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GOP Senator Dismisses Push For Immigration Reform As ‘Ethnic Politics’

By Sy Mukherjee on June 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm

"GOP Senator Dismisses Push For Immigration Reform As ‘Ethnic Politics’"

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(Credit: AP Images)

During an appearance on CBS’s Face The Nation on Sunday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) dismissed the comprehensive immigration reform bill making its way through the U.S. Senate as “ethnic politics.”

Sessions’ comments came after host Bob Schieffer asked what effect GOP opposition to the legislation would have on the party’s relationship with Hispanics. After claiming that the Senate reform bill would be harmful to American workers, including Hispanics, Sessions asserted the need to “move away from ethnic politics:”

SESSIONS: Bob, Hispanics are here today by the millions. They’re working in the $20,000-$40,000 income level. Their wages will be impacted adversely. Their ability to get a job and retirement benefits and health care benefits. Somebody needs to speak up for them. And I really believe that the numbers in the bill, the lack of enforcement effectiveness in the bill, puts us in a position where it will impact all Americans that are out there working today adversely, and the C.B.O. has said, that the Federal Reserve in Atlanta has said that. Harvard economists have said that. There’s little doubt about that. And so I think we appeal to — we move away from ethnic politics and we try to appeal to all people based on what’s best for America and for them.

Sessions’s argument that reform would be bad for the economy doesn’t hold water. In March, the Hamilton Project examined available evidence on immigration and workers’ wages and found that “immigrants create average wage increases of between 0.1 percent and 0.6 percent for American workers.” Providing legal status and citizenship within 5 years would add an estimated $1.1 trillion to the cumulative U.S. GDP over a decade, and an average increase of 159,000 new jobs per year. Having undocumented immigrants pay into the tax system would also strengthen health care entitlements for all Americans by extending those programs’ solvency.

Furthermore, Sessions’ claim that reforming America’s immigration system is “ethnic politics” doesn’t add up, considering the broad-based support for immigration reform across the racial spectrum. Multiple polls have shown that an overwhelming majority of all Americans supports immigration reform — including the specific legislation being considered by the Senate.

Comprehensive immigration reform isn’t a racial or ethnic issue to Hispanics, either. Hispanics’ support for reform is more likely rooted in the cruel reality that current U.S. immigration policy tears apart families of mixed immigration status, leading to dire consequences for their children’s mental and physical health, as well as their performance in school. On Father’s Day this year, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) pointed out that America’s broken immigration system has left 56,000 children without mothers or fathers in the last six years — and that’s in Illinois alone.

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