By DAVID OLEN CROSS
Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, joining the Gang of Eight in the passage of Senate Bill 744 (S.744), termed comprehensive immigration reform by some, amnesty by others, is unconscionable legislation considering the nation’s June seasonally adjusted number of 12.2 million unemployed citizens; 7.6 percent of the country’s civilian labor force.
According to a 2011 report, Pew Hispanic Center, Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends, 2010 there are 8 million unauthorized workers in the U.S.
With so many unemployed American citizens looking for jobs and 8 million unauthorized workers currently holding the jobs many citizens will do, the U.S. Senate’s legislation at best seems oblivious to the plight of the unemployed in this country.
Two of the negative consequences of Senate Bill 744 are reveled in a June 2013 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report which indicates the legislation will cause unemployment to increase through 2020 and average wages to decline through 2025.
In July, an evaluation of the seasonally adjusted unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals unemployment rates in the states represented by the Gang of Eight plus their two Oregonian senatorial sidekicks: Oregon 7.9 percent; Arizona 8.0 percent; Colorado 7.0 percent; Florida 7.1 percent; Illinois 9.2 percent; New Jersey 8.7 percent; New York 7.5 percent; and South Carolina 8.1 percent. Five of the preceding eight states had higher unemployment numbers than the national average.
During the five week summer congressional recess, if Senators Merkley and Wyden choose to return to Oregon, the Senators should take a look at the number of unemployed in the state and unemployment numbers of the individual counties they choose visit across the state.
In Oregon there were 158,147 citizens unemployed in June; the state ranked 16th in 50 states for the percentage of unemployed.
Locally, Marion County’s 13,504 unemployed in June equated to 8.5 percent of the county’s work force; 8.5 percent of the state’s unemployed.
Including Marion, 24 of 36 Oregon counties in June had a higher unemployment rate than the national average of 7.6 percent; 11 of the counties had double-digit unemployment.
If SB 744 is passed by both sides of Congress and signed into law by the president, the addition of 110,000 unauthorized workers into the state’s civilian labor force will likely increase unemployment in Oregon; a setback for a state still mired and struggling to come out of a severe recession.
Hopefully for the unemployed of this state and across the country, the U.S. House of Representatives, which faces the nation’s voters every two years, will take a more incremental approach to any type of immigration reform and first pass stand alone legislation requiring a federally mandated national employment verification system like E-Verify which the federal government currently uses on all its new hires.
Oregon’s 158,147 unemployed U.S. citizens should contact during the congressional recess Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Congressman Kurt Schrader, and tell the senators and Ccongressman, Oregonians should never have to compete for scarce jobs now or in the future with persons illegal present in the country; furthermore, the U.S. Congress passing a stand alone federally mandated E-Verify system is the best way to get those unemployed in the state and across the country back to full-time work.
(David Olen Cross of Salem writes on immigration issues. He can reached at email@example.com.)