When the worst of the pandemic ends, tens of millions of Americans will be out of work. While the fundamentals of the Trump economy are strong, the rebound will take some time. As the economy comes back to life, we must put Americans, not foreign workers, first.
Americans deserve every opportunity to find good-paying jobs, especially in tough times. I am proposing that the federal government end all employment-based immigration until we recover. We must pause new work-based immigration visas until the economy reaches its pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 3.5 percent.
Our guest worker programs can make sense when there is a real shortage of workers to do temporary work. But the government’s primary duty is to our citizens, not foreign nationals. This crisis is not the time to import more foreigners when millions of Americans are itching to get back to work. Indeed, in a very real sense, there are no available jobs in America. More than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past few weeks.
Work means dignity. Americans find purpose in their jobs, and the value they help create. That purpose drives our communities. That honest income gives them the means to provide for their families and support local businesses, charities, and churches.
Conversely, making it harder for Americans to reenter gainful employment after this pandemic may reduce the likelihood of their ever reentering the workforce, causing them to rely on government assistance. Government assistance is no substitute for the benefits of honest, hard work.
When we bring in foreigners to work, we are really offering them the right to take one of a limited number of jobs in a recovering economy, taking jobs that would otherwise go to unemployed Americans.
As Harvard economics professor George Borjas explains, this hits the working class the hardest: “When the supply of workers goes up, the price that firms have to pay to hire workers goes down… immigrants admitted in the past two decades lacking a high school diploma have increased the size of the low-skilled workforce by roughly 25 percent. As a result, the earnings of this particularly vulnerable group dropped by between $800 and $1,500 each year.”
And this affects high-skilled and middle-income workers too. In recent years, big companies like Disney, AT&T, and Bank of America have abused these employment visa programs to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor. Some of these companies even made their American workers train their foreign replacements as a condition of receiving severance.
Now, while joblessness and pay cuts impact more than 4 in 10 American workers, the special interests haven’t stopped clamoring for more foreign labor. It is morally outrageous and economic insanity.
Every year, the United States gives more than 1.4 million “temporary” visas to foreign workers, and that doesn’t even include the millions of illegal aliens who work off the books. President Trump has done great work to strenuously enforce our laws against illegal immigration, but he needs more support to continue his progress protecting the American worker.
Our small business assistance program has a strong focus on protecting the jobs of Americans. Importing workers from abroad to take the few jobs being created makes no sense whatsoever. We need an immediate end to the importation of more foreign workers. This pandemic may have knocked America on its back, but we will get back up and be stronger than ever. In the meantime, we need to give struggling Americans a fighting chance.
Jeff Sessions was the 84th Attorney General of the United States and previously served as the United States Senator for Alabama.
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