In Today's Economy, Does The U.S. Need 138,000 New Foreign Workers Each Month?
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It is beyond comprehension that in the wake of 1.5 million Americans losing their jobs last year, there still is talk in Congress about bringing in even more foreign workers to compete in a rapidly shrinking job market.

Calling it a major offensive aimed at educating the media and members of Congress, NumbersUSA founder and CEO Roy Beck Jan. 7 sent a letter to President-elect Barack Obama urging him to remember his campaign commitment to protecting American workers. Among Beck's proposals to help the new president deal with the problem is the suspension of most legal immigration and nationwide mandatory use of the E-Verify workplace verification program.

In his letter to Obama, Beck asks where is the logic during our economic free-fall of issuing around 138,000 new work permits and green cards to foreign workers each month:

The Honorable Barack Obama President-elect of the United States 1800 F Street NW Washington, DC 20405

7 JAN 09

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Congratulations on your historic victory. NumbersUSA — a non-profit, non-partisan group with more than 850,000 active members — is focused on America’s economic troubles that continue to grow. I am writing to urge you to make American workers and already-resident legal immigrant workers your first priority when you take office on January 20th.

With the federal government reporting continuing giant losses of jobs, it is time to slow the massive importation of workers.

Non-farm employers in the U.S. eliminated 533,000 jobs in November alone. At the same time, in a typical month the Department of Homeland Security issues 138,000 new work permits and green cards (not including replacement or renewal documents) to foreign workers.

How can it make any sense for the American people's own government to be approving more competitors for a dwindling number of jobs? Month after month as hundreds of thousands of Americans lose their jobs, the feds keep pumping another 138,000 new foreign workers into the labor force.

The monthly 138,000 figure is so big you may doubt its credibility. But it comes directly from the Department of Homeland Security. Its most-recent-year data show that the U.S. granted:

” 744,531 permanent green cards to working-age adults ages 20-64, and ” 912,735 new employment authorization documents to temporary foreign workers.

That adds up to an annual rate of 1,657,266 new foreign workers (not counting illegal workers) added to our economy. There are no indications that the pace has slackened. If this pace continues, DHS will issue an average of 138,000 new work permits and green cards to working-age adults each month this year.

You have stated your priority as an economic agenda which begins with the laudable goal of creating and protecting good jobs for American workers. The stimulus package you propose would cost $700 billion to $1 trillion to meet your goal of 3 million jobs in the next two years. Any job creation is welcome relief to working families as more and more join the ranks of the unemployed each month.

These families are unlikely to feel the impact of your job-creation plan, however, because of our current immigration and visa policies. Consider the simple math: During the two years in which you intend to create/protect 3 million jobs, our immigration system is poised to bring in more than 3 million additional foreign workers. This means that the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars spent on new jobs won’t even create enough jobs to keep pace with the labor we will be importing from abroad into our besieged economy.

Our immigration system, predicated on the false assumption that there are jobs Americans won’t do at every level of the skill ladder, is illogical in even the best of economic times. But when the current labor force is already suffering in an economy hemorrhaging jobs, the folly of importing job seekers to compete for jobs that are becoming scarcer becomes crystal clear.

You can help the same number of unemployed American workers as proposed in your stimulus plan without spending even 1% of its projected total by suspending most labor importation and by enforcing laws that will open up the seven million jobs the Pew Hispanic Center says are now held by illegal foreign workers. Or you can double the effectiveness of your job-creation proposal at less than 1% of additional cost by changing our labor importation policies and enforcing immigration laws.

In the process, our humanitarian immigration should continue. We probably should expand and accelerate nuclear-family programs for spouses and minor children. And we should continue to take our fair share of the world’s special-needs refugees. We should also admit the few thousand foreign workers of truly world-class skills to fill highly specialized jobs for which no American is available. But most of the rest of immigration should be suspended.

A Time-Out on Chain Migration and the Visa Lottery

Chain migration is the primary mechanism that has caused legal immigration in this country to quadruple from historical levels of approximately 250,000 per year to one million a year since 1990. Chain migration results from a system that prioritizes non-nuclear family members and eventually leads to the immigration of cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws, nieces and nephews of the original immigrant. Since virtually all immigrants need to work to support themselves and their families, regardless of the category under which they were admitted, chain migration creates a nearly endless stream of job seekers that puts downward pressure on wages and directly hurts the economic well being of the working poor.

The irrational visa lottery has the same effect. Rather than awarding visas based on job skills, education, refugee status or family connections, the visa lottery awards 50,000 visas through a random drawing. According to testimony of the State Department’s Inspector General during the 109th Congress, the visa lottery ”contains significant risks to national security from hostile intelligence officers, criminals, and terrorists attempting to use the program for entry into the United States as permanent residents.” The lottery also fails in its goal of diversifying the immigrant flow, since more than half of all lottery visas are issued to Europeans.

Expansion of E-Verify

Reducing the legal importation of foreign workers is only part of the solution. The E-Verify program needs to be fully funded and mandatory for all public and private employers. As you stated during your term in the Senate and on your campaign website, employers must have a fast and reliable means of verifying that their workers are here legally, and they must be held accountable when they employ illegal aliens. When jobs are as scarce as they are today, it is even more critical that U.S. jobs are available only to citizens and other legal workers. E-Verify accomplishes this. It enables employers to verify quickly, easily and reliably the work authorization of all new hires.

The SAVE Act, introduced by Democrats in the House and the Senate in the 110th Congress, would require all employers to check the immigration status of their employees, ensuring that workers who have played by the rules won’t be pushed out of jobs by employers who exploit illegal workers.

Fulfilling Barbara Jordan’s Vision

Civil rights champion Barbara Jordan and her bi-partisan national commission a decade ago recommended eliminating both the visa lottery and chain migration, as well as implementing mandatory workplace verification. These recommendations were part of her vision of economic justice for vulnerable Americans who are unemployed or who work for very low wages. Her prescription for the economy is all the more relevant now around one and a half million Americans have lost their jobs in 2008.

Barbara Jordan’s recommendations are a sensible, cost-effective way to serve the legal immigrants and U.S.-born workers in this country who are already struggling to support themselves and their families in a tough economy. Our hope is that with your assumption of office, we will finally have a President who will bring about the change that our most vulnerable populations so desperately need and deserve. Please know that we at NumbersUSA stand ready to work with you and your Administration in bringing about a more just immigration policy.


Roy Beck Founder & CEO NumbersUSA Education & Research Foundation

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