MIAMI, Florida — A former cabinet secretary under President George W. Bush took apart a main talking point that conservatives have used to oppose immigration reform.
Speaking at the Hispanic Leadership Network conference, former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez addressed the notion, oft-repeated on the right, that immigrants “take jobs away from Americans.” That idea “is so dangerous because it is so wrong,” said Gutierrez. He pointed to two examples of immigrants he knew, one farmer and one restaurant owner, who were already thriving. If they can find more workers, they could expand, giving “more American citizens jobs,” Gutierrez noted.
GUTIERREZ: The idea that, some people are saying these days that immigrants are coming to take jobs away from Americans, is so dangerous because it is so wrong. For the government to start making policies on the basis of that assumption is something that can really impact this economy in a negative way. Let me give you two examples. […] A pumpkin farmer, tremendous family business, he would say, “look, if I had more workers, I would grow. I would extend my field, I would open up more distribution centers, and I would give more American citizens jobs.” Another gentleman has three restaurants. A new business, small business. He said, “if I had enough workers, I would have eight restaurants.” Like a microcosm of the economy. That is what’s happening everywhere, so you multiply that by hundreds of thousands of businesses that could grow if we had a legal immigration system that works.
If anyone knows about the intersection of immigration and business, it’s Gutierrez. He emigrated to the United States from Cuba when he was a child and went on to enjoy a long and successful business career at Kellogg’s. In addition to serving under President Bush, Gutierrez serves on the board of the Hispanic Leadership Network, a right-wing organization designed to sell Latinos on conservatism.
His assertion that immigration boosts the economy and jobs is backed up by a wealth of research. Immigration reform could boost the nation’s gross domestic product by $1.5 trillion over the next decade and produce an addition 750,000 to 900,000 jobs. In addition, immigration reform could boost workers’ wages by anywhere from 0.4 to 0.6 percent.
Though Democrats have long combated the ridiculous notion that there are a finite number of jobs in the United States — the idea that one more job taken by an immigrant means one less job for an American citizen — Gutierrez and other voices on the right are beginning to speak truth to the right as well.