Senate immigration bill would add to unemployment woes

The Register Guard
Senate immigration bill would add to unemployment woes

By David Olen Cross

Published: 12:00 a.m., Oct. 5

Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have joined the Gang of Eight in supporting Senate Bill 744. The bill, termed comprehensive immigration reform by some and amnesty by others, is unconscionable legislation, considering that the seasonally adjusted number of unemployed U.S. citizens stood at 11.5 million in August — 7.3 percent of the civilian labor force.

According the Pew Hispanic Center’s 2011 report, “Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends, 2010,” there are 8 million unauthorized workers in the United States.

With so many American citizens looking for work and 8 million unauthorized workers holding the jobs that many citizens will do, the Senate’s legislation seems oblivious at best to the plight of the unemployed.

Two negative consequences of SB 744 are revealed in a June report by the Congressional Budget Office, which indicates the legislation would cause unemployment to increase through 2020 and average wages to decline through 2025.

A Sept. 20 news release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Regional and State Employment and Unemployment — August,” reveals unemployment rates in the states represented by the Gang of Eight, plus their Oregon sidekicks: Oregon, 8.1 percent; Arizona, 8.3 percent; Colorado, 7 percent; Florida, 7 percent; Illinois, 9.2 percent; New Jersey, 8.5 percent; New York, 7.6 percent; and South Carolina, 8.1 percent. Six of the eight states had unemployment rates higher than the national average.

When Merkley and Wyden returned home from Washington, D.C., this summer, they apparently failed to take a look at the number of unemployed in their state. The Oregon Department of Employment reported 150,259 citizens were unemployed in August; the state ranked 10th, tied with three others, for the percentage of unemployed.

Locally, Lane County’s 13,644 unemployed in August equaled 8 percent of the county’s work force and constituted 9.1 percent of the state’s unemployed.

Twenty-nine of 36 Oregon counties had higher unemployment rates in August than the national average of 7.3 percent, including Lane, Douglas and Coos counties. Twelve of those 29 counties had double-digit unemployment.

Back to the Pew Hispanic Center report, according to which there are an estimated 110,000 unauthorized workers in Oregon. If SB 744 becomes law and those 110,000 unauthorized workers are added to the state’s civilian labor force, the CBO report suggests that the state’s unemployment rate can be expected to increase. That would be a setback for a state still struggling to come out of a severe recession.

The U.S. House of Representatives should take a more incremental approach and first pass stand-alone legislation requiring a federally mandated national employment verification system such as E-Verify, which the federal government currently uses on all its new hires.

With Congress now back in session, Oregon’s 150,259 unemployed U.S. citizens should contact Merkley and Wyden, along with Rep. Peter DeFazio, and tell them that Oregonians never should have to compete for scarce jobs, now or in the future, with persons who are illegally in the country, and furthermore, that a stand-alone federally mandated E-Verify system is the best way to get unemployed people in Oregon and across the country back to full-time work.

David Olen Cross of Salem ( writes on immigration issues and foreign national crime.



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