From Oakland County Commissioner Jim Runestad (R-Waterford, White Lake):
On Monday, July 18, Wayne State University hosted “Immigration and Michigan’s Economic Future,” a conference billed as a gathering of policy and business leaders to discuss the impact of immigration on the state and regional economies. Since I had participated in several conferences on immigration in the last few years, I called and asked if this was a panel format with various views represented or a cheerleading session where all participants sing to the choir and applaud each other’s comments.
I was assured that, yes, all the participants agreed on the positive effects of immigration and its corollary economic benefits. I have found that this lack of dissent and the failure to even attempt to seek diverse opinions on controversial public policy issues is common among the self-styled “elite” who cannot bring themselves to believe that someone who disagrees with them might actually have something useful to say. This “discourse” among the like-minded has replaced the debate that we should be having.
If I had been allowed to address the conference, I would have mentioned that the U.S. unemployment rate is now 9.2 percent (14.1 million) and trending up; that 545,000 Americans have lost their jobs since March; that those involuntary working part-time now stands at 8.6 million; and that 2.7 million more have given up searching for jobs but still want to work. I would have enlightened the assembled to the fact that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in June the average U.S. work week and average hourly earnings both decreased. I would have told them that we are taking in over 1 million legal immigrants a year and illegal immigration continues even if its pace has decreased slightly.
The average unemployed American was only earning $603 a week prior to becoming unemployed. So these distinguished panelists should understand that the majority of those who lost jobs were not wealthy Wall Street bankers or tenured professors but the people who did the jobs Americans have always done and want to continue to do. Unemployed Americans were the working and middle classes who are now suffering because the government and unscrupulous businesses are still bringing in foreign workers, and want to bring in millions more, permanently destroying the hopes of many Americans of gaining employment.
I would have made clear the distinction between an illegal alien who files an income tax return and one who actually pays income taxes. The audience would have heard that illegal aliens receive many taxpayer-funded benefits such as public education and health care, in addition to receiving payouts in the form of earned income tax credits. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimated that last year illegal immigration cost Michigan taxpayers $929 million.
However, I doubt these “policy and business leaders” would have been interested. Just as I believe most politicians don’t concern themselves with any of these facts. For if they did, they would be acting as true public servants by introducing or co-sponsoring legislation like E-Verify to end illegal labor.
One stand out is state Rep. Dave Agema (R-Grandville), who has introduced (House Bill) HB 4024 and HB 4026 to prevent illegal workers from getting Michigan jobs paid for with Michigan taxpayer dollars. As sensible as these bills seem, they weren’t passed out of the House Commerce Committee last week. E-Verify has been effectively utilized by Oakland and Macomb counties, 15 states, and over 250,000 employers. With horrendous unemployment in Michigan, it is unconscionable that legislators stymied these jobs bills.
The good news is we will get another say on Sept. 13, when HB 4024 is heard and then on Sept. 20 when 4026 is heard, both at 10:30 a.m. I sincerely hope the citizens of Michigan will rise up in righteous indignation to call, e-mail, and show up in-force on these dates to make their opinions known to the honorable members of the Commerce Committee.