Congress Tries to Slip Immigration into Must-Pass Defense Bill

With a final vote soon to come on the must-pass fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), expansionists have filed a slew of immigration amendments unrelated to national security.

Backdoor immigration amendments that have no ties to defense spending are an annual distraction practiced by Republicans and Democrats alike. Time is running out for immigration advocates to get their pet legislation passed. The August recess is at hand, and after Congress returns, mid-term election campaigning will begin in earnest, which will minimize the chance of passing controversial immigration bills.

This year, two immigration amendments are front and center. The first is Rep. Deborah K. Ross’ (D-N.C.) that would grant amnesty to who she referred to as “documented Dreamers,” an estimated 200,000 young people who grew up in the U.S. as dependents on their parents’ employment visas. When DREAMers turn 21, they’re at risk for deportation. While Ross’ amendment has bipartisan support, and is said to be under Senate consideration, it hasn’t advanced in either chamber.

Ross’ proposal, if enacted, would send a message to smugglers and coyotes that Congress’ priority isn’t enforcement but to create more economic incentives for migrants and their families to risk their lives with dangerous border crossings. Congress’ urgency for deferred action for childhood arrivals must be to protect future young migrants from falling into the same immigration limbo status that has, for years, bedeviled current DREAMers. Such a plan would include mandatory E-Verify to eliminate the jobs magnet that lures illegal immigrants. Family-based chain migration should end. Adults shouldn’t be encouraged to use their minor children as anchors to keep them in the U.S. Since the White House has ceded operational control of the border to criminal cartels, strict enforcement laws are required to protect future migrants.

A second untimely and harmful amendment is Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s (D-Calif.) proposal to remove the numerical caps from certain science, technology, engineering and math degree holders (STEM) in national-security related fields. Lofgren, an immigration lawyer, chairs the House Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee. If Lofgren’s amendment is included in the 2023 NDAA, high-skilled immigrants would more quickly become lawful permanent residents and the labor force would expand significantly. A larger labor pool creates a more challenging employment market for U.S. tech workers with STEM degrees, including recent university graduates, to obtain the white-collar jobs they’re qualified to hold.

Ross and Lofgren’s wished-for amendments read as if they were drawn up by the donor-based elite and immigration lawyers, both categories of which would profit immensely if the proposals became law. With 54 million working-age (16-64) Americans neither working nor looking for work, and millions more who are underemployed workers – they hold part-time jobs, but want full-time employment – proposed immigration laws should benefit them, and not foreign-born nationals. The most adversely affected when immigration expands are those without a college diploma, most often blacks, Latinos and women, but also white males.

Increasing immigration is the dominant talking point in the roiling immigration reform debate and has reached the point where advocates maneuver to include amendments in a must-pass defense bill. Few in Congress, and no one participating in the NDAA hearings, speaks on behalf of the millions of Americans whose jobs and livelihoods increased legal immigration threatens. Scholars from the University of California, San Diego and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond found that the H-1B visa led to an Indian tech boom – in India! At the same time, U.S. tech workers at Disney, Southern California Edison, Met Life, Wal-Mart and myriad corporations have been displaced by mostly Indian H-1B visa workers.

 Immigration doesn’t belong in the NDAA. Advocates like Ross, Lofgren and others can introduce stand-alone bills to advance their agendas, not slip amendments into must-pass legislation. Congress should always protect Americans from an overage of legal, employment-based visa workers, but especially during this period of open borders and high domestic unemployment.