Minutes after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) emphasized the need for bipartisan support on a carefully negotiated immigration reform deal that could be announced this week, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) revived the tired argument that bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows is bad for American workers. “It’s logical that if you bring in a massive supply of low-wage workers, you’re going to pull the workers down,” Sessions said Sunday morning on This Week With George Stephanopoulos.
But his so-called logic is not supported by the research — a point emphasized by conservative columnist George Will in urging Sessions to focus on “the facts”:
WILL: Every conservative sympathizes with what Jeff Sessions was saying about not rewarding lawbreaking. However, conservatism begins with facing facts. And the facts are 11 million people are here illegally. Two-thirds have been a decade or more. 30%, 15 years or more. They’re woven into our society. They’re not leaving. And the American people would not tolerate the police measures necessary to extract them from our community. Therefore, the great consensus has to be on the details of a path to citizenship. The most important thing Rubio said in your interview is, even if the system weren’t broken, if we had no illegal immigrants, we’d need to do something about this. We need the workers. As the baby-boomers retire, and as the birthrate declines, we need something to replenish the workforce to sustain the welfare state.
In an exchange with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sessions also asked whether Schumer would continue to support immigration reform if “this legislation is established by reputable economists, as pulling down the wages of suffering American workers.” “That’s not going to happen, Jeff,” Schumer retorted, citing recent analysis by the conservative CATO Institute. And that’s just one of numerous economic studies to find that the economic benefits to immigration reform far outweigh any harm.
As economists have explained, immigration reform not only stops under-the-table exploitation of workers from driving wages down; it also fills gaps in the economy by creating a labor force for jobs that are complementary to low-wage jobs typically held by native worker. “Contrary to common fears, immigrants are not frequently in direct competition with native-born American workers, in part because they tend to have different skill sets,” a Center for American Progress analysis of economists’ research explains. While studies by restrictionist groups like the Center for Immigration Studies have suggested immigration reform would harm the economy, they fail to account for the fact that 11 million undocumented workers are already in the United States, which is why even Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform has rejected this conclusion.