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WASHINGTON – Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., today stood up for blue collar workers in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on a Senate plan to change the nation’s policies on immigration – “amnesty” according to critics – by warning “existing workers’… wages have been pulled down” by mass immigration and that as a consequence “wages have not kept up with inflation.”
Sessions’s claims are backed up by a Center for Immigration Studies report from 2013 that shows that “illegal immigration reduces the wage of native workers by an estimated $99 billion to $118 billion a year, and generates a gain for businesses and other users of immigrants of $107 to $128 billion.”
The committee hearing today discussed the impact of how the bill will affect agriculture and industry.
The bill has been crafted by the Gang of Eight Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Dick Durbin, D-Mich.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
Session said that “immigration policy should be established based on the national interests of the United States” rather than targeting specific groups for abstract philosophical ideas.
This bill, he said, “will have an effect in reducing the salary of lawful workers.”
At the beginning of the hearing, Sen. Patrick Leahy, I-Vt., made reference to the Boston bombings by saying “let no man use the heinous attack to derail the dreams…of these young people.”
But tension flared soon when Schumer criticized immigration skeptics for “exploiting” the terrorist attacks in Boston for political gain, drawing rebukes from both Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sessions.
According to the Senate plan, “agricultural workers will be treated differently than the rest of the undocumented population” and they will be placed on a different path to legalization.
Arturo Rodriguez, president of United Farm Workers out of Keene, Calif., estimated that 800,000 to 1.1 million illegal alien agriculture workers will be legalized as a result of the immigration reform plan.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. said in a recent press release on the new guest worker visas for farm workers that the new plan will “establish a new Blue Card program to provide legal status and a pathway to citizenship for current undocumented farm workers inside the country so they can continue the vital work of growing and harvesting food.”
Feinstein says that she and other Democrats “want to create two new Agricultural Visa programs (one will be at-will and portable, the other a contract program to replace the current H2A program) to ensure farmers have a legal way to hire future workers when local workers cannot be found.”
For many lawmakers, the desire to expedite the amnesty process for farm workers comes as a result of what some are calling a “labor shortage.”
During the hearing, Feinstein unveiled a report her office compiled on “America’s Agricultural Crisis and the Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2013” which details cases from all 50 states on farmers suffering from labor shortages.
Despite the claims made by the Gang of Eight and the bill’s supporters that there is a “shortage” of farm labor available, a Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform report on the effects of illegal immigration on agribusiness shows that this claim is false. It states, “Because the agricultural industry enjoys unlimited access to legal H2A guest workers, they would have no difficulty finding legal workers to replace illegal aliens.”
Additionally, a Center for Immigration Studies report showed that farm worker wages rose only .5 percent on average between 2000-2006, which means “if there were a shortage, wages would be rising much more rapidly.”
The hearing received sharp criticism from FAIR President Dan Stein who said it was “stacked” with pro-amnesty supporters. Stein claimed, “The Judiciary Committee hearing is just the latest example of the determination of the Senate leadership to rush a massive illegal alien amnesty bill through the legislative process at all costs.”
“Senators and witnesses have had just five days to read and analyze a complex 844-page bill,” he said, and the witness list demonstrates the Judiciary Committee’s “intent to stifle criticism of the plan laid out by the Gang of Eight.”
Earlier, Iowa Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told WND the only thing guaranteed in the bill is a reward for those who came here illegally.
"The big comprehensive amnesty plan is a disaster and a big mistake," King said. "What are we trying to fix here, and why? We have an executive branch problem, not a legislative branch problem. The president of the United States has refused to enforce immigration law with which he disagrees. So he's seeking to write his own by executive edict."
King said Obama's approach to border enforcement has been infuriating, but the likelihood of Republicans getting behind this legislation leaves him baffled.
"Now I'm hearing Republicans say, 'Well, if we're ever going to have enforcement of the border, we have to make this agreement with the president and the Democrats or we're never going to have border security,'" he said. "When I read this bill, I wonder: What's the point in having border security if you're going to legalize anybody that can come into America that is here and send an invitation to those that have been deported to apply to come back in?"