On Capitol Hill: Gallegly versus Lofgren

Published on February 21st, 2011

On February 10, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement held a hearing about E-Verify. Various Congressional members shared their views, pro and con, about the legislation’s ability to keep illegal aliens from getting and keeping scarce American jobs. The hearing provided an excellent opportunity for the audience to learn about the widely differing views of two prominent California representatives, Elton Gallegly, Subcommittee Chairman and Zoe Lofgren, ranking member. Gallegly, who has served Ventura and Santa Barbara County for 24 years, is a longtime supporter of strong enforcement measures to eliminate illegal immigration. On the other hand Lofgren, now beginning her ninth term, consistently votes along with her Democratic peers that lobby for amnesty and increased numbers of non-immigrant foreign-born worker visas.  Lofgren’s position on immigration is directly aligned with the Hispanic Congressional Congress. While Lofgren’s vigorous, outspoken opposition to E-Verify during the hearing was completely predictable, it remains difficult to understand given California’s current economic crisis. According to the December 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report, California’s unemployment rate is 12.4 percent. San Jose, the district that Lofgren represents, is 10.7 percent. In the Silicon Valley, unemployment has soared to 11 percent, higher than at any time since the dot com bust. If Lofgren were less enamored of the H-1B visa (she’s voted for higher levels at every opportunity), perhaps the numbers of foreign workers admitted to the U.S. would come down or at least level off. Nevertheless, Lofgren wants no part of E-Verify. To the committee she said: “Pressing harder on the gas without fixing the vehicle will only hurt our economy. Particularly in agriculture, mandating the use of E-Verify would reverse the polarity of the magnet, shipping millions of jobs overseas.” Lofgren’s statement echoes the previous scare tactics made by the agriculture industry and the Chamber of Commerce who threaten that crops will rot in the fields and the price of produce will skyrocket if the stream of cheap labor ends. Apparently, they have never heard of the H-2A visa that provides farmers with unlimited numbers of seasonal agricultural workers. Gallegly remained firm: “If there was ever a need to do something quickly, when we have 14 million Americans who aren’t working today, I think they deserve to be put in the front of the line.” Over the next two years, enforcement advocates like Gallegly and Committee Chairman Lamar Smith are poised to prevail over the anti-enforcement Congressional faction of which Lofgren is a charter member. Unemployment in San Jose and Silicon Valley is unlikely to improve within the next two years. What happens in 2012 is up to Lofgren’s 16th District voters. In 2010, she beat her Republican challenger Dan Sahagun by 68 to 24 percent. That’s an astounding margin of victory for which the only explanation could be  that unemployed constituents don’t vote.

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