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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Republican Senators to American Workers - Drop Dead 

I had never heard of Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota before today. I'm sure a lot of people are talking about him now:

The Senate voted 69-28 to set aside North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan's proposal to eliminate a provision creating up to 325,000 visas each year for unskilled workers from other countries. ``The guest-worker provision is about importing cheap labor,'' Dorgan said before the vote.

Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania opposed Dorgan's measure, saying if the U.S. doesn't ``provide for guest workers who can fill the needs of the American economy, then we're going to create a vacuum of a situation where illegal immigrants will come into fill those needs.''

Senator Dorgan spoke on the Senator floor on Monday, May 15. This is what he said:

Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, my understanding is we are on the immigration bill as of this afternoon, and there is an amendment now pending. I wish to say a few words about the general issue of immigration and also talk about a couple of items the Democratic leader, Senator Reid, spoke about earlier today....

If tomorrow, for example, we in the United States said, on Tuesday, tomorrow, May 16, there is a new policy, and that new policy is this: Anyone living on this planet is able to come to this country unrestricted, come here, stay here, live here, work here, you are welcome, the welcome mat is out, if we did that, what do we think might happen? I know what would happen. Tens of millions of people--tens and tens and tens of millions of people--would aspire to find their way to the United States of America because it is, in fact, a beacon of hope and opportunity all around the world. There are jobs in this country, jobs available, rates of pay that are far in excess of those of Third World countries. The difference between, for example, the jobs in Mexico and the rate of pay for those jobs versus the jobs in the United States is very substantial.

We have on our southern border people who aspire to come to this country from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, on up through Mexico to try to cross our borders. The result is we have, in order to protect our way of life and our standard of living and to protect jobs that need to go to American workers, quotas that limit the amount of immigration, and those quotas year by year are quotas we work with to try to understand how many we can have come into this country from various parts of the world....

We also have another influence in this country, and the other influence is that larger corporations are now made much larger because of mergers and are wanting to export good American jobs to China and import cheap, substandard labor, particularly from the South, and pay even less than minimum wage, and because they are hiring someone illegal, they are highly unlikely to be critical of them if they don't pay the minimum wage. They feel they don't have the right to criticize.

We have a circumstance where at least some enterprises in this country want to export good American jobs and import cheap labor on the bottom. That is, in my judgment, the circumstance that will pull apart the middle class in our country. That is why we have to be concerned about all that is happening....

We passed legislation 20 years ago called Simpson-Mazzoli. The basic premise of that legislation was very simple. The premise was this: The attraction for people to come to this country illegally is to find a job and to earn money. If you shut off that attraction, shut off that job, you at least substantially diminish illegal immigration coming into this country. And so the legislation was passed.

I went back recently and read all the debate about Simpson-Mazzoli. The legislation was passed, and it was going to shut off the jobs. In fact, how was that going to happen? It was going to happen because there were going to be employer sanctions, saying to America's employers: If you hire illegal aliens, if you hire illegal immigrants to come into this country to take a job, you are going to be in some trouble. You can't hire people who are here illegally to work in your plants, to work in your businesses.

Those then were the approaches that were going to be used to shut down this illegal immigration. What happened? Let me give an example. I am told that last year, there was only one action taken against an American business--one--in all of America for hiring illegal workers.

I will give an example of hiring illegal workers. A couple of weeks ago--there is an energy plant being built in North Dakota--the highway patrol picked up I believe it was seven people. I believe six were from Guatemala, one was from Mexico. They detained them. They were not here legally. They had come here illegally to take a job in constructing the energy plant.

The law enforcement people took them to Minot, ND, to the immigration office. As a result of that, they took them back down to a motel nearly an hour south of Minot and dropped them off at the motel where they were staying with the admonition that they are now required, because they were here illegally, to show up in Minneapolis some weeks hence for a hearing. Of course, they will never show up in Minneapolis. They are gone. That is the way the system works: Come here, find a job; if you get caught, they say show up later; you never show up later. And that is the way the system works.

That is the way the system works.

Now, what about the employer who hired these seven people? In 2004, in the entire United States of America, the administration took action against three companies that hired illegal immigrants. Let me say that again. In the entire country, they took action against only three companies that hired illegal immigrants. That is the same as saying to companies: You know what, don't worry, be happy. Hire illegal workers if you wish. Pay them substandard wages if you wish because they won't complain because they are illegal. Don't worry about it. It is a great way of cutting your costs. Be our guests because we are not going to enforce the law.

That is unbelievable to me.

So the whole promise of the law that was changed 20 years ago to shut off these jobs for people who are not in our country legally was a complete failure because there was an abject lack of enforcement. Now we have a piece of legislation on the floor of the Senate dealing with immigration, and we are going to go through this process again. We are told there are 11 million to 12 million people who have come into our country illegally. Some have come in recent years, some have been here a long while, and some have been here long enough to have children and grandchildren. So the question is: What do you do about that?

Then we have people come to the floor of the Senate and they say: Well, let's do a new immigration bill. Yet doing a new immigration bill without effectively finding ways to shut the border to illegal immigration will have us back in the same Chamber in 10 years or 20 years saying: Now what do we do about the next 10 million or 20 million people who are here illegally?...

[I]n addition to the issue of detecting terrorists and preventing them from coming in, we also need to have some control of our border to prevent an uncontrolled inflow of illegal immigrants who will take American jobs at substandard wages and then beginning to put downward pressure on American workers and American wages.

It is not an accident what is happening in this country today. You can read all the newspapers and evaluate what you find. You find companies that want to ship good jobs overseas to China. Why? Because they pay less money to get their products produced, and they want to ship their product back to this country to sell it and then they want to run their income through the Grand Cayman Islands and not pay taxes. So the same companies that want to export good Americans jobs are the same companies that would like to import cheap wages for the jobs we lost here....

Allen Blinder wrote a piece; he is a former vice chair of the Fed, a very respected economist. He said there are somewhere between 42 million and 54 million American jobs that are potential jobs to be outsourced--outsourced--because there is a billion to a billion and a half workers in the rest of the world who will do those jobs for 30 cents an hour, 50 cents an hour, and you can put them in unsafe work plants, put the chemicals in the air and water. You don't have to worry about all that. They are much less expensive than hiring an American worker. He also said that it is likely that 42 million to 54 million American jobs would not be exported, but even those that are not exported, if they remain here, they are competing with lower wages and with those workers overseas who are willing to accept much lower wages.

So we face some very significant economic pressures for the American worker and the middle class in this country. Nobody seems to think much about it, care much about it or talk much about it. But it is implicit in this discussion as well, and it applies not to a certain class of American workers; it applies to all American workers. Yes, those are Hispanic workers and African-American workers; all American workers are affected by this. Those who are in the minority suffer most. They are the first to lose their jobs and the last to get a job back, and when they do get a job back, it is lower pay because they are told: This is a new global economy, and you have to compete with others in other parts of the world willing to work for much less money.

So that is the subtext as well for this kind of discussion, but I want to finally say this: If this debate moves forward without an understanding that you have to find a way to deal with this issue of employer sanctions or shut off the lure, shut down the lure of a job; if we don't decide to get serious about saying to employers: You can't hire illegal immigrants, you can't do that without significant sanctions; if we don't do that, then we should make reservations to come back every 10 years and have another debate about how we deal with the next 5 million or 10 million people who want to come into this country....

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

I’ve never heard of Dorgan before either, but by God, he sounds like someone we should be listening to.
He's certainly parochial - as a midwestern Senator, it is important to him to keep that foreign ethanol out of the country and promote the home grown stuff - but he is interesting.
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