The Democrats' Plan to Fix Inflation: Squeeze Blue-Collar Americans | Opinion

Leading Democrats just admitted that immigration depresses American workers' wages—and they're arguing that it's a good thing.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Democratic whip and one of the loudest proponents of his party's Build Back Better Act—which offers work permits and de facto legal status to 6.5 million illegal immigrants and would be the largest amnesty in U.S. history—gleefully noted that the bill would put downward pressure on incomes. "Oh, most certainly," he told reporters. "If there are more workers filling those jobs, it's deflationary."

Congressman Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) concurs. "If you have more people that are allowed to work in this country, then there's gonna be less of a tight labor market," he explained in December.

Inflation, which just reached its highest level in 40 years, is certainly a problem. But making it harder for workers to find high-paying jobs and win raises—which are already not keeping up with the soaring cost of goods and services—will only worsen the plight of tens of millions of families.

In other words, Democrats' talking points in favor of the bill are actually some of the strongest arguments against it.

These recent acknowledgments are extraordinary, because proponents of the immigration status quo—which already brings in over 1 million foreigners on permanent legal residency and work permits each year, plus hundreds of thousands of guest workers on temporary visas, plus now almost 2 million illegal immigrants thanks to the Biden administration's open borders policy—have steadfastly claimed that immigration is good for American workers, despite loads of evidence to the contrary.

Sen. Dick Durbin
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin (D-IL) speaks to reporters before going to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on February 01, 2022 in Washington, DC. The committee met to consider nominees for three United States District Court judges Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

It's definitionally true that bringing in more foreign workers—who are also potential consumers—grows the economy. But so would annexing Canada. Or Mexico. Merely boosting overall output and consumption is a callous affront to the American worker if the per-capita GDP doesn't increase and the typical American worker reaps no additional benefits.

Immigration amnesty wouldn't merely fail to help Americans; it'd actively harm many of them. Citizens lose between $99 and $118 billion in wages each year to illegal immigration, according to Harvard University economist George Borjas. Giving millions of new legal work permits would allow more immigrants to compete head-to-head against American workers—and previous immigrants, for that matter—in all sorts of fields, leading to even larger wage losses.

And Americans want, and need, those jobs. In all but six of the 474 industries recognized by the Commerce Department, the majority of workers are native-born Americans. Illegal immigrants are a minority in every single occupation—even stereotypically immigrant-heavy sectors like housekeeping, meatpacking and agricultural work.

There are no jobs Americans won't do. It's just that illegal immigrants can often be paid less to do the same jobs. It's a race to the bottom that helps the corporate elite while crushing working families.

Many illegal immigrants are kind, hardworking folks with sympathetic stories. But opening the gates to a flood of foreign workers would hurt the Americans who most need our support.

Plenty of Americans are willing to do a hard day's work for a fair day's pay. And it's a darned shame that Democrats, who've historically billed themselves as champions of the working class, are now openly bragging about how their plans will push down wages.

Mark Thies, Ph.D. is an engineering professor at Clemson University whose research is focused on energy and sustainability.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.