As the Senate debate about the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744, comes down the home stretch this week, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will play a crucial role. McConnell, as the Senate's Republican leader, could be an influential opposing force. Or McConnell can cave into the Gang of Eight and vote for S. 744 which might in turn signal other fence-sitting Republicans that supporting the bill is the right thing to do.
Over the last several weeks, McConnell has sent the typically useless mixed messages about his intentions. On one hand, McConnell dragged out the tedious “our immigration system is broken” line and voted to continue debate on the Senate floor. On the other hand, McConnell also said that S. 744 needs major changes and that he plans to introduce amendments to strengthen the “flawed” S. 744’s non-enforcement provisions. [Immigration Bill Needs ‘Major Changes,’ by Ramsey Cox, The Hill, June 11, 2013]
In his weekly eNewsletter, however, McConnell proved just how much he wishes S.744 would go away and how little he’s willing to admit that the poisonous legislation would be an American job destroyer. The June 10 edition didn’t mention a single word about the nation-altering S.744 even though it has been the Senate’s main focus for more than a month and, since it would add 33 million foreign-born workers over a decade, change the American labor market forever.
McConnell complained about how lousy the job market is for “students and young workers” without mentioning that S. 744 would add millions of high and low-skilled job seekers from overseas to compete directly with them. In his speech from the Senate floor (see it here; read the newsletter here) McConnell complained that the unemployment rate for 16-to 19-year-olds is 25 percent – which is near historic highs – and for 20-to 24-year-olds the unemployment rate is over 13 percent.
Using those statistics to segue into S. 744 would be a no-brainer for any politician worth his salt. Instead, McConnell failed to make the connection between constantly rising immigration levels and unemployed young Americans including Hispanics, blacks, the disabled and returning veterans. Instead, McConnell blamed Obamacare as the main reason employers are reluctant to hire.
The extent of McConnell’s true commitment to the “students and young workers” he expresses compassion for will be learned within the next few days. Dozens of amendments will be debated, some for political show and others out of a deep, abiding concern that S. 744 represents a turning point for 20 million unemployed or underemployed Americans. We'll soon see into which camp McConnell falls.