After a marathon 15-hour vote-a-rama , the U.S. Senate passed a budget resolution by a vote of 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Because the Senate considered the bill under the budget reconciliation process, Democrats needed only 51 votes to pass the legislation, opting to go it alone rather than work with Republicans on crafting a bipartisan package.

The budget reconciliation process
allows members of the minority party – in this case, the Republicans – to
introduce as many amendments as they want to add to the bill. Often, these
amendments require the majority party to take votes on controversial
legislation. Many of the evening’s 45 amendments ended in 50-50 party-line
votes.

Republicans did manage to divide
some Democrats, however. One amendment proposed by Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.)
and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) would block stimulus checks from going to illegal
aliens. Initially, the amendment passed with eight Democrats voting with their
Republican colleagues in favor of this common-sense proposal:

  • Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire
  • Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado
  • Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona
  • Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia
  • Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan
  • Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona
  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Minnesota
  • Sen. Jon Tester of Montana

Unfortunately, a later amendment by
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reversed this earlier vote and stripped
the Young-Cotton amendment from the final bill.

Yet the amendment that immigration reform advocates should note is that of Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The Cruz amendment to the budget resolution created “a point of order against the consideration of any legislation that increases employment-based visas until the United States’ labor market stabilizes and unemployment levels reach pre-pandemic levels, ensuring that Congress prioritizes the needs of American workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.”

In short, Senator Cruz’s amendment would have made it harder to import more foreign workers until our labor force begins recovering from the economic consequences of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, this amendment
failed by a vote of 40-60, with eight Republicans joining all 50 of their
Democratic colleagues in siding with foreign workers and their employers rather
than with struggling Americans:

  • Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska
  • Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky
  • Sen. Susan Collins of Maine
  • Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska
  • Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska
  • Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
  • Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina

Foreign workers depress wages and reduce opportunities for Americans. This is particularly true of the H-1B skilled guest worker and H-2B non-skilled guest worker programs. Multiple studies indicate that employers hire similarly-qualified foreign workers at wages significantly below what Americans earn despite performing the same roles. 

It is disappointing that this important amendment failed. Unfortunately, many of the same Republican senators who bemoan the effects of illegal immigration stay conspicuously silent when it comes to legal immigration and guest workers. The wage displacement of illegal aliens is similar to that of H-2B guest workers who work in landscaping, construction, and hospitality roles. H-1B workers further undermine the wages of white-collar Americans and college graduates. The point is, in terms of the negative economic impact of foreigners, it does not matter whether they came here illegally or whether they are guest workers – often, the result is the same.

It should be uncontroversial to
state that we need to pause legal immigration in its entirety until our
unemployment rate returns to pre-pandemic levels. Unfortunately, the results of
the vote on Senator Cruz’s proposed amendment reflect the sad reality that many
senators do not grasp the effect that even legalimmigration – not just
illegal immigration – has some effect on the wages and opportunities of
American citizens.   

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