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Obama’s Executive Order Does Harm to American Workers | Commentary

The most frustrating part of the debate over President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty program is that the conversation is almost entirely centered on what is good for illegal immigrants, rather than what is beneficial to legal American workers. There are substantive constitutional separation of powers concerns and national security implications in the president’s decree, but it seems that no one wants to talk about the nearly 20 million Americans who woke up this morning either unemployed or underemployed. At long last, isn’t it time someone stood up for American workers?

What is lost on people scrambling to defend the president’s actions is the basic economic law of supply and demand when it comes to available jobs. If there are almost 20 million unemployed or underemployed Americans, how exactly will it help them to introduce 5 million more job seekers to the equation? To flood the market with new applicants will make jobs harder to obtain and force wages lower. It is glaringly obvious the president’s amnesty plan puts people who are already finding it difficult to find employment in immediate and direct competition with illegal immigrants.

Neither should we be assuaged by the promise that the Obama executive amnesty program stops at 5 million illegal immigrants. If the history of illegal immigration policies has taught us anything, it is that waiving penalties for illegal immigration draws even more applicants for the protection. Under the amnesty program created by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, Americans were promised there would be only 1.5 million people covered. In truth, when the final tally was realized, the number had more than doubled. It is ingrained in human nature that when something attractive is offered, more people will flock to claim it. There is no reason whatsoever to believe Obama’s program will stop at a mere 5 million people, meaning ever-increasing interference for Americans looking for work.

At the center of the president’s executive action is a toxic intersection of his amnesty program and the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Under the health care law, businesses with 50 or more full-time employees must provide sufficient health insurance or pay up a fine of up to $3,000 for each worker enrolled in Obamacare each year. However, illegal immigrants who have been granted amnesty by the president are ineligible for coverage under Obamacare. The result is an illegal immigrant armed with a new Obama-issued work permit has suddenly become $3,000 cheaper to hire than a legal American worker. Worse yet, it might dawn on certain employers that it would save money to rid themselves of American employees and trade them in for cheaper, illegal immigrant replacements.

Some have even been tempted to fall back on the tired deflection that “illegal immigrants will do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do.” To that, it is easy to reply, “Not anymore they won’t.” Illegal immigrants with newly printed work permits now will be able to compete with Americans for any job, and will not have to settle for under-the-table employment to “mow our lawns, make our beds, clean out bedpans,” as Obama condescendingly said in defending his actions.

At a recent hearing of the House Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I had the opportunity to put some of these questions directly to the president’s point-man on executive amnesty, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. When asked about the increased competition for jobs as a result of the amnesty plan, Johnson spoke at length about the plight of illegal immigrants working “off the books” without a single thought about unemployed Americans. When asked about the $3,000 incentive for employers to hire illegal immigrants rather than American workers, he replied, without elaboration, “I don’t think I see it that way.”

The implication is clear and tremendously disheartening: the Obama administration has not considered the impact executive amnesty will have on hard-working Americans, or if it has, is not concerned about it.

In an effort to prevent the looming damage to struggling Americans, I have introduced the Defense of Legal Workers Act, which states simply that illegal immigrants granted amnesty by executive action shall not be authorized to work in the United States. I co-sponsored and voted for passage of legislation that prohibits executive amnesty to broad categories of illegal immigrants. I also am supportive of efforts to block the funding of the president’s amnesty program and encourage my colleagues to exercise our legislative “power of the purse.” Failing all of that, I also favor taking the president to court to establish that he has overstepped his executive authority as outlined in the Constitution.

It is tempting to attribute political motivation to the president’s unprecedented executive edicts, but that is a discussion better left to historians and pundits. What should be transparent to any observer in the present day, however, is that the Obama policies are bad for this nation’s legal working population. Two signature programs — Obamacare and executive amnesty — have combined to make life more difficult for law abiding Americans. The only question left is whether it is an unintended design flaw or a planned feature.

Rep. Lou Barletta is a Republican from Pennsylvania’s 11th District.

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