Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Congress Must Look Before It Leaps

Published on May 29th, 2013

On June 22, 2007 the Washington Times published my op-ed titled Immigration Bill a 'No Go' about the pending comprehensive immigration reform legislation. 

The same deficiencies that prompted me to write that article are also found in S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act.

Today the “Gang of Eight” and many of its congressional colleagues  are ignoring those who warn that their amnesty bill would be disastrous for America. It would create a national security nightmare and would have other serious ramifications across a wide spectrum of critical issues. The amnesty that was the central component of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was supposed to involve about a million to one and a half million aliens. It ultimately provided between 3.5 and 4 million aliens with legal status. This was approximately a three-fold increase over the original estimate. Should S. 744 parallel what happened in 1986, the United States could be looking at nearly 40 million aliens emerging from the “shadows.”

In 1986, I had a ring-side seat to what happened after IRCA was enacted. Legalized aliens who presented their employers with their newly issued documents were shocked to find that when they asked to be paid the prevailing wage, and to be protected by the appropriate safety and employment standards mandated by law, they were fired!

We did not have the resources to deal with the flood of phone calls made by these suddenly unemployed legalized aliens. We did not have the staff to effectively address the problem. This is, at least in part, how we came to have more illegal aliens in the United States today than at any time in history. Employers who might have been cautious about hiring illegal aliens because part of IRCA included measures to punish employers, ignored the law. When unscrupulous employers realized that our lack of resources made it extremely unlikely that they would be caught, let alone punished, they went back to their  illegal hiring practices. The aliens who lost their jobs immediately filed for unemployment and other safety net programs.

What Congress hasn't asked is what would happen if S. 744 were enacted and then instead of 12 million legalized illegal aliens, 36 million became legalized? Think about how many of their family members they would eventually petition. Local, state and federal governments could not afford the cost if many of them immediately collected unemployment or tapped into other social service programs.

In1986 politicians purposely understated the numbers of aliens to help insure that IRCA would pass. But, many aliens also entered the United States after the cutoff date. Should that happen again, there would be so many millions more that in addition to the economic fallout, the impact on schools, hospitals, water supplies, electricity, roads, and transportation would be impossible to deal with. And, since there aren't enough jobs for American workers, more lawful immigrants would compound their unemployment plight. 

The question that must be asked before Congress votes on the impending comprehensive immigration reform legislation, is what will America and cities and towns across America do, if history was to repeat itself?

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