Recently, Senator Thom Tillis said there aren't enough qualified Americans to work tech jobs and that he wanted to bring in more foreign guest workers on H-1B visas. This, despite the fact that less expensive H-1Bs are commonly used to replace Americans who are already employed in order to boost the profits of Silicon Valley CEOs.
Sen. Tillis isn't stopping there. He is negotiating with a handful of mostly Democrat senators about liberalizing the U.S. immigration system. The talks are happening behind closed doors, and details are still vague. But based on a handful of leaked reports, any potential deal would increase the number of visas for foreign workers and offer amnesty to certain illegal immigrants.
The fact that Sen. Tillis wants to increase our already historically high levels of immigration, despite poll after poll showing that Republicans want less immigration, is a slap in the face to the GOP base. The notion of Sen. Tillis taking this action instead of focusing to stop mass illegal immigration happening at our "open" and lawless southern border is egregious, reckless, and tone-deaf.
And the fact that negotiators allegedly plan to ram a deal through Congress in the "lame duck" session after the midterm elections, once lawmakers are no longer accountable to voters, is especially galling.
This isn't the first time Sen. Tillis has tried to strike an amnesty deal with Democrats. Back in 2017, he spearheaded talks that would have shielded most illegal immigrants from deportation. At the time, Politico called Tillis a "pro-immigration Republican." His official website proudly showcases an article saying he chose to go in a "different direction" than President Trump on immigration policy.
Five years later, Sen. Tillis hasn't changed his tune. He continues pushing for a more liberal U.S. immigration system. This time, he's partnering with liberal colleagues such as Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Alex Padilla (D-CA).
Their plan would reportedly import more migrants to work on farms and at restaurants and offer a pathway to citizenship to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.
Sen. Tillis claims that such changes are necessary to address inflation and ongoing labor shortages. He recently told one reporter that more migrant workers are needed because "we're in a crisis here" and "we've got the threat of a recession."
Bringing in more foreign workers would help corporations -- but hurt the American workers forced to compete against the new arrivals and the downward pressure on wages. Sen. Tillis likely feels that CEOs might miss their bonus checks if they can't use mass immigration to manipulate the supply of labor. Researchers have repeatedly found that immigration depresses Americans' wages. Immigration was responsible for a 10% decrease in the relative wages of less-skilled men in the American West during the 1980s, according to one study cited in a 2010 Congressional Research Service report.
This is just Economics 101. Artificially increasing the supply of labor does, indeed, drive down wages. I, for one, do not think we are overpaying the working poor. Increasing is not only just a harmful consequence for low-skilled workers but also a coordinated effort to put the screws to skilled and high tech workers as well.
More immigration, and thus more labor market competition, couldn't come at a worse time. As Sen. Tillis himself has noted, Americans are struggling with the highest inflation in four decades. Real wages have dropped 2.6% in the past year.
The situation is particularly dire for low-income folks without much formal education. About 11% of North Carolina's working-age adults, more than 570,000 people, lack high school diplomas. These workers were hit the hardest by the Covid-19 recession. They've also had a harder time recouping their losses in the ongoing recovery. Many can no longer afford even basic necessities. Sen. Tillis' plan would make their lives harder.
His proposals aren't merely callous, but wildly unpopular with the GOP base. According to recent Rasmussen polling, 52% of Republican voters want to cut legal immigration from its current level of roughly 1.1 million per year to less than 500,000 per year. Another 16% want to slash it to 750,000. By contrast, just 11% of Republicans favor increasing immigration levels.
GOP voters likewise overwhelmingly oppose amnesty. About 75% oppose giving work permits to "most" of the roughly 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States. When the question turns to the roughly 2 million illegal immigrants brought here as minors -- a comparatively sympathetic group -- 58% of Republicans still oppose amnesty.
And 64% Republicans would prefer the government engineer a tighter labor market, so that businesses must "raise the pay and try harder to recruit" American workers, "even if it causes prices to rise." Just 15% would prefer the government "bring in new foreign workers to help keep business costs and prices down."
Simply put, Republicans want less immigration. They oppose Democrats using the mass immigration of poor people with the full intent to keep them in poverty and to be used and manipulated as future voters. They viscerally oppose any and all forms of amnesty, which rewards lawlessness and encourages even more illegal immigration. And they don't support large scale foreign labor via bad immigration policies to be used by RINO's as a weapon against American workers.
Senator Tillis won his 2020 race by just 1.8% against a sex-scandal-plagued opponent.
If he keeps up amnesty discussions with Democrats and continues to alienate the GOP base, he could very well lose his next election.
Ron Woodard is the director of NC LISTEN, a North Carolina-based immigration reform nonprofit.