The United States creates 1.5 to 2 million jobs every year, but without immigrants -- legal and illegal -- we'd have a hard time filling all those jobs. The sensible way to solve that problem would be to create a market-based legal immigration system that would increase the number of persons admitted when job creation justified it and decrease the number when unemployment rose.
Of course, the priority for new jobs has to go to Americans first -- but some jobs, at both ends of the job skills spectrum, will go unfilled unless we allow foreign-born workers to take them. Not enough young Americans are studying engineering, science and mathematics to fill all the jobs that require those skills. And Americans are over-educated to fill the jobs at the lowest end of the skills spectrum.
But none of this matters to the radio talk show hosts who encouraged their millions of listeners to shut down the congressional phone system with calls protesting "amnesty." Nor does it matter to the myriad direct mail outfits opposing immigration, which will reap tens of millions of dollars in donations to fatten their coffers as a result of this "victory."
Meanwhile, the real majority of Americans will have to wait for genuine immigration reform. And Republicans who believe this is going to help them at the polls in 2008 may well find themselves sitting on the back benches for years to come.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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