The Corner

Politics & Policy

Trump’s Labor Department Pick: Put Americans Last

Trump had three cabinet slots to fill that are most important for immigration policy (several others have important, but secondary, roles, such as HHS, which handles refugees once they arrive).

The first pick was Sen. Jeff Sessions, Congress’s leading and most knowledgeable immigration skeptic, as Attorney General. Although INS was removed from the Justice Department when Homeland Security was created, DoJ is still intimately involved in the issue – it houses the immigration courts and will take the lead role in trying to rein in the renegade cities and states that are planning massive resistance to protect their segregation sanctuary laws.

Next, Trump named retired Marine Gen. John Kelly for Homeland Security. This is obviously the lead agency for immigration and Kelly, former head of the Pentagon’s Southern Command, which oversees military activity in Latin America, is a strong advocate for border security. It remains to be seen if he will devote equal focus to the non-security aspects of immigration, such as interior enforcement, visa overstays, green cards and the like. There’s no reason to think he won’t, but it’s still an open question.

Finally, there’s the Labor Department. Labor is central to the process of certifying and importing all the various categories of guestworkers that undermine the bargaining power of American workers – H1-Bs for the tech industry, H-2As for agriculture, H-2Bs for non-ag cheap-labor employers, and more. In addition, prior to the Obama administration, Labor Department inspectors were a force multiplier for immigration regarding worksite enforcement – coordinating with ICE (and before that, INS) on worksite problems the immigration people weren’t aware of.

Trump’s pick for Labor secretary is perhaps the worst person imaginable for that role: Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of fast-food chains Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, and others. He is one of the nation’s most outspoken business voices for Gang of Eight-style immigration policies. He didn’t just sign an open letter once as a favor to a friend; he’s been a high-profile champion of amnesty and huge increases in immigration and guestworkers. This op-ed in Politico, timed to coincide with the launch of the Gang of Eight effort in 2013, could have been written by Jeb Bush. Here he is at AEI in 2013 making the case for importing more low-skilled workers. Here he joins with the Bloomberg-Murdoch Billionaires for Open Borders outfit and Grover Norquist in an effort to “push 2016 presidential candidates and congressional Republican leaders to support immigration reform this year.” There’s plenty more.

Now, Trump has been waffling and contradictory on the worker side of immigration (among other things) all along – I’ve written about it here, here, and here, for instance. Nor is it the case that Trump’s simply a liberal con man – Sessions could be one of the best Attorneys General we’ve ever had, Price and DeVos are solid conservative picks, and there’s every reason to think his Supreme Court nomination will be sound.

But for the most important job that involves protecting American workers, Trump has opted for someone who thinks there are jobs Americans won’t do. Andrew “Gang of Eight” Puzder would have been a better fit for the Jeb Bush administration, though even Jeb might have blushed at the idea of appointing him. Assuming he’s actually nominated and confirmed, the Labor Department will go from being run by a post-American socialist to a post-American capitalist. So much for putting American workers first.

#NeverPuzder.

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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