Broken promises from Bill Haslam’s 2010 campaign could figure prominently in any run for Bob Corker’s Senate seat. While campaigning for governor, Haslam repeatedly raised the issue of illegal immigration and how he, as governor, would work to insulate Tennessee from the negative fiscal effects of illegal immigration and from becoming a magnet for illegal immigrants.
In his “Jobs4TN” written campaign materials Haslam tied job development and employment for Tennesseans to the problem of illegal immigration and promised:
In order to keep Tennessee a great state, we must also work to provide more and better job opportunities for Tennessee residents. An important part of that effort must be making sure that available jobs are only going to individuals who are legally resident in the state.
Tennessee is paying a price for the failure of the federal government to effectively secure our nation’s borders and enforce our immigration laws. As governor, I will enforce the state laws on the books and do everything within my authority to be sure that Tennessee does not attract illegal activity.
After he was elected, however, Haslam began to incrementally retreat from considering illegal immigration a negative fiscal and/or employment issue.
In 2009, during the Bredesen administration, Managing Tennessee’s Increasingly Diverse Society, a policy paper published by the TN Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, asserted that increased immigration, whether legal or illegal, was good for the state. With regard to employment, the paper relied on Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson’s assessment that, “…unauthorized aliens are not taking jobs or significantly affecting American workers’ wages.”
Appointed in 2009, Justin Wilson continues to serve as Comptroller in the Haslam administration.
The Partnership for a New American Economy (renamed to New American Economy) which has been aggressively pushing Congress since 2013, to pass an amnesty-styled immigration bill like the failed “Gang of Eight” bill, estimates that 129,000 “undocumented” immigrants live in Tennessee. The NAE claims the “undocumented” are “a small but critical role in the workforce.” Gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd is a named member of the NAE.
A month before the “Gang of Eight” bill was introduced in Congress, Haslam spoke to the Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce and addressed immigration
…as part of Tennessee’s Partnership for a New American Economy. That partnership is designed to bring together leaders from all political and economic sectors nationwide to raise awareness of what it sees as the economic benefits of sensible immigration reform.
This language comes from the NAE immigration materials that promote both legal and illegal immigration.
In 2014, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) asked “who got the jobs in Tennessee?” and using federal labor market participation data, concluded that “since 2000, all of the net increase in the number of working-age (16 to 65) people holding a job in Tennessee has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal):”
Tennessee’s working-age immigrant population grew 176 percent from 2000 to 2014, one of the highest of any state in the nation. Yet the number of natives working in 2014 was actually lower than in 2000. This undermines the argument that immigration increases job opportunities for natives.
Three years later, the CIS again analyzed employment data in Tennessee with similar results –Among the Working-Age in Tennessee, All Employment Gains Since 2007 Have Gone to Immigrants:
The fact that all of the long-term net gain in employment among the working-age went to immigrants is striking because natives accounted for 77 percent of the increase in the total working-age (16-65) population in the state.
In 2014, then state Senator and now Gubernatorial candidate Mae Beavers sponsored a resolution requesting that Haslam sue the Obama administration over Obama’s unilateral amnesty actions which was estimated at a minimum, to apply to 40,000 illegal aliens in Tennessee.
While Haslam supported Tennessee joining twenty-four other states suing and ultimately enjoining Obama’s amnesty programs, he remains openly committed to providing the “soft amnesty” of in-state tuition, a state benefit according to Tennessee law, to illegal immigrant students living in the state.
Haslam’s campaign letter to voters vowed to make Tennessee the “No. 1 State in the Southeast for high quality jobs” and to do that “while standing up for our Tenth Amendment right to govern our state according to our own priorities and fighting to protect the values we hold dear.”
Tennessee voters in 92 of the state’s 95 counties elected Donald Trump whose campaign focused heavily on the issue of illegal immigration and its negative impact on employment of Americans.