Establishment Republicans have received an unexpected setback in the last few days that might help to shift the internal party debate in favor of conservatives on the hot topic of immigration reform. This setback is the decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers has the standing to challenge the Obama administration’s extensions of high-end guest-worker programs on behalf of displaced American workers.
An early report is here (hat-tip to Conn Carroll for his tweet).
Legally speaking, this is the first step of a long battle. The Obama administration, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the corporate wing of the GOP are likely to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court if need be. Politically, however, it focuses the attention of rank-and-file Republicans and Democrats on the impact of high immigration levels on the jobs and incomes of American workers; on the fact that this impact is spreading from unskilled blue-collar workers up the occupational ladder to high-skilled middle-income ones; and on proposals to double the number of new legal immigrants competing with Americans in the labor market as well as to amnesty those illegal immigrants already here.
Corporate America’s usual excuse — that it is importing workers to do the jobs that Americans won’t do — is completely unpersuasive in the case of technology jobs. Americans work hard and long to acquire such skills in order to give their families a better life. Importing technology guest-workers when there is no shortage of local ones amounts to depriving the American worker of economic opportunity and then offloading the social costs of doing so onto the American taxpayer locally and nationally.
Both workers and taxpayers, however, are also constituents. And votes are the currency of politics even more than currency.
So the prospect of a high-profile lawsuit pitting unemployed STEM graduates against Silicon Valley strengthens the already strong political case advanced by Alabama senator Jeff Sessions that the GOP’s best electoral prospect lies in winning over blue-collar workers (black, white, and Hispanic, incidentally) who have been alienated by the Democrats’ embrace of an open-borders immigration policy.
This movement GOPwards has already started spontaneously, but it has been slowed down by the apparent determination of the Republican establishment to prefer the interests of corporate donors to those of potential voters in the debate over immigration. It will become harder to sustain this determination the clearer it becomes that it is losing more and more votes by losing more and more American jobs.
A court case would clarify that argument far more effectively than any economics op-ed. It would introduce the GOP to the voters who might provide the party with a winning margin for decades to come.