Towards the end of June, the Department of Labor launched an ad campaign explicitly offering government assistance to illegal immigrants who believe that they are not being paid fair wages at their jobs, which they illegally maintain in the United States. In April, the Labor Department initiated “We Can Help,” a “bilingual national awareness campaign to reach out to low-wage and vulnerable workers.” The ad sparked heated controversy amongst Republican lawmakers who view the message as hypocritical, in that it emphasizes the importance of employment standards for illegal immigrants while millions of Americans are out of work altogether. Also, they find the message incompatible with the mission of the Labor Department, an institution that deems it illegal to hire undocumented individuals in the first place. Therefore, insisting that these illegal workers be paid fairly is unsubstantiated by the department’s very own statutes.
In the ad, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis introduces herself and makes a few statements regarding how workers need to be paid fairly for their labor – points that are all well taken. Her notorious statement comes towards the end, when she says, “Remember, every worker in America has a right to be paid fairly, whether documented or not. So, call us. It is free and confidential.” A toll-free phone number is then provided and the ad closes with, “We can help.” Solis openly welcomes illegal immigrants to take advantage of U.S. government services if they feel that they are being exploited in the workplace. Another ad in the campaign encourages “exploited” illegals to report their employers to the U.S. government. What these ads fail to address is why these undocumented workers are entitled to taxpayer services when they are breaking the law by residing here.
Representative Ted Poe, a Republican from Texas, made a good point when he told Fox News that “maybe they should focus their attention on protecting American jobs and enforcing our labor laws. After all, it is illegal to hire workers that are in our country illegally.” This raises the point that this type of endorsement de-legitimizes the authority of the Labor Department to an extent, insofar as it is violating its own rules.
This is an especially sore subject for American citizens at this time, with federal unemployment rates lingering around 10 percent, and the real rate including underemployed workers and those who have stopped looking for work at over 17 percent. Americans are frustrated that they are out of work and are struggling, yet the Department of Labor is less concerned about those hardships and is focusing on paying illegals fairly.
Representative Steve King, a Republican from Iowa said in a statement, “It is shameful that Secretary Solis has to be reminded that her primary duty is owed to the American people, and not to those who have illegally entered our country.” It is time for Solis and those who support this campaign to recognize just that – American workers should be the main priority at this time, especially the millions that are currently out of work. Also, the Department of Labor needs to reevaluate its claims on fair pay for undocumented workers given the rules it supposedly works to enforce.
Aside from these advertisements’ blatant disregard for the legitimacy of the U.S. legal system, the message being sent perpetuates a relentless propaganda machine that is driven by the current administration. Throughout Obama’s presidency, Americans have been subjected to relentless propaganda, whether it be in the form of emails sent out by the White House website prompting citizens to adopt the president’s health care overhaul, or a street sign placed at Roadwork projects throughout the country endorsing Obama’s Reinvestment and Recovery Act. It seems like whenever the administration is unable to get the support of the American people, it resorts to producing taxpayer-funded advertisement campaigns, which only increase the hostility and distance between the wants and needs of citizens and the ultimate agenda of the federal government.