Latest Hearing Continues GOP Strategy of Pitting Groups Against Each Other, Avoiding Discussion of Real Solutions
Washington — On a press call today, immigration experts and advocates blasted the immigration strategy that Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), and Steve King (R-IA) are pursuing in a series of divisive and inflammatory congressional hearings. In a blatant attempt to rebrand the Republican Party’s “mass deportation” agenda as an economic recovery proposal, the House Immigration Subcommittee has been pitting groups against each other and fomenting racial and economic tensions through a series of hearings. Instead, advocates urged House Republicans to engage in an honest review of the problems with our broken immigration system and explore what a practical solution would look like.
In today’s hearing, entitled “Jobs in Recession and Recovery: Who Are Getting Them and Who Are Not,” Committee leaders and witnesses tried to paint a picture of all immigrants as bad for U.S. workers and the economy—including the 16.8 million immigrants who are now U.S. citizens, and voters.
Clarissa Martinez, Director of Immigration and National Campaigns for the National Council of La Raza said: “As an organization that works on improving the conditions and prospects for our workforce, let me say that we welcome the concern and the muscle of anyone interested in contributing to getting America back to work and in investing in our future competitiveness. Reps. Gallegly, King and Smith are welcome to join those ranks and show us with real actions their concern for America’s workers, including our minority workers. But we will denounce efforts, such as the ones headed by them today, to simply stir our anxieties, pit workers against one another, and in the process distract us from holding our elected officials accountable to produce real solutions to our economy and our immigration system.”
Karen K. Narasaki, President and Executive Director of the Asian American Justice Center agreed: “Today’s hearing clearly illustrates that the Republican leadership of the House Judiciary Committee is more interested in playing divisive politics than doing what’s best for our families, communities and economy by undertaking the real work of moving workable and fair immigration reform. Witnesses for the Republican members sought to blame all foreign-born workers, including legal immigrants – many of whom are U.S. citizens – for unemployment among native-born workers. Playing to such nativist fears has proven to be repeatedly wrong throughout our history as a nation.”
Latinos, Asians and other key voting groups are paying close attention to the way the two parties handle the immigration issue. In the latest impreMedia and Latino Decisions polling, 47% of Latino voters rank immigration as their top issue, and 52% of Latino voters say the Democrats are doing a good job reaching out to Hispanics, while only 18% say the same about the GOP. Thirty-six percent of Latinos said that the GOP “doesn’t care too much” about Latinos and another 30% said the Party is “hostile.” Latino Decisions polling during the 2010 elections found that immigration was either the “most important” or “one of the most important” factors in the political choices of at least 60% of Latino voters.
Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, described the political cost to the GOP for pursuing this anti-immigrant strategy: “Given the fallout over Proposition 187 in California and the impact this issue had on politics there, California Republicans should be leading the GOP to a better position on immigration reform and brighter prospects with Latino voters in the future. Instead, Rep. Gallegly and his sidekicks Lamar Smith and Steve King are leading the GOP off a cliff with the fastest-growing group of new voters.”
Not only do Subcommittee leaders have the politics wrong, but they are also wrong on the “facts.” According to Michele Waslin, Senior Policy Analyst with the Immigration Policy Center: “Immigrants are not the cause of unemployment in the United States. Today’s hearing ignored overwhelming evidence about the contributions of immigrants. Research shows that not only is there no correlation between immigration and unemployment, but that immigrants actually create jobs.”
For more on the House Immigration Subcommittee’s recent hearings, see: