By Congressman Elton Gallegly
There shouldn’t be any secret to securing the Hispanic vote. Hispanic voters want the same things all American voters want: Job security and opportunities for themselves, their children and their grandchildren.
Reaching out to the Hispanic population to gain their vote does not mean granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. It means to treat Hispanic citizens and legal residents the same as the rest of their American brethren.
MALDEF, LULAC, La Raza and other pro-illegal immigration groups want unfettered illegal immigration for their own selfish reasons, not to help Hispanic U.S. citizens and legal residents. These groups are not pro-Hispanic. They are pro-illegal immigration. And, despite the rhetoric spouted by pro-illegal immigration groups, Hispanics do not want open borders, because Hispanics need the jobs that illegal immigrants take from them.
Here is what Hispanics say about illegal immigration, according to a February 2010 Zogby poll:
- 61 percent said illegal immigration is caused by inadequate enforcement.
- 65 percent said there are plenty of Americans available to do unskilled jobs; employers just need to pay more.
- 52 percent support enforcement to encourage illegal immigrants to go home.
The Zogby results are not surprising because illegal immigration mostly hurts those who can least afford to be hurt – those at the lower end of the economic spectrum.
Pew Hispanic Center recently surveyed 1,220 self-described Hispanics and Latinos in December. Of those, 89 percent were citizens or legal residents. Forty-six percent were registered voters.
Unemployment among Hispanics is higher than Americans as a whole, Pew reported in its overview. Unemployment in the Hispanic community rose nearly five percentage points to 11 percent from December 2007 to December 2011. The national unemployment rate rose from 5 percent to 8.5 percent in the same period.
As a result, median household wealth among Hispanics fell by two-thirds from 2005 to 2009, and the poverty rate for Hispanics between 2006 and 2010 increased nearly six percentage points, the highest for any group, Pew reported.
The Hispanic population is the largest minority group in the United States. By helping Hispanics to raise their standards of living, the entire country benefits.
One quick and easy way to help Hispanics and all Americans is to make E-Verify mandatory. E-Verify is an easy-to-use, accurate, computer-based employee verification system that ensures employees have a legal right to work in the United States. Nearly 360,000 American employers voluntarily use E-Verify and more than 2,700 new businesses sign up every week.
It matches a person’s name, Social Security number and date of birth against Homeland Security Department and Social Security Administration databases. If the three fail to match, the person is denied employment. The program quickly confirms 99.5% of work-eligible employees.
E-Verify will help all Americans, but it will have the largest impact on low-income workers. It’s not surprising then that a February Pulse Opinion Research poll found that 76 percent of likely minority voters, including Hispanics, support mandatory E-Verify for all American employers.
Despite being in precarious straits, the Pew poll found that Hispanics are more optimistic about the future for themselves and their families than Americans as a whole.
“Fully two-thirds (67 percent) of Latinos say they expect their financial situation to improve over the next year, compared with 58 percent of the general population who say the same,” Pew reported. “Also, two-thirds (66 percent) of Latinos say they expect their children to eventually enjoy a standard of living that is better than theirs is now. By contrast, just 48 percent of the general public says the same.”
Congress and the president have it within their power to help the Hispanic community realize a better future for themselves and their families. While the national unemployment rate in April was 8.1 percent (which is artificially low because it didn’t count another 342,000 workers who were so discouraged they stopped looking for work in April), the Department of Labor pegged the Hispanic unemployment rate unchanged at 10.3 percent.
The Legal Workforce Act, introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas, myself and Rep. Ken Calvert of California, would open up more than 7 million jobs for American citizens and legal residents. Many of those jobs would go to Hispanics, making their hope for a better tomorrow a reality.
It’s what the voters – not the pro-illegal immigration groups – want and deserve.
A version of this column previously ran in the Washington Times.