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Jeff Sessions Dismisses Immigration Reform As 'Ethnic Politics'

If there's one thing Sen. Jeff Sessions ought to know all about, it's "ethnic politics," but I doubt very highly the two of us would agree on just what the definition of that phrase is. I don't think the Republicans are going get the nativist wing of their party, or the members of Congress who cater to them like Sessions, to go along with something they perceive as amnesty any time soon.

If there's one thing Sen. Jeff Sessions ought to know all about, it's "ethnic politics," but I doubt very highly the two of us would agree on just what the definition of that phrase is. I don't think the Republicans are going get the nativist wing of their party, or the members of Congress who cater to them like Sessions, to go along with something they perceive as amnesty any time soon.

Instead they're going to give lip service to the problem and pretend they're looking out of the interest of the working class and Hispanics as Sessions did here: GOP Senator Dismisses Push For Immigration Reform As ‘Ethnic Politics’:

Sessions’ comments came after host Bob Schieffer asked what effect GOP opposition to the legislation would have on the party’s relationship with Hispanics. After claiming that the Senate reform bill would be harmful to American workers, including Hispanics, Sessions asserted the need to “move away from ethnic politics:” [...]

Sessions’s argument that reform would be bad for the economy doesn’t hold water. In March, the Hamilton Project examined available evidence on immigration and workers’ wages and found that “immigrants create average wage increases of between 0.1 percent and 0.6 percent for American workers.” Providing legal status and citizenship within 5 years would add an estimated $1.1 trillion to the cumulative U.S. GDP over a decade, and an average increase of 159,000 new jobs per year. Having undocumented immigrants pay into the tax system would also strengthen health care entitlements for all Americans by extending those programs’ solvency.

Furthermore, Sessions’ claim that reforming America’s immigration system is “ethnic politics” doesn’t add up, considering the broad-based support for immigration reform across the racial spectrum. Multiple polls have shown that an overwhelming majority of all Americans supports immigration reform — including the specific legislation being considered by the Senate. Read on...

As they also noted, our current policy has been doing real damage and tearing families apart. I think most people don't want to see us having a permanent underclass of workers living in the shadows for employers to exploit with no repercussions. Whether this Congress is capable of passing a piece of legislation that most of the public ought to support remains to be seen.

Full transcript below the fold.

SCHIEFFER: Alright, I want to turn now to Jeff Sessions, senator from Alabama. He is also a Republican. And he doesn't want any part of this bill. Senator, I've just got to ask you this question, do you think Republicans get it on immigration? Because people like Lindsey Graham are saying if you don't do something, reaching out to Hispanics, you -- it might not -- you might not need to run anybody for president next time, because with the demographics changing in this country, it's going to be impossible to elect a Republican president if you don't get substantial Hispanic support.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, (R) ALABAMA: Bob, we need to do the right thing, right thing for America and I think appeal to all people, particularly Hispanics and African Americans and minorities that are here.

SCHIEFFER: But why are you so much against this amendment?

SESSIONS: Well, I'm opposed to the bill because it doesn't do what it says, Bob. This bill grants amnesty first, and a mere promise of enforcement in the future, even with the Corker-Hoeven amendment, all of which has been put in now a 1,200 page vote we'll have Monday afternoon that nobody has read. These promises of 20,000 agents won't take place, or are not required until 2021. No money is being appropriated for that. This is merely an authorization. The fencing -- we passed a law to have 700 miles of double-wide fencing, double-layered fencing. That -- this bill is weaker than that, and it gives -- it has a specific provision that says that Secretary Napolitano does not have to build any fence if she chooses not to, and she's publicly said we've had enough fencing. So the reason this bill was in trouble; the reason this amendment was thrown in here at the last minute was because the promises weren't fulfilled, and this legislation, this amendment doesn't fulfill its promises, either, frankly. And we're going to have amnesty first, no enforcement in the future. We're going to have increased -- we're going to have continued illegality, at least 75 percent according to the CBO report. And CBO concludes that the legal immigration will be dramatically increased and we'll have -- in addition to that, we're going to have lower wages and higher unemployment according to the CBO analysis of this bill. Why would any member of Congress want to vote for a bill at a time of high unemployment, falling wages, to bring in a huge surge of new labor that can only hurt the poorest among us the most?

SCHIEFFER: What kind of a political message does that send to Hispanics?

SESSIONS: Bob, Hispanics are here today by the millions. They're working in the $20,000 to $40,000 income level. Their wages will be impacted adversely. Their ability to get a job, to get a job with retirement benefits and health care benefits -- somebody needs to speak up for them. And I really believe that the numbers in the bill, the lack of enforcement effectiveness in the bill, puts us in a position where it will impact all Americans that are out there working today adversely. And the CBO has said that. The Federal Reserve in Atlanta has said that. Harvard economists have said that. There's really little doubt about that. And so I think we appeal to -- we move away from ethnic politics and we try to appeal to all people based on what's best for America and for them.

SCHIEFFER: So, as of right now, do you think this bill will pass the Senate? Or do you think you can defeat it?

SESSIONS: Bob, they said it was -- had 70 votes last week, and then all of a sudden, it started sinking when people learned more about it. I think, if people find out this amendment does not accomplish what the sponsors believe it does, I think the bill could be back in trouble again.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thank you very much, Senator. We appreciate you coming by this morning.

Can you help us out?

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