Nielsen touted a merit-based legal immigration system and the importance of legal immigrants assimilating to American culture, a plan President Trump, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) have championed.
When speaking of a modern legal immigration system, however, Nielsen ignored the crushing impact of immigration on American workers, opting, instead, to say that immigration had two sides to please: foreign nationals and the business community:
What I can tell you is what [President Trump] means. I won’t go into what other people like to put words in people’s mouths. What he means is let’s look at the individual. It’s time to stop looking at immigration based on the country, and look at the individual. What can the individual come and contribute to the United States? How can an individual come and assimilate? How can an individual come … become American? That’s why we want them to come [emphasis added].
So this isn’t about limiting legal immigration. This is, as [Rep. Kevin McCarthy] was describing before in my coughing attack, how can we do it so that it helps both sides? Those who want to unify their families and the communities and businesses who need workers, who need skilled workers to come in and help our economy. So it’s not – it’s been falsely framed as a conversation about countries. It’s not about the country. Whether we’re talking about security and illegal immigration or legal immigration, we’re trying to talk about the individual. Is the individual a threat? I don’t want them to come to the United States [emphasis added]:
Trump’s pro-American immigration agenda has centered around implementing a legal immigration system that protects the jobs and wages of American workers, such as the RAISE Act, authored by Cotton and Perdue, which would cut legal immigration to 500,000 immigrants a year to reduce the burden that has been placed on working and middle class communities.
The cheap labor and big business lobby have long been against any changes to legal immigration levels, wanting, instead, to keep the current system intact, which mass imports more than one million mostly low-skilled foreign workers every year at the expense of America’s working and middle class, as well as their wages.
Roy Beck, the director of NumbersUSA, a group that represents American workers’ interests in the immigration debate, called Nielsen’s comments “a fall” from Trump’s previous statements that “every decision” on immigration would “be made to benefit American workers and American families,” rather than the big business lobby:
American workers not even included as "a side" here. What a fall from one year ago: "Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families." #ForgottenAmericans https://t.co/3GqxsQWtu4
— Roy Beck (@RoyBeck_NUSA) January 26, 2018
Between 2000 and 2010, Steven Camarota, the Center for Immigration Studies’ director of Research, noted that the U.S. admitted a record number of immigrants and continues to do so. In that decade, job growth declined, but the booming number of foreign nationals arriving in the country continued anyway, despite an already scarce job market, creating more stagnant wages and more foreign competition for American workers.
Nielsen’s comments at Davos come after a new Harvard-Harris poll showed overwhelming support for limiting immigration levels among American voters.
For example, the Harvard-Harris poll found that 81 percent of voters said they supported curbing immigration levels from the more than 1.5 million illegal and legal immigrants that are admitted to the U.S. every year. Meanwhile, less than ten percent of voters said they supported these current wage-cutting immigration levels.
Additionally, 85 percent of black Americans supported the merit-based, skills-based legal immigration Trump proposed, but that has yet to make headway in the Republican establishment-controlled Congress.