This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to discuss the “comprehensive immigration reform” bill. As a result of the ongoing events in Boston, Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, did not attend. Nothing particularly surprising was said. Senator Sessions (R., Ala.) asked whether expanding the flow of immigrants was a good idea when so many young people cannot get a job, and warned against the “social danger” of exacerbating already high unemployment. Expanding the labor supply while 90 million people are out of work, Sessions said, would be “madness” — and a victory for “big agriculture.” Witness Peter Kirsanow agreed, suggesting that the bill would t”throw low-skilled Americans under the bus.” We talk about “benefitting the economy,” Kirsanow observed, as if “low-income Americans” aren’t part of it. Senator Flake asked Douglas Holtz-Eakin about welfare. Holtz-Eakin assured him that second generation immigrants get “more college degrees” and have “higher workforce participation” than the general population. Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah), meanwhile, was concerned about the scale of the bill: ”Good policy rarely comes from massive bills,” he warned; this legislation “deserves more than a couple of hastily scheduled hearings” and would be better achieved via a “sensible, incremental approach.” Lee also worried that the approach was to treat 11 million people as “a monolithic group.”
Senator Franken disagreed. “You need a comprehensive approach,” he argued, before complaining about the unsuitability of “seasonal workers” for the farms of Minnesota. Senator Graham highlighted the dire straits in which the safety net finds itself. By 2043, Graham claimed, Medicare and Social will be extremely expensive — currently, they are “going in the wrong direction” – and there will not be the workers to support the retirees. In the absence of a baby boom, America will need immigration. Graham said that he shared Senator Sessions’s worries about “displacement” but that “you’re not going to find an American worker” for every job. Senators Franken and Hirono brought up “LGBT rights,” advocating for “committed gay couples” to be given the same immigration benefits as married couples are under the existing system. Early on, Senator Schumer warned against conflating the discussion of legal immigration and the news from Boston this morning.
Once again, I was stuck by the deliberate and widespread conflation of high-skilled immigration with blanket amnesty. It appears that we should normalize 11 million people who crossed the border illegally because “inventors create jobs.”