Ken Cuccinelli to Media: Immigration Must Help Americans, Not Only the Economy

Acting Director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli speaks during a briefing at the White House August 12, 2019, in Washington, DC. - The administration of US President Donald Trump announced Monday new rules that aim to deny permanent residency and citizenship benefits to migrants who receive …
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

The federal government’s immigration policy must benefit ordinary Americans, not just American investors, citizenship chief Ken Cuccinelli told reporters on Wednesday.

“The president has made no secret of the fact that he believes immigration, first and foremost, is set up to work for America — that means economically and for the people here,” Cuccinelli told reporters at a press breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor.

Cuccinelli’s answer was a diplomatic response to a suggestion by the breakfast’s organizer that more migrants be imported to take jobs usually accomplished by blue-collar Americans.

Linda Feldmann, the Washington Bureau Chief of the Christian Science Monitor, asked:

The Trump administration has made moves that would reduce legal immigration to the United States … At the same time, there are lots of blue-collar jobs in this country that are going unfilled — hotels, home-help aides. These are jobs that immigrants could take and do take. Why reduce legal immigration and take potential workers out of the labor force?

Feldmann’s question echoes the D.C. consensus that immigration is a tool to boost the government’s clout and investors’ returns, regardless of the economic and civic impact on lower-status Americans.

But Cuccinelli’s polite answer reflects President Donald Trump’s semi-revolutionary and populist task of reshaping immigration rules to help ordinary Americans, not just wealthy investors.

“There is a lot of pressure in various sectors to utilize more immigrant labor for employment, whether it is for high-tech or low-tech in the economy … [but the president] has also made clear that is is important to protect ordinary American workers and to not displace them,” said Cuccinelli, who runs the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.

Finding the right balance between helping Americans workers and Americans investors is a constant political dilemma, Cuccinelli said:

Is there some perfect [balanced] target point in every industry? Maybe there is, but we’re never going to be able to know it. So which side do you err on? And he has repeatedly emphasized how important it is to protect U.S. workers. Now’s he been clear with me, as well, and you all have heard him say it: he wants to see economic growth and dynamism. And that means, you know, growing companies needing to fill slots. So we’re just in a constant battle to balance those things.

Trump’s lower-immigration “Hire American” policies are helping to boost the salaries of the lower-income Americans. For example, Indeed.com reported in September that wages for “lower wage” people rose by roughly 4.5 percent from July 2018 to July 2019.

Trump’s deputies are signaling that they plan to tout those popular pay raises in the 2020 election:

In contrast, wages for higher-paid Americans grew slower, at roughly 2.7 percent, according to Indeed.com.

In part, the slower growth among higher-paid Americans reflects the ability to investors’ to keep roughly 1.5 million foreign graduates in jobs sought by U.S. college graduates. Many of those foreign graduates work in sweatshop conditions for little pay in the expectation they eventually will be paid with valuable, government-provided green-cards.

For example, Google and Facebook hire many OPT, L-1, and H-1B visa-workers, even as the two companies also grab most of the advertising revenues from American college graduates in the newspaper business.

Domestic politics may play a part. Trump was elected by blue-collar Americans amid lopsided and angry opposition by post-graduate professionals.

Since 2016, Trump has zig-zagged on his policy towards the importation of foreign college graduates.

In 2016, he denounced the widespread use of the huge H-1B program but did not promise to end the visa worker programs.

In office, he has done little to reduce the resident number of college graduate visa workers, and his deputies have told the Supreme Court that Trump agrees that President Barack Obama had the right to award work permits to the DACA illegal aliens.

He has also pushed back against proposals to curb the inflow of lower-wage Chinese graduates into prestigious jobs at U.S. universities, such as biotech laboratories — despite the predictable harm to the careers of U.S. scientists. On October 11, for example, Trump told reporters:

We’re going to be very good to Chinese students. Nope. I’ve heard this question many times before, including from our own security people. We want all the people that want to come over from China. We have the greatest university system in the world, and we’re going to keep it that way.  And one of the reasons it’s great is we have a lot of students from China. No, we’re not going to make it tough. We’re going to make it like for everybody else. Okay?  We’re going to make it — I think that’s important.

I want them coming here. We want the greatest talent in the world coming to our great universities — to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the great Wharton School of Finance — to Stanford, all of these great schools. We want them — we want them coming here. And that’s what we have. And that’s one of the reasons we have the great system. And there have been discussing about [stopping] that — not by me, because I ended them very quickly. I want to let you know, I end those discussions very quickly.

But Trump has paid little price for the visa programs that displace U.S. post-graduates — partly because few post-graduates want to recognize that migration threatens their salaries and careers via the Economics 101 law of supply and demand.

For example, the establishment media has done little to examine the scale of white-collar outsourcing — even as Congress debates bills to supercharge the U.S.-India Otsouring Economy.

Instead, establishment reporters have preferred to focus on their sympathies and attention on the interests of migrants and the claim that Americans must be a “beacon of hope” for migrants worldwide.

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