Long-Term Unemployed on the Brink White House, Congress Pledge to Flood Labor Market with Amnestied Workers

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

January 5, 2014

Long-term federal unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans expired December 28. For those unemployed who have counted on their weekly checks for periods of as long as 11 months, 2014 looks bleak. Despite the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that (deceptively) indicate declining unemployment, finding a job is a daunting task; landing a meaningful job that pays a living wage, offers health care and paid vacation is a long shot.

Recently, CNN Money interviewed seven unemployed Americans. Among them were a 60-year-old retired policeman who anticipates that he’ll lose his house, a 35-year-old who relies on handouts from his family, a 53-year-old Navy veteran who will no longer be able to make his car payments and an uninsured 51-year-old mother of a physically challenged adult son. [“Unemployment Benefits for 1.3 Million Expire,” by Emily Jane Fox, CNN Money, December 29, 2013]

As heartbreaking as the plight of unemployed Americans whose benefits have lapsed is, it could get worse if Congress jams through an immigration bill when they reconvene later this month. Legalization and work permits would be issued immediately. Whether citizenship takes three, five or 15 years won’t matter to the unemployed who would have to compete in an expanded labor market that would include 12-20 million legalized illegal immigrants. [“Boehner is Said to Back Change on Immigration,” by Michael Shear and Ashley Parker, The New York Times, January 1, 2014]

The usual suspects – President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Majority Leader John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – have all promised action this year. The cruel irony is that the Democratic Party with its long, proud tradition of defending American workers and minorities is comprehensive immigration reform’s biggest advocate. Consider Florida U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s recent editorial calling the House’s delaying an immigration vote “immoral.” Wasserman Schultz is the Democratic National Committee chair. [“Delaying Vote on Immigration is Immoral,” Debbie Wasserman Schultz, CNN, December 12, 2013]

Wasserman Schultz, like many of her congressional colleagues, is morally offended when immigration legislation that would benefit aliens, big business and the Chamber of Commerce stalls, but pays only lip service to unemployed Americans.

For many Americans, their employment future is grimmer than economists have revealed. The Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey breaks down employment data according to race or ethnicity, gender, age and educational attainment. Blacks, Hispanics, the young and the under-educated have dramatically higher unemployment rates than the national average. But research by the nonprofit, Remapping Debate, found that when a job applicant has two or more of those demographic characteristics, his odds against landing a job become even greater. For example, the unemployment rate for a Black male, age 16-25 with less than a high school education is more than 51.6 percent; a Hispanic female, age 26-40 without a high school diploma is 15.1 percent. See the interactive charts here.

What we can hope for is that since so many unemployed Americans have such compelling personal stories and since disgust among voters with Congress and the White House is so high – 81 and 56 percent disapproval ratings, respectively – it’s possible that the mainstream media might finally see the connection between high immigration and American unemployment. At least, it’s my New Year’s wish that, on behalf of suffering Americans, the MSM wakes up. More thorough reporting might help defeat immigration bills that would further hurt jobless Americans.

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