Which Republican Presidential Candidate Will Step Up for American Workers?

Published on October 15th, 2011

During this week’s New Hampshire debate, another opportunity passed for Republican candidates to make the link between excessive immigration and American unemployment. [Republican Debate, Winners and Losers, by Brian Montopoli, CBS News, October 11, 2011]

My evaluation may be somewhat unfair since immigration was deemed a taboo topic by one of the debate’s sponsors, Bloomberg L.P. The financial news and information service media company is 88 percent owned by Michael Bloomberg, the New York mayor who is one of the nation’s most outspoken immigration champions.

Still, since the legal annual inflow of about one million immigrants who receive work permits hasn’t been tied to joblessness in any of the preceding debates, there’s no reason to expect that it would have been Tuesday.

So far, the seven debates have been tame affairs that have been more about the candidates as people and personalities than about their policies. The glaring exception was Texas Governor Rick Perry’s slip of the tongue when he characterized DREAM Act opponents as “heartless.” Since that instant, Perry has gone from the top of the polling to near the bottom.

The candidates are more or less on equal footing. Those in the second tier like Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman and Herman Cain have no incentive to drop out. As long as they continue to show up Mitt Romney, the apparent leader, has to appear too lest his absence inadvertently gives one of the others an unanticipated edge.

With 13 debates remaining, the time for the long shots to launch bombs has arrived. In Las Vegas next week, when the moderator asks candidates about unemployment or job creation, the first response should be to aggressively correlate high immigration levels and the shrinking jobs market. Refer to the simple math: nearly one million new legal immigrants each year can and do compete head-to-head with American citizens for jobs.

Not only would that news be informative and deeply disturbing to Republican viewers who may have only a passing knowledge of immigration politics, it would also put the other candidates in a position where they would have to respond. Those on the defensive would have two options: agree or defend why they disagree. The former would be good for immigration restrictionists and the latter, bad for whoever disagrees. Romney, Perry, Newt Gingrich, et al would have to explain why, for example, they favor issuing more H-1B visas during this prolonged period of sustained high unemployment.

Las Vegas is the perfect place to get aggressive about jobs and immigration. Nevada’s unemployment rate is 13.4 percent, more than four points higher than the national average. Nevada has suffered through a heavy influx of illegal immigrants that has strained its social services. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid who has promoted more immigration and more non-immigration worker visas should be a prime Republican target.

Politics is about winning. Now is the best time for someone from the field of eight to take a stand about the immigration-joblessness relationship. In the process, that candidate could end up winning the nomination.

And whatever else may come of the well placed bomb, it would generate plenty of media coverage for the important point we are trying to get across: more immigration means fewer jobs.

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