Someone Please Tell the Chamber of Commerce to Check Their Privilege on Immigration!

I hate the phrase (or rather, barking demand), “Check your privilege.” Here’s why:

Nevertheless, Tom Donohue, the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce brings out the worst in me and makes me want to bark the demand at him! Check your privilege.

While they claim eventually that he was joking, the Politico headline and the lead statement angered me:

Chamber of Commerce gives ultimatum to GOP.”

The GOP shouldn’t even field a presidential candidate in 2016 unless Congress passes immigration reform this year, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said Monday.

“If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016,” Donohue joked at an event on infrastructure investment in D.C. “Think about that. Think about who the voters are. I just did that to get everybody’s attention.”

“Infrastructure investment” are code words for lobbying for lucrative government contracts where the person who pays (taxpayers) is not the person who makes the decision (the bureaucrat or politician). That tells you all you need to know about Donohue’s political opinions. They are whatever helps his income stream.

Tom Donohue, you may remember, claimed that we had to have immigration reform because there are not enough people in the U.S. to fill all the jobs. Yes, he said that in this economy with the record low labor participation rate. These same Chamber of Commerce interests have been waging war on the Tea Party ever since the government shutdown—after all, if the government shuts down who is going to keep the money flowing with infrastructure “investment”?

I’m surprised at how vigorously Donohue is pushing for this law to pass this year. He acts as if the world will end if we don’t get it done now.

Donohue, whose group has spent months pushing House Republicans to support immigration legislation, was speaking about what he thought a dysfunctional Congress could still get done in 2014.

“You think Congress can get immigration reform done this year, in an election year?” moderator Eamon Javers asked Donohue.

“Yes, yes,” Donohue replied.

What is the rush? Why is Donohue afraid of a much more Republican Congress in 2015?

In general, I have been mystified by why the Chamber of Commerce wants this law so bad, especially since I know that these new workers would be covered by minimum wage law.

Tonight I found an odiously Leftist critique of the Senate “immigration reform bill.” While I haven’t confirmed everything it does present possibilities that make Donohue’s belligerent lobbying understandable.

Instead of an inclusive program that quickly gives legal status to 11 million people, it sets up a series of difficult hurdles, especially for low-income people.

Wealthy people can essentially buy visas, and the bill codifies and expands their ability to do that permanently, under one of the amendments. It gives preference to those with money who can pay to study in universities and those who want to invest here. It requires, however, people to make 1.25 times the poverty level to remain eligible once they’ve applied for provisional resident status. Millions of undocumented workers make wages close to the legal minimum. Working full time, the federal minimum is $15,080 per year. Millions of people can’t even get that much work.

A single person would have to make $14,362 to keep their provisional status, so even losing a few weeks a year could make them ineligible, or force them to work excessive hours to maintain this salary. Getting fired would be disastrous, making joining unions or advocating for rights extremely risky. And of course, millions of single parents supporting children, clearly wouldn’t qualify, since a family of four would have to keep an income of $29,437 to maintain status. That’s more than two fulltime minimum wage jobs.

This would go on for ten years, before a person in provisional status could apply for a green card. Most minimum wage or low-income jobs have no security for anywhere near that long. In the meantime, provisional status holders would have to pay a total of $2000 by the end of that time, per family member or in some cases per family.

Notice that, while these people may make minimum wage, they are going to be a pool of labor that is highly vulnerable and highly dependent on keeping that minimum wage job. While these people may make as much as American wage workers, they will be much more compliant. The employer will be able to hold the longed-for green card over the worker’s head. So this really is a gift for employers who need low-wage labor.

The “guest worker” program may have a similar function:

The cost of guest worker programs is borne by immigrant and resident workers both. Immigrants become deportable if they lose their jobs and can’t quickly find others, making the risk of joining unions or enforcing labor standards very high. If resident workers try to demand living wages that can support families, employers can declare a labor shortage and demand more guest workers at lower wages. This creates an effective ceiling on wages at the bottom of the U.S. wage scale. This bill increases competition among low wage workers at a time when wages are barely livable, and among high-skilled workers as well, negatively affecting local economies everywhere. At the same time, many Mexican activists say the recruitment is saddling them with a corrupt system protected by political patronage, forcing people into debt.

As someone who hates unions anyway, and thinks competition is great, I don’t find all of this problematic. But, again, there is obviously a difference in power. These minimum wage workers will be far more vulnerable and therefore compliant.

In some ways I can sympathize with the businesses because the Federal regulations are onerous. But the GOP should fix that by removing regulations, defunding Departments, and otherwise leading the nation into a laissez-fair economy. Giving businesses a contrived source of cheap labor is not the job of Republicans.