Many of Donald Trump’s cabinet selections are getting strong reviews from grassroots activists and traditional Republicans, but a leading immigration expert says Trump’s choice to head the Department of Labor could be a threat to American jobs.
Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian sees fast food titan Andrew Puzder as a problem across the board on immigration, but he says his biggest concern with a Puzder-led Labor Department is the influx of legal immigrants who could put American citizens out of work.
“The primary problem is you have to get the okay from the Labor Department before you can bring in one of these people on worker visas. There’s something like three quarters of a million people we bring in. These are people who are often directly replacing American workers,” said Krikorian.
“We saw this at Disney about a year-and-a-half ago. We just saw it with Carnival Cruise Lines, I think just this week. They fired their American workers, usually their IT workforce. They bring in foreign workers on visas that have been okayed by the Labor Department. And then (the American workers) are forced to train their replacements,” said Krikorian.
While that does happen with some frequency, Krikorian says the big picture is murkier and there are no hard numbers on how many Americans lose their jobs to legal immigrants.
“It’s never a one-to-one thing. You can’t say that one immigrant worker comes in and that means one fewer job for an American. The economy doesn’t really work that way,” said Krikorian. “There’s no way to say this guy lost his job because of that guy. It doesn’t work that way.”
However, Krikorian says it is clear which Americans are most at risk of losing their jobs through the importing of foreign workers.
“At the bottom of the labor market, and that means less-skilled workers and that means teenagers looking for work and others – people who get out of prison and want to clean up their act,” said Krikorian. “Anybody who’s getting on to the first rung of the job ladder. Those people are hurt by ongoing immigration,” he said.
So where does Puzder fit into all this? Krikorian says Puzder has long been an outspoken proponent of bring in foreign workers.
“Andy Puzder has for years shown himself to be a big fan of importing more and more and more and more foreign guest workers to compete with Americans,” said Krikorian.
He also sees Puzder as being on the wrong side of the most recent congressional fight over immigration reform.
“[Puzder supported] that Gang of Eight bill from a few years ago that would have amnestied illegal aliens – the one Rubio and Schumer and Obama were pushing. It would have amnestied illegal aliens, would have hugely increased legal immigration, almost doubled it, and supposedly would have enforced the law better at some point down the road,” said Krikorian.
He says Puzder also weighed in on immigration policy during the 2016 campaign.
“Just last year he made a press statement with several other people, calling on the Republican primary candidates to support so-called comprehensive immigration reform, in other words Obama’s immigration agenda,” said Krikorian.
In response to criticism of Puzder’s previous immigration pronouncements, the Trump transition is trying to assure skeptics they have nothing to worry about.
“A statement was issued under his name, which I think was pretty clearly written by the campaign, that said he would be tough in protecting American workers and that sort of thing. Maybe. I’m skeptical because his whole life has actually been the opposite so why would we believe in this sudden change,” said Krikorian.
Krikorian says Trump’s vision on legal immigration has always been a bit fuzzy but that the president-elect has made several strong promises.
“He’s always been kind of shifty on this and vague, but he has been very clear that these visa programs must never be used to replace American workers. And the law allows that now,” said Krikorian.
Other members of Trump’s cabinet who will deal directly with immigration issues are getting rave reviews, especially Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the nominee for attorney general.
“Jeff Sessions is a top pick. He has the potential to be the best attorney general in American history. I have great respect for Jeff Sessions. I think he’s going to be great across the board at the Justice Department, both immigration stuff and everything else,” said Krikorian.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly is Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Krikorian says Kelly is a well-known “border hawk” but isn’t sure how he will approach concerns over legal immigrants overstaying their visas or making sure businesses do not hire people in the U.S. illegally.
“I don’t have any reason to think he’ll be bad on that but he doesn’t have any experience on it so we’re going to have to wait and see how he does,” said Krikorian.
Krikorian admits Puzder will likely be confirmed by the Senate. It’s only then that America will find out if his new assurances or his old positions carry the day.
“Supposedly he’s seen the light,” said Krikorian. “We’ll have to see whether that’s true or not.”