"If Obama follows his own instincts and past words of support for turning off the jobs magnet for illegal immigration, he potentially will open up millions of jobs for millions of unemployed Americans.
“This would be the cheapest, fastest job-creation program he has any chance of achieving.
“Or he can choose to favor illegal foreign workers and turn his back on unemployed Americans.”
Friday, November 14, 2008
Anti-Immigration Groups React to Obama Victory -- Part Three
Roy Beck, the executive director of NumbersUSA, is on a roll, and the Obama victory provides momentum for one of his central messages about immigration, namely that large number of legal and illegal immigrants undermine the welfare of U.S. workers.
Author of the 1996 book, Case Against Immigration, Beck has catapulted his argument that that high immigration flows negatively impact citizen workers and the environment into an increasingly high-profile stature for NumbersUSA, an anti-immigration institute organization he founded in 1997.
Beck’s case against immigration has also led him to become a leading adocate of the “Attrition Through Enforcement’ policy supported by the two overwhelmingly Republican congressional caucuses closely tied to NumbersUSA – Immigration Reform Caucus (House) and Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus (Senate) – and implemented by the Department of Homeland Security under Secretary Michael Chertoff.
The day after the election of Barack Obama, Beck told NumbersUSA members and activists (800,000 claimed) that “I feel mildly optimistic at this moment about the next Presidency.” That’s because, said Beck, that Obama “must choose between two contradictory campaign promises.”
He calls for a “small army of committed citizens” to force the news media and politicians to look at the contradiction between 1) Obama’s “barely whispered perfunctory campaign pledges to offer U.S. citizenship to an estimated 7 million illegal foreign workers, plus their 5-13 million relatives”, and 2) his “loudest shouted priority to put Americans back to work.”
NumbersUSA isn’t waiting until January 20 to mobilize its army of anti-immigration activists to pressure Obama to stand down on his promise for liberal immigration reform and stand up to his promise to support workers. A petition to Obama organized by Beck asserts that a “legalization program would permanently remove 7 million jobs from being available for American workers.”
Economic downturns traditional ramp up anti-immigration sentiment, and NumbersUSA is already jumping on the purported immigrant-joblesses connection. According to Beck, "Every illegal foreign worker given amnesty permanently ties up a U.S. job that an unemployed U.S.-born worker or longtime legal immigrant is seeking in these hard times.”
Rather than pressuring Obama from the right on such issues as immigrant crime and the cost of social services for immigrants, NumbersUSA, along with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, has concluded that there is new opportunity in making the case for restrictionism from the political left by playing on the plight of U.S. workers.
In Beck’s view, “Whatever the Obama campaign may have said about immigration before the stock market crash, his priorities have clearly changed and immigration policy will have to serve his top priority of getting American workers back into jobs that offer decent wages and benefits, especially health insurance.”
But a left-centered argument against legalization is not the only tactic that NumbersUSA will wield in the coming debate. NumbersUSA and other restrictionists also intend to pressure the Obama administration and the new Congress to continue with an "enforcement-only" policy. And Beck believes that they are on firm ground since Obama and other Democrats have stressed their support for secure borders and employment verification.
During the electoral campaign, Beck said NumbersUSA regarded the positions of the two presidential candidates as being from “bad” to “abysmal.” Now, however, the restrictionists say in Obama's campaign promises there much to work with as they seek to advance the enforcement-only agenda of “Attrition Through Enforcement.”
Beck, for example, points to the immigration platform on Obama’s campaign website, which states: "To remove incentives to enter the country illegally, we need to crack down on employers that hire undocumented immigrants."
Moreover, Obama’s website also supports employee verification, which if effected, would force millions of undocument immigrants to leave their jobs. As the campaign website boasts, Obama cosponsored a bipartisan amendment to ensure that "employers can verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S."
Obama signed a Dear Colleague letter to other senators that said he "strongly support[s] creating an effective, mandatory employment verification system for all employers to verify the legal status of their workers."
A one, two, three action restrictionist agenda, according to NumbersUSA, should be: 1) support the authorization of the E-Verify program, 2) support the SAVE Act which provides for a phased-in verification system, and 3) continue the Bush administration’s executive order that requires federal contractors to use the E-Verify system.
The choice, says Beck, is Obama’s:
In contrast to the sharply focused jobs-and-economy argument that is being aggressively promoted by NumbersUSA and other restrictionist groups, the pro-immigration camp has yet to emerge from its pre-election focus on getting out the Latino and immigrant vote. All but ignoring the jobs issue, the pro-immigration groups, including National Immigration Forum, America’s Voice, and National Council of La Raza, are emphasizing the importance of Latino and immigrant votes to Obama’s success and to the future of the Democratic Party.
This highly partisan strategy did work as an electoral strategy to register new voters and to get out the vote of what they call the “New Americans.” It did increase the numbers for Democrats in the general election, but that aggregate number of Democratic voters – some 6.5 million – is only a small part of the larger electorate.
What’s missing is a post-election strategy that goes beyond ethnicity and immigration status to appeal not just to Latinos and immigrants but to all Americans, especially those concerned about the future of their jobs.