The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release


GOP Jobs Agenda Unveiled: Put Unemployed Americans to Work in the Fields

House Republicans, Led by Lamar Smith, Put Anti-Immigrant Ideology Ahead of Conservative Principles, Effective Policy


"Grapes of Wrath: the Sequel" is now playing on Capitol Hill.

Supported by GOP leadership, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) is promoting his E-Verify program as a "jobs" bill that will ease unemployed Americans' woes. It's telling that the first GOP "jobs plan" introduced this year would send unemployed manufacturing workers in Ohio or Michigan to the fields to pick fruit and vegetables.

In The Hill, Smith tries to pass off his burdensome and ineffective E-Verify bill as a salve for American job seekers and economic growth, writing, "E-Verify quickly identifies those working illegally in the United States. Requiring it for all employers will open up more jobs for Americans and legal immigrants." But if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Making E-Verify mandatory for all employers across the nation will make the situation worse, not better, for American businesses, workers, and taxpayers. Not only will it fail to identify undocumented immigrants at least half the time, but it will jeopardize the jobs of millions of Americans, cost small businesses billions of dollars to implement, reduce tax revenues by at least $17 billion as workers and jobs move into the cash economy, and threaten the viability of the entire agriculture industry--as well as the jobs that depend on it.

Smith's piece was a touchy response to an earlier op-ed from Eliseo Medina, International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who pointed out the laughable rationale behind the Smith proposal: "As damaging as the bill is, Rep. Smith's rationale is even more preposterous. He asserts that, if unauthorized immigrants are chased out, jobs will be available for America's unemployed. First, two-thirds of the workers who were disqualified after Arizona's E-Verify law became mandatory did not leave, but entered the cash economy. Second, laid off workers with graduate degrees are not lining up for stoop labor. This bill is a jobs killer."

Let's see - who should Americans trust more on the best way to create good, sustainable jobs for American workers--the Secretary-Treasurer of the SEIU or Rep. Lamar Smith, with his long history of voting against pro-worker legislation?

A Detroit Free-Presseditorial against E-Verify put it well: "By even the conservative estimates of the U.S. Department of Human Services, at least 1.2 million workers -- about 25,000 per state -- would lose their jobs if they didn't correct their identity records. Michigan's economy does not need more red tape for businesses, nor does it need laws that discourage immigrants from coming or that drive them into an underground cash economy, where they don't pay taxes and face even more discrimination. Legislators supporting these bills should take a hint from their pro-business governor: An anti-immigrant agenda is bad business for Michigan."

In Georgia, the labor shortage due to the state's new anti-immigration law is having profound consequences. The state is even experimenting with placing probationers in the fields to replace immigrants who are no longer working due to fear of deportation. Yet, as an Associated Press piece documents, this approach is "yielding mixed results." One crew leader on a Georgia cucumber field expressed his frustration saying some of the new workers "just left, took off across the field walking. If I'm going to depend on the probation people, I'm never going to get the crops up."

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America's Voice Education Fund, "Lamar Smith is trying to recast his anti-immigration agenda as a jobs plan, a ridiculous proposition. His solution to the jobs crisis is to send unemployed manufacturing workers to the fields - a kind of 21ST century Grapes of Wrath. He is so caught up in his anti-immigrant ideology that he apparently doesn't care that his legislation will hurt American workers, impose more red tape on small businesses, and fail to identify undocumented workers more than half the time. Republicans in Congress should take a close look at what is happening Georgia today, where food is rotting in the fields because of an E-Verify created labor crisis, and ask themselves whether they want to see that on a nationwide scale."

America's Voice -- Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform. The mission of America's Voice is to realize the promise of workable and humane comprehensive immigration reform. Our goal is to build the public support and create the political momentum for reforms that will transform a dysfunctional immigration system that does not work into a regulatory system that does.