Seventy-five members of Congress asked House leaders on Tuesday to shut down a loophole allowing billions in economic stimulus funds to go to some 300,000 construction workers who are in the country illegally.
“I believe that this figure may be low,” Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., tells Newsmax. Stearns adds, “We owe it to the American workers and to American taxpayers to ensure that their money does not go to employ workers in our country illegally.”
The House version of the $787 billion stimulus package signed by President Obama included a requirement that the legal residency of all employees hired through stimulus spending be verified. As Newsmax reported Monday, that provision was mysteriously stripped from the legislation before it went to the conference committee that reconciled the House and Senate versions of the legislation.
On Tuesday, 75 representatives from both sides of the aisle sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner, urging them “to protect taxpayers and legal workers by including these critical jobs protection provisions in any future economic recovery legislation.”
Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), agrees with Rep. Stearns that the actual number of illegals hired by the stimulus funds may be much higher.
That’s because the 300,000 figure applies only to the construction portion of the $787 billion stimulus package. Spending in that sector is expected to generate about 2 million jobs, and illegal workers comprise about 15 percent of the construction workforce.
At least another 1 million non-construction jobs are expected to be generated by stimulus spending. Because about 5 percent of the overall U.S. workforce consists of illegal workers, that would be another 50,000 jobs that “could be” going to illegals, Camarota tells Newsmax.
The economic impact of hiring illegals clearly runs counter to the objectives of the stimulus, experts agree. That’s because each year, illegal workers send tens of billions of dollars earned in the United States to their home countries in the form of “remittances.”
“The fact that illegal aliens send a substantial portion of their earnings abroad reduces the stimulus effect that their employment has inside the United States,” says Robert Rector, senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation. He adds, “It’s outrageous that in a bill designed to provide employment for Americans, Congress has deliberately chosen to allow jobs to be given to illegal immigrants.”
It remains unclear who scrubbed the verification provision from the House-Senate compromise bill. Pelosi, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, and President Obama are three possibilities who have been mentioned.
“It was somebody high up in the Democratic Party,” Rector tells Newsmax. “We don’t know who it was beyond that.”
A marriage of convenience between pro-immigrant lobbyists and businesses seeking cheap labor helped torpedo the verification requirement.
Rector says eliminating verification without a public debate on the matter simply reflects the way the overall legislation was pushed through Congress. “The stimulus bill was the worst case of special-interest lobbying and secrecy that I have seen in Washington in a quarter of a century,” he says. “It was very clear that they rushed that bill through as rapidly as they possibly could because they did not want the American public to understand what was in the so-called stimulus bill.”
The oversight is beginning to draw fire from other quarters as well. In North Carolina, state legislators have introduced legislation that would require all state contractors receiving federal funds to verify workers’ residency.
Some commentators are protesting the stimulus loophole as well. CNN’s curmudgeonly Jack Cafferty, for example, remarked with his characteristic vim: “This recession/depression isn’t that bad and unemployment is only at 8.1 percent and we’ve only lost 4.4 million jobs in the last 15 months. What’s wrong with giving a few hundred thousand jobs away to people who shouldn’t even be in the country in the first place? This is your government at work.”
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