Conservative outsider Bob Good unseated Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District GOP primary in an upset that pit an “America First” immigration agenda against the conservative beltway’s record on the issue.
Riggleman has only held the congressional seat for two years and was endorsed by President Trump, Jerry Fallwell Jr., and House Freedom Caucus members. His record in the House, specifically on immigration, gave Good a leg up in a state that has been dramatically transformed by mass legal immigration levels over the last four decades.
After his win in 2018, Riggleman joined the House Freedom Caucus where most members have continued their “illegal immigration is bad, legal immigration is good” mantra despite Republican voters’ overwhelming support for reducing all immigration, including visa programs and total annual green card numbers.
Every year, the U.S. admits about 1.2 million legal immigrants on green cards to permanently resettle in the country. In addition, another 1.4 million foreign workers are admitted every year to take American jobs. Often, Americans are fired and replaced by foreign visa workers. Many are forced to train their foreign replacements.
In March 2019, Riggleman applauded increases to the H-2B visa program, where 66,000 blue-collar foreign workers are imported by business every year to take seasonal, nonagricultural jobs that Americans once held.
“Increasing H-2B visa caps is long overdue,” Riggleman said. “This has been a priority for me since my first day in Congress and I commend Secretary Nielsen’s action. Farmers and small businesses in the Commonwealth have a great need for labor and this increase will help grow the economy for all Americans. I campaigned on reforming the immigration system in a way that will help residents of the 5th District, and the decision by Secretary Nielsen to increase the number of work visas is a major step forward.”
Months later, in May 2019, Riggleman co-sponsored the Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act, legislation that would have created the H-2C visa program. Under the plan, at least 85,000 non-college-educated foreign workers could have been imported by construction companies, hospitals, and hotels to take U.S. jobs.
In July 2019, Riggleman — along with other House Republicans — raised eyebrows with his vote for the transformative H.R. 1044 Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act. The legislation had the support of Republican lawmakers such as Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY).
The legislation, with support from the big business and Big Tech lobby, would have allowed Indian nationals to monopolize the U.S. employment-based green card system. Estimates suggest that while Indian nationals make up just 25 percent of current employment-based green cards, under H.R. 1044, Indian nationals would have been able to grab 90 percent of the green cards for at least a decade.
H.R. 1044 also would have ensured that outsourcing firms such as Cognizant and Infosys, as well as giant tech conglomerates such as Amazon and Facebook, have a green card system wherein only foreign workers on H-1B visas are able to obtain employment green cards by creating a backlog of seven to eight years for all foreign nationals.
Experts said H.R. 1044 effectively rewards outsourcers of American jobs with an employment-based green card system that operates solely around their needs for cheaper foreign labor.
Riggleman’s vote for H.R. 1044 was critical for a state such as Virginia.
That fall, Democrats took control of Virginia’s House of Delegates and State Senate. For the first time since 1993, Democrats run the state legislature, the governor’s seat, and the lieutenant governor’s seat.
Virginia’s booming foreign-born population played a vital role, a demographic change that the New York Times chronicled as a “tidal wave” brought on mostly by legal immigration levels over the past four decades.
In 1990, Virginia was home to less than 312,000 foreign-born residents. Today, there are close to 1.1 million, almost four times what the population was three decades before. In 2019, 1-in-10 Virginia residents are foreign-born. In 1990, only about 1-in-28 residents were born outside the U.S.
The gap between GOP voters in the district and Riggleman’s support for limitless legal immigration programs, as well as his support for military interventionism like when he sided with Democrats to condemn Trump’s Syria troop withdrawal, opened a door for Good.
The establishment media have claimed Riggleman’s defeat — where he lost with 42 percent to Good’s 58 percent — centered around social conservatives’ outrage over the Virginia congressman officiating a same-sex wedding last year. Republican Party insiders have said Riggleman’s defeat is due to the party’s convention nominating process.
Followers of Good’s campaign, though, say the media and party insiders are willfully ignoring the issue that started the outsider’s run and helped him secure victory: Immigration.
On the campaign trail, Good focused primarily on the need for less legal immigration — a break from many of the House Freedom Caucus members’ libertarian/business-centric streak.
“As Americans are trying to get back to work, they have to compete with hundreds of thousands of foreign workers who will take lower wages and take our jobs,” Good told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview in May. “In a relatively closed economic environment, wages gradually increase over time due to prosperity, due to a tight labor market. But that doesn’t happen, we haven’t seen that happen because of the flood of cheap foreign labor.”
A source close to the Good campaign said voters in the district were rightfully able to support Trump and oppose Riggleman, despite him having president’s endorsement. The primary, the source said, shows how voters are focused on the issues in 2020 rather than cults of personality.
Good’s victory comes as grassroots conservatives have urged the White House to get back to the issues of Trump’s 2016 campaign.
In the middle of the Chinese coronavirus crisis, nearly 50 Republican lawmakers begged the White House to expand legal immigration even as 36 million Americans were unemployed at the time.
Trump issued an executive order to halt a small portion of employment-based legal immigration, far less impactful than the purported original executive order that halted most visa programs.
Good has said major reforms may have already been accomplished if not for Republicans lobbying on behalf of big business rather than American workers and U.S. graduates.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.