Pramila Jayapal’s Comments About Immigrants Are Both Patronizing and Insulting
No matter how much changes in American politics, some things – it seems – remain the same. For example, whenever Americans attempt to debate the merits of mass, unchecked immigration – legal or illegal – the pro-mass-immigration lobby trots out the same old talking points. One of the most prominent is to assert that “immigrants” (which they use to describe both lawful migrants and illegal aliens) indispensably perform a certain number of menial jobs (in agriculture, housekeeping, or landscaping, for example) and our economy would supposedly suffer without them (e.g., see here and here). This is not only patronizing and offensive to immigrants, but also conflates legal immigrants with illegal aliens. Just as importantly, this narrative is misleading and divorced from the facts.
A recent case in point is Rep. Pramila Jayapal from Washington state, who has a long history of radical anti-immigration-enforcement activism. During an April 19 House Judiciary Committee markup of the Border Security and Enforcement Act of 2023 (H.R. 2640) Jayapal attacked the FAIR-supported legislation arguing, instead, for amnesty in the midst of an-out-control border crisis. Although the Border Security and Enforcement Act of 2023 promotes common-sense fixes to the massive flood of illegal migration, the Washington Democrat claimed that the legislation represented “anti-immigrant” hypocrisy.
She then proceeded to misleadingly conflate illegal aliens and legal immigrants and fired off a list of jobs the foreign-born do, including “pick[ing] the food we eat” and “clean[ing] our homes.” Jayapal asserted that “[t]his country needs immigrants to survive” and would face a “labor shortage” without them.
Rep. Jayapal is herself an immigrant (from India) and she no doubt intended her words to praise immigrants. But this does not make them any less patronizing or insulting. That’s because the pro-mass-migration politician is reinforcing the stereotype that immigrants across the board are uneducated and unskilled and have little to offer American society except for menial labor – a slap in the face to legal immigrants who followed the rules and brought with them education and/or other skills. It is also offensive to American citizens when valid criticism of illegal migration is dismissed as nothing more than blind and unwelcoming xenophobia.
Jayapal’s Doomsday predictions that the U.S. faces labor shortages and economic pain if we don’t continue with the never-ending mass importation of cheap foreign labor also miss the mark. Americans are willing to do all kinds of work, including manual labor, as long as the pay is fair. In fact, a study by the Center for Immigration Studies has demonstrated that of “474 civilian occupations, only six are majority immigrant” and that “[t]here are no occupations in the United States in which a majority of workers are illegal immigrants.” The problem is not Americans, but the addiction of certain employers to low wages.
Moreover, labor force participation remains below pre-COVID levels and the U-6 unemployment rate – which includes those who are underemployed, marginally attached to the labor force, or have given up looking for work – shows that there are still millions of Americans who could potentially fill many perceived gaps in the labor market. This is consistent with recent FAIR research.
What Rep. Jayapal’s remarks reveal is that, once we go beyond the façade of virtue signaling about compassion and welcoming the “huddled masses,” the pro-mass-immigration lobby sees the foreign-born as a never-ending supply of cheap labor. This may seem counter-intuitive to some, given the socialist inclinations of the likes of Pramila Jayapal, but perhaps there is a method to the madness. After all, more low-wage, low-skilled poverty means more dependence on government largesse – courtesy of the struggling American taxpayers, of course.