Alabama’s Senator Jeff Sessions, who has been among the most vocal critics of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill put together by the Senate’s Gang of Eight (which Sessions sardonically refers to as the “the magnificent Eight”) addressed attendees at the 2013 Young Republican Convention this evening, telling them that he wanted to share his ideas for “what the Republican party needs.” Speaking in an aircraft hanger adjacent to the decommissioned USS Alabama, Sessions drew a clear and damning line between the increased importation of low-skilled workers that the Senate bill would effect, and stagnating wages and high unemployment for current Americans. “The media and corporations have decided what we should do,” he said. “In the course of this debate, we’ve heard from voices that to survive Republicans must forget the idea of lawfulness.” But, he countered, that ”sure doesn’t sound like a policy a smart party would advocate…No political party has as its aim to lower wages.”
This was a key theme of his speech. For Sessions, the question is not how the House should modify the Senate’s bill but with how much force it should kill it. Although open to moderate changes to the status quo – starting with a genuinely secure border – the senator rejected outright the claim that Republicans must acquiesce to the Senate’s desired reform package in order to stay electorally viable. On the contrary, Sessions argued, Republicans should fight for the working class that the Democrats have abandoned. That is the way back to power. Sessions recently told NR that:
If Republicans do the right thing, they will not only turn the immigration debate on its head but will begin the essential drive to regain the trust of working Americans.
Those Americans, Sessions argued, have seen their wages drop constantly since 1999. 4.3 million more of them are out of work, and 20 million more are on food stamps. And, “if you seek to improve the lives of lower wage Americans,” Sessions suggested, “you’re looking at Hispanics and African-Americans.” And “someone needs to start listening and responding to the middle class.”
How can we vote for a bill, he asked, “that our CBO says will reduce average wages in America for twelve years, and reduce GNP growth — on a per capita basis — over 25 years?” Instead, “we must craft an immigration policy that serves the people of the United States,” not “the special interests.” The White House has built an entire campaign around the idea that they care more, Sessions noted, before asking how this bill could be squared with that idea of “compassion.” In response, the senator proposed that the Republican platform should include a line promising that, “We will promote an immigration policy that serves the American worker and the American taxpayer.”
Millions of people “including immigrants” are “rightly worried” about the status quo, he concluded. “We need wages to go up” so that “benefits can go away.” The influx of cheap labor will make that impossible, and also prevent the GOP from convincing low-income Americans that it cares about them, rather than “Wall Street.” In making his case, Sessions cited NR’s Rich Lowry, Thomas Sowell, Peter Kirsanow, and Victor Davis Hanson.
So, what sort of bill does Sessions want? “We are a nation of immigrants,” he accepted. We need a system that is “good, compassionate, lawful and serves our national interest…We need an immigration policy that serves our workers, and the rule of law.” This will require “discussion with [the Republican] coalition,” Sessions conceded, dryly.