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Senator Jeff Sessions Misses the Point on Immigration Reform

By Jordan Cozby

Last Thursday, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions took to the Senate floor, urging Congress to ignore the “special interests” on the current Immigration Reform effort. Sessions advised his colleagues not to support Immigration Reform and to disregard the letters they’ve recently received from top GOP donors and business leaders.

However, it’s not just wealthy Republicans and business owners who support this immigration bill. Poll after poll shows that a majority of Americans, from across the political spectrum, favor a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants*. Senator Sessions is ignoring the one special interest group he should be listening to – The American People.

Sessions made clear his issue with the letter from Karl Rove and Republican donors when he said, “There is a phrase in the letter which has gotten too little attention, and which explains what this really all about. Rove and the donors say that legislation must ‘provide a legal way for U.S.-based companies to hire the workers they need.’ That cannot be the goal of immigration policy.” Sessions then argued that the current immigration proposal will cause American’s wages to fall, as he says, “The focus is reducing the cost of labor.”

There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants (twice the population of the State of Alabama) already in this country. This isn’t an argument about whether we let them work these jobs – they are already working them.  Mr. Sessions doesn’t realize that if companies can’t legally find the workers they need, they will be forced to either hire illegally, or outsource those jobs completely.

His concern is that this bill will also increase legal immigration, and cost American jobs. However, as shown by the Partnership for a New American Economy, immigrants started 28 percent of all new businesses in 2011. Additionally, more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or a child of immigrants, for a combined world-wide revenue of $4.2 trillion annually. Immigrants don’t just come to this country and take jobs, they create them.

Sessions claimed that current Immigration Reform will reduce wages and harm American labor. If this were the case, why would labor union groups like the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU and NEA all be endorsing the bill? It’s a rare occasion when labor groups and business leaders agree on something.

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Senator Sessions said the immigration bill would create a permanent under-class of foreign workers. However, current policy already keeps millions of undocumented foreign workers trapped in the shadows and working for low wages. If these workers could earn legal status and a path to citizenship, they could emerge from the shadows and work their way up from the under-class to the middle-class. It is in fact without Immigration Reform that these workers will remain a permanent under-class. If Sessions were really concerned about the plight of the foreign worker, he would pass Immigration Reform and let these people have their shot at the American Dream.

Sessions attacked the business leaders by saying, “They’re not concerned with how the plan impacts workers, the immigrants themselves, public resources, the education system, or taxpayer dollars.” On all of these counts, Sessions misses the point:
American workers do support the Immigration Reform. As stated earlier, nearly every major union is endorsing the “Gang of 8” Immigration Bill.

Does Sessions really think that the immigrants themselves don’t want this reform? If he was really concerned about them he would support the Immigration Bill.

To Sessions’ worries about education, the President of the National Education Association, Dennis Van Roekel, has said, “The time is now to move commonsense immigration reform forward and the bipartisan legislation offered by the Senate ‘Gang of Eight’ is a step in the right direction.”

As for Senator Sessions’ concern about public resources and taxpayer dollars, studies show Immigration Reform would help fund our government and grow our economy. The independent Congressional Budget Office has reported that the Senate Immigration Reform bill would grow American GDP by 3.3% in 2023 and even 5.4% by 2033. Also, the CBO reported that Immigration Reform would trim nearly $1 trillion from our national deficit. If Sessions worried about public resources and tax-payer dollars, why would he be against a proposal that would grow our economy and shrink our deficits?

He can argue about the motives of the business leaders, but the fact is, Sessions’ position is what really shows no concern towards these issues.

Senator Sessions’ reasoning is flawed as he tries to explain why he would oppose a bill that grows our economy and shrinks our deficits, while the majority of Americans are in favor of it.

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Sessions was a fierce opponent of the earlier Immigration Reform efforts in 2006 and 2007. Now he’s again an outspoken critic in 2013. For years now he’s been a naysayer to fixing our broken immigration system, but when has Sessions come up with his own comprehensive plan to solve this critical issue?

Jordan Cozby is a Bob Jones High School sophomore and Chairman of the Alabama High School Democrats. You can follow him on Twitter @Jordancozby or email him at [email protected]

* Polling on Immigration Reform support: thehill.com, americasvoiceonline.org, washingtonpost.com

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