Notwithstanding a $300,000 ad buy by the SEIU, as the immigration reform drums beat on in the media and Washington, there is a fight being waged by union bosses that may, ultimately, doom any chances for their purportedly long-sought after immigration reform.
Though partisan bickering and back-door deal making is nothing new in Washington, on the issue of immigration reform, it is beginning to appear that Barack Obama (through Democrat surrogates) and the AFL-CIO–as they did in 2007–are intent on doing all they can to blow up any chance of a bi-partisan deal through the use of poison pill amendments.
Millions of immigrants–legal and illegal–are pinning their hopes on Washington politicians enacting some sort of bipartisan immigration reform legislation.
However, recent actions by the AFL-CIO and Barack Obama’s Democrat surrogates in the Senate signal three areas that there may be more interest in keeping the political problem out there for Democrats and unions to cynically and calculatingly use for the next several election cycles.
1. ObamaCare for illegals
Last Friday, the Senate voted along party lines (43-56) to kill an amendment that would have prevented illegal immigrants from receiving benefits under ObamaCare.
According to The Daily Caller, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions stated that the vote put immigration reform in jeopardy.
“The core legal and economic principle of immigration is that those seeking admission to a new country must be self-sufficient and contribute to the economic health of the nation,” Sessions said in a statement. “But, for years, the federal government has failed to enforce this law. This principle is even more urgent when dealing with those who have illegally entered the country.”
According to Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate budget committee, the Democratic majority’s vote “will dramatically accelerate the insolvency of our entitlement programs and is unfair to American workers and taxpayers.”
That the Democrats are pushing proposals to entitle illegal immigrants to health care paid for by American taxpayers is nothing new.
However, to tie the policy to immigration reform appears to be a cynical ploy aimed at making any bipartisan deal unattainable.
2. Discriminatorily higher wages for low-wage guest workers
Another fight that is appearing to be a immigration reform deal killer is the issue of what wage price controls should be set (if any) for low-wage guest workers. That is, unions want any low-wage guest workers to be paid above what the market dictates–and what comparable American workers are paid.
According to a source close to the business side of negotiations, industry groups are stuck on how much employers should have to pay over market rates in order to hire immigrants and at what point those requirements would kick in. Under the plan under discussion, employers who imported workers would have to pay a premium on standard wages paid to low skilled workers in occupations typically filled by immigrants. That premium, which would come from a mix of government fees and wage requirements, would range from around 20 percent up to an average as high as 60-70 percent, rising or falling based on factors like unemployment rates, the type of job, and whether employers had exceeded agreed-upon visa caps.
This issue is similar to one of the issues that killed immigration reform in 2005 and again in 2007–both attempts at bipartisan reform that died at the hands of Barack Obama and unions.
On the 2005 bi-partisan effort at immigration reform, former McCain chief of staff Mark Salter wrote:
As an aide to McCain, I was in the room for every one of those meetings. It was my first opportunity to observe Obama closely. During those meetings, I never saw him engage in any discussion concerned with building a majority vote in favor of the legislation. In the meetings he attended, he would draw from his shirt pocket a 3×5 index card, on which he had written changes he insisted be made to the bill before he would support it. They were invariably the same demands made by the AFL-CIO, which was intent on watering down or killing the guest-worker provisions. Republicans and Democrats alike were irritated by his transparently self-interested behavior, but tried to negotiate with him. He remained adamant in his positions and unwilling to compromise.
In 2005, Barack Obama helped kill immigration reform by going so far as to offer an amendment that would have extended the union-friendly Davis Bacon Act (which is used on federally-funded projects) to any jobs performed by temporary guest workers.
Senator Obama’s answer to such concerns about guest worker programs was to offer an amendment to the Senate bill that focused on preventing employers from undercutting American workers’ wages by hiring immigrants. His amendment would have extended the Davis-Bacon “prevailing wage” requirements under federal law (which currently require the payment of prevailing wages on the construction of federally-funded projects for certain professions) to guest workers. His amendment would have required the payment of “prevailing wages” (significantly higher than the minimum wage) to guest workers, but not just in federally-funded projects, in all jobs. His amendment was criticized because in some cases, the same protections would not have extended to American workers on the very same jobs.
In 2008, The Christian Science Monitor explained how then-Senator Obama helped kill 2007 immigration reform efforts:
Obama was part of the bipartisan group of senators who began meeting in 2005 on comprehensive immigration reform. But last summer, with the presidential nominating race well under way, Obama backed 11th-hour amendments – supported by labor, immigrant rights, and clergy groups – that Republicans saw as imperiling the fragile compromise.
As William McGurn noted in the Wall Street Journal in 2010:
Give the man credit. In 2007, Mr. Obama figured out how to get the support of Latinos (by speaking in favor of an immigration bill) while keeping the support of labor (by voting for amendments designed to ensure an immigration bill would never pass). In like manner, he now parades as a bipartisan reformer while his actions poison the chances for any bipartisan bill for years to come.
However, at least one pro-immigration group sees through the smokescreen, calling Obama’s efforts “immigration fakery.”
The group claims that Obama “quietly worked with Harry Reid to sabotage Bush’s immigration reform through poison pill amendments and procedure to encourage moderate Republicans to drop their support, and then blaming Republicans for the bill’s failure.”
3. AFL-CIO Boss: Guest workers should be able to bring their families too…
To make matters worse, last week, AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka stated in an interview that any guest worker program enacted should allow workers to bring their families too.
Optimistic about a “reasonable path to citizenship” for all 11.5 million undocumented workers, Trumka wants to be sure that any new program won’t allow renewed exploitation of Latino immigrants. New guest workers must be treated fairly—and allowed to bring their families along.
If the AFL-CIO boss and their Democrat cronies gets their way, not only would their be a “pathway to citizenship,” illegals would get free ObamaCare, guest workers would be paid more than American workers–and guest workers would be able to bring their families along to the U.S. as well.
When taken together, these poison-pill demands will likely get even the most moderate Republican to drop attempts at achieving comprehensive immigration reform.
The question remains: Why?
Why would Obama, his Democrat surrogates and AFL-CIO bosses talk about immigration reform as though they are for it, then endanger it by trying to insert poison-pill amendments that they know will kill its chances?
The answer can only be: Politics.
The reality is, unions–especially building trade unions (many of whose members remain unemployed)–cannot afford to have more non-union competition.
Rather, like they are with the minimum wage issue, it seems that Barack Obama and his union-boss buddies (as they have in the past) are more interested in ensuring they keep Latinos at bay–by blaming Republicans for immigration reform failure–while keeping them firmly in their pockets politically.
By talking out one side of their mouths that they are pro-reform to Latinos and low information voters, then cynically trying to push radical poison pills up the backside of America, they are playing a cruel game with Latinos’ dreams.
“Truth isn’t mean. It’s truth.”
Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)