As this blog has noted, the main issue holding up a comprehensive immigration reform bill is not legalizing immigrants or border security, but whether it will include a guest worker program. The Chamber of Commerce wants it, the AFL-CIO doesn’t and without both of them on board a deal could fall apart.
In a press release issued this afternoon, Sen. Jeff Session, R-Ala., came out on the side of Big Labor and attacked the idea of a guest worker program. He said:
The last time Congress considered a comprehensive immigration bill, unemployment was 5 percent. Today, it’s nearly 8 percent. 40 percent of those unemployed have been out of work for six months or longer. The labor force participation rate is at a thirty-year low. The unemployment rate for teenagers is 25.1 percent. Wages are stagnant. Never before have more Americans been on food stamps and other forms of welfare. Yet all we hear from those interests pushing for a comprehensive immigration bill is that we have a labor shortage and need to import more low-skill workers. An expanded guest worker program will not benefit unemployed American and legal workers. We should be trying to help unemployed Americans find good jobs, not importing cheap labor to take these jobs. …
Every American worker, union and non-union, is right to be concerned about a large guest worker program combined with a large amnesty of illegal workers. There is no doubt that such a plan will reduce Americans’ wages and job prospects.
Sessions, incidentally is not known as much of a union booster. Alabama has a unionization rate of 9.2 percent, below the national average of 11.3 percent. Only 5.7 percent of the state’s private sector workforce is unionized.
He is, however, a staunch critic of immigration. So it is perhaps best to view his comments in that light.