By Joe Guzzardi
November 18, 2013
Comprehensive immigration reform has more lives than the mythical black cat. No matter that Republican House Speaker John Boehner promised that he won’t go to conference with the Senate, the issue refuses to die.
President Obama, enlisting the help of religious and corporate leaders, plans to keep immigration front and center. By shifting his emphasis to immigration, Obama can distract from his mounting Obamacare mess. Immigration reform, if it were to pass, would give the president a second opportunity for what he sees as legacy legislation should Obamacare blow up.
Boehner coyly keeps the door open by insisting that he wants to get “something done.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Southern Baptist Convention, and Americans for Tax Reform as well as corporate leaders interpret Boehner’s bait as a commitment, albeit a tepid one, that he’s on their side.
They may be right. Despite Boehner’s seemingly firm statement that immigration reform is dead, he agreed to let U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) circulate a letter to his House colleagues to gauge their interest. Denham hopes to get 35-40 like-minded Republicans signatories which he could present to Boehner as proof that there’s House support for reform this year.
Denham’s perspective is interesting. Along with California’s David Valadao and Florida’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Denham is one of three House Republicans who have co-sponsored Nancy Pelosi’s immigration bill. His congressional district includes Modesto which has a 35 percent Hispanic population. Some interpret Denham’s amnesty enthusiasm as a step toward courting more Hispanic voters.
But Modesto’s Hispanics are only part of the immigration reform saga. Like most of its San Joaquin Valley neighbors, Modesto has high unemployment, about 12 percent. Many of those unemployed are Hispanics as well as blacks, returning veterans, and disabled Americans. The bill that Denham wants the House to pass, Pelosi’s H.R. 15, would grant immediate work authorization to illegal immigrants who would then compete with Modesto’s unemployed or could displace existing workers.
As for industry’s eagerness for immigration reform, that’s easy to understand. McDonald’s was one corporation the White House hosted last week. Through its presence, McDonald’s implied that it needs more immigration because it can’t find American workers, a preposterous claim.
First, McDonald’s franchises have a history dating back to at least 2008 of hiring illegal immigrants, many of whom engaged in immigration fraud and identity theft. In 2011, ICE charged McDonald’s managers at two Savannah locations with stealing citizens’ identities and selling them to their illegal alien employees. Similar arrests have been made in Nevada and Arizona.
Second, assume McDonald’s unlikely premise that it can’t find American workers is true. The traditional solution to a labor shortage is to pay higher wages, something McDonald’s could afford to do. According to CNN Money, in 2011 McDonald's revenues were $27 billion, up 12 percent from 2010. Profits were $5.5 billion, up 11 percent, and were at a hefty 20 percent of revenues. A Bloomberg News analysis titled “Burger Flippers Wages Stay Thin While Profits Fatten,” revealed that McDonald’s profits between 2007 and 2011 increased by 135 percent while the median fast food worker’s income remained flat at $18,500 a year, $25,000 less than the U.S. average wage and also below the federal poverty wage for a family of three.
Denham’s version of immigration reform means more of the same—American workers losing jobs to illegal immigrants and corporate profits soaring on the backs of cheap laborers. If there’s one lesson that Congress should have learned from Obamacare, it’s that comprehensive bills are incomprehensible, written to deceive and to further special interests’ agendas.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]