In Florida, Jolly Beats Sink; Key Issues, Affordable Care, Immigration

Published on March 12th, 2014

By Joe Guzzardi
March 12, 2014

On Tuesday, Republican David Jolly beat Democrat Alex Sink in Florida’s 13th District special election. Bill Young, who held the seat for more than four decades, died in October.

Even though Young, a Republican, had been a popular, powerful Floridian and Jolly had worked for him, analysts gave the early edge to Sink, a well-funded, high visibility candidate who had previously run for governor. Democrats contributed more than $4 million to Sink’s campaign and outspent Jolly by a 3-1 margin. Vice President Joe Biden and former president Bill Clinton stumped for Sink. 

Jolly’s campaign criticized the struggling Affordable Health Care Act,  hoping to capitalize on its unpopularity. Sink, in her tepid defense of the ACA, repeatedly said that the legislation is broken but could be fixed.

Reporters predicted that the race would boil down to an Obamacare referendum. With the results final, Sink’s loss portends bad things for the Democrats in 2014, according to the consensus. For Democrats, regaining control of the House seems out of reach and retaining the Senate may be an uphill climb. 

But the Jolly-Sink race had a secondary issue, not as hotly debated as Obamacare but crucial in Florida and  nationwide: immigration. During a debate, Sink found herself in the midst of controversy after she gave what attending reporters described  an unflattering response to a comprehensive immigration reform question.

In her attempt to describe immigration reform as crucial to Pinella County, even though its Hispanic population is 8 percent, Sink linked immigration to local businesses in a way that voters found offensive.  Sink said that without legalizing illegal immigrants and doubling legal immigration within a decade, the Senate and House bills’ ultimate consequence, employers on Florida’s beaches wouldn’t be able to find housekeepers or landscapers.  Jolly, an immigration law enforcement advocate, said he thought Sink’s statement reflected “bigotry,” was “a disgusting comment, and should “disqualify her from serving in the U.S. Congress.”

Sink’s suggestion that Americans won’t clean hotel rooms or mow lawns—the familiar “jobs Americans won’t do” refrain—has been bandied about since the 1986 Immigration Reform Act. The evidence, however, disproves Sink’s claim. Center for Immigration Studies research based on federal American Community Survey data found that of 465 civilian occupations as defined by the Department of Labor, only 4 were immigrant-majority staffed. Those four occupations comprise less than 1 percent of the total U.S. workforce. The two professions Sink said need foreign-born workers to fill available slots, housekeepers and landscapers, are currently made up of 55 and 65 percent American-born labor. Hotel and restaurant-related fields like porters, bellhops, and concierges are 71 percent American-born; janitors, 75 percent. 

The relentless Chamber of Commerce’s immigration reform lobbying in the name of “America needs workers” is inconsistent with the facts. Besides the Center for Immigration Studies findings, every non-partisan economic report issued over the last two years shows a deep and unrelenting employment crisis, one that would be severely exacerbated by adding millions more to the already saturated labor pool. The latest from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: nearly 92 million Americans are out of the work force, more than at any time during the last 35 years. Only politicians like Sink, indifferent to American workers’ plights, could support a blanket amnesty.

Unfortunately, too many congressional incumbents and candidates are more concerned about illegal immigrants and overseas workers than unemployed Americans.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]

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