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The Problem With Rep. Lamar Smith Claiming to Defend American Workers

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The August 15 start date for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to begin accepting DREAMer requests for deferred action is fast approaching.  While many supporters and advocates are putting all hands on deck in order to help DREAMers fill out their paperwork and avoid scammers, others are still insisting that allowing young immigrants to continue contributing to the only country they’ve ever called home is somehow a bad thing.

For instance, take diehard anti-immigrant Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX).  As he said last week in a statement:

American workers should not have to compete with illegal immigrants for scarce jobs and American taxpayers should not have to pay for President Obama’s amnesty agenda.  Today’s guidance undermines the rule of law and gives lawbreakers an unfair advantage over legal immigrants. When will this President’s assault on the rule of law and the American people end?

First of all, despite Smith’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, immigration does not drive American unemployment.  A 2010 report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that native-born U.S. workers experience modest wage increases from immigration and that any negative effects on wages were felt largely by the workers who are the most substitutable for new immigrants—that is, earlier immigrants.  According to the study’s author Heidi Shierholz, “Americans are right to worry about the declining quality of jobs over the last few decades, but immigration has had very little to do with that.”

Furthermore, the AFL-CIO–a group whose job it is to represent American workers–welcomes the new deferred action policy.  As a statement released by President Richard Trumka the day Obama announced the policy said:

We are thrilled by the Obama Administration’s announcement to provide relief from deportation to immigrant youth brought to this country by their parents at a young age. The President’s actions bring much-needed security and encouragement to our nation’s youth who can finally live without fear of separation from their families and deportation to a country they barely remember. This talented group of young Americans was educated here and should be permitted to pursue their dreams where they call home. Beginning today, America’s best and brightest can finally contribute to our nation’s economy and help our communities prosper. The AFL-CIO commends the Administration for its courage and leadership in taking an important step towards a more just America.

Second, it’s funny that Smith should be talking about American workers, as they probably didn’t know he cared.  According to a 2012 AFL-CIO scorecard tracking Congressional votes on worker-related issues, Lamar Smith failed 11 out of 12 categories.  AFSCME’s 2010 report card gave him a track record of 10% –that puts him in the top fourth of most anti-worker congressmen in the House of Representatives.  So it’s kind of rich that Smith is now feigning concern for American workers just so that he can attack immigrants.