A project of the Center for Community Change

Do Numbers(USA) Lie?

Last week, we published yet another thoughtful guest post from Robert Gittelson. In an effort to discount his argument, notorious restrictionist Roy Beck picked up on the article and the various accusations started flying. Then the anti-immigrant fury rose up in the form of blog commentors that I’ve mostly published (some were too profane and I try to keep this site free of hate and foul language).

While I typically try to avoid fights like this (to be honest, a lot of the folks that will comment on my posts with ALL CAPS and shouts of ILLEGAL, tend to not be up for a civil debate), I thought it only fair that Robert get the space to rebut some of the misinformation presented in Beck’s article. Enjoy.

By Robert Gittelson.

If one subscribes to the theory that “all is fair in love, war, and politics,” then I suppose that NumbersUSA Founder and CEO Roy Beck’s article, “THE NO-JOBS SUMMITS: Pro-Amnesty Movement Thinks Americans DESERVE To Be Unemployed,”  in which he attempts to twist the factual economic arguments that I presented in that article into a diatribe of race baiting and fear mongering, could in some circles be considered an acceptable political maneuver in these racially and politically polarized times.

It is quite clearly a tragedy that so many American citizens are either out of work or under-employed in this economy, including, I might add, members of my own family. Perhaps I’m just naive, but I prefer to argue the actual facts, and let the chips fall where they may, because I have long advocated the position that the facts lay squarely on the side of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Specifically, in my article that appeared on the Standing Firm website, “Political Football and Immigration Reform: Is the GOP Playing Games With Our Economy?

I present a factual analysis of what would happen to our economy, if we were to be foolhardy enough to fully implement – pre CIR – some sort of E-verify type program designed to replace the 7-8 million employed undocumented immigrants with unemployed legal or citizen workers.

Beck starts his article under the following premise that sets the, if not fully xenophobic, at least racially divisive tone for the body of his propaganda piece:

“An article promoted on its website says that illegal aliens are better workers than Americans. If somebody has to be unemployed, it should be the less-desirable American workers who don’t have jobs, ‘ the article says.

Unbelievable? Read on . . .

“The undocumented that still have jobs, are employed because they are the best workers at their respective companies.”

Let me set the record straight from the onset. The article never said that illegal aliens, (actually had I said it, which I didn’t, I would have used the term “undocumented immigrants”), are better workers than Americans. Nor did I say that “If somebody has to be unemployed, it should be the less-desirable American workers who don’t have jobs.” He is trying to make it sound as if I advocate that undocumented workers are somehow preferable to documented workers, when in fact I intentionally make no distinction, in this particular instance, based on any factor other than the quality of the productivity of the worker in question, from the macro-economic standpoint of the American economy.

Yes, I did say,

“The undocumented that still have jobs, are employed because they are the best workers at their respective companies.”

However, it would have been fairer to his readers, and more informative, had he not taken quotes out of context. The full paragraph was:

“The undocumented that still have jobs, are employed because they are the best workers at their respective companies. During this deep recession, virtually all companies have cut back their workforce to their best and most productive workers, and by doing so, hope to weather the economic storm and survive. Again, at this point in time, almost all American companies are struggling to stay in business, and are employing the minimum amount of employees that will enable them to stay afloat. These remaining workers are experienced, productive, and have proven their worth.”

In other words, irrespective of an employee’s sexual preference, color, age, gender, or legal status, my argument was that if a particular “person” has a job in this down economy, then logic dictates that they are good at it. Any replacement worker may or not be as good a worker as that worker, but they almost certainly will not be as experienced at this particular job.

Beck attempts to slant my position by stating,

“Don’t you see? The estimated 8 million illegal aliens holding down U.S. jobs are SOOOOO much better than American workers. Better in what way? I would say the one way that illegal workers are better is that it is easier for companies to abuse them by breaking over-time, minimum wage, safety and even anti-slavery laws.”

Here, Beck actually makes a great argument in favor of CIR. It is only through a comprehensive overhaul of our nation’s immigration and enforcement laws, and yes, through an earned legalization program, that we can improve our existing business environment, and halt the abuses of undocumented workers. This will level the playing field for all workers, citizen and undocumented immigrant alike. This is exactly the argument used by Labor Unions in their reasoning for fully supporting CIR in the first place. It is good that Beck recognizes that problems exist. It is too bad that he refuses to acknowledge that the problems should be fixed.

Beck’s article then proceeds to go completely off the tracks for me, when he starts his racial attacks.

“The pro-amnesty argument also suggests that a national community’s jobs belong to people who break into the community and steal them rather than to the members of the community.”

Beck’s attempt at portraying undocumented economic refugees as thieves is really inappropriate, as well as flatly wrong. In fact, in the article he goes on to slander these people by calling them, “the foreign thieves who stole their jobs.”

If Restrictionists could limit their arguments to the facts, and not attempt to demonize the undocumented through name calling and character assassination, we could have a much more civil debate, and they would stand a better chance of sounding well reasoned as opposed to reactionary. Likewise, were they to cease the use of pejorative buzzwords or phrases, such as amnesty and open-border crowd, it would elevate the level of their discourse.

I believe that Mr. Beck knows all too well that there are substantial and well defined differences between amnesty, and a rigorous earned legalization program, yet he continues to use the word amnesty, because he attempts to mislead his followers into believing that the undocumented are getting off scot-free, or getting something for nothing, which nobody is talking about when CIR is discussed by serious people.

First of all, the undocumented immigrants didn’t just take it upon themselves to come here because they wanted to see the sights, and most especially and particularly I might add that they didn’t come here to steal anyone’s job, or for a handout of any kind.  They came because they knew that there was good work waiting for them here (comparatively speaking).  They knew that if they could get past the token security at our border, our economic engine would welcome them with open arms.  Remember that up until only last year, we had virtual full employment in this country. Certainly that was why the security at our southern border seemingly was intentionally left so lax for all of these years, because we needed these people (and we still do).  There can be no doubt that the United States government colluded with the American business community to turn a blind eye toward the undocumented entry of these “economic refugees,” and more specifically to the worksite enforcement provisions of the Simpson-Mazzoli Bill.  Therefore, the United States should ethically, if not legally, assume at least a share of the responsibility for the presence of these refugees.  They came to us, and we thanked them for coming and gave them our most awful jobs, and they were grateful to have those jobs, so they started to make a life here.  Do we now pull the rug out from under them?

The undocumented economic refugees might not be a fully integrated part of our assimilated society yet, but they most certainly are fully integrated into our workforce.  We are, in fact, co-dependent on each other.  We depend on the work that they do for us, while they and their extended families in the U.S. and abroad are dependent on the wages that we gladly pay to them.  Does this co-dependence make us complicit in their presence here?  Of course it does.  We are fully complicit, and that complicity, morally and ethically, demands responsibility.

In my recent article, I ask the question,

“Doesn’t it make much more economic sense to keep the government’s paws off of our remaining businesses, and instead have the government concentrate on stimulating new economic growth opportunities through programs such as job training for the unemployed, so that they will be prepared to re-enter the job market with improved skill-sets to assume the new economy jobs that effective legislation can help to achieve for our economy?”

Last month, in his testimony before the House of Representatives, Beck laid out his thoughts about how to “steal” the jobs of hard working undocumented immigrants, and turn them over to citizen trainees.

“Immediately begin the roll-out of mandatory E-Verify…. a lot of extra jobs can be opened up for jobless Americans in a hurry…. Agree to set aside the question of amnesties and legalizations. For now, Congress should just concentrate on moving U.S. citizens and legal immigrants already here to the front of the jobs line.”

Of course, this plan is in direct contrast to the arguments that I made in my article:

“Make no mistake, at least some of these businesses will fail due to this Restrictionist game-plan. Of that, we can be mathematically certain. I can think of no probable situation in which these businesses will produce higher profit. Therefore, the result of the Republican Restrictionist plan will be lower tax revenues, continued and expanding unemployment, a longer recession, and less new employment from the small to medium size business segments, (who produce most of the new jobs in our economy).

Moreover, we will end up with twice as many people trained for old economy jobs, and fewer people trained for new economy jobs. This sounds counter productive to me. When our economy eventually does pick back up, (which will take considerably longer under this Restrictionist plan), we will reward these small and medium sized businesses by leaving them in the lurch, because these replacement workers will leave for better jobs at the very first opportunity.”

At the end of the day, I guess it boils down to priorities. I feel that we should be forward thinking, and attempt to give our economy every chance that it requires to expand as soon as possible, so that we can grow our economy to provide good and decent jobs for the unemployed through the free market, at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers.

Mr. Beck, on the other hand, would like to see us deport the 12,000,000 or so undocumented residents, and give their “old economy” jobs to the unemployed, regardless of the negative repercussions to our economy, our national security, and to the millions of people that would suffer immeasurably due to this unconscionable plan.

Having said all of this, I want to calmly state that in point of fact, Mr. Beck did not actually say to Congress that we should “steal” the jobs of the undocumented. That was hyperbole, just as was Mr. Beck’s characterization of my arguments. I would also point out that just a couple of weeks ago, I offered some praise for Mr. Beck, when I wrote:

“It might surprise many people to discover that even Roy Beck, Executive Director of NumbersUSA, in an on air radio debate with Kevin Johnson, Dean of UC Davis Law School, opened the door to “compelling cases,” such as parents with citizen children. He estimated that there were 5-6 million undocumented residents with have citizen children that he would consider offering a pathway to legalization to, in the name of compassion. On the other hand, he pledged to kill CIR, so he will continue to be a pebble in our collective shoes, as far as passing CIR goes.”

I continue to insist that we must attempt to put aside hyperbole and partisan politics, and try to work through a thoughtful debate on the subject of CIR by sticking to the facts. The fact that we have an unemployment rate that is over 10% in this country is an outrage and a tragedy. Nobody wants to see anyone out of work, and especially not our fellow Americans. However, I would argue that they are right ways and wrong ways to solve this problem, and firing and/or deporting some 8,000,000 loyal, well trained, and hard working undocumented employees during such a precarious economic time would be an extremely serious misstep, and we can and should think of smarter ways in which to create good and long lasting jobs for our fellow Americans that are so tragically out of work.

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