Americans are compassionate. We want to do the right thing, even when the right thing is hard to do. But we’re deeply divided about amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants. Amnesty advocates are focused on the plight of illegal immigrants, most of whom are poor, don't speak English, and lack a high school diploma. Illegal workers perform many back-breaking jobs for low wages. Many have American-born children. Amnesty advocates fear that families will be divided if immigration laws are enforced.
The Senate immigration reform bill (S.744) would provide a sweeping amnesty for all 11 million aliens, including those who came only months ago, promises enhanced border enforcement, and will grant a huge expansion of legal visas so that future foreign-born job seekers could get American jobs more easily.
Those opposed urge caution. This is amnesty number eight since 1986. We've already pardoned 6 million. Illegal immigration is not a victimless crime. Some illegal immigrants have committed multiple felonies, including identity theft, document fraud and tax evasion.
If the Senate bill passes, at least 33 million green cards would be issued during the first decade alone. That number includes the existing 11 million illegal workers already here. By comparison, the U.S. issued 3 million green cards to foreign national job seekers in the 1960s.
Employers get amnesty, too. Self-serving employers who knowingly hired illegal workers, committed wage and labor violations, helped workers get fraudulent documents, colluded in identity theft, paid under the table, evaded taxes, and built employee recruitment chains in Mexico are also immediately forgiven.
The Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency/accountability organization, found that since 2007 business-funded, pro-immigration lobbies have spent more than $1.5 billion promoting amnesty and expanded legal immigration.
Most important, S. 744 is bad news for Americans with the highest unemployment rates—unskilled blacks and Hispanics as well as teens, the disabled and America's veterans.
According to a recent analysis of Current Population 2012 data, the unemployment rate for U.S.-born Hispanics without a high school diploma is 43.1 percent, and for African-Americans it's a whopping 65 percent. But these American workers can't get the jobs currently held by illegal immigrants because government officials play "wink and nod" non-enforcement with employers.
Enforcement raids at chicken processing and meatpacking plants during the Bush administration put to rest the canard that immigrants are needed to "do the jobs Americans won't do." In plants across the South, local residents, many of them African Americans, lined up to apply for the newly vacant positions.
Many black leaders have decried the devastating impact of amnesty legislation on their communities. Frank Morris, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, has called on Congress to oppose S.744 and protect black labor. Morris was joined by three members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
And finally, the price tag for S. 744 is jaw-dropping. According to the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector, the bill will cost an aggregate $6.3 trillion over the course of an amnestied alien's life. Legalized illegal immigrants will eventually become eligible for means-tested welfare including Medicaid, food stamps, public housing, SSI and temporary assistance for needy families (TANF). Infrastructure costs would be enormous: 33 million more people will need more roads, bridges, school and hospitals.
Enforcing the nation's immigration laws may be uncomfortable for some, but it's fair. Any expansion in visas for overseas job seekers should be openly disclosed to the public and not slipped into a 1,000+ page bill.
Despite what you hear, immigration reform should not be rushed. Elected officials need to take a deep breath. Immigration is too important to let business and ethnic lobbies decide its fate. Congress needs to get it right.
A version of this column originally appeared in the Sun Journal.