A new, non-partisan group based in Washington D.C., Americans4Work, is shedding some light on the impact that both legal and illegal immigration have on America's most vulnerable, especially minority groups, the disabled, and post-9/11 veterans. Earlier today, the group held its first public event at the National Press Club with Senator Jeff Sessions, former Rep. and Lt. Col. Allen West, and Temple University Law Prof. Jan Ting. While most of the discussion was spent on how to get jobless Americans back to work, the immigration issue was a recurring theme.
One of the group's key leaders, Tom Broadwater, opened the panel by describing the atrocious state of the American economy for American minorities.
"3.2 million people left workforce in the last 12 months," Broadwater said. "It's a more desperate situation for blacks, minorities, the disabled, and veterans."
Broadwater said Black Americans are 75% more likely than other Americans and 111% more likely than White Americans not to be working, unemployment for post-9/11 veterans is up 6% over the past 12 months, and disabled Americans are nine times more likely not to have a job. He added that 1 million veterans are currently out of work, and another 1 million will be added to the labor market in the coming years as they return from the Middle East.
He also referenced a recent Wall Street Journal article that examined the job recovery since the '09 recession, and unlike all other recessions since the Great Depression. It concluded that this recession was different because three years after it ended, unemployment levels had still not returned to their pre-recession levels. In prior recessions, jobs were restored within 25 months of the recession's end.
SESSIONS: IMMIGRATION DEBATE DRIVEN BY BIG BUSINESS
Sen. Sessions was the only member of the Senate during the amnesty battle to discuss the dramatic increases in legal immigration that would result from the Schumer-Rubio amnesty bill, S.744, and the negative impact it would have on employment and wages. He continued that point today, placing much of the blame on big business.
"We have a loose labor market," Sen. Sessions said. "Wages are declining. People are dropping out of the workforce. We have to figure out a way to get our people into jobs."
Sen. Sessions said that, despite record-high unemployment, businesses continue to push for more immigrant workers to keep a loose labor market, which in turn would keep wages down. He said their push to add 30 million new workers over the next decade and to double the number of guest-workers would disproportionately impact minorities, the disabled, and veterans.
"Don't we have a duty to our own people?" Sen. Sessions said. "We are a nation with an economy, not an economy that is a nation. We owe people. ... These businesses don't get to set our policy."
Sen. Sessions said political correctness also has a role to play in the immigration debate, referring to a statement made last month by British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron was critical of the impact high immigration levels have had on England, stating that "immigration, welfare and education" are all connected.
"It's so politically incorrect that it's hard to get that message out today," Sen. Sessions said.
TING: IT'S ABOUT THE NUMBERS
Prof. Ting focused much of his attention on legal immigration numbers. On one occasion, he referenced the Barbara Jordan Commission and its recommendations for immigration reform to Congress during the 1990s, calling for the elimination of chain migration and the visa lottery as well as interior enforcement.
"Most of our immigrants are not coming in to fill jobs that we need filled. They're coming in because of family connections, and they're competing directly with Americans for jobs," Prof. Ting said. "We all admire immigrants. That is not the question. The question is how many."
Prof. Ting also added to Sen. Sessions point about globalization, saying that companies don't care if an American or a foreign worker holds a particular job, but the country should do what it can to protect American workers.
"Whatever else we do, let's not make the jobs crisis worse by increasing immigration," he said.
WEST: HOW'D IT WORK OUT FOR ROME?
While Lt. Col. West mostly provided anecdotes of what it was like for a young, black man to grow up in Atlanta during the 50s and compared that experience to today, he made a few references to immigration. In his opinion, "comprehensive immigration reform" is likely dead because there's not much interest in the country for "comprehensive solutions" in the aftermath of the troubled healthcare rollout.
He also referenced the 1986 failed amnesty, which was also a comprehensive approach, that was signed into law by Pres. Ronald Reagan.
"In 1986, we went down that path [amnesty], but there were requirements that were supposed to get completed and were never done," Lt. Col. West said.
One of those requirements was to secure the border - a demand that's coming from many members of Congress in the current debate. Lt. Col. West compared our border situation to the Roman empire.
"Rome also didn't protect its borders," he said. "It didn't work out well for them."
CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA