FAIR President's Anti-Immigration Reform Op-Ed Gets Almost Everything Wrong

As the Senate's bipartisan “Gang of Eight” moves closer to releasing an immigration reform bill, Dan Stein, president of the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform, lays out in an op-ed for Politico the “five compelling reasons why Republicans should walk away” from the legislation. Each one of Stein's “compelling reasons” is wildly misleading, unsubstantiated, or flat-out wrong.

Let's run them down, one by one.

“Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy will not even allow hearings on a bill.”

This is completely false:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has formally announced an April 17 hearing on comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will testify.

The hearing is in part the result of talks with the bipartisan Gang of Eight working on the soon-to-be unveiled legislation -- including Marco Rubio, who pushed for a slower committee process.

“Democrats will not agree to border security and other enforcement requirements as a prerequisite to amnesty.”

According to Stein, Gang of Eight member Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “demands that legalization take place before border security or other enforcement provisions are in place.” Not true! According to the Associated Press, the Gang of Eight arrived at a compromise wherein immigrants “living here illegally could begin to get green cards in 10 years but only if a new southern border security plan is in place, employers have adopted mandatory electronic verification of their workers' legal status and a new electronic exit system is operating at airports and seaports.” Schumer is reportedly working on convincing House Democrats to support the compromise, arguing that it is “not an impediment to citizenship but rather works alongside citizenship.”

“The legislation will create a new government bureaucracy that will set wages and working conditions.”

Stein argues that the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research, a federal agency created by the proposed bill, will “set wages and working conditions” for low-skilled foreign workers who obtain newly created W-Visas to work in the U.S. Stein cites no sources for this claim, and it's not readily apparent what he's basing it on.

According to the AFL-CIO, which worked with the Chamber of Commerce and the Gang of Eight to fashion the low-skilled worker compromise, the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research will “identify labor shortages and make recommendations, among other things, on the impact of immigration on labor markets as well as the methods of recruitment of U.S. workers into lesser-skilled, non-seasonal jobs.” The bureau will also “have a role in setting the annual W-Visa cap.” The labor group makes no mention of the bureau “setting wages and working conditions” for foreign workers.

A call put in to the AFL-CIO for clarification on the issue hasn't been returned, but we'll update with their statement if/when they get back to us.

UPDATE: AFL-CIO sends over the following statement:

The “W Visa” is designed to allow employers to access non-local workers in a time of shortage. The bill will establish standards to determine a “wage floor” for visas so that employers don't pay less for new workers than they or their counterparts pay local workers, or use the visa program to undermine working conditions. These standards will ensure that employers are actually accessing the W Visa because of a shortage, rather than a preference for lower wages.

“The legislation would extend Davis-Bacon 'prevailing wage' requirements to private-sector jobs.”

Wait... didn't Stein argue that the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research will be setting wages for low-skilled workers?

The Davis-Bacon Act requires that federal contractors brought in from outside a given area be paid according to local labor standards -- commonly known as the "prevailing wage." Stein is correct that the compromise labor package will require that low-skilled foreign workers be paid the prevailing wage or the employer wage, depending on which is higher. The problem, according to Stein, is that the bill “would flood many sectors of the U.S. labor market, thereby depressing wages, followed by arbitrary, job-killing government regulations designed to artificially prop them up.”

First of all, the method for determining the prevailing wage is not “arbitrary.” It's actually set at the state level, making use of “extensive wage payment data,” according to the Fiscal Policy Institute's James Parrott. Second, the purpose of the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research is, as noted above, to recommend the issuance of W-Visas based on which sectors of the labor market are facing shortages, thereby reducing the chance of flooding any given sector. According to immigration policy analyst Daniel Costa, if this system is “managed and enforced properly, this will prevent average wages from declining.”

“The bill would be a budget-buster.”

“Legalizing millions of low-skilled undocumented immigrants and creating a new visa category dedicated to increasing low-skilled immigration would wreak havoc on federal, state and local budgets,” Stein writes. He's certainly entitled to that opinion, and it's a popular one among conservative opponents of immigration reform, but it's not shared by economists and other people who generally know what they're talking about.

The Gang of Eight immigration bill hasn't yet been released, so obviously its impact on the federal budget can't be scored, but the general consensus seems to be that the costs of reform are more than outweighed by the economic benefits. As Politico noted on April 9, “economists across the political spectrum have concluded that comprehensive immigration reform would boost the economy.” The Immigration Policy Center compiled analyses of the economic effects of immigrant legalization proposals and found that “the economic value of a new legalization program would be substantial, amounting to tens of billions of dollars in added income, billions of dollars in additional tax revenue, and hundreds of thousands of new jobs for native-born and immigrant workers alike.”

Funnily enough, Stein's op-ed comes a day after Politico published an opinion column by political consultants César Martínez and Gebe Martinez offering “bipartisan tips for immigration reform,” one of which was to ignore the “extremists” like “FAIR's Dan Stein or other like-minded opponents” because they won't be convinced anyway. Stein's own op-ed does much to demonstrate the value of that advice.