With seven weeks remaining before the 2022 midterm election, Republicans and Democrats have drawn their battle lines and staked out what each party considers its opponents’ political vulnerabilities.
Last week, the GOP released what it called a “Commitment to America” that included many oft-made, unfulfilled promises to its base. GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., vowed to fund border enforcement, end catch-and-release and mandate E-Verify, the online program that confirms whether a newly hired employee is legally authorized to work in the U.S.
President Biden swiftly rebutted. Speaking to the teachers’ union in Philadelphia, Biden called the “Commitment to America” thin gruel, and chided McCarthy for omitting references to issues that, in his view, voters most care about like a woman’s right to choose, Medicare, Social Security, gun violence and LGBT discrimination.
Enforcing immigration laws may help give Republicans a winning hand — Border Patrol agents have apprehended an estimated 4.9 million illegal immigrants during the 20 months since Biden’s inauguration. The variable in the November election is whether the GOP can unify behind its promises, traditionally a huge problem for Republicans, and press its advantages into a congressional majority against what will be solidly determined, no defectors allowed, Democrats.
Key to the Commitment to America is E-Verify. At first glance, the program should have universal congressional support — no one from either party can intelligently argue that citizens and lawfully present immigrants shouldn’t be protected against illegal immigrant employment. But the donor base wants illegal immigrant employees, cheaper and more subservient. And because the corporate elites are so influential with U.S. representatives and senators, E-Verify has hit a congressional brick wall for nearly 30 years. Thus, E-Verify has never had the benefit of a full floor vote.
Sadly, the Biden administration has moved dramatically away from E-Verify’s intention. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ Oct. 12, 2021, memo prohibits Immigration and Customs Enforcement from conducting worksite enforcement raids that might turn up employed illegal immigrants.
Mayorkas’ memo is an administrative subversion of immigration law and an open invitation for employers, penalty-free, to hire migrants who will also be protected from enforcement consequences. Under existing but ignored law, employed illegal immigrants could be deported.
Despite insistence from immigration advocates that Americans won’t do most of the jobs that immigrants are hired to do, the evidence proves the contrary. In 2017, ICE audited an industrial bakery in Chicago, which forced the employer, Cloverhill Bakery, to fire 800 undocumented workers. The terminated employees were quickly replaced by mostly Black Americans.
Similar ICE cases targeted illegal employment at Mississippi chicken plants, at a trailer manufacturer in Texas and a meatpacker in Tennessee. Not only were hundreds of Americans hired to fill the now-vacant jobs, but the government indicted some directly involved managers. The cases’ common denominators were the illegal immigrants’ presence in the labor market, a problem that E-Verify would have averted.
The Commitment to America is encouraging, but skeptics wonder if there’s muscle behind it or if it’s more GOP smoke and mirrors.
McCarthy, Scalise and Stefanik have what’s generously described as tepid voting records on reducing illegal presence and jobs. In the same illegal presence and jobs category, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell scored a zero. About a week ago on the Senate floor, McConnell delivered a squishy speech about immigration’s importance; his tone didn’t reverberate with the Commitment to America theme.
During the campaigning, certain to be contentious, GOP leaders may have an awakening and persuade undecided voters that American jobs and sovereignty must be saved.
Time is short. At Biden’s current pace of admitting the world — including got-aways — the U.S. could have more than 7 million illegal immigrants added to its population by 2024, an unsustainable total that will adversely affect every aspect of Americans’ lives.
Joe Guzzardi is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who writes about immigration and related social issues. He joined Progressives for Immigration Reform in 2018. Contact him by email at email@example.com.