By Hannah Blome
Republican U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (UT) and Tom Cotton (AR) publicly announced the Higher Wages for American Workers Act on February 23. The proposed legislation intends to gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $10 by the year 2025, followed by an inflation adjustment every two years. The act takes extensive measures to ensure the wage increase is only accessible to legal U.S. workers.
But a closer look at the language of the proposal prompts the question: is this legislation an attack on undocumented workers disguised as a minimum wage increase?
The explicitly written goals of the Higher Wages for American Workers Act reads:
“Drives wages up through tighter labor markets; Protects the job market for American workers by ending illegal, black-market labor; Prevents massive job losses, unlike the $15 minimum wage proposal; Helps teenagers find their first jobs.”
Considering the Senate Democrats abandoned their proposed federal $15 minimum wage legislation on March 1st, Romney and Cotton’s plan may gain traction in Congress.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25. On average, undocumented workers are estimated to earn wages 42% lower than U.S. born workers. Compared to the federal minimum wage, the average undocumented worker earns a mere $4.21 per hour.
An increase in minimum wage causes inflation. The Higher Wages for American Workers Act will increase wages for U.S. workers and therefore increase the prices of goods, while leaving undocumented migrant workers helpless with their already unlivable wages. The act imposes inhumane economic effects on migrant workers, blatantly exposing Romney and Cotton’s true goal by way of the proposed legislation.
Romney and Cotton’s plan fails to account for a notorious and continual argument in immigration debates: Undocumented workers occupy the jobs that Americans do not want.
“About three-quarters of adults (77%) say undocumented immigrants mostly fill jobs U.S. citizens do not want, while 21% say undocumented immigrants fill jobs U.S. citizens would like to have, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted April 29 to May 5.”
How ironic that a wage increase exclusive to legal U.S. citizens will increase the prices of goods produced by the very people whom the legislation intends to harm.
The anti-undocumented worker concept in Romney and Cotton’s Higher Wages for American Workers Act extends beyond the rhetoric in the legislative language. The longest written section of the act provides details for a “Mandatory E-Verify” requirement. The mandatory E-Verify section lists several methods for ensuring companies only hire legal U.S. workers.
The act intends to make E-Verify mandatory for all U.S. employers and enforces photo ID requirements upon hire, thus transforming E-Verify into a comprehensive government database of legal and illegal employees.
The act even seeks to further criminalize noncompliance and suggests frighteningly massive funding towards E-Verify’s longevity.
The proposed legislation “provides $100 million annually in automatic funding to ensure E-Verify is immune from a government shutdown, and authorizes Congress to appropriate additional funds as needed.” Given that the ostensible goal of the proposed legislation is the federal minimum wage, why does the language go into extensive detail about excluding undocumented workers?
Are the Republican Senators truly interested in providing livable wages to the American people like the “Higher Wages for American Workers Act” so proudly proclaims in it’s nationalistic title? Or are Romney and Cotton rather engrossed with legislating against undocumented immigrants?
Hannah Blome is a third year Political Science major at UC Davis, pursuing a double minor in Professional Writing and Logic Philosophy. She is originally from San Diego, CA.
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