Byron York
Recently the pharmaceutical giant Merck announced it will cut 8,500 jobs in an effort to remain competitive in a rapidly changing drug industry. Earlier this year, Merck announced plans to cut 7,500 jobs, bringing the total of workers let go to 16,000. In all, Merck intends to lay off one out of every five of its employees.

At the same time, top Merck officials are urging Congress to loosen the nation's immigration laws to allow more foreign workers into the United States. In a Sept. 10 letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Merck Executive Vice President for Human Resources Mirian Graddick-Weir urged that the U.S. admit more high- and low-skilled immigrants to "address the reality that there is a global war for talent" and to "align our nation's immigration policies with its workforce needs at all skill levels to ensure U.S. global competitiveness."

Merck, whose officials did not respond to requests for comment, wasn't alone in signing the letter to Boehner and Pelosi. Other companies that have laid off thousands in recent years -- Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, United Technologies, American Express, Procter & Gamble, T-Mobile, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Cigna, Texas Instruments and more -- are also petitioning Congress for more immigrant workers. In all, representatives of more than 100 big U.S. corporations signed the letter.

On Capitol Hill, the lawmakers who are trying to stop a Gang of Eight-style comprehensive immigration reform bill believe most of those companies support reform because they want to hire immigrants at lower wages. Watching firms fire American workers while appealing for more immigration is a disheartening spectacle.

"Senate Democrats, the Gang of Eight and the White House have all apparently decided that large corporations should be able to tailor the nation's immigration policy to suit their own financial interests," said Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, a vocal Gang of Eight opponent, in a statement. "Now it falls on the shoulders of House Republicans to do the right thing and to defend the legitimate interests of American workers."

The fear that Sessions and others have is that immigration reform is not as dead as some observers believe. The Gang of Eight bill passed the Senate in June on a 68-32 vote, but promptly seemed to disappear in the House.


Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner