Lamar Smith Outmaneuvered By Chamber Of Commerce On Legal Immigration Increases?

Most Republicans and conservatives are now, at least rhetorically, against illegal immigration. But this opposition is almost always qualified by a few platitudes about how much they support legal immigration.

This is silly and regrettable. But saying you support legal immigration does not necessarily imply that you want more legal immigration or even that you are opposed to cutting legal immigration. As John Tanton frequently points out, going on a diet does not make one anti-food.

And, for the most part, Republicans lip service to legal immigration has been little more than that. There have been few in leadership trying to increase legal immigration, and the House Judiciary Committee voted to abolish the Diversity Lottery.

Of course, it is outrageous that no one is calling for an immigration moratorium given our current unemployment levels, But immigration patriots may well apply the medical doctrine primum non nocere (first do no harm) and take no new increases as something positive.

Unfortunately, however, many of the erstwhile leading opponents of illegal immigration in the House and Senate have recently introduce various pieces of legislation to increase legal immigration—and to increase the Third World’s share of total immigration.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has led the fight for patriotic immigration reform in the House for decades. And after defeating La Raza Republican Chris Cannon in the GOP Primary in 2008, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) was seen as a rising star in the patriotic immigration reform movement.

But last month Smith and Chaffetz introduced H.R. 3012, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act.

And on Wednesday, October 26, 2011, the House Judiciary Committee approved the legislation by a voice vote. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who was shamefully passed over to chair the immigration subcommittee, attempted to add amendments to the bill that would eliminate sibling visas and non-skilled work visas, but they were ruled “non-germane” and were not given a vote.

Despite the name, this bill affects far more than high-skilled immigrants. The bill removes the per-country caps on all employment based visas and increases the family caps to 15%.

What does this mean? Under current law, no country can receive more than 7% of all employer based visas or the non-immediate family visas. In practice, this means the countries that send the highest number of family and worker visas will get an even greater share of these visas.

The two highest countries of family preference visas are Mexico followed by the Dominican Republic with 16 and 14% of all respective visas going to the countries. I’m not sure how they managed to get over the cap, but rest assured that if the cap is raised they will have an even greater share. The only other countries to reach the cap are Vietnam and the Philippines.

On employer visas, China, India, and Mexico are the only countries who have reached ceiling. No matter what the bill’s proponents say, the effect of this bill will be to greatly increase the share of immigration coming from these countries, especially Mexico.

Furthermore, the country caps have prevented every single available worker visa from being filled some years. No doubt, India, Mexico, and China alone could easily fill them out on their own. So while this bill technically does not increase the number of visas available each year, it will probably increase total immigration.

Chaffetz’s press release boasts that his bill is endorsed by

“the US Chamber of Commerce, Compete America (a coalition of high tech companies (Microsoft, Google, Oracle, etc.) and various trade groups (BSA, SIA, ITIC, etc.), and Immigration Voice (the leading coalition of highly skilled foreign professionals).” [Chaffetz Introduces Immigration Bill, September 23, 2011]

This alone should be reason to oppose it.

It is worth noting that when the Democrats controlled the House, Open Borders Immigration Subcommittee chairman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced virtually the same legislation.

Smith also introduced the American Specialty Agriculture Act last month, which will replace the H2A visa program with H2C visas.

Currently, there are unlimited H2A seasonal agricultural visas. But because the visas require high living standards for the workers, and what Smith calls “mounds of red tape and bureaucratic obstacles”, only 30,000 of these visas are actually used.

Smith’s bill greatly reduces the employers’ obligation to search for American workers and the required living standards for the guest workers and caps them at 500,000 a year.

Smith comes at this figure by noting that

“American specialty crop growers hire about 800,000 individual farmworkers each year on a seasonal basis. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 48% of seasonal agricultural workers are illegal immigrants. Half a million H-2C workers more than meets the legitimate need.”

[Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Member Lamar Smith, September 8, 2011]

In other words, we will replace illegal immigrants with legal immigration.

The New York Times noted that this measure might be tied to get the agriculture lobby on board with Smith’s federal E-Verify Legal Workforce Act:

Although Mr. Smith’s E-Verify bill includes a three-year grace period before it would take effect for agriculture, growers—including many Republicans—still balked, saying they would not support it unless Congress provided a supply of legal immigrants for farms.”

[Lawmaker Offers Plan to Lure Migrant Farm Workers, by Julia Preston, September 8, 2011]

I, and many other patriotic immigration reformers, have expressed skepticism over Lamar Smith’s willingness to make a deal with the Chamber of Commerce and the other cheap labor lobbyists to get his Legal Workforce Act. He did it by including a preemption provision that would effectively nullify the local E-Verify laws in Alabama, Georgia, Arizona, and over a dozen other states and localities.

Apparently this was not enough: the House Leadership is still blocking the bill. And the cheap labor lobby is demanding still more legal immigration.

These groups do not need to be appeased—they need to be defeated.

Of course, at the end of the day, the increases in immigration these bills would cause are relatively low (although without reform of the anchor baby loophole, all temporary worker programs should be put on hold).

But with over a million legal immigrants pouring into the country each year, we can’t afford any increase at all.

A lot of us had very high hopes with Lamar Smith as head of the Judiciary Committee. To his credit he has done a lot of good work such pushing the SAFE for America At to abolish the Diversity Lottery and leading the fight against Obama's administrative amnesty, and phony deportation claims.

However, as evidenced by his sponsorship of the  Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, the American Specialty Agriculture Act, and the preemption in the Legal Workforce Act, he seems all too willing to accommodate the Chamber of Commerce and other cheap labor lobbyists.

General MacArthur famously said "there is no substitute for victory". What is now becoming clear is that there is no substitute for reducing legal immigration.

"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.