Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin on Tuesday encouraged business leaders to demand meaningful immigration reform that allows for an influx of potential workers into the United States.
“I don’t think a politician out there, including myself, can cut through the rhetoric … with success, unless it’s the (chambers of commerce),” Mullin told the Tulsa Regional Chamber during a lunchtime meeting at the Doubletree Hotel Warren Place.
“We don’t have the workforce that it takes,” Mullin said. “Where are we going to go when we talk about hiring individuals? Is there any company out there right now that’s not looking for employees?”
Mullin’s remarks came one day after the Trump administration announced plans to tighten restrictions on people seeking legal entry to the U.S. and hours after Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, told NPR the plaque on the Statue of Liberty should be changed to read “give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”
Mullin said the United States’ decade-long economic expansion is in danger because of a lack of enough high-quality workers. He said his own businesses could grow by 20% if his managers could find the people to do the work.
“Right now we have 7 million job openings in the United States,” Mullin said. “Our unemployment rate is hovering around 3.6, 3.7%, and most people will tell you 3% of the population is unemployable.”
The unemployment rate is the percentage of people who want to work but aren’t. Economists say a very low rate — generally under 4% to 5% — indicates essentially full employment.
The Trump administration says it wants to stop all immigrants who may wind up on public assistance, but experts on the subject point out that the low-paying jobs for which many immigrants are hired cannot support a household without subsidies such as food stamps.
Mullin said a solution requires all sides to stop trying to “win” the issue politically and come up with something that’s good for business and the country as a whole.
“Our political system is so broken that conversation can’t even take place,” he said.
Turning to trade issues, Mullin said he expects a House vote this fall on the Trump administration’s update to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
He also said the U.S. cannot back down in its trade dispute with China.
“They’ve been taking advantage of us for 23 years,” he said. “President Trump is trying to do something about it. … If we back out, if we don’t see this through, their boldness will only grow.”
Responding to an audience member’s question, Mullin said he hopes to participate in the Ironman triathlon scheduled for Tulsa next spring.
Lorene Bible on the newly resumed search for her daughter Lauria Bible