January 25th, 2015

Santorum: “record levels of legal immigration” hurting jobs & wages

Today on CNN’s State of the Union, former senator and presidential candidate, Rick Santorum (R-PA), joined CNN host Michael Smerconish (Smerconish airs Saturday’s at 9:00am EST on CNN/U.S.). Santorum shared his views of the GOP’s prospects in 2016 and his candidacy. Among the issues that former Senator Santorum seeks to change in America is immigration, which is “the reason you’re seeing wages stagnating is because we have record levels of legal immigration.” Santorum also admitted that he thinks President Obama’s climate change bill “won’t make a difference”.

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

Santorum on immigration and its effect on the workforce: “We’re bringing people in who will compete against a lot of American workers. In fact, since 2000, the number of American — of native-born Americans working in the workplace has gone down. There are fewer Americans working today who were born in America than there were 15 years ago.”

Santorum on climate change: “Is the climate warming? Clearly over the past, you know, 15 or 20 years the question is yes. The question is, is man having a significant impact on that, number one. And number two, and this is even more important than the first, is there anything we can do about it? And the answer is, is there anything the United States can do about it? Clearly, no. Even folks who accept all of the science by the alarmists on the other side, recognize that everything that’s being considered by the United States will have almost — well, not almost, will have zero impact on it given what’s going on in the rest of the world. “

Full transcript available below.

TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SMERCONISH: Many of the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential hopefuls are in Iowa this weekend courting the conservative faithful.

One of them, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, joins me now from Sioux City.

Great to have you here, Senator.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Thank you, Michael. Good to be with you.

SMERCONISH: You know, in 2012, you won 11 states, including Iowa. If Mitt is not in this thing, it would seem that, by rights, you’re the front-runner, and yet you don’t appear to be treated that way. Why is that the case?

SANTORUM: I — why don’t you ask the reporters?

I don’t really care whether I’m treated like the front-runner or not. We’re out working to deliver a message, like we did yesterday in Des Moines, that, for us to be successful as a country, the Republican Party needs to step forward and be a unifying party in America, has to be a party that not just is pro-growth, but also pro-worker, to — to help those who are struggling and hurting, and systematically doing so in America.

And, so, front-runner, whatever, it doesn’t really matter. If you have a good message, and you deliver that message well, and you have a background and experience that back it up, I think things will work itself out if we decide to get into this race.

SMERCONISH: The message that you’re best known for is usually a message on social issues. It seems that this cycle is going to be a cycle determined largely by foreign policy matters and also by economic issues.

Make the case that Rick Santorum is prepared on both of those.

SANTORUM: Well, really, there isn’t anybody else who’s looking at it that has any kind of significant national security experience.

And, as you know, Michael, because you covered me when you were in Philadelphia on the radio program, we talked often about national security because I was on — eight years on the Armed Services Committee, where I was a subcommittee chairman for all of those eight years, worked in a very strong bipartisan level, never, in fact, had an amendment to any part of the bill that I brought to the floor that was ever amended without bipartisan support from my ranking members.

So we always did it in a way that was above politics. And I think that’s very helpful. Secondly, I authored two major pieces of national security legislation, foreign policy legislation, interestingly enough, one on Syria, a rather important place, again, a bill that was offered and opposed by President Bush when I offered it. In fact, he vehemently opposed it.

And within three years, he signed it, came around to the position that I had taken. The next one was on Iran. And this in particular was on the Iranian nuclear program. Again, President Bush opposed it, in fact fought me on the floor of the Senate. Joe Biden and Condi Rice fought me on the floor. Rice sent a letter opposing sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program. And within six months, they both flipped their opinions, and it passed unanimously in the United States Senate.

So, if you want to look at leadership, leadership that fought both parties, that had a good, prescient view of what was going on in the future and had people come around to our point of view, I think we have a pretty good track record on that.

SMERCONISH: Senator, you were joined yesterday at Congressman King’s event in Iowa by a whole host of potential Republican candidates for the presidency.

Someone who was not there is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. He said something Friday night in San Francisco. I would like to show it. I know you will be able to hear it. And then you can respond to this.

Roll the tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Immigrants are an engine of economic vitality. We need to find a way, a path to legalized status for those that have come here and have languished in the shadows. There’s no way that they’re going to be deported. No one is — no one is suggesting an organized effort to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Is he right, Senator, that immigration is the engine of economic vitality?

SANTORUM: I would say — in fact, I talked about this extensively yesterday — immigration can be, if immigration is done the right way.

There’s a — Barbara Jordan, who you know very well, chaired the last immigration panel that was put together to try to find a bipartisan solution to immigration reform back in the ’90s. And she made the comment, which is absolutely true, that immigration policy in America has to put America and American workers first.

And so, yes, there are — there is — are changes to our immigration laws that need to be made that focus the immigration policies on where we need certain skills or certain people to come to this country to help gin up and encourage our economy.

But, unfortunately, the current legal immigration system is not that. We bring a little over a million people a year into this country on average over the past 20 years. And most, the overwhelming majority are folks who are lower-skilled or unskilled. And as a result of that, they are filling up a labor pool where, as you know, Michael, there’s not a booming growth of unskilled labor jobs in this country.

And we’re bringing people in who will compete against a lot of American workers. In fact, since 2000, the number of American — of native-born Americans working in the workplace has gone down. There are fewer Americans working today who were born in America than there were 15 years ago.

SMERCONISH: What I have always said — what I have always…

SANTORUM: All of the net new jobs created are going to people who were not born here, because they’re willing to work for lower wages.

SMERCONISH: What I have always said is that the same type of individual who will risk it all to come to the United States, even illegally, has those same traits and characteristics that make him or her an entrepreneur.

React quickly to that, because I want to move on to something else.

SANTORUM: Well, I would say if you, again, you look at the skill levels of the people who are coming and the jobs that they are taking, they’re not necessarily — they aren’t entrepreneurial jobs.

They may end up eventually, the next generation, et cetera. But I would just suggest that the reason you’re seeing median income dropping, the reason you’re seeing wages stagnating is because we have record levels of — of legal immigration.

I’m not saying shut it down. But I will tell you, the last time we had this kind of surge in immigration was the great wave between 1880 and 1920. And after that great wave, there were two bills that were passed, 1921 and 1924, and they both passed almost unanimously in the House and Senate.

Why? Because they put politics aside and they did what was best for the American worker.

SMERCONISH: The Senate voted this week 98 to one that climate change is not a hoax. If Rick Santorum were still in the Senate, would you have supported that?

SANTORUM: Is the climate warming? Clearly over the past, you know, 15 or 20 years the question is yes. The question is, is man having a significant impact on that, number one.

And number two, and this is even more important than the first, is there anything we can do about it? And the answer is, is there anything the United States can do about it? Clearly, no. Even folks who accept all of the science by the alarmists on the other side, recognize that everything that’s being considered by the United States will have almost — well, not almost, will have zero impact on it given what’s going on in the rest of the world.

SMERCONISH: So, is your answer do nothing?

SANTORUM: Again — well, the answer is do something. If it has no impact, of course do nothing. Why would you do something and — with the — with people admitting that even if you do something, it won’t make a difference?

SMERCONISH: Senator, thank you for being here.

SANTORUM: My pleasure.