American Workers First In Pandemic
By Congressman Paul Gosar and Kevin Lynn
If the most conservative member of Congress can partner with the director of Progressives for Immigration Reform, then there is a real chance our nation can undertake true meaningful immigration reform. Prior to coronavirus laying waste to the economy, President Trump often correctly said that we have the “greatest economy in the history of the U.S.” We boasted about low unemployment numbers and celebrated new stock market highs, GDP growth and job creation. What looked promising on the surface belied serious flaws that lay beneath.
Even when unemployment was reported to be low, Americans were being displaced by foreign workers at alarming rates. Today a record 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment – most in the last six to eight weeks. For reasons only a few can fathom, the Administration seems hell-bent on bringing in more workers from abroad through our employment-based visa programs, such as the H-1B, H-2B and Optional Practical Training (OPT). In good times and bad, corporations and policymakers are unwilling to recalibrate employment visa quotas to current economic conditions. We saw this in 2008, and we see it now. It needs to change now.
At the time of this writing we face an unemployment rate that meets or exceeds the peak of the Great Depression. The institutionalizing of neoliberal policies that has enabled the unfettered movement of people and money across international borders so as to maximize profits has gutted the nation’s productive class. In the 1990s we were told there were jobs that didn’t have an economic right to exist and shipped a large portion of our vital manufacturing sector overseas.
Later, we were falsely told there were jobs Americans simply would not do, so we opened the floodgates to large numbers of legal immigrants and turned a blind eye to people coming here illegally who were only too eager to work for less money and no benefits. Now we are being told there are jobs that Americans can’t do. Almost as if the country that put a man on the Moon and invented the Internet could no longer produce skilled knowledge workers and needed to place its homegrown technology infrastructure in the hands of foreigners. The truth is Americans have always been among the most productive and hardest working people. But they should not have to work for below-market wages, kept artificially low by cheap foreign labor.
In the words of Lisa, a knowledge worker:
“I have degrees in math and computer science from the late 80s. Ditto my husband. He’s a database administrator. We’ve both been in IT our entire careers and are sickened to see what’s happened with all of the outsourcing. We are sick of training our Indian replacements.”
Another American wrote to us:
“I’m a 47-year-old database developer. I’ve been replaced multiple times (that I’m aware of) by OPT workers, and I’ve seen my entire IT department at a major corporation replaced by Indian H-1Bs. I do ‘have skills.’ I’m highly regarded and well-respected by my peers and boss, and I have a well-established work history. I’ve been fighting the work visa treason for years, and I never feel like anyone in Washington, D.C. cares about American workers.”
That is why Congressman Gosar has filed H.R.3564, the Fairness for High-Skilled Americans Act of 2019. It would eliminate the OPT program that is used to hire foreigners over U.S. citizens and pay them less. It is immoral and wrong. We encourage our students to get into STEM fields, but because of OPT, 50 percent of STEM graduates can’t get a STEM job.
The pandemic spotlighted that outsourcing and offshoring of jobs have not made America stronger, rather the country has been weakened, vulnerable to the whims of foreign interests. How can we stave off a pandemic when most if not all the components of personal protective equipment are produced overseas or when 90 percent of our antibiotics and antiviral drugs are produced abroad? This is not only an economic concern; it is a national security concern. At one point China threatened to withhold pharmaceuticals from Americans. This is no small threat when almost all are made in China.
But there’s more. The nation’s top financial services and insurance companies have offshored hundreds of thousands of IT and call center jobs, with many going to India. Does it leave us vulnerable having so many foreign nationals able to access our citizens’ sensitive data?
Coronavirus has exposed the greed and corruption of the neo-liberal system and its high priests. In the face of a pandemic, our healthcare system failed us. These efficient and complex global systems did not function well when stressed. Truth be told, the system was beginning to crack before the virus, and it was financialization – not productivity – that was propping up the world’s economy.
However, in the midst of all this chaos, could there be a silver lining? It is time for our elected officials to act and reform the system. This is a great opportunity to hammer out a plan that repatriates manufacturing and back-office operations to the U.S. Moreover, we can take this opportunity to implement immigration reform that puts American interests first. It is time to bring back America, and one way to do it is to make America first when it comes to hiring.
Congressman Paul Gosar represents Arizona’s Fourth District in Congress and has an America First platform that starts with ending cheap foreign labor. He is consistently ranked among the most conservative in Congress.
Kevin Lynn is the executive director of Progressives for Immigration Reform, an organization focused on the unintended consequences of immigration policies and guest worker programs that undermine working Americans.