Immigration reform patriots may need to brace themselves. The United States’ economic news is improving and that usually, but not always, means that the hype for more non-immigrant work visas, hinted at in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Speech, or even for an amnesty cannot be far behind. As we have sadly learned from years of experience, open borders proponents grasp at every straw to make their cases. A cruel reality is that the arguments against more immigration are stronger in a weak job market. Many of the people we need as allies to beat back amnesties are more influenced by depressed job data than they are about population statistics crucial though they are for a sustainable America. Last week, several financial benchmarks were announced and they were all, on the surface at least, positive. The unemployment rate dropped to its lowest since April 2009 from 9.8 to 9 percent. Optimists described this as the fastest rate of decline in a half-century and an indication that the recovery is “picking up speed.” On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average closed at above 12,000 for the first time since mid-2008 and in the malls retail sales reached a five-year high. But looking deeper at last week’s numbers, America’s economic picture is still horribly bleak. Although it represents an improvement, 9 percent unemployment is about twice what economics generally consider to be full employment. Of more concern, the Labor Department survey of company payrolls showed a net gain of only 36,000 jobs in January. That’s barely one-fourth the number needed to keep pace with population growth. Major corporate hiring is still weak. Much of the job growth came from people working for themselves or finding employment with small businesses. Neither can be considered stable. In January, the numbers of people reporting that they are self-employed rose to 165,000. The government household survey which calls 60,000 homes to ask people if they’re working or looking for a job, also told a grim story. The number of people who are employed part-time but would rather be working full-time is 8.4 million. Combined with the 13.9 million unemployed and people who have given up looking for work, last month roughly 25 million people, or 16.1 percent of the labor force, were “underemployed.” This grouping is normally referred to as the U-6 category. What America needs is a federal jobs-based immigration moratorium. Yet Obama steadfastly refuses to take the simple first step in that process; that is, to encourage Congress to pass mandatory E-Verify legislation. In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce scheduled for February 7, Obama is expected to carry forward the same jobs creation theme he introduced in a January address to several CEOs at the White House. But his language will be couched in vagaries. The good news is that while the nation appears unlikely to get an immigration moratorium, the enforcement-minded House of Representatives have promised to deliver E-Verify even if the Executive Branch opposes it. Also several states either have or have proposed or enacted E-Verify laws. The hope is that the net effect of tighter federal and state hiring policies will create a jobs environment similar to an official moratorium.