Gov. Scott Walker is in trouble with the liberal media and the Republican establishment for suggesting that the well-being of American workers, not foreign workers, should be a priority for any immigration reform proposal. Good for him!
Any presidential candidate can expect to be pilloried and ridiculed by the establishment if he speaks the truth about immigration reform. And unfortunately, since political correctness has found a home in the Republican Party as well as the Harvard faculty lounge, speaking up for American workers is out of fashion at the Republican National Committee and the Republican Governors Association.
In 2007, I ran for president to force John McCain and other candidates to deal with the illegal immigration issue in the 2008 presidential primaries. It worked, and the 2008 Republican Party Platform contained good language on border security and amnesty.
How the world has changed in eight short years.
When I was in Congress, I sponsored a bill to allow new foreign guest workers to gain work visas in unlimited numbers – but only in those occupations and in those states where the U.S. Department of Labor could demonstrate a labor shortage through rapidly rising wage rates. That’s a free market test for a labor shortage, and by that market test, about the only labor shortage in the country today is among lettuce harvesters – not software programmers, dry-wall installers or truck drivers.
It’s certainly a mixed blessing, but it’s clear that President Obama’s unconstitutional actions on “executive amnesty” have pushed the immigration issue front and center in the 2016 presidential campaign. No candidate will be able to evade the issue, and we should be pleased to see Scott Walker talking about it early and often, even if he has vacillated on some key issues – as I pointed out in a recent column.
However, there is something different in the new debate over immigration policies, and it is a positive change. For the first time in recent memory, politicians are now talking about immigration policy not just illegal immigration. That’s a major change – and the establishment is not happy about it.
Walker is being attacked from the left for making the outrageous suggestion that American workers should come first, not last, when we design immigration policies. And to his credit, Walker is not talking about more border security; he is talking about job security. Talk about heresy! Bring on the tar and feathers!
Is Walker risking his political future by taking a “right-wing populist” position on immigration? Not according to the January Gallup poll. By a 5-to-1 margin, most Americans want less legal immigration, not more.
Every other objective poll tells us the same thing. The Polling Company survey in mid-2014 found that Americans want employers to raise wages to attract workers and not import workers from abroad at lower wages – and Americans are saying that by a 10-to-1 margin.
It is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Republican establishment who are out of step with the public, not Scott Walker. And those Gallup numbers are for all voters, not just Republican voters.
Defending American workers is a winning issue among independents and blue-collar Democrats as well. So, it is especially sad to see libertarians like Rand Paul championing cheap labor and open borders, as if low-skilled foreign workers should have more rights than American workers.
By design or by accident, candidate Scott Walker has discovered and taken the leadership on a problem that will attract millions of blue collar and middle class voters to his candidacy – if he sticks to it. It’s a winning issue, and the other Republican candidates will be making a big mistake if they do not follow Walker’s lead.
You can bet Scott Walker’s concern for American jobs will play well on Main Street even if it raises eyebrows and feeds ulcers on Wall Street.
Tom Tancredo is the founder of the Rocky Mountain Foundation and founder and co-chairman of Team America PAC.He represented Colorado’s sixth congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009, and he is a former presidential candidate.
He is the author of In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security, and he can be heard every Monday on Grassroots Radio Colorado with Kris Cook (KLZ 560 AM).