by Stacey Campfield
The most important 2020 race for Tennesseans on Nov. 3 isn’t Trump vs. Biden, but the hotly contested Senate battle between Republican Bill Hagerty and Democrat Marquita Bradshaw.
One thing is certain: A Democrat-controlled Senate would enact a potential President Biden’s plan to radically overhaul our nation’s immigration laws — including extending amnesty to the 11 million illegal immigrants already here. Biden has also pledged to stop construction on the border wall and halt deportations of people caught illegally crossing the border.
The Democrats’ pro-open borders policies would invite a flood of immigration to America and Tennessee. Without the Senate, Republicans would not be able to stop it. That would be catastrophic for American workers, especially in low-wage jobs.
Start with the job market. The COVID-19 outbreak and economic downturn has swelled unemployment numbers to record highs. Bearing the brunt are working-class Americans, with layoff rates twice as high as for higher earners nationwide. That’s true, too, in Tennessee, where the hardest-hit sectors include manufacturing and hospitality. Jobless claims continue to rise, with the state receiving roughly 10,000 each week.
Into this bleak economic picture, Democrats would add millions of largely low-skilled immigrants to directly compete with American workers.
Basic economic theory shows that increasing the labor supply depresses wages. That’s especially true when the new workers are willing to be paid under the table and receive less than the minimum wage.
As is the case nationwide, illegal immigrants in Tennessee are mostly from Mexico or Central and South America. These immigrants often lack basic English proficiency and have less than a high school diploma. They work in low-skilled sectors — like construction and food service — where they undercut wages for blue-collar workers.
Illegal immigrants also make greater demands on the public purse. One study found that statewide, illegal immigrants cost Tennessee taxpayers more than $793 million annually. That includes higher costs for ESL education, health services, and other public assistance programs.
Where’s this money going to come from? Right now, local officials anticipate a $1 billion shortfall in our state budget for the next fiscal year, and tax revenue is down 22 percent. To cover the gap, legislators are contemplating cut eliminating pay raises for teachers and postponing needed maintenance projects.
America — and Tennessee — needs an immigration policy focused on what’s best for our citizens. The contest between Bill Hagerty and Marquita Bradshaw offers voters a clear choice. Hagerty served in the Trump administration as a U.S. ambassador, and supports strong borders and limits on legal immigration, including cutting the numbers of temporary work visas and instituting a merit-based system for any new immigrants.
By contrast, Bradshaw — a professional activist endorsed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren — is on record stating that the United States should “increase the amount of immigrants we allow into the country.” She also opposes the border wall, wants to decriminalize unauthorized border crossings, and supports providing free government healthcare to illegal immigrants.
Bill Hagerty rightly warned Tennesseans that Democrats are looking to push their “radical immigration agenda” on our state. A Democratic majority in the Senate would remove any obstacles to implementing that agenda. When Tennesseans vote this November, they should vote to keep Republican control of the Senate.
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Stacey Campfield is a Knoxville resident who served in the Tennessee Senate from 2010-2014 and in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 2005-2010.
Photo “Marquita Bradshaw” by Marquita Bradshaw.