A CEO promoting cheap labor in the Wall Street Journal is hardly newsworthy. But like Sherlock Holmes’s dog that didn’t bark, the interesting part of Puzder’s argument is what he didn’t say. Despite stressing the importance of winning the 2016 election, Puzder made no mention of the Hispanic vote, nor did he drone on about “labor shortages” and the need for immigrant entrepreneurs.
Instead, he argued for a set of shared principles that all conservatives could agree on, made no explicit reference to legal immigration increases, and even called for ending chain migration.
Unfortunately, a closer look reveals his specific proposals are all either identical to the positions of President Obama and the Gang of 8 or in direct contrast to his supposed conservative principles.
What are the common sense principles Puzder says we can all agree on?
Puzder has the same problem. He says he wants “security,” but doesn’t give any details or specific proposals about what that means.
Puzder uses the same trick. He argues that there should be “a universal verification system so employers can be sure they are hiring employees legally.” But there already is “a universal verification system” called E-Verify. The problem is that too many employers—including Puzder’s own corporation—do not use it. Moreover, some of Puzder’s largest franchise owners openly admit to hiring illegal aliens [Arizona’s Illegal Immigration Laws Put to the Test, PBS News Hour, June 11, 2008]. That’s why E-Verify should be mandatory—which, as you might expect, Puzder did not advocate.
After these three empty “principles,” which most immigration patriots would support in theory, Puzder gets to the real point of his op-ed: praising legal immigration and Amnesty.
Puzder states: “Legal immigration should focus more on what workers can contribute to the economy, as is the case in most other nations, and less on distant familial relationships.” Most immigration patriots would indeed agree that eliminating chain migration is a good thing. But Puzder slyly implies low skilled immigration would help the economy.
Most immigrants manage to find jobs. In fact, as Puzder noted in a previous column, in the “past decade [immigrants] have accounted for more than half the increase in the size of our labor force,” which he apparently saw as a good thing [How to renew the American dream, by Andrew Puzder, Politico, January 24, 2013].
But when you allow peasants from Central America to bring in their children, siblings, and parents and simultaneously flood the labor market, most of these immigrants who work will end up in low-wage occupations—like, for example, working at Hardees. For that matter, you’ll force many lower class Americans into the same position.
Thus while the principles of getting rid of chain migration and of immigration serving the national interest sound great, in practice Puzder is promoting the same old increase in low skilled immigration.
And not surprisingly, this is the very policy that best serves the interests of his corporation.
Puzder argues: “Whether candidates support requiring people who are here illegally to return to their home countries to become citizens, or whether they propose allowing immigrants to remain in the U.S. and go through an arduous naturalization process, the privilege of citizenship is something worth protecting.”
However, if the obvious alternative— that illegal immigrants should never become citizens—is not even to be considered, then citizenship becomes a right, not a privilege—and manifestly a right of limited value that is easily obtained.
Furthermore, Puzder’s proposed combination of a slap on the wrist, Amnesty, permission to work and access to welfare benefits is hardly part of “an arduous naturalization process.” And, again, Puzder’s recommendation is all but identical to President Obama’s. After all, President Obama said his Amnesty would “hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks” [Fact Sheet: Fixing our Broken Immigration System so Everyone Plays by the Rules, The White House, January 29, 2013].
Still, while I expect this type of wordplay from politicians, businessmen are usually more frank about their blind greed and contempt for American workers and Republican voters. Yet, despite the increased power of GOP mega-donors, more and more Republican politicians like Scott Walker and Rick Santorum are calling for pro-worker immigration policies.
Immigration patriots should be heartened that cheap labor profiteers, despite their billions of dollars, now have to obfuscate their agenda in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.
All we have to do now is get people to live up to their own rhetoric, which, unfortunately, is easier said than done.
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway