PITTSTON — Where is their loyalty to the United States?

That was a verbal broadside aimed at members of the tea party during the government shutdown fiasco; libertarian firebrands such as Ted Cruz were accused of placing party purity above civic harmony, and there is some veracity to those claims. Ideologues of all political stripes often brush aside rational compromise in favor of doctrinal adherence.

Another debate is raging in this country that has pitted ideological demands against civic principles. The present movement for “comprehensive immigration reform” has drawn together a strong alliance from across the political spectrum.

Pro-amnesty organizations such as La Raza are working in tandem with free-trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Liberal Democrats like Nancy Pelosi have found common cause with conservative budget hawk Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. This unusual coalition declares that granting a “pathway to citizenship” and increasing legal immigration quotas will produce substantial benefits for the American economy.

However, the strange bedfellows of the left and Big Business have ignored the economic plight of average Americans left behind by the Great Recession and globalization.

Truth should be the sole basis for American social policies. And presently, working-class Americans face dire economic realities.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a record 46.5 million Americans, or 15 percent, live in poverty. That represented a dramatic increase of nearly 6.7 million since 2008. A recent editorial in the Portland Press Herald highlighted Maine’s shocking poverty statistics in 2013 (“Our View: Childhood poverty rate a disgrace for Maine,” Sept. 22).

In total, 15 percent of Mainers were afflicted by poverty, including 27 percent of children under the age of 5. According to that same study, Maine led New England in per capita poverty levels.

Poverty is interwoven with other harrowing economic conditions. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that a stunning 50 million Americans were “food insecure”; this means that those families regularly faced hunger and the fear of starvation. Parents may have to cut their daily portions or go without eating in order to simply feed their children. In Maine, 200,000 residents were mired in this desperate situation. Maine again ranked No. 1 in New England, this time for childhood food insecurity. In general, there was a stunning 50 percent increase in hunger in Maine since 2005.

Other stark economic problems hinder average Americans. Median household income in the United States has fallen in the past five years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2008, the median household income stood at $53,644. In 2012, it had declined to $51,017.

As family income declined, so, too, did the prospect of stable full-time employment. The Huffington Post reported Aug. 21 that three-fourths of the jobs created in 2013 were part-time. The economy may be in some recovery mode, but it is timid as far as it concerns working-class Americans.

The above figures will not be openly promoted by the left and Big Business. In fact, they don’t seem to notice or care. The pro-amnesty movement has eagerly fought for and gradually won impressive deals for non-citizens. California recently became the 11th state to grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Chris Christie could very well lead New Jersey to offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, joining 15 other states with similar laws.

Now this movement is actively seeking a comprehensive plan to grant de facto amnesty to an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. And with our present unsustainable level of legal immigration, the U.S. will add nearly 100 million new residents by 2060. In this ideological quest, the pro-legalization forces have failed to formulate bold strategies to combat the extreme levels of poverty and unemployment among American citizens.

In short, working-class Americans will be forced to compete for increasingly scarce resources and could possibly be denied assistance due to this unfair competition. Immigrants are not bad people; the vast majority of them migrate to the United States to improve their lives. But when millions of Americans are currently denied the American dream due to harsh economic circumstances, immigration at large becomes harmful to the nation and must be limited.

As for those Americans pushing amnesty and related policies, where is their loyalty to fellow citizens in need?

— Special to the Press Herald