On Labor Day: Remembering Samuel Gompers Warning; ‘Lowest Possible Wage Workers’ will Overwhelm American Job Market

Published on September 1st, 2017

Stature of Gompers
Defender of American Workers, Gompers’ Memorial in D.C.

Almost a century ago, Samuel Gompers, a London-born immigrant and the American Federation of Labor founder, wrote a cautionary letter to Congress about the adverse effect of over-immigration on U.S. workers.

In 1921, when Gompers wrote his letter, Congress was drafting legislation that eventually became the Immigration Act of 1924. During the early 1920s, about 5 million Americans were unemployed, and new immigrants were arriving each month in substantial numbers. The prescient Gompers warned against, quoting from his letter, a nation “overwhelmed” with “lowest possible wage” workers, and presaged of “racial groups in the United States who oppose all restrictive legislation because they want the doors left open for an influx of their countrymen….”

Gompers could not possibly have foreseen what 21st Century immigration would look like—about one million work-authorized immigrants arriving each year, and more than 500,000 arriving on employment-based visas. Nor could Gompers have envisioned that one the most opposed to “restrictive [immigration] legislation” would be a sitting U. S. president.

During his two terms, President Obama fought hard to pass legislation that would give employment authorization documents to 11 million illegally present aliens, and import millions more overseas workers. In Obama’s last full year in office, 2016, the White House gave work permits to roughly 2.3 million foreign nationals in addition to the one million legal entries. An estimated eight million illegal immigrants are in the labor force.

Given the disappointing August Bureau of Labor Statistics report that showed only 156, 000 jobs created versus 180,000 predicted, plus an aggregate 41,000 downward adjustment for June and July, a flat labor participation rate, and with declines from the previous month in hourly earnings and average weekly hours worked, having millions of illegal immigrants employed is grossly unfair to unemployed and under-employed Americans. On average, 205,300 jobs must be created every month just to keep up with population growth.

Despite his pledge to work with Congress on E-Verify which would guarantee that only citizens and legally-authorized immigrant workers hold jobs, President Trump has done little to help bring the program to a vote even though it’s extremely popular with his base.
In January, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced mandatory E-Verify legislation, S 179. But the bill has only 11 co-sponsors. Please go to the CAPS Action Alert page here to tell you Senators to support S 179. 

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