Sixteen House members sent a letter to President Barack Obama late Wednesday afternoon urging him to drop his renewed request for immigration reform because of its detrimental effect to the U.S. economy.
The letter, led by Rep. Mo Brooks (R., Ala.), lays out the case against the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill that passed last year, contending the legislation would hurt American wages and increase unemployment.
“We write to you today on behalf of the 21 million Americans who can’t find a full-time job,” the letter begins. “We write to you on behalf of the 6 million young Americans who are neither working nor in school. We write on behalf of the countless American workers whose wages today are lower than they were more than a decade ago. We write on behalf of the 90 million Americans over 16—including early retirees, college grads living at home, and those living on welfare—who are not part of our nation’s workforce.”
“That is why we reject your call for the House to get an immigration bill to your desk that would permanently displace American workers,” the lawmakers write.
The letter points out that the Senate legislation would double the number of guest workers and add over 30 million immigrants over the next decade, the majority of which would be lower skilled, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
“Rapidly expanding unskilled immigration—at [sic] time when factory work and blue-collar jobs are disappearing—would represent the final economic blow for millions of workers who have been struggling to gain an economic foothold,” the letter said.
Obama began the New Year by again pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. However, he said his “first order of business” is extending unemployment benefits, which he said on Tuesday is “vital” for the millions of Americans still out of work.
The House members said the current jobs environment is the worst time to add additional workers to the economy with an unemployment rate still at 7.0 percent.
“Despite this jobs crisis for American workers,” the lawmakers wrote, “the White House continues to advocate that CEOs and business executives seek lower cost labor. The White House has entertained a parade of high-powered business executives to discuss immigration policy, all while shutting out the concerns of everyday wage-earners who overwhelmingly oppose these measures.”
The letter represents a growing number of House Republicans opposing immigration reform because of its effect to the economy. Experts contend the number of temporary workers would increase by 1.6 million in the first year alone.
The lawmakers plea to Obama also comes as President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Thomas Donohue, a supporter of the Senate bill, said he believes immigration reform will pass based on what he is hearing from the House of Representatives.
“So-called Comprehensive Immigration Reform may be a good deal for big businesses who want to reduce labor costs, and it may be a good deal for progressive labor unions seeking new workers from abroad, but it’s an awful deal for US workers—including African-American and Hispanic communities enduring chronically high unemployment,” the lawmakers said.
“Job number one for Congress should be to reduce the unemployment rolls, get families and communities out of poverty and government dependency, rebuild our deteriorating communities and collapsing middle class, and increase wages for American citizens,” they added.
“Your immigration proposals do the exact opposite on every count.”
Republican members also signing the letter included: Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Lou Barletta (Pa.), Kerry Bentivolio (Mich.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Jeff Duncan (S.C.), John Fleming (La.), Phil Gingrey (Ga.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Steve King (Iowa), Steve Palazzo (Miss.), Mike Rogers (Mich.), Lamar Smith (Texas), Steve Stockman (Texas), Joe Wilson (S.C.), and Theodore Yoho (Fla.).