A bipartisan group of senators — the so-called Gang of 8 — has yet to officially introduce its comprehensive bill to reform the immigration system, but Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is already complaining that the measure would allow immigrants to obtain higher-paying jobs and improve their standard of living.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Sessions warned that the nation’s undocumented immigrants would “be able to immediately apply for much better jobs than they currently have.” “Maybe they were working at a restaurant part time. Now they’re going to be truck drivers, heavy-equipment operators competing at the factories and plants and we’ve got an unemployment rate that’s very high,” he said.
Millions of Americans are still looking for work, but there is little economic evidence to support Sessions’ concerns. Research shows that immigrants and native-born workers have different levels education, occupation, and skill sets, compete in different job markets and are actually more “likely to compete against offshoring than against each other.” Economists argue that legalization leads to better jobs and higher earning power, significantly increasing tax revenue, boosting consumer spending, and supporting 750,000 to 900,000 additional jobs. Studies conducted in the aftermath of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act also concluded that legal status raises the “wage floor” for the economy and increases take-home pay for immigrants and native workers alike.
Sessions’ worries don’t end there, however. The Alabama senator also claimed that the border-security requirement in the proposed bill are “in some ways appears weaker than the one in 2007” — even though border security has improved significantly since the last time Congress tackled immigration reform. The federal government spent $18 billion — more than on every other federal law enforcement agencies combine — to secure the border during the 2012 fiscal year and has now exceeded the goals and targets set out in the failed 2007 immigration legislation. For instance, there are now more border agents deployed at the Southern border and increased consequences for illegal crossings. The proposal offered by Gang of 8 will only build on these achievements. Undocumented immigrants are prohibited from obtaining provisional status until the Secretary of Homeland Security submits a comprehensive border security plan and immigrants will not achieve permanent legal status before the Secretary implements a mandatory employment verification system, deploys an electronic exit system, and officials put in place strategies to enhance security on the southern border. The bill establishes persistent surveillance in high risk sectors of the border — areas where apprehensions are above 30,000 individuals per year — and would ensure that 90 percent of entries at certain high-risk southwestern border areas are apprehended or deterred. The Department of Homeland Security will also have significant additional resources for priorities like border security, more funding for customs agents, border crossings prosecutions, and additional patrol stations.