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Policy Update: Predictable House Hearings Attract Little Press

March 07, 2011 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

The Immigration Subcommittee in the House, Chaired by Elton Gallegly (R-CA) has held a series of hearings, and will be holding more.  The Republican majority controls which topics the Subcommittee will consider.  A major theme threading through all of the hearings has been that undocumented workers take jobs from Americans.  Perhaps because the hearings have been so predictable, not much attention has been paid in the press (except in Spanish-language media).

The first hearing was ICE Worksite Enforcement - Up to the Job?  In this hearing, Republican members of the Subcommittee complained that ICE was not conducting enough worksite raids of the kind that devastated the community of Postville, Iowa, in 2008. 

In the second hearing, “E-Verify- Preserving Jobs for American Workers,” Republicans tried to make the point that, if only the E-Verify electronic worker verification system were mandatory and universally used, undocumented workers would be thwarted from gaining employment and American workers would have their jobs.  (Of course, it’s not that simple, particularly in Agriculture.  Read more in this blog post about the unintended consequences of E-Verify without immigration reform.)

The next hearing, held on March 1, was an example of Congress at its most cynical.  The hearing was entitled “Making Immigration Work for American Minorities.”  There were three majority (Republican) witnesses to tell us about how much undocumented immigrants are hurting American minorities.  One was a board member of the anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform.  Another also has had a history of collaborating with various anti-immigrant groups.  The third was a representative of the San Antonio Tea Party.  [Read more in this article from the Center for New Community.]

It’s perhaps not surprising that the Committee and Subcommittee Chairs could not come up with better witnesses.  Their voting records, according to organizations that actually represent minorities, are, um, less than stellar.  For example, in the 111th Congress (2nd session), both the Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith and the Immigration Subcommittee Chair Elton Gallegly received a rating of 18% in the NAACP’s Legislative Civil Rights Report Card, voting against, for example, an anti-wage discrimination bill, a bill to expand health insurance for low- and middle-income children, and a bill to extend unemployment benefits during the recession.  [Read more in this paper from America’s Voice.]

The lone minority (Democrat) witness was Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, who in his testimony argued for comprehensive immigration reform, discussed policy changes that would improve conditions for low-income minority workers, and addressed efforts to pit one community against another (in this case, immigrants against African Americans).  Regarding the impact of immigration on the unemployment of African Americans, he noted that the black unemployment rate in the U.S. has been about twice that of the white unemployment rate since the 1950s—long before the latest post-1965 wave of immigration—and the recent influx of immigrants has not changed that situation.  He noted that there are economists who have extensively researched the issue of unemployment in the African American community, but that none were invited to testify at this hearing.

The next Subcommittee hearing will be March 10, “New Jobs in Recession and Recovery: Who Are Getting Them and Who Are Not.”  It will be more of the same.

Over in the Homeland Security Committee, Peter King (R-NY) has garnered more attention in the press with his announcement that he will hold a hearing on March 10, “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response.”  Announcement of King’s intentions has raised considerable concern in the American Muslim community, for fears King that King is raising suspicions about Muslims in general, and implying they are not cooperating with law enforcement officials.  For more information, see this article by the Rights Working Group about a coalition letter sent to King asking him to cancel the hearing.


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