U.S. Senate's immigration legislation hurts country's unemployed

David Olen Cross /


Published Aug 30, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

Oregon U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden joining the Gang of Eight in the passage of Senate Bill 744, termed comprehensive immigration reform by some, amnesty by others, is unconscionable legislation considering the United States’ seasonally adjusted July number of 12.1 million unemployed citizens; 7.4 percent of the country’s civilian labor force.

According to the “Feb. 1, 2011, Pew Hispanic Center, Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends, 2010,” there are 8 million unauthorized workers in the U.S.

With so many unemployed American citizens looking for jobs and 8 million unauthorized workers currently holding the jobs many citizens will do, the U.S. Senate’s legislation at best seems oblivious to the plight of the unemployed in this country.

Two of the negative consequences of SB 744 are reveled in a June 2013 Congressional Budget Office report that indicates the legislation will cause unemployment to increase through 2020 and average wages to decline through 2025.

An evaluation of the seasonally adjusted unemployment numbers from a Bureau of Labor Statistics/U.S. Department of Labor news release from Aug. 19 titled “Regional and State Employment and Unemployment — July” reveals unemployment rates in the states represented by the Gang of Eight plus their two Oregonian senatorial sidekicks: Oregon, 8 percent; Arizona, 8 percent; Colorado, 7.1 percent; Florida, 7.1 percent; Illinois, 9.2 percent; New Jersey, 8.6 percent; New York, 7.5 percent; and South Carolina, 8.1 percent. Six of the preceding eight states had a higher percentage of unemployed than the national average.

During the summer congressional recess, when Merkley and Wyden return to Oregon, the senators should take a look at the number of unemployed in the state and unemployment numbers of the individual counties they choose to visit across the state.

The Oregon Department of Employment reported 158,645 citizens were unemployed in July; the state ranked 10th, tied with Arizona for the percentage of unemployed.

Locally, Deschutes County’s 7,240 unemployed in July equated to 10 percent of the county’s work force; 4.6 percent of the state’s unemployed.

Including Deschutes, 28 of 36 Oregon counties (77.8 percent of the state’s counties) in July had a higher unemployment rate than the national average of 7.4 percent: Baker, 9.4 percent; Columbia, 8.2 percent; Coos, 10.2 percent; Crook, 12.6 percent; Curry, 10.6 percent; Douglas, 11 percent; Grant, 12.2 percent; Harney, 12.9 percent; Jackson, 9.8 percent; Jefferson, 10.8 percent; Josephine, 11.3 percent; Klamath, 10.9 percent; Lake, 11.9 percent; Lane, 8 percent; Lincoln, 8.4 percent; Linn, 10 percent; Malheur, 8.7 percent; Marion, 8.6 percent; Morrow, 8.8 percent; Polk, 7.9 percent; Sherman, 7.6 percent; Tillamook, 7.6 percent; Umatilla, 8.4 percent; Union, 8.3 percent; Wallowa, 10 percent; Wasco, 7.5 percent; and Yamhill, 7.7 percent. Thirteen of the preceding counties had double-digit unemployment.

Back to the Pew Hispanic Center report: According to the Pew report, there are an estimated 110,000 unauthorized workers in Oregon.

If SB 744 is passed by both sides of Congress and signed into law by the president, the addition of 110,000 unauthorized workers into the state’s civilian labor force, if the CBO report is right, will likely increase unemployment in Oregon. This would be a setback for a state struggling to recover from a severe recession.

The U.S. House of Representatives will hopefully take a more incremental approach to any type of immigration reform and first pass stand-alone legislation requiring a federally mandated national employment verification system like E-Verify, which the federal government currently uses on all its new hires.

During the congressional recess, Oregon’s 158,645 unemployed U.S. citizens should contact Merkley and Wyden, along with Congressman Greg Walden, and tell them Oregonians should never have to compete for scarce jobs now or in the future with illegal alien workers; and furthermore, the U.S. Congress passing a standalone federally mandated E-Verify system is best way to get those unemployed in the state and across the country back to full-time employment.