Sen. Jeff Sessions tells Newsmax that the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate would pull down wages and increase unemployment — and he predicts it "cannot be passed."
The Alabama Republican also warns that Republicans should not buckle to "big donors" who want to increase immigration to boost the supply of cheap labor.
Sen. Sessions was first elected in 1996 and is the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. He also serves on the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Sessions has this advice for GOP legislators on immigration reform: "My message is if you do the right thing not only will it be the right thing for America but it will also be good politics, because what's happening today is – and it's been going on since at least 1999 – wages of working Americans have been eroding every year.
"What we need to do is to promote immigration but at a level that we can sustain, and the bill that came out of the Senate would have taken us from 10 million people given legal status in 10 years to 30 million people given permanent legal status in 10 years. That's larger than the American workforce can absorb without increasing unemployment and pulling down wages as the Congressional Budget Office said."
As for the 11 million illegal aliens currently in the country, Sessions says: "We'll have to wrestle with how to treat them in a compassionate way, and there is a way to create a legal status for those who are deserving in that group. But we're talking about a bill that not only would legalize the 11 million, it would basically double the annual flow of immigrants into the country on top of that, and that's what cannot be absorbed without real danger to working Americans and their income."
House Republicans initially said there would be no amnesty in their immigration bills. But Reps. Eric Cantor and Bob Goodlatte are working on a bill to provide a legal status to those brought illegally to the United States as children by their parents, a concept Speaker Boehner spoke favorably about.
"It's a matter to be discussed and certainly the people who were brought here young have the most compelling claim for legal status," Sessions observes.
"But the bill would have given legal status to everybody, even those who entered the country illegally before Dec. 30, 2011, who've never held a job, had two DUI arrests, and had no family connections in our country. They would be put on a guaranteed path to citizenship. So what we've got to do is make sure that we rationally analyze the people that are here as we try to do the right thing."
Karl Rove, Jeb Bush, and Grover Norquist are among those supporting immigration reform, and big GOP donors are urging the party to approve immigration reform, yet there still remains strong opposition in the House.
Asked why there is such division in the party on this issue, Sessions tells Newsmax: "The big donors are attempting to pull the strings on them and they're ignoring the American people. We can't have the CEOs who want cheap labor demanding [reform] while working Americans are not getting pay raises and they make bigger profits. It's just that simple.
"The average workforce participation today is lower than it was in the '70s. We have 2 million fewer people working today than in 2007 and there's just not that many jobs out there. We need to get our unemployed into those jobs.
"That's so simple and so basic, I'm not sure why people can't see it. It's so obvious that we need to move Americans, unemployed Americans, into jobs first before we bring in workers from abroad to take those jobs."
As for differences within the GOP over immigration, "it is an intense discussion that's now beginning about what a political party that desires to be able to lead the country should do at this point in history," Sessions says.
"The Republicans basically lost this last election. There's no doubt about that. The $50,000-a-year-down voter voted far less for Gov. Romney than it did for President Bush when he won his re-election bid. We need a message that appeals to the people who carry this nation on its back every day, who goes out and work every day. Nobody's talking about them and all we hear from the Democrats is tax more and send out more checks. But what we need to do is create an economy that allows a working American to prosper."
House conservatives are also getting pressure from pro-comprehensive reform forces like evangelical leaders, the Chamber of Commerce and other groups to pass a comprehensive bill.
Sessions comments: "There are some evangelical leaders that have advocated for this bill. But I read an article recently that said the pews aren't following this, the parishioners out there who support the churches and go to church regularly, they're not supporting this Gang of Eight bill in any significant numbers.
"We need to be aware that you simply cannot allow everybody who would like to come to America to come to America because they can't be absorbed in the economy that we have today without impacting adversely their fellow immigrants as well as the Americans who are here."
Looking ahead at the future of immigration reform, Sessions says: "I'm really not sure what will happen. But there's a growing feeling that this legislation that came out of the Senate cannot be passed. House leaders have made that clear.
"Polling data show that support for the bill is continuing to decline. And among those working Americans earning $30,000 and below, they're three to one against any increase in the lawful rate of immigration.
"We need a sustainable flow of immigration and we need to do it in a way that allows our economy and our workers to prosper. That has not been happening.
"I hope the House will be able to work its way through and do the right thing. But they should not pass legislation based on some short-term fix to gain approval from contributors or on what they think will gain them short-term advantage. Do the right thing for America, and it will be good politics in the long run."
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